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When Bloggers Should Care About Comments… and When They Shouldn’t! post image

When Bloggers Should Care About Comments… and When They Shouldn’t!

How important are blog comments, really?

Are they an important sign of engagement? Do they indicate a vibrant community?

Or are they just a waste of the blogger’s time?

A lot has been written about this, with big names on both sides of the aisle. Some content that comments are nice, but not important for business. Others feel that they are a complete waste of time, and yet a third group would say that if there aren’t comments, the blog is just totally unsuccessful.

Which group is right?

The answer is, of course, that it depends…

Back and Forth on Comments…

I’ve changed my mind several times about the importance of comments.

When I first started out, I thought comments were king (pun intended), and would have done anything that I could to get them.

Then I started getting them. My most popular posts (on my blog, as well as some of my guest posts) attracted well over 100 comments, and some of them have over 200.

That’s when I realized that comments have a down-side. Reading and answering them takes up a huge amount of the blogger’s time, not to mention that you can have thousands of comments without making a single sale.

Which brought me to the conclusion that maybe comments aren’t that important. As long as traffic and sales were going up, should I care that comments were down?

Some people (who I respect) said that yes, I should care. They explained why, and made a lot of sense.

So we’re back to the original question: do comments matter?

The answer is still “it depends”, but what it depends on is where you are in the growth of your blog, and the growth of your audience

The Blog Commenting Lifecycle

A lot of my success as a blogger has come from realizing that there are different stages in the growth of a blog, and depending on where you are on that ladder, different strategies will be appropriate to get you to the next rung.

(That’s the topic of my most popular post about Why Guru Strategies for Blog Growth DON’T WORK… and What Does!, and the topic of a book that I’m writing with Sean Platt.)

Well, it turns out that the same logic applies to comments. Sometimes they matter, and sometimes they don’t – it all depends on where you are in the growth of your blog. Not only that, but sometimes commenting is important, and other times receiving comments is important… and sometimes it’s neither!

Here are the stages, in a nutshell:

  1. Brand New Blog – Comments Matter
  2. Building Your Community – Comments Matter a Lot
  3. Optimizing Your Funnel – Comments Matter Less
  4. You’re An Authority – Comments Don’t Matter
  5. Becoming an A-Lister – Comments Matter Again

Let’s explore each of the five stages…

Stage 1: Brand New Blog – Comments Matter

Starting a new blog is starting from scratch – nobody has heard of you, and your blog is like a billboard in the desert.

You desperately want someone to pay attention to what you’re doing, but nobody knows who you are. Ultimately, you’ll fix that by guest posting on larger sites, to make their audiences aware of your work.

But before you can guest post, you need to introduce yourself to the target bloggers, and to their communities.

At this stage, you won’t receive any comments on your blog (even though you want them), but you need to be posting on other people’s blogs in order to get their attention.

Stage 2: Building Your Community – Comments Matter a Lot

Soon, other bloggers (and their communities) are going to start recognizing you, and interacting. Instead of just leaving a single comment on posts, you’ll find yourself engaging in conversations with other commenters, as well as the host blogger.

You’ll also write guest posts for them, and live and die with each comment, because they indicate to you that the audience is responding favorably, and they show the host blogger that you’re a force to be reckoned with.

And of course, some people will make their way back to your own blog, and comment there to continue the discussion.

At this stage, commenting is very important – both for you on other blogs, as a way of strengthening your ties with your burgeoning community of peers, and by others on your blog, as proof that people are actually connecting with your work.

Stage 3: Optimizing Your Funnel – Comments Matter Less

Eventually, your traffic and comment numbers will rise high enough that you can “count on” a couple dozen comments per post.

Then you’ll realize that not only are comments a time-consuming activity, but they don’t pay the bills!

So you’ll take half a step back, and start focusing on your business model, and on making more money, and that’s what you should be doing – now that you’ve got traffic, you have to make sure you can actually convert them into business before you try to get too much more.

You’re still going to respond to comments, of course, and you’re still going to comment on the work of your colleagues – but only when you have something important to say.

Stage 4: You’re An Authority – Comments Don’t Matter

Sooner or later, you’ll crack the nut of converting traffic into customers, and you’ll find yourself making money.

When that happens, you’ll realize a couple of things; first of all, customers take time to service, and second of all, you’re going to want to do whatever you can to get more of them.

As your traffic and sales continue to go up, you’ll realize that comments probably don’t matter to you as much as they used to.

You’ll also realize that the posts that generate the most discussion aren’t always the posts that attract the most customers; after all, the people who discuss are often a different profile of person from the ones that buy.

You’ll still respond to comments on your blog (it’s only polite), and you’ll keep watching the rest of your corner of the blogosphere, but at this point, comments won’t be particularly important to you.

