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Does Blog Commenting Really Matter? Should I Even Care?

blog commentingComments are down.

Many bloggers would tell me that this is a big red flag; if blog commenting is down, then people aren’t engaging with your writing. They aren’t forming a community.

Except that all of the other indicators disagree.

Comments are down, but traffic is up.

Comments are down, but your previously low subscription rates are up.

Comments are down, but sales are up.

And despite all the other indicators, I was worried about the comments – but I’m not anymore…

Why Comments Might Be Down

A decrease in blog commenting is often hailed as a symptom of a blog’s decline – or at the very least, the canary in the coal mine warning you that something is very, very wrong.

Well, I don’t agree with that perspective. It might be true for some blogs, but it certainly isn’t true for all blogs.

It’s hard to see, because we’re all afflicted by some “theory-induced blindness” (adherence to a belief about how the world works that prevents you from seeing how the world really works).

Here’s what I mean – blog commenting is an indicator of discussion and conversation, and the hype about social media is all about discussion and conversation. Discussion is good. Conversation is good.

So no blog commenting = no conversion = bad, right?

Wrong.

Conversation is good if you’re trying to create a conversation, but for a lot of bloggers, that isn’t the case; what you’re really trying to do is expand your circle of influence, demonstrate value, and provide your expertise by educating your audience.

None of those goals necessarily require a lot of discussion in the comments section of your blog.

No, It’s Not about Engagement, Either!

And no, comments aren’t the be-all and end-all indicator of audience engagement, either. There are much better indicators of a successfully engaged community, like:

  • Direct messages from readers. These are emails, phone calls, and text messages from people telling us that they value what we’ve written, and what they were able to accomplish by applying what we’ve taught. That’s the best instant feedback that we can get about whether we’re on the right track.
  • New opportunities. This is when you’re asked to be interviewed by major blogs, invited to join exclusive mastermind groups, invited to write guest posts for major blogs, interact with major figures, speak at telesummits, and more.
  • Sales. Yes, sales. If you’re running a subject-area blog (like we do on business and marketing), then ultimately it’s because you want to make money and grow your business. The ultimate engaged community that you want to create is a community of customers.

I won’t go into too much detail about better indicators of engagement, because my friend Marcus Sheridan has already done a great job of writing that particular post.

All to say that blog comments aren’t the best indicator of having grown an engaged community, and certainly isn’t the best indicator of blog profitability. As Marcus recently wrote, 10,862 comments didn’t lead to a single sale, and based on the discussion in the comments of that post, this is not an isolated experience (ironic, I know).

And comments come at a cost…

The (Not So) Hidden Cost of Blog Commenting

Blog commenting makes up a huge part of the blogosphere – depending on how much discussion a post generates, it isn’t uncommon for popular posts to attract hundreds of comments, or for the comments section of the blog post to run ten times the length of an original post.

This is all fine and dandy, until you stop to think about how much work a thriving comments section means to a blogger; of course, you’ve got to read all of those comments, otherwise you don’t know what’s happening on your own blog, but you’ve also got to respond to all of those comments – and that’s no small undertaking when you’re dealing with hundreds of comments.

I’ve experienced it myself with more popular posts, especially the ones that went up on larger blogs with bigger followings – it can take over a big chunk of your day, and this has led some bloggers to wonder if it’s sustainable to keep on doing it, and others to just turn off their comments altogether.

They aren’t just time-consuming, though – lots of things are time-consuming (almost everything related to blogging and social media, in fact!), and marketers and entrepreneurs happily do them because they know that the time is well-spent, and will translate into more business, and more dollars to their bottom line.

Except that with comments, that often isn’t the case.

So… if comments aren’t turning into business, then why do we care about them so much?

From “Up in the Air” to “Home Alone”

I think it has a lot to do with our lifestyles as bloggers.

Take me, for example. When I first started my consulting practice, I did a lot of good, old-fashioned offline networking.

You know what I mean; BNI meetings, chambers of commerce, and other networking events, where you shake a lot of hands, and hone your elevator pitch until it shines.

There are a lot of things that I don’t miss about those days; I wasted many hours commuting from event to event, and client prospecting meeting to client prospecting meeting. The deal values were a lot smaller than they are now, and I wasn’t making nearly as much money.

Today, things are a lot better – Mirasee is growing fast, and more and more of my business is coming in through people who read my work here, or elsewhere. We also make a lot more money than we used to from sales of our training program.

