Comments are a great resource to have on any website, however, there have always been pitfalls of using them. It’s an oft-debated topic in the Web Design field. Should you use them or not?
FOR: Why should I allow comments?
Online Publishing and Commenting have been closely linked since the inception of blogging, as such there are many reasons for using Comments.
Comments are a great tool to measure audience engagement. Don’t be afraid of the negative comments as they will be far outweighed by the positive comments. As for the fear of spam comments? Never fear, we have an article explaining how to deal with that menace!
Allowing comments also shows you, the Author, how many people are actually reading the content which you put out there, which is a very useful tool.
Comments also lead to valuable discussion between the Author and Commenter, you can form relationships with your readers and improve your online presence. You’re not the faceless entity who posts these articles, you’re a person who can be related to by your readers. This improves brand loyalty and keeps your readers coming back for more.
Additionally, it’s sometimes nice to just see those “This was really useful, thanks!” comments.
Adds Value to the Article
Often if you post an article and a reader wishes to expand on one of the points or issues which you raise, they can do so in the comments, which then will add value to your article. Often I am searching the web for an answer to a problem and my answer is hidden away in a comment on an article which only touches on the issue I faced, and that is added value for the site owner with no additional effort on their part.
AGAINST: Why should I not allow comments?
As mentioned before, allowing comments does open your website up to spam comments, however as we also previously mentioned – there are ways to combat these.
Informational Articles Only
If you’re not posting opinion pieces, but instead informational articles and don’t want a ton of “Thanks” comments which don’t add any value to your site, then you could disable comments.
You may be scared that, if posting opinion pieces, your readers will disagree with you and let you know. However this should be viewed as a good thing as this only adds to the Engagement factor mentioned above. You’re still engaging with your readers and you’re still discussing points with them. In fact, debating with a reader the merits of your point versus theirs will keep them coming back to check the site, and may also incite others to get involved in the discussion. That can only be a positive!
Alternative Comment Systems
WordPress has a great Comment system. It’s extremely versatile, plus it’s baked right there into the website. It can be styled, modified and changed to your hearts content. Sometimes however, WordPress comments may not seem right for your website. There are some great alternatives, such as:
Disqus adds rich media to comments, allowing you to seamlessly embed social media links as well as pictures and high quality content. It’s easy to implement and it’s used by thousands. Additionally, the reader requires an account and as such, the chances of spam comments are minimal.
Facebook is an excellent choice for an alternative comment platform. The benefits of using Facebook is that it’s already got a huge user base. Facebook has 1 billion users, and each of them already has an account. This means that they can just visit your site and post a comment. No logging in neccessary as they’re most likely already logged in, especially if they found your blog post from a post on Facebook.
Additionally, you’re guaranteed that it’s a real person behind the comment, they already have a profile picture and their name is attached by default. Additionally they have the option to post their comment on your blog to their Facebook feed, bringing in more visitors for you, and potentially more comments.
Finally, the chance for spam comments using Facebooks platform is virtually non-existant.
Google+ comment system is pretty robust and already powers the YouTube comment system, which means it’s been tried and tested already by millions of users. Similar to Facebook comments, the barrier for entry is low as Google also has millions of users already signed in – especially if they’re using the most up-to-date Chrome Browser.
Google+ Comments also have the added benefit that they automatically post the commenters activity on their own Google+ feed, which then can be picked up by the users of that Social Network, therefore driving traffic to your website. A win win win!
Use comments, or don’t use them – it’s your choice. If you are going to use comments, be sure to get yourself protected from Spam, and always try to reply to as many comments as possible, as that really does create a relationship between yourself and your readers.