The Death and Resurrection of Blog Comments

by in Articles on 15th Jan 2014 · 0 Comment

Blog comments used to be the way to encourage discussion but also market your site. If you did it discreetly enough, other readers had no idea that you were actually marketing a product. However as comments picked up steam, many blogs were the victim of spam comments. While blogs survived this spam-apocalypse, some decided to change their policies towards comments and turn off the function completely.

Now there is a phenomenon where blogs have disabled comments, which has silenced much of the discussion that makes blogging so interpersonal and provoking. Lack of comments also doesn't add any perspective or offer any chance to really promote your content. Still there are people who are afraid of allowing comments because of their experiences with bad comments in the past. Comments can be extremely useful and even necessary for some blog types. Readers need to feel included and often want to be included. As you scrutinize your own comment platform, these are things to keep in mind.

Why Blog Comments Have Died Out - And How To Get People Discussing Again

Welcome to the New Age

Comment systems have always been around. They came to the forefront with the advent of the blog. LiveJournal had communities with hundreds of thousands of members. Posts relied on comments, and information was often discovered through comments. As WordPress, Blogger and other comment systems came to the forefront, comments became more popular as marketing tools. At first this was a revolutionary idea, but through spam or even more nefarious comments that would link you to malware, comments rapidly started to decline for some sites that simply couldn't get rid of their spam infestation.

It took time for newer blogs to become established and start earning comments. This was one of the greatest measures of whether your blog was successful or not.

So why aren't people commenting anymore? For one they may not be interested, or perhaps they don't want to bait any spam themselves. Another reason is that comments aren't being nurtured by the original blog writer. While blog comments may be on the decline, there's no end to the comment systems run by Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and Pinterest that still seem to get a lot of comments. However there are still more clicks of the like button than actual comments.

Blogger's creed
Image credit: miss miah

Never Fear, A New Blog Comment is Here

Some blogs are so afraid at the lack of comments that they actually disable comments for the first few months of their blog. Perhaps their content is too risque or they don't want to worry about that measure of success. They place a silence on any abusive comments, spam and link baiting, but they also limit the amount of discussion about their content. This used to be one of the most interesting parts of blogging. In the old day, commenters who kept leading the discussion led to even greater popularity for the article and encouraged more interaction. With the lack of comments these days, bloggers may often wonder if their readers have lost interest or just don't feel like commenting when they can share or like a page without the effort.

However new comment systems have brought life back into blog comments. These include Facebook, Disqus and LiveFyre. There are also sites devoted to discussions like Reddit and Quora. Sites that incorporate live chat, video chat and forums have a better chance at discussion and here's why:

Facebook Comments

A social plugin that Facebook users can use to comment on your site. Facebook Comments works best with WordPress sites, commentary blogs, social media sites, inspirational blogs and funny picture sites.

Facebook

Pros

  • Commenters use real identities, and no one has ever mourned the death of comment trolls.
  • Social visibility and sharing is also more abundant with Facebook comments that appear on stream, which allows others to join the discussion that may not have seen it otherwise.
  • Convenient sign-in if you're already logged into Facebook.
  • Popular comments are liked and appear at the top. In addition, your friends' comments will also appear at the top.

Cons

  • Blocks out comments from people who don't want to share their identities or who don't use Facebook.
  • It doesn't have support for Twitter or Google IDs, which excludes a whole other part of the social sphere.
  • No back up capabilities and problems with removing the Facebook system make it difficult to uninstall.
  • Places that block Facebook will also block your comment system.
  • No view counts or ways to highlight the original author's comments.

Disqus

Disqus is a discussion commenting plugin that you can use for your site or online community that allows for multiple social network logins. Disqus works well for any site because it combines Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus.

Disqus

Pros

  • A variety of login options are allowed including Facebook, Google or Twitter. You can also post anonymously.
  • It has a nice and clean interface.
  • It's a popular comment system that lots of websites use and readers are familiar with.
  • Allows you to earn money with comment leads.

Cons

  • It may take awhile to customize your CSS to use it.
  • Links in comments become auto-links, which can lead to more spam.
  • While made to work with WordPress, there are compatibility issues with future updates of WordPress that are sometimes difficult to overcome.

LiveFyre

A commenting platform that supports LiveFyre accounts, Facebook and Twitter on your site. LiveFyre is best for use with any newspaper site, social commentary blog, photography site, inspirational site, educational and other sites with highly viral content.