This is all great, but an unexpected side-effect is that I’m spending a lot less time in the physical presence of other people;

  • When people buy our training program, there’s obviously no face to face interaction.
  • More and more of my consulting clients are spread across the country, the continent, and the globe, making face to face interactions impractical.
  • My more recent projects involve remote and often global collaboration; for example, one of my partners on Motiv808 alternates between New York and Vancouver, both of which are too far from Montreal for a quick meeting. And of course, the contributors to Engagement from Scratch! are spread across the globe.
  • My effective hourly rate keeps going up, which makes it harder and harder to justify wasting large amounts of my time in commute – so more work is done from home, rather than face to face, even when clients are local.

The result of all this is that my time is more efficiently-used than ever; I get more work done than ever before, on more interesting projects than I’ve ever worked on in the past. Which is great.

What isn’t so great, though, is that I can have a super-productive day without leaving the house or seeing/talking to another human being (until my wife gets home from work, of course!).

Comments as a Cure for Cabin Fever?

Blog commenting may not be the best indicator of engagement, but they certainly make up for that with the potential for volume; you have to get really, really big to get more than a handful of congratulatory emails and new opportunities per day, but a “successful” blog post can easily generate dozens of comments.

And while dozens of comments might not translate into sales, and will probably take a big chunk of my time, they do wonders in terms of making me feel connected to other people.

Having realized this… should I keep on chasing after comments?

No, of course not.

Instead, here’s what I’m planning on doing:

  • Make a point of getting out every single day – even if it’s just to take a walk, or go to the gym.
  • Pivot towards more coaching work, that will give me the opportunity for much richer interactions with people, in a profitable way.
  • Not worry about comments as a business indicator.
  • Keep on interacting with people in comments on my posts – because I like it, and it’s fun. 😀

Now I’ll turn it over to you, my readers. What do you think? Do you agree with my take on comments? And the reasons why people want them? Leave a comment and let me know… 😉


(
@DannyIny) is an author, strategist, serial entrepreneur, expert marketer, and the Freddy Krueger of Blogging. Together with Guy Kawasaki, Brian Clark and Mitch Joel, he wrote the book on how to build an engaged audience from scratch.

About Danny Iny

Danny Iny (@DannyIny) is the CEO and founder of Mirasee, host of the Business Reimagined podcast, and best-selling author of multiple books including Engagement from Scratch!, The Audience Revolution, and Teach and Grow Rich.

39 thoughts on “Does Blog Commenting Really Matter? Should I Even Care?

  1. Danny I absolutely agree, and I was recently having this thought in mind to get out a blog post on it; you did it for me, thanks. Given that commenting is one of the potential ways to networking and link building, a lot of people have started to misuse it. So if you’re having a do-follow blog with some perks to commenters (like commentluv plugin, keyword luv etc.) then it is not a surprise that you’ll get a lot of comments. But those comments don’t mean engagement! Except a handful of comments that are made genuinely!

    • I think you hit the nail on the head there – comments are a great way of networking and link building (I care more about the networking), and that’s great – but that’s not the sort of people who are likely to turn into business…

  2. Wow, easily one of the best posts I’ve ever read here Danny, as you’ve broached a topic that so many folks don’t want to address.

    I think we all appreciate comments, yes, but the fact is they no longer represent the success of a blog….at all.

    For example, I recently spoke with a kind lady who was a ‘Mommy blogger’ about the reality of comments and how they don’t necessarily lead to success. She disagreed with me, so I asked her a simple question: How much money are you making with your blog?

    You see, it turns out the lady is having major problems because she hasn’t been able to monetize her large audience, yet she gets tons of comments.

    In other words, she doesn’t have a sustainable business model.

    I see it this way: You CANNOT build a blog around comments. Yes, you can build comments around a blog, but not the other way around.

    And it always comes back to goals. If your goal is comments and conversation, then great.

    But if your goal is of financial gain, then you better make sure you’re lining up your strategies to meet that as well.

    Well done my friend!!

    Marcus

    • Thank you, Marcus.

      I think there’s a bit of a paradox, because most of the people saying that comments don’t matter already have hundreds of them.

      Is that because it’s one of those things that you care about until you achieve it, and then you don’t care anymore?

      Or is it important because it shows that people are engaging, but once you’ve got that validation that you’re on the right track, you can move on to other things?

      I’m not sure, but I do know that the correlation between comments and other success indicators seems to be very weak, and there are some good examples of sites that are getting less comments than they used to, but you know that their traffic, subscribers and revenues are way up (like Copyblogger).

