Should you allow comments on your WordPress site?
In this post, we’ll look at some of the pros and cons for allowing comments on your WordPress site.
If you are considering having comments on your site, the biggest reason to do so is of course to promote user engagement.
Comments give your readers a chance to respond to your content and to converse with you and other readers then and there.
From a user interface point of view, it makes perfect sense for some blogs to have this.
For instance, many a cooking blog use comments to great effect. Users ask questions about the recipe in a post, tell about their experience making the recipe, and share similar ideas. Cooking blogs tend to have very positive, civil, and even useful discussions.
On the opposite side of the spectrum are political blogs with comments. It seems like every comment section on every political blog ever is full of hateful comments and users arguing. I don’t know if a political blog comment section has ever been useful or civil in the history of the internet, which makes me question why sites even bother.
Other blogs perhaps just don’t benefit from having comments. For instance, I follow many WordPress blogs. A lot of articles on those type of sites are technical and explain how to do something. If they have comments on, the comment section will typically be full of questions. Some sites do answer questions in comments while others would prefer to refer people with questions to a support forum, to a form to fill out, or some other avenue.
This particular point that comments drive engagement is difficult to really prove, but I think it just plain makes sense that giving users the chance to comment should get them more engaged. You are literally giving them a way to engage with your content. That doesn’t mean running comments is always a pro, as it depends on site goals and giving users the ability to comment could take away from other possibly engagement.
For instance, the National Journal turned off comments, and, according to The Atlantic:
“If anything, user engagement has increased since the comment policy changed. Pages views per visit increased by more than 10 percent. Page views per unique visitor increased 14 percent. Return visits climbed by more than 20 percent. Visits of only a single page decreased, while visits of two pages or more increased by almost 20 percent.”
The theory as to why the National Journal saw increased engagement after turning off comments is that those users that in the past would have left a comment instead click on another story to go read. Basically, for them, comments were taking away from the effectiveness of the ads for their other posts.
You really need to consider the effect comments have on your entire site, rather than just adding them because it is another way for users to engage with your content.
Gets return visits
A site with comments will typically have more return visits, as users that comment will return to see responses to their comments.
Maybe those return visits don’t mean much to you, but it is a chance to boost your analytics numbers, which advertisers strongly consider, and it also could allow you to show more ads, as users are viewing each ad block more than once.
If you are going this route, I highly recommend simply making the ad in your sidebar scroll with your page rather than wrapping the comments in ads. When there is just one ad space that scrolls down with you after you reach it, I think the site looks clean and well made. When you scroll down on some other sites and find the comment section has some odd shaped ads wrapped around them, it just looks tacky.
Also in regards to this point of return visits being a pro, you want to build up a loyal readership that returns to read your content and engages it. Comments can be a way to do just that. Over at Blog Tyrant, around 45% of visitors are returning visitors. They’ve developed a loyal follower-ship that returns, and comments played a big part in that.
Turn comments into leads
Did you know you can turn your comments into email subscribers or leads?
This can be a very effective way to build an email list as, in my experience, people are more likely to comment than to subscribe.
Some ways to do this are by forcing commentors to register with your site, and then simply exporting all registered users into a list that you import into an email list somewhere.
This does contradict some mailing list website’s terms of service, so I would begin by sending a confirmation email or at least an introduction email that offers a way to unsubscribe from the list. You’ll want to make sure your first email to these users is a good one that shows the value of being on your list to the user.
Takes more time
If you are committing to allowing comments on your site, you should know that you will need to put a lot of time into dealing with comments.
This includes stuff like sorting through your comment spam list, responding to comments, and working to drive comments in the first place.
If you build your site to a level of high success, you could be getting 250 comments per post or more. Are you willing to spend the time monitoring all of those comments? Will you respond to each individually? Can you check comments every day? How many times per day will you check them? All things to consider.
Spam comments are just a huge pain. Sure, you can use plugins like Akismet to cut down on spam comments, but some still will get through.
Even worse, sometimes things just go wrong and your site will get tons of similar spam comments all at once, giving you a small mess to deal with.
If your site is going to run comments, just know that you will have to deal with spam on a regular basis.
Allowing comments is essentially allowing users to say practically anything on your website. This can, and has, led to many a lawsuit.
Sometimes users take their arguments too far. Sometimes some users write threats or divulge info they shouldn’t. Sometimes the plan to murder a judge.
Do you really want to deal with this?
Could take away from site goal
If your site goal is to sell a product, have users fill out a form, or get affiliate link clicks, in a lot of cases comments might not be the best choice for you.
A site with comments will have a lot of users focusing first on the content and secondly on the comments. Everything else will take a back seat.
I think there are ways to make comments work for you online if you really want them, but many sites are likely better of putting effort into other endeavors.
Possibly takes away from social media engagement
Perhaps the biggest reason for the decline of the use of comments is the rise of social media.
Companies prefer to have users on social media talking about them out in the open where all the user’s friends, family, and followers can see the conversation, rather than having that conversation take place on the company website where only user already on the site can see it.
When you content is being discussed on social media, it has the chance to go viral and reach thousands of viewers that otherwise wouldn’t know about you. Conversely, on site comments really don’t have that potential as users that comment aren’t automatically having their posts appear to all of their followers.
Those shares on social media are very valuable, and allowing users to comment on your site could seriously take away from that. It is the social media aspect that drove Recode and Popular Science to stop using comments.
I hope this post gave you some things to think about when considering whether having a comment section is a good idea for your WordPress site.