Livefyre

Pros

  • Comments appear in real-time so you could have a discussion like a chat.
  • You receive email notifications.
  • It supports comments by LiveFyre, Facebook and Twitter.
  • Smartphone and tablet users love the interface.
  • Allows site owners to ban abusive commenters.
  • Required registration reduces the amount of spam comments.
  • You can build a stronger community thanks to its "@Function" ability.

Cons

  • Real-time comments can be harder to moderate, so clean-up can be an arduous task.
  • Once a person has registered, all of their comments are approved on a site.
  • "Like" spam included do-follow backlinks to bad websites, which could be crawled by search engines and make it a challenge for ranking higher.
  • Moderating comments from WordPress is not supported.
  • No custom styling allowed.
  • You can't use the comments as a lead generation tool.

IntenseDebate

A commenting system designed for blogs and websites.

IntenseDebate

Pros

  • Easily customized.
  • CSS sheet integrates well with WordPress since they were created by the same company.
  • Add-ons are easy to install such as CommentLuv.
  • Simple and fresh layout.

Cons

  • Doesn't work work well with IE9 and Opera.
  • Comment importing has some bugs.
  • Replies may be hidden, and you have to click on "replies" to expand. Comments with few replies are shown but comments with lots of replies could be hidden.

As you can see there are issues with each comment system. Facebook comments has largely been successful because Facebook is so recognizable, but Disqus is a better favorite because it allows for comments from a variety of social network logins.

Making Sense of Comments

In short, comments are necessary. However authors have to encourage and develop discussions. Sometimes readers don't know what to comment about because authors didn't ask any questions or the questions that they asked weren't general enough to spark a discussion. Perhaps the author didn't ask for contributions or maybe readers noticed that the author never engaged with commenters.

While some authors may think it's better to disable comments and get rid of spam or just to avoid abusive comments, it doesn't help promote your content or allow for readers to interact with your blog. As an author or site owner you should reward insightful comments and reduce barriers to commenting. You should also set a good example by finding other blogs in your community to leave a comment yourself.

However the main point is that you have to produce insightful and provoking content in the first place. Content may need to have some controversy or reflect a definitive opinion. In other words maybe your content is just boring and needs some spice.

Power Law of Participation
Image credit: Ross Mayfield

Alternatives to Comment Systems

If you would prefer using something like online chat or survey forms, there are other systems that may be beneficial for your content including:

  • Envolve Chat: This allows visitors to have chats based on different topics. It works well with WordPress and BuddyPress communities. However, it lacks text messaging, mobile and video chat capabilities.
  • Quick Chat Plugin: This is a robust chat system that includes private chat, chat rooms, avatars, users list, word filtering, emoticons, caching plugins and much more. Although this chat doesn't have video or audio conferencing, it has a lot more options than Envolve or Zopim.
  • Flexy Talk Live Chat: This chat feature allows your visitors to chat alongside Facebook fans from any device including mobile phones.
  • Video Chat Plugin: This plugin works with AVChat and WordPress sites. It's a great way to add video chat on your website.

How to Encourage More Comments

Many blogs have been using live chat and video chat features to get more comments. They've also been using a combination of giveaways, tutorials and video blogs to draw in more interest. In addition, you can reward commenters that you like by quoting something from one of their comments or replying to a question. Top commenters could also win prizes or you could host a contest for best comment. People want to feel recognized and special, which is why comments should be allowed in the first place. You should also have plugins installed that allow people to "like" or upvote comments as well. This is an instant reward.

In addition, you may want to take out barriers to commenting at first. This may require more moderation on your part, but at least it will bring your readers easily into discussion. You can test your comment system to ensure that they aren't being required to register and login each time or that they aren't being forced to fill in a captcha for every comment. These actions typically cause readers to feel persecuted and find another source to direct their attention towards.

Conclusion

In the end if you want more people to comment, then you have to be a comment king yourself. You have to reign mighty over your kingdom and don't allow insightful or new commenters to feel left out of the discussion. In addition you have to invite others cordially to your kingdom with links and goodwill. Of course the ultimate way to attract visitors is through a clean site design, frequent and interesting blog points, social media marketing and discussions on other blogs in the community.

So what type of content do you think gets the most comments and what type of comments system do you use to encourage more comments? Perhaps you'd just like to see more cats in hats with dashing mustaches.

Aidan Huang is a web enthusiast and ingenious blogger who loves all things design, interesting and technology. He is the editor-in-chief at Onextrapixel and have founded several other interesting blogs. Do keep in touch with him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.