Stage 5: Becoming an A-Lister – Comments Matter Again

As you continue to grow, you’ll start approaching A-List status, and you’ll notice something interesting start to happen.

Remember how you started out by commenting on all the A-List blogs to get their attention? Well, the tables will now have turned, and bloggers who are just starting out will be commenting on your blog in hopes of getting your attention!

You’ll respond to comments, as much as you can, and you’ll occasionally comment on other blogs, too – but now a comment from you will be seen as a small badge of acceptance and validation from the blogosphere.

So comments still matter, but the tables have turned. Funny how that works out!

Over to you… what do you think?

This isn’t the final word on the subject of the importance of comments.

I’m still figuring it out, just like you, and near as I can figure, I’m somewhere between stage 3 and stage 4. Ask me again in a few months or years, when I’m further along in the growth of my blog, and I may have a different perspective.

But right now, this makes sense to me. It fits my experience, and it fits my observations of the blogs of my 30 audience-building co-authors.

And that’s good enough for me.

What do you think? Does it make sense to you? What stage are you at?

Danny Iny is an author, strategist, serial entrepreneur, and proud co-founder of Firepole Marketing, the definitive marketing training program for small businesses, entrepreneurs, and non-marketers. Visit his site today for a free cheat sheet about Why Guru Strategies for Blog Growth DON’T WORK… and What Does!

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{ 35 comments… add one }

  • Wilton Chu August 21, 2012, 5:08 am

    As a blogger, I am not quite interested with comments on my blogs because as what you’re talking about its a waste of time and some are just a “spam”. However looking back and seeing that it could be a possible growth in my business so I think I’ll give it a try this time.

  • Samuel May 28, 2012, 6:34 pm

    Man Danny, you have nailed the comments game with this fantastic post.

    I have written a post on how to generate comments, and it is growing way over the amount I ever imagined.

    Comments are obviously still important for me, but not too much importance as it was. On other blogs, they are very important.

    Fantastic Article!
    Samuel recently posted..How To Write A Good Article!My Profile

  • Daniel March 4, 2012, 2:41 pm

    Good post. Statistically, most bloggers won’t make it off the first “rung” of the ladder because they’ll abandon their site in less than 90 days, often because they don’t properly engage early on and don’t see the increasing in traffic and comments (often seen as validation for new bloggers – especially those trying to make money on their blog).
    Daniel recently posted..SEO For Bloggers: Squeeze Traffic Out of Your Site With Alt and Title Image TagsMy Profile

  • Tom January 6, 2012, 8:59 pm

    Very insightful post Danny. However, for me, comments should still matter even if someone is at stage 4 (I like how you presented this in stages). A person of “authority” should still take time to listen to what other people have to say. Even more so since other persons of authority will now start commenting on his posts, and we all know that when these gurus come together, valuable nuggets of information are revealed. Just my two cents. ;)
    Tom recently posted..Surprise! A Tip for In-house SEO ManagersMy Profile

  • Noel Addison December 9, 2011, 5:02 am

    Blog comments signifies engagement. People will not find your blog and leave a comment if they don’t think you posted a valuable content or people will not leave a comment and if they are not confident that linking to your site will boost their website’s traffic.
    Noel Addison recently posted..5 Things to Look for in a Web Dev CompanyMy Profile

  • Rachael Macgregor November 26, 2011, 10:27 am

    Great break down of it and how funny – I do see myself in that timeline too. Thanks for a great post and for pointing out ‘what’s next’ :)
    Rachael Macgregor recently posted..My 60 Min Per Day MLM Blogging StrategyMy Profile

  • Brad November 23, 2011, 10:13 pm

    Nice timeline very helpful :).
    Brad recently posted..Guest post: 5 factors to bear in mind before selecting a smartphone contractMy Profile

  • AstroGremlin November 23, 2011, 8:59 pm

    Hey Danny, nice “timeline” for comments’ importance. One observation: If commenting is going the way of the dodo, the investment I’ve noticed in CommentLuv by many, many bloggers is misguided. Except it’s not. CommentLuv is stimulating a renaissance in commenting. People are motivated by the reward of promoting their articles. I predict that post titles are going to be designed to attract CommentLuv clicks as much as SEO. Of course, I’m a beginner and comments are super important for me.

