Should I Remove Comments From My Blog? Here’s My Answer

March 30, 2015

I just took a look at my dashboard and saw some horrendous numbers. First, some background info.

Since I started blogging, it was easy to see that spam comments would be a problem.

Even with little traffic, I got spam comments. Much of the spam came from bots who scan the internet in a pathetic attempt to drive traffic to sites by automatically posting links in the comments section of blogs all over the web.

03_30_Remove-Comments_PinterestOne of my mentors recommended that I use the Akismet plugin to block those spam comments. This worked extremely well for a while, until it didn’t.

It seems that some of those spambots got a bit more sophisticated and started to bypass the Akismet plugin.

I decided to install an additional plugin – the WP Spamshield plugin. Once again, that helped a bit, but some comments still found a way through.

Onto the horrendous numbers

According to my stats, Akismet has protected my blog from 17,972 spam comments, with another 73 comments in my current spam queue. Also, WP SpamShield has protected my blog from 41,910 spam comments with an average of 645 spam comments blocked daily.

Stop-SPAM

Now, there are currently 15,176 approved comments on my blog. That means that there are almost three times as many spam comments than actual comments that have tried to beat the system.

That’s HORRENDOUS.

The ones that get through

As I mentioned before, some comments actually get through.

Fortunately, if you go to the discussion settings in your WordPress Admin area (Settings > Discussion), you can specify that if a comment author hasn’t posted an approved comment in the past, you have to manually approve the comment.

Unfortunately, as my blog has grown, I get more and more of these that I have to approve, to the point where it has become a normal and tedious part of my daily tasks.

The Question

ThinkingAboutBlogBecause of how annoying this has become, I’ve repeatedly asked myself the following question – Should I completely remove comments from my blog?

It’s something I’ve been tempted to do on a number of occasions. It would definitely make my life easier.

No more annoying spam (or hateful) comments. All I would have to do is create content and post. Sounds almost euphoric.

If you’re at the point where you’re getting a lot of spam comments, you’ve probably asked yourself that question at least once.

When sites like Copyblogger announce that they are removing comments and make a logical case for their decision, it almost justifies my urge to do the same.

A while back, Michael Hyatt decided to remove comments from his blog, and he puts forward a pretty solid argument. You should read his post for a different perspective.

The Answer

CommentMy answer to the above question is – It depends.

Your answer to this question shouldn’t be primarily influenced by how comments personally affect you. If you’re thinking in that direction, I would encourage you to rethink.

The beauty of blog comments is that they make your content the gateway for a two-way conversation. In some cases, it can even go beyond a two-way conversation as your readers start to interact with each other.

For a blog like this one, removing comments would significantly affect the conversation that I’m able to have with you. You wouldn’t be able to voice your opinion concerning this content in a centralized location, adding to the ongoing conversation.

Yes, I can make you go through the additional steps of having to find me on social media to give your opinion, but quite frankly, I see that as an inconvenience to you – and I don’t want that to be the case.

Blogs like Copyblogger or even Michael Hyatt's own, have TONS of followers. I imagine that if a few thousand people disengage with their content, it wouldn’t matter because these sites still attract TONS of interaction.

With little guys like me, if a few thousand people disengage from my content, the only thing I can be sure of is that my mommy will still love me. My wife too, of course. Oh, and Noah 😉

So what do you do?

To-do-listWe are faced with the reality of spam comments. It’s an unfortunate and extremely annoying reality. However there are ways to deal with it. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Take advantage of spam blocking plugins. Yes, I know that this won’t eliminate all spam comments, but you’ll probably see a 99% reduction (my unofficial, unscientific guestimate).
  2. Have a comment approval policy. Doing this makes it easier to quickly determine what gets marked as spam and what doesn’t. This is something I'm working on right now so you should have an example soon.
  3. Have a comment approval process. Here’s my process (or at least what I try to do) – in the evening, I go through all of my comments. I start by marking spam comments by ticking the checkboxes and then hitting the “Mark as spam” option once. I then tick the checkboxes of all remaining comments and approve them all in one go. I wrap up the process by responding to legit comments.
  4. Consider using a commenting plugin like Disqus. This is what I was doing until recently on this blog. Their system actually ends up reducing the amount of spam comments you get by a significant amount. I’ve since decided to remove Disqus, and will give my full opinion at some point in the future. However, I do know that this works well for many bloggers.

comments-(2)Are there any exceptions?

Actually, I believe there are. I’m pretty sure I’ll remove the commenting option from my biology blog. Why? Because it’s a blog where I post content to help others. I’m not actively engaged there.

As much as it would be great to have an ongoing dialogue there too, it can get frustrating for visitors who ask questions not to receive responses from me. Especially when the questions posed on the biology blog require answers that are closer to tutoring sessions than actual dialogue.

I also don’t respond to comments on my biology blog because my focus is currently on Become A Blogger.