      I haven’t teased on what this means in terms of what we should be doing just yet, but I am sure about what we shouldn’t be doing, which is chasing after comments…

  3. I’m a podcaster more than a blogger. I’ve toyed off and on (more off than on) with comments at my site. Personally, I’m not much of a commenter. This comment may be 1 of 6 I’ve made all year long so I’m sure that has something to do with my not having comments open at my site. 

    But two factors really drive my personal biases. One, Twitter changes everything. Before Twitter comments were more meaningful in reaching the person who created the content. Twitter changes accessibility. 

    Two, sales. At heart, I’m a sales guy – a business guy. No, it’s not all about money, but I’m like most – I’ve got to earn money. 

    Building communities is all the rage, but I’ve spent my career building businesses. Perhaps they’re community-like, but building a business is very different because the value exchange involves money! Money changes everything. 

    I have no plans to ever have comments. I’m too accessible in other places. Besides, I’m like Groucho Marx – I wouldn’t want to be in any club that would have me as a member. 

  4. Danny,
    This sounds exactly like the conclusion I came too a few months ago. Marcus and I had a long discussion about it and we agreed, the money isn’t in the comments.
    As you say, it really depends what you want from your blog. Is it a social past-time because you are bored at the office? Great, chat with friends.
    Is it a tool to find out how you can market your services? Well as I explained to Marcus I never had a client comment on my blog BEFORE they became clients.
    For me clients are lurkers,the people who comment are our friends, colleagues. Just look down here in comments and count how many people work as bloggers or in marketing right?

    Love how you are going to go out and go to the gym or for a walk. Both great places to market 🙂

    • That’s a really interesting distinction, John, because now that you mention it, I’ve experienced it too; I’ve never had a commenter turn into a customer, but I’ve had the opposite happen on numerous occasions.

      Interesting… this will require more thought. 😉

      And yeah, the clients are the lurkers, and the commenters are social connections (more or less). Does that mean that the social connections don’t contribute to business? No, but we have to be careful not to lose focus of what we’re really doing, either…

  5. It is interesting that you are receiving these comments on a post questioning the validity of comments. Oh, I love the wonderment of that concept.

    At any rate, thanks for giving me some things to think about and some things to take to the bored room with me. No, bored is not misspelled.

      • LOL,  Because our business is made up of family members and because we move our meetings around in order to meet our needs at any given time we jokingly call where ever we are meeting the bored room. On the veranda, sometimes at the dining table, at other times in our shop/office and in winter in front of the fireplace in the living room keeps our meetings entertaining if not always productive. “I thought you brought the folder.” “No, it was your turn to be sure we all had a drink.” and so on.

        We will be talking about you Danny. 🙂

  6. As Yvonne notes, the irony of my comment here is not lost on me…thanks for another great post, Danny. My biz model uses my blog as one marketing channel — not THE marketing channel. When we forget our goals and why we began the blog in the first place, we can get sucked into the need to “build a tribe” or focus solely on “engagement.” Engaged customers buy more, for sure. But engaging total strangers via blog comments is the long road to actual sales. If this were a hobby, I would be thrilled about the engagement levels of my tribe. But it’s a business. A FUN business, yes. But still a business.

    • Yup, it is a bit ironic, and the funny thing is that I knew people would weigh in on this.

      (Even more ironic, I knew that people would leave comments to weigh in agreeing that comments aren’t very important.)

      Maybe the lesson is that while comments aren’t particularly important to business, they are important on a social, interpersonal level?

      Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not trashing engagement (I just wrote a book about it!), but I think it has to be built in a way that fits with the overall goals of the business.

  7. Hey Danny,

    Here’s my theory – in relative terms, the importance of comments to a blogger decreases as their popularity increases.
    When you’re first starting out, comments are usually the first sign that someone is actually showing an interest. As your blog develops, you start to receive attention in the form of direct emails, interview requests, and all of the other things you mentioned in the article.

    In response to Marcus’ article, I wrote my own – so blog comments are certainly doing the rounds at the moment! Whilst I love to receive and respond to comments (it’s easy to say that when you’ve never had more than about 20 comments on a post 😉 ), there is more to life, and more to my blog.

    Cheers!

    Tom

    • That makes a lot of sense, Tom.

      I also wonder how comparatively important it is when you’re starting out to comment on other blogs, versus getting people to comment on yours.

      Hmmm… I feel an interesting blog lifecycle post coming on…

      • Yes! That’s an interesting thought…how many A-list bloggers do you see commenting here, there and everywhere? When your comments (and influence) go up, your commenting generally goes down…

        • Yeah, exactly, and for a couple of reasons – not only do you need to be commenting less (from a marketing standpoint – people already know you), but you also have a lot less time to do it…

  8. It’s crazy that you just wrote this because I just finished up a post about 4 blog commenting myths – talking about exactly why comments DON’T matter. 