    • Danny November 24, 2011, 8:18 am

      Hey AstroGremlin, I know what you mean, but I’m not sure I agree with you. I mean, don’t get me wrong – I even installed CommentLuv on Firepole Marketing, so I’m definitely not knocking it. But I think that in a lot of cases, it leads to more comments, but not necessarily better comments; the motivation for a good comment is the content that they’re discussing, rather than self-promotion, and often CommentLuv blogs end up with a lot of vapid and repetitive comments that add little value. I’m not sure what the solution is to that, but I think CommentLuv might be a bit of a band-aid…

  • ecuador crafts November 23, 2011, 11:33 am

    what a great idea to to use a blog as a publishing platform for content without any engagement and then use social platforms like Google and Facebook to have conversations because they might go viral there and not on your “blog”. thanks for the adice!!

  • michael November 23, 2011, 9:26 am

    Danny – Great article! I especially liked the Blog Commenting Lifecycle analysis. I’ve never seen it presented in bullet form before.

    I’m still in the “Building Your Community-Comments Matter a Lot” stage, so it’s nice to see there is light at the end of the tunnel!
    michael recently posted..How Blog Backlinks Drive Traffic to Your SiteMy Profile

  • Carlos LLuberes November 23, 2011, 12:34 am

    Nice post, I’m building my community, let me get those comments! But it’s odd, most people have reached to me directly, saying they love the blog, but have never made a single comment. Is it something cultural maybe? Or just they are not interested in beginning any type of public conversation?
    Carlos LLuberes recently posted..Una página de Google+ para mi marca, la creo o no?My Profile

    • Danny November 23, 2011, 8:17 am

      It could be cultural, Carlos, depending on the audience that you’re targeting. For many people, leaving comments feels too “public” for what they want to do, and for what they’re comfortable with.

      It might not matter – what are your goals? Are emails just as good? (or better?)

  • Ana November 23, 2011, 12:03 am

    I think this definitely makes a lot of sense, Danny.

    …Until I get to your “authority” vs “a-lister” distinction.

    I don’t think comments matter to either one category – they’ll get them either way, as you noted.

    Most A-lister don’t respond to their comments on their own anyway, so catching their attention that way is virtually impossible. Newbie bloggers just don’t realize it.
    Ana recently posted..Internet Marketing Black Friday Blowout SalesMy Profile

  • Ileane November 22, 2011, 7:05 pm

    Hey Danny, you’re right. Your goals and the stage of your progress need to be evaluated to determine how much time you will spend on engagement. But what I find ironic is that some bloggers or so called A listers don’t engage on their blogs but they do engage on Facebook or Google+. On the other hand perhaps they are outsourcing their social media campaigns.
    I think that if you aren’t going to engage on your blog then you should just put up a website and move your conversations – because let’s face it you have to talk to SOMEBODY sometime – over to other networks.
    Ileane recently posted..How to Get Noticed In a Blogging Contest – 5 TipsMy Profile

    • Louis November 22, 2011, 11:49 pm

      I agree, Ileane. But I personally think that whether it’s on FB, G+ or their own site, we can still communicate with them.
      Bad thing is that if they only show up for the sake of posting the article.

    • Danny November 23, 2011, 8:14 am

      Hi Ileane, I think bloggers are trying to push conversation to other platforms for one of two reasons; either they’re trying to establish a presence on that platform (in which case they’re just trying to give it a jump start), or they think it has more potential for viral exposure (as with stuff being shared on people’s walls via Facebook). Does that make sense?
      Danny recently posted..Better Bundling: 3 Books for the Price of OneMy Profile

      • Ileane November 23, 2011, 10:54 am

        Danny, don’t you think it makes more sense to maintain a website instead of a blog if someone doesn’t plan on engaging on the blog itself?
        Ileane recently posted..Thesis Awesome Blogskin Black Friday SaleMy Profile

        • Danny November 23, 2011, 11:06 am

          I think that depends on how you define “blog” – if it’s a medium for discussion and engagement, then yes, but I don’t think that’s what a blog has to be; fundamentally, a blog is a publishing platform, and I don’t see why people can’t use it as such (assuming it’s consistent with their goals, of course). Just my opinion, of course. :)
          Danny recently posted..Nominate Your Engagement Superstar – and Win!My Profile

          • Ileane November 23, 2011, 11:13 am

            Danny, let me make sure I understand what you’re saying. You think it “makes sense” to use a blog as a publishing platform for content without any engagement and then use social platforms like Google+ and Facebook to have conversations because they might go viral there and not on your “blog”.
            Ileane recently posted..8 Mistakes That Make Your Blog Look Highly UnprofessionalMy Profile

            • Danny November 23, 2011, 11:15 am

              Yes. If your goal is conversations with as many people as possible, then it makes sense to have that conversation where it’s more likely to go viral. Depends on your goal.
              Danny recently posted..Nominate Your Engagement Superstar – and Win!My Profile

  • Jack November 22, 2011, 7:03 pm

    As I was about to go BACK to Google+ to discuss this post, I realized I was part of either the problem or the solution, depending on how you look at it.

