Are There Benefits From Removing Comments From Your Blog?

In June 2006, Seth Godin created a lot of discussion amongst bloggers when he announced that he was removing comments from his blog.

As with all Seth Godin posts, his announcement was straight to the point:

Judging from the response to my last post, some of my readers are itching to find a comment field on my posts from now on. I can’t do that for you, alas, and I thought I’d tell you why.

I think comments are terrific, and they are the key attraction for some blogs and some bloggers. Not for me, though. First, I feel compelled to clarify or to answer every objection or to point out every flaw in reasoning. Second, it takes way too much of my time to even think about them, never mind curate them. And finally, and most important for you, it permanently changes the way I write. Instead of writing for everyone, I find myself writing in anticipation of the commenters. I’m already itching to rewrite my traffic post below. So, given a choice between a blog with comments or no blog at all, I think I’d have to choose the latter.

So, bloggers who like comments, blog on. Commenters, feel free. But not here. Sorry.

I suspect the discussion will be raised again by many bloggers following the announcement that CopyBlogger are removing comments from their blog.

CopyBlogger note that:

  • Comments have decreased while discussions on social media services such as Twitter and Facebook has increased
  • Around 96% of the comments they receive are spam
  • It is very time consuming for them to moderate spam

I think all of their reasons are valid. From a readers point of view, the comment area on CopyBlogger is a place where lots of great discussions arise.

From a business point of view, CopyBlogger were spending their time on something that was not helping their bottom line. When you continue to invest in something that does not give anything in return, you need to reevaluate your circumstances.

Replying to Comments is Time Consuming

I reply to all comments left on this blog that are directed to me. It is something I enjoy doing, however I usually receive less than ten comments per week, so it is very easy to manage.

The situation for top blogs with high levels of traffic is very different to mine. Take Elegant Themes; for example, a blog I have been working with for a few months.

Replying to comments is never something I guarantee for clients unless they pay me an hourly rate, however I like the owner of Elegant Themes (Nick) and I was enjoying helping the people who replied to comments.

The problem for me is that Elegant Themes gets a lot of traffic. Older articles continue to get comments frequently. As a result of this, responding to comments quickly went from something that was enjoyable to something that was overwhelming.

I can justify replying to the odd comment, but it is difficult for me to justify spending hours replying to comments. At the moment, there are over forty five different email updates about comments that have been sent to me. These emails represent hundreds of comments on the articles I have written. It would take me hours to go through all of them.

Elegant Themes Comments

Some of you may be reading this thinking that any blog that removes comments does not care. That simply is not true. The problem is that enabling comments, and subsequently not replying to those comments, can be damaging to a blog.

A common suggestion I hear from people is that bloggers should enable comments enabled so that readers can continue to have discussions. I can understand the logic behind this as high traffic blogs receive hundreds or even thousands of comments from readers; yet there is no assumption from readers that the author will reply to comments.

I also feel, however, that not replying to comments can give the wrong impression to people.

If this article received hundreds of comments and I did not take the time to respond to comments directed at me, it would reflect badly on me and badly on this blog. This is perhaps even more true for me because I offer consultation services and promote a forum that offers great support.

I think the biggest question is: At what point are the pros of comments outweighed by the time it takes to moderate them?

Tackling Spam

Spam is another big issue. Even if you are happy to keep comments on your blog and not respond to each one, you will still need to spend time moderating comments to ensure good comments get through and spam comments do not.

A few weeks ago I started being attacked by spam bots. The number of spam comments I received every day rose from five or six to three or four hundred. I installed a firewall plugin a few days later in order to tackle this issue. Unfortunately, the plugin was a bit hit or miss. It did manage to stop most of the automated spam; but it allowed some to slip through and sent comments from people with dozens of approved comments straight to the spam folder.

The main issue with spam is the time you have to spend dealing with it all. I have been facing spam issues like this since I first started using WordPress in 2007 and have yet to find a full proof solution. A solution that stops spam and allows legitimate comments to flow through without having to constantly moderate comments.

All things considered equal, the more traffic your blogs receives, the more time you will need to spend moderating spam.

Removing Comments From a Blog – Good or Bad?

I am a big fan of blog comments. On most blogs that I visit, the comment area normally has a more interesting discussion than the article itself. This is particularly true with high traffic blogs. In effect, the comment area becomes as important as the main article, if not more.

As a blogger, I love receiving comments. Perhaps I enjoy getting a slap on the back from readers to let me know I am doing the right thing. Or perhaps it is down to my ego. Who knows … maybe I just need to know that someone out there is reading what I am writing ;)

Am I going to remove comments from this blog? No, not in the near future; though I would never rule it out because I do not know if my situation will change.

I think every blog owner needs to decide whether comments are suitable for their blog. If you find yourself overwhelmed with the number of comments your blog is receiving, you may want to consider disabling them. This would free up a lot of your time to work on tasks that will increase your income.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on the issue, so please leave a comment if you have time :)