    Was thinking about offering it up as a guest post, so don’t be surprised to see it popping up somewhere sometime soon. 

    Great minds think alike…or for themselves…or something along those lines 🙂

    • Great minds do think for themselves, and often alike (funny how that works). 🙂

      I’ll look forward to reading that post – I have a feeling you have some important insights to share.

      Comments definitely play a role in the growth of a blog, but I’m not sure exactly what role that should be…

  9. Hi Danny,
    It is interesting to observe the drop in commenting on some of the larger blogs in the social media and SEO field. Some have slipped from dozens of comments on each post to almost zero and there is a fair bit of debate about why.Are we all becoming so time poor thanks to the growth in multiple social networks and pressure from social influence measurement services to have an effective presence on each that to compose a response in the form of a comment is becoming beyond us?Personally I find the quantity of spam which still gets through multiple filters on our blog incredibly frustrating and the spammers are getting more sophisticated all the time. This would be the key reason why I would turn off comments. But I don’t because I find the few who do think carefully about adding to the conversation gratifying and I have met some great people through their visits.Thanks for the great post!

    • Hey Mike, thanks for weighing in.

      I definitely think spam is a part of it, but I think it’s more than that; not every post is meant to create a conversation… most articles are the presentation of ideas, like a teacher would present them. Discussion is welcome, but not always necessary.

      Other posts, though, invite comments. Those are the posts that involve controversial ideas, and get lots of smart people to weigh in.

      They’re good if you want to get a beat on how things are really working in your industry, and that’s important – but there’s got to be more to it than that (if you’re always getting a beat on the industry, then why are you calling yourself an expert, right?).

      I’m still figuring this out, but I know that comments seem to take more time than I can justify at the moment…

  10. Comments are a powerful engaging tool Danny. With that in mind, they are comments: not hot leads who are emailing you or calling you about your product, service or opportunity. Writing thorough comments can generate interest, and business, but don’t get attached to them! I made this error for a while, writing comments all day while leads piled up in my email inbox. People who wanted to join my team. So they were on ice while I played out my attachment to comments.

    Now I leave my email open all day. I respond to opt-ins within seconds or minutes, building strong relationships with people who want to prosper with my gifting team. As for comments, I respond when I can. I leave my thoughts, but I don’t get attached to the process. I also remain with Disqus, preventing scores of comments on my blog if I switched to ComLuv. I am honest with myself: I know my attachment and I know sticking with Disqus helps me stick with my hot leads in the inbox, instead of respond to comments all day.

    Thanks for sharing Danny!

    RB

    • Ryan, you’ve raised a question that has really been top of mind for me, as I’m thinking about dumping Disqus and switching to CommentLuv.

      Do I care about the comments? No, I don’t.

      But do I want more traffic? Yes, I do. Will CommentLuv bring me more traffic in addition to the extra comments?

      I think so, but I don’t know. Only one way to find out…

  11. I’m late to this party Danny but this post is a total home run and I’m so glad that you thoughtfully put together such an honest assessment of the issue at hand. In my opinion, at the end of the day, it’s all about objectives. If you don’t know why your trying to achieve something and if it doesn’t serve a specific purpose, then I have to encourage you to question why you’re doing it!

    • Thanks, Marlee!

      I keep going back and forth on this, because all other things being equal, the comments make me feel good. They make me feel validated.

      But yeah, commenters don’t buy – I think there’s a different profile of person that is likely to interact versus likely to purchase.

      But that being said, I also think there’s some sort of connection between comments and other success indicators; I just can’t put my finger on what that connection is…

  12. Do comments make money? No.

    Are they a pain in the neck for those of us who respond to every single one of them? Sure.

    However…

    Commenting allows you to connect with your reader on a more personal basis. It builds trust. People buy from people they trust.

    For instance, Danny, you say you have less comments, but more sales. If you think about it thought, you are talking about your blog only NOT including all the comments you respond to on your numerous guest posts.

    You see you connect with your future readers BEFORE they ever come to your blog. You already showed them what you’ve got knowledge-wise in your post, then they saw you talking to other commentators, maybe even left a comment or two… Do you see where I am going with this?

    They come to your blog already “prequalified” by your activities on other blogs. They already trust you.

    Additionally, I strongly believe that commentators are much more likely to share your posts in social media since most of them actually read what you write (no hard data on it, just personal opinion coming from experience.