    Right now I am commenting and possibly getting into a discussion with people I don’t know. (Except for Pruitt up there who pointed me here from a social site.)

    This is good because I’m meeting and getting in front of new people. It’s kind of hard though, because I have a posse that I am growing back at G+ – which made it possible for me to even see this post in the first place.

    Blog commenting is down across the board when you’re talking about native comment functions like this one. Even the huge sites don’t get the kind of commenting they used to. People are taking the conversations they used to have in this space back to their social sites where the people they are closest to, respect, know, etc. hang out.

    It’s a natural occurrence since Twitter and Facebook started. And bloggers have been trying to figure out what to do ever since.

    I say just let it roll, keep native commenting alive, and realize the discussion of your content can happen in many different places off-site as well. We can’t stop it and we shouldn’t try. Our visitors want to use different tools to engage. A lot of them get lazy now that there are +1 buttons, Like buttons, and Tweet buttons. If they’re in a hurry, they might at least give one a click.

    I stopped caring how many comments a great piece of content gets on its own page a long time ago. If it’s good it’s good. If I have time to comment right there I will, but often, as is the case for most people these days, I only have time to buzz it and share – which is no small thing from people who have significant following at the places they share.

    But still – I can see the native comment process, as it is now, with comments down at the least important part of any web page, going the way of the dodo. Things will continue to blend toward social as they are now, and it shouldn’t dishearten any up and coming blogger that they get fewer comments than they’d like.

    What are people also doing in social for you? You have to count that as well – they aren’t separate things anymore. It’s not comments and then everything else. It’s all one thing and your overall discussion across the web is how you should gauge your success. Social, on-site, and everywhere else. Content travels.
    Jack recently posted..Interview on Relationship Marketing 101: CurationMy Profile

    • Danny November 23, 2011, 8:12 am

      Wow, Jack, what a response – thank you for weighing in!

      I think you’re right that a lot more of the discussion is happening off of the original host platform (i.e. the blog on which the post is published). And it’s good in the sense that if it’s easier to discuss, there’s more discussion, and more discussion means better spread of ideas, and more exposure for the blogger.

      The flip side of it, though, is that if less of the conversation is happening on the host blog, it’s harder to tell whether the post is doing well (particularly if you’re looking at a guest post like this one), and it’s harder for the writer of the post to get the results that they’re looking for (traffic back to their blog, followers, and ultimately sales).

      I like your point about looking at the other things that people might be doing in social media for you, other than just commenting on the post (and I think CommentLuv is a good example of trying to harness that, though there’s still work to be done). I wonder, where this is all going?

  • James November 22, 2011, 6:23 pm

    i think a lot of it will vary based on your personality, style, and your specific niche. Some niche sites, i rarely get any comments, but I still make regular sales on them, and have quite a list of regular readers and subscribers.

    However, I do find that the engagement factor helps a lot with SEO lately. My posts that have the highest rankings are also the same ones with the most comments on them.
    James recently posted..3 Reasons Why Brainstorming Company Name Ideas Deserves More Priority than You ThinkMy Profile

    • Danny November 23, 2011, 8:08 am

      That’s an interesting point about SEO, James – you’re right, as Google gets smarter and more sophisticated, they’re increasingly taking social cues into account, which means comments are more of a factor in terms of ranking.

      Alternatively, it could just be that the posts that are good enough to get comments are also good enough to get more backlinks… ;)
      Danny recently posted..Better Bundling: 3 Books for the Price of OneMy Profile

  • Al Sefati November 22, 2011, 6:03 pm

    comments are good as USGs and give your web pages good fresh content so as long as you moderate for spam!
    Al Sefati recently posted..Get Ahead by Writing Unique Content FirstMy Profile

  • Dave Lucas November 22, 2011, 4:44 pm

    Actually, from what I have observed, if you make it to “A-List” comments cease to be important. I know one A-List blogger who TURNED OFF her comments for three years after some brutal ones got through – her PR went thru the roof and visits increased – some as a result of links from other blogs on articles written about her blog by her regular commenters who were upset they couldn’t leave comments anymore! Go figure! The old “make lemonade when life hands you lemons” saying at work!
    BLOG ON!
    Dave Lucas recently posted..#Occupy_Albany – trying to distance itself from the media circus of who gets arrested every night?My Profile

  • Danny November 22, 2011, 3:53 pm

    Hesham, thank you for publishing this post here – it’s an honor to share it with your audience.

    I’m looking forward to discussion – so everybody, what do you think of the post?
    Danny recently posted..Better Bundling: 3 Books for the Price of OneMy Profile

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