Infographics

03_30_Remove-Comments_Infographic

Your comments

As I mentioned above, what I’m sharing here is my opinion, but it’s not the only opinion. I want to hear from you. Can you guess where? In the comments area that is still below. Feel free to share:

  • What spam blocking plugin you use (if any)
  • Why you think my opinion rocks or sucks

I’ll be down there waiting to reply to your awesome comments 😉

Related Posts

30 Comments

  • Tom Collins says:

    Hi Leslie,

    I think you’ve nailed the reasons why I’ve always argued that a blog without commenting enabled is NOT a blog. It’s just a website built on a content management platform.

    That doesn’t mean it’s not valuable content, or that we shouldn’t consume it. It just means it’s not SOCIAL media. It’s just old media talking AT us, instead of talking WITH us.

    Your insight that our decision about allowing commenting should not be about ourselves, but about whether it adds value for our readers is crucial to any blogger who wants their blog to be a cornerstone of a business. As you say, the real magic happens when readers interact with each other, as well as you.

    Yes, you can encourage readers to find and connect with you on Facebook, or LinkedIn, or Twitter. Personally, I don’t want Mark Zuckerberg (or the algorithm cops at other sites) to be in control of which readers see and get the opportunity to interact with my content! ;-D

    Thanks for the excellent infographic, too!

    Tom

    • That’s exactly it. Algorithms shouldn’t control our discussions. I like that. I might steal that from you. I mean . . . borrow 😉

    • Jo Anderson says:

      Thank you Tom. I agree that a blog without commenting enabled is NOT a blog. Leslie, we like that you connect with us, it makes us feel like you care.

    • I agree with you. It’s much better when we can have a dialog as opposed to just having you come to hear me. And while you can do it on Social Media, I would much rather do it in a place that you have more control over.

    • A. M. says:

      I agree, Tom. Why should I send my traffic to FB? So my readers can get lost there? If readers want to share content there or like something, that’s fine. But FB is a tool to drive traffic to the blogs, not the other way around.
      Plus, my readers love to give their opinions and actually have a conversation.
      I visited a blog that asked some questions and then expected me to go to FB and login there to post a comment. Really? That had me wonder if they’re getting paid for the traffic they send there. It’s lame and no fun at all for the reader.
      Newsflash – not everybody lives on Facebook or Twitter. I love Twitter, but it’s a tool, nothing more. Don’t get me started on FB and its privacy issues….

      I’m still peeved about one of my favorite blogs eliminating comments and expecting people to comment on itunes instead, which is where they publish their podcast as well. As a reader, the elimination of comments made me ask myself if I still like the blog! Comments aren’t just a nuisance one has to moderate, they actually do add value.

      Too much emphasis on monetizing while delivering less doesn’t sit well with me. Cutting comments means delivering less. It makes me feel like the reader isn’t valued.

    • Wow, I’ve never heard that one before – making people comments on iTunes. That’s quite bold. Don’t like it at all. It’s basically like saying – “I only want your comments if they can help my rankings”. Kinda messed up.

  • Dave Braun says:

    Nice article, Leslie, love the graphics.

    I normally use Disqus – gives the added bonus of adding links to related articles on your site and allows a commenter to see all of their comments to multiple sites in one place. True, it will cut down on some comments, but I just don’t want to deal with spam comments. And wp-spamshield sounds like a great option as I checked it out and went thru the reviewer comments – it’s nice to see a developer respond so thoroughly.

    My opinion after reading your article, several others, and from developing websites:
    1. If you’re just starting out with a blog, allow comments and use one of the recommended spam filters.
    2. If you start getting some pretty good engagement from people, use Disqus for their features.
    3. If you get tons of engagement, disable comments since likely you won’t have too much time to respond. Or unless you do want to take the time to respond and handle the spam that does get through.

    Dave

    • I agree with everything except that last point Dave. I don’t think I would start with disabling comments if you get tons of engagement. I would start with putting a system in place that helps you to deal with it. I think that two-way interaction is important. But once again, it all depends on the purpose of your site.

  • Phil Soffe says:

    Hello Leslie,
    I found your site a few days ago. Thanks for the information received so far and on your website.
    I have been writing and blogging with a passion for two years trying to bring honesty, clarity and ethics to the Self-Help arena.

    I have 309,000 Comments, most of which are SPAM, and like yourself spend many hours reading and approving or trashing.

    My recent thoughts about resolving this perennial problem is as follows. Question to self! “Is it possible, feasible or practical to set up a system where readers can submit a comment through email”?

    To date I have begun setting up a system whereby site visitors can complete a Contact/Comment Form which allows them to leave a message/comment. This is then followed -up with sequential auto responder messages and a reply from me written as soon as possible, if a reply is requested in the message I receive.

    What do you think? Am I wasting my diminishing brain cells and time?

    Regards and respect,

    Phil Soffe

  • Leila says:

    I completely agree with you regarding the two way discussion. I don’t get many actual comments and get way more spam than I do legit ones, BUT, just today I had someone asking a question on one of my posts for help with something. If I didn’t have comments – where else would she ask me that question?

  • Sue says:

    Thanks for bringing this topic to my attention. What you say makes sense. I also read the CopyBlogger post you linked to. They’re going to engage on social media platforms such as Google+ and Twitter. One disadvantage of that is they don’t own the platform. If they were to get banned on those platforms or those platforms disappeared or were replaced by another platform they lose their followers.