    Social media engagement leads to better rankings. http://www.trafficgenerationcafe.com/social-media-influences-google-rankings/

    I don’t mean to write a post on the subject – you already did a great job on it.

    I wouldn’t discount the value of comments just yet though.

    • That’s a very good point, Ana – I do engage a lot with commenters on other blogs (like yours).

      I wonder, though, about the conversion rates – I can’t be sure, but I don’t think I do a lot of business with people who I connected with through comments on other blogs, either.

      Is this something that you’ve tracked? Do you do business with a lot of people that you first get introduced to through blog comments?

      I guess it’s a hard thing to quantify, because even if they didn’t comment, they did see others do so, and see your responses. Hmmm… I wonder how this could be evaluated?

      • You read my mind, Danny.

        Even if your customer don’t directly engage with you through comments, they still see you being a real person and talking to your community.

        I don’t see a way to really track this kind of correlation… especially, for me, since I don’t have a product of my own and don’t see the names of people who purchase aff products through me.

        However, I DO get a lot of comments letting me know that they purchased something through my link and how much they love it (hopefully) or any problems they may have with it.

        So I do know that many of my commentators are my customers as well.

        • Okay, I guess I can’t write off comments, then – even if they’re a pain in the ass sometimes.

          I’m going to install CommentLuv, just to be on the safe side… 😉

  13. Hey Danny,

    That was very insightful. You’re way down the road from where I stand, and it’s interesting to see what you’re going through, and what choices you’re making.

    I also sometimes spend full days at home without seeing or speaking to anyone. It’s good to at least get out and see people 🙂

    Regards,

    Matt

    • It’s definitely good to at least get out and see people – and to just get some fresh air and exercise, too. I used to be a lot more diligent about it, but I think it’s easier to be lazy now that I’m married…

  14. Hi Danny, this is a great post and something that I’ve been thinking about recently. So much so, I considered what the difference would be if comments were removed from my blog. I would spend less time reading, commenting back, and worrying about comments, and what would I lose in return? Anything? Would anything be gained such as more people e-mailing through the contact form?

    I’m not planning to do this yet, but my wheels have been turning. And as you say, there’s no benefit to being a comment chaser because they may or may not contribute to the bottom line.

    Thanks for an awesome post.

    • Hey Joseph, thank you for stopping by. I’ve thought about that sort of experiment, but I don’t like the message that it sends about interactions; at Firepole Marketing, we pride ourselves on our response times to any questions, and I think the comments subliminally reinforce that.

      I’d love to hear about the results of your experiment if you do decide to go ahead with it – I think to do it right, though, there would have to be some way of measuring what (if any) difference it ends up making.

      Any ideas?

  15. Hi Danny,
    I did already wrote an article how to encourage readers to comment on your blog and based on my experience comments help to improve your blog and skills.I love to see new comments always on my blog.
    ” Nothing makes a blogger’s day like comments”

  16. I’m not sure comments create sales or bring in business, but they are sure a great way to build a community, and if you have a “community” site like the one I just started building, comments are so important.

    I can hardly wait to get my first comment. 🙂

  17. Interesting article . . . never looked at it this way.

    I don’t get many comments on my blog now, but I have received many emails, tweets, and direct messages thanking me and also sharing some additional insight.

    I look at comments as the class discussion. Take for example a classroom. The professor picks a topic — say a chapter in the book — and the class discusses it. Some people chip in and throw in their 2 cents on how they feel, and other’s expand on the topic, maybe from personal experience, and add a lot of value to the discussion.

    For sales, I think it helps the customer feel better knowing that more people reacted to it. It’s kind of like a comfort thing . . . like, oh, that guy did it, and so she did, and wow that person too, so maybe I should try it out.

    Also I think it depends on the focus of the post. Maybe people read your post and are so fulfilled by it they have nothing else to say. So they help out by tweeting it, or liking it, or sharing it to their audience.

    Also I realized you keep up with many comments. I think thats an amazing business move and overall a great gesture to your community. In the long run, I believe it adds up and separates you from the rest of the professionals in the field. Some people may only come to your site because you comment back on their post — while other sites, people wish the owner replied back to them.

    Nice work man

    • I think you nailed the most important part, Paul, which is that if people are engaging and interacting – for example, via emails, tweets, and direct messages – then who cares if they’re commenting on posts as well?

      I like your analogy of the blog post to the classroom – I think that in many cases, it fits perfectly. And it also really fits with your point about focus – if there is a ton of content, and all questions are answered, then there’s nothing else to say, and they go on their merry way sharing. 🙂

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