    The best strategy, as per usual, would be to invite people who interact with us on social media to join our email list. That is the one strategy that never changes!

    I wonder how turning off comments will affect search engine rankings. I’m not sure how much weighting the search engines give to sites with comments.

  • I always manually approve my comments. I think it looks spammy to have comments which are off topic related. Its quality of quantity. No point have 100 comments about nothing, when you could have 10 which generate good discussion and bring quality traffic to your site.

  • It is a bit of a two-way street, if you don’t have comments then you can’t interact with people and they won’t get the answers they need from you.
    I think you should have some sort of system in place to help you get rid of the spam so that proper content and conversation can get through to you.

  • Rory says:

    Nice article Leslie.
    I think one of the primary reasons for choosing a blog setup over a standard website is to encourage engagement from your readers and build relationships. And those relationships can turn into great business partnerships. I think a perfect example is YOU 🙂 with your commenting on Yaro’s blog, and then becoming a contributor and ultimately taking over the Become a Blogger.

    Also, I think commenting is an imperative factor for up-and-coming bloggers trying to get their name out there: commenting on “bigger” sites starts to give them more exposure, helps their backlinking, and can lead to good relationships being formed.

    As usual, thanks for the in-depth piece.
    ~ Rory

  • Dale Masters says:

    Why don’t you just use Captcha?…or is that really expensive?

  • Bill says:

    I enjoyed reading Michael’s post on why he removed comments. I’d read the Copyblogger reasoning back when they shut down their comment section as well.

    While I get the idea of allowing the conversation to move to social media, it becomes scattered. I don’t want to have to hunt through Facebook and Google+ and Twitter to find them. I tried with a few posts from Copyblogger, but it isn’t worth the effort.

    I do agree with Michael’s thoughts on decluttering though. That is important for each one of us as well as the blogs we run. Our time is precious, so having less stuff getting in the way of what is really important matters. At some point, the comment section of our blogs may become clutter. Maybe blogs themselves will become clutter at some point. Who knows!

    But it is important to heavily weigh what you want to give to your readers rather than what is best for you. Thanks for making that point.

  • joynahtan says:

    I agree with all the pieces besides that final level Dave. I don’t assume I might begin with disabling feedback should you get tons of engagement. I might begin with placing a system in place that lets you take care of it. I believe that two-manner interplay is essential. However as soon as once more, all of it is determined by the aim of your website.

  • Louie Sison says:

    Hi Leslie,

    In my opinion, without comments, a blog isn’t really a blog. Blogging is not just about publishing content, but also the two-way communication and community building aspects behind it. I actually admire your community in this blog. You have nurtured your readers with great feedback through it’s comments.

    Thanks for the realization though!
    More power to your blog,
    Louie Sison

    • It’s one of the best parts about what I do – actually getting to interact with others. It’s what blogging is about for me. Glad you are enjoying the community Louie.

  • If you remove the blog’s comments sections,
    then there would be no room for these comments we are making, right here, right now, to each other.

    +MoniqueCloutier

  • What is the solution?

    We don’t want the community element to be compromised by having no place to comment and interact while visiting.

    It is true that the WordPress default comments system magnetizes a lot of spam comments which takes outrageous amounts of time to moderate.

    Ideally, you want to allow people’s comments to publish immediately so that the natural flow of community conversation can take place niched based upon the blog post’s topic.

    Having to wait to have your comment approved before you see it publish on the blog is a real annoyance for many, including myself.

    People won’t wait around on your site for too long before they decide to go somewhere else and be engaged, entertained or educated.

    But the issue is that you want to open up the forum for comments just not these spam messages. What to do?

    Use scripts in your coding that allow you to use
    – the Disqus Comment System,
    – the Facebook Comments System, or
    – the Twitter Feed Tweet Chat.

    Don’t use the default WordPress Comments System.

    You can even install a forum which is less hacked with spam comments,
    and a forum can be a great community platform.

    • I’ve tried the comment systems you recommend and don’t really like them.

      – Disqus resulted in fewer comments because people feel like they have to register for another system (even though they don’t)
      – Facebook comments pretty much suck – poor moderation tools and if you ever decide to switch to something else, you lose the comments.
      – Twitter feed tweet chat – once again, if something comes along in the future, you lose these comments unless you stick with them forever.

      I prefer to have full control of all of the content on my site, but that’s a personal preference.

  • Malou says:

    Great article. For me a blog = people giving their opinion about what you wrote. If you block comments like you said you won’t get feedback and people are more likely to skip your blog next time you write something down. For me disqus was a bit to slow. It took more time to load disqus then loading the rest of the page. Now i’m using the Fb comment box. Also a bit slow but spam is like 0%.

    • Yep, I hate the slowness of disqus, but many big sites seem to prefer it to the default wordpress comments. The problem I have with FB Comments is that the moderation tools are pretty poor and if you ever decide to use a different commenting system in the future, you can’t port the comments over. It’s on Facebook’s platform and they own them, not you. I like having more control of the content generated on my site.

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