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Should Low Traffic Blogs Disable Comments?

Reader QuestionsLintCollector asks – ‘My question relates to comments on a low-traffic blog. If there are very few comments due to lack of readers (not lack of regular posts), can this emphasize the lack of readers and reflect badly on the blog? If high activity on popular blogs conveys an impression that the blog is valued and has worth, then can a lack of comments give the opposite impression?’

The old ‘should a blog have comments?’ debate – an oldie but a goodie.

You’re definitely right on some levels about comments being a pretty quick signal to new readers as to whether your blog is being read widely or not. It’s like walking down a road with a lot of restaurants on it and seeing some bursting with patrons and others with no one inside – I know which one I’d rather be eating in!

There’s no getting around the fact that comments beget comments – however I also think that they can be a valuable part of even a small blog where they are rarely used. In fact on a small blog they can be even more important than on a big one because they put you into a potential conversation with the readers you already do have.

I remember when I first started blogging that I spent a lot of time in my own comments section. Even though I was probably only getting 2-3 comments a day from readers I would intentionally spend time replying to every one, asking follow up questions, emailing thank you messages to those who left comments etc. Every comment left is a reader taking a step towards being a regular reader – without them readers have no simple way to participate.

Of course there are costs to having comments on a blog – spam, trolls, flaming etc – but while I spend more time than I’d like on these things I think that the benefits of comments are worth the time.

One thing that you might like to try though to make it a little less obvious that you don’t have many comments is think about the way that you display the comments link on your front page. Some bloggers have it read ’0 comments’ (in fact I think I do here at ProBlogger) which advertises that you don’t have any loud and clear on the front page of your blog. Alternatively you could change that link to simple read ‘comment on this post’ when there is no comments. Some bloggers try to get people involved by writing ‘be the first to comment’ which at least gives a little incentive to first comment leavers.

If you do move to activating comments on your blog you might like to read my previous post on the topic of getting people to leave comments.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Comments maketh the blog alive!

  2. To test a simple theory, once i made some random comments on my own on one of my blog once.. And to my surprise.. I could get people talking long…!
    Think about crowding the tables with idle employees!
    Never make it a practice though ;)

  3. Comments should always be enabled. If you disable them, it will be harder to get traffic. There are many ways to ‘disguise’ the fact that you don’t have many comments. One is counting trackbacks as comments. The other is simply making a couple of blogger friends that have blogs with a similar theme as yours, and comment furiously on their blogs. They will surely return the favor. Build it little by little. If your site is any good, comments will come naturally.

  4. Dawn says:

    Read an interesting blog this morning where there were no comments to almost every post. However, when the blogger posted that his dear old mum had passed on, several dozen people posted their condolences and it was obvious from the tone that most were regular readers. Made me think, be I always assume that if no one is commenting, then no one is reading. Obviously not – at least in this case.

  5. James says:

    Now if the spam comments would just be printable I”d have more than enough comments. Unfortunately, most are not fit for print.

  6. Doug says:

    It seems pretty cut and dry to me. I have a custom coded site and when I enabled comments, traffic picked up quite a bit. But when I posted a story that was picked up internationally, my traffic of course exploded and so did the number of comments on other articles. If I had comments disabled at that time, I would have missed the opportunity to grow the site and interact with those readers. Don’t close doors just because your site isn’t big _yet_.

    Another angle – lack of comments has caused me not to comment on occasion, but never to not come back to a site with quality content.

  7. Popular blogs should leave comment on

  8. Martin says:

    I have a question for anyone using a self-made blog– ie — not powered by wordpress, blogspot etc, where comments come as a standard or plug-in;

    How can you set up comments on your site? Any reccommended coders who or companies who do it cheaply? What is the general method (ie — php, javascript etc)?

    Any help will be appreciated, Peace/

  9. Rehuel says:

    I think patience is very important. Not leaving room for comments because the blog has e few readers can become a disaster if you write an article that really speaks to the reader. If then the reader cannot respond to the article, it will discourage them, and they might try less to see if they can comment.

    Besides, you can’t expect to get loads of comments, when you just turn it on one day, because you think you have enough readers to allow commenting. You will need to let it grow.

  10. Raghu says:

    Well well I dont see any reason at all to have comments turned off. Yes ofcourse I agree that low traffic bloggers can do all the points that is listed in the post above.

    But what can high traffic bloggers do –
    http://www.raghucs.com/2007/03/06/blogs-and-reader-communities-can-they-collaborate/

  11. Brad says:

    While having a large number of comments definitely makes a blog look popular and well read, I don’t think you can read too much into sites that don’t have as many comments.

    I write for two Weblogs Inc blogs right now, TV Squad and Download Squad. People love to talk about software, but people really really love to talk about TV. So while both sites have pretty large readerships, posts on TV Squad tend to get more comments. And while some of the most popular posts on Download Squad get a ton of comments, other very popular posts get almost no comments at all.

  12. David Zemens says:

    I am in agreement with most of the other commenters. I see no reason to disable comments — it’s the only way to get involvement from others. I also agree that it is important to respond to those commenters with another comment or perhaps an email. It takes time and hard work. At least that’s what I read…I am still putting in the time and the hard work on my blogs.

  13. Evorgleb says:

    Over at Highbrid Nation when we first started out we dealt with this issue. I agree with the advice you gave though. Nurture the readers who do comment and let it build from there. I remember being so happy when I’d get just one comment. Its all part of the grind that goes with being a blogger.

  14. ilker says:

    Yes to comments all the way… if you really have to, try putting a couple of “fake” comments under different names made up yourself and see how that affects reactions.

    Sometimes though, no comments is a good thing.. the person who gets to leave one becomes the first! I always enjoy doing that on other blogs =)

  15. Chris Lodge says:

    Simple answer: No.

    I think a low traffic blog with no comments enabled will remain just that: A low traffic blog.

    Where’s the incentive to return and engage with the blogger?. Write good stuff, ask questions, involve your readers and the comments will flow.

  16. JennDZ says:

    I have fairly good traffic to my blog, but I wrote an article about something I was really passionate about that probably not many people knew about…that spurred my comments from 2-3 a week average to 9 comments just on that one piece, and now comments are coming a lot more…I guess because I spurred some interest. So I guess if you make people think or teach them something they SHOULD know about, people comment.

  17. engtech says:

    If you have older posts without comments (and are unlikely to generate comments because they get no traffic) you might as well turn commenting off for the reduced spam.

  18. I agree with many of the above commenters. No reason to turn your comments off if it is a low-traffic blog.

    Personally, I cannot see the idea in doing so. Allow me to put it like this :

    1. You have a low-traffic blog. You have comments turned on. Maybe, just maybe, you will eventually start getting comments, as your content gets picked up by more people, ultimately generating more traffic, and allowing you to start building a community around your site.

    2. You have a low-traffic blog. You have comments turned off. By doing this, you of course take care of getting rid of the spam that would ultimately hit your site. But… you also disallow people the option of commenting on your posts IF they actually wanted to, thus removing the chance of getting a community running.

    I personally cannot see anything sincerely positive outcome from turning off comments.

    Regards :)

  19. jhay says:

    Open comment threads would help low traffic blogs gain more traffic.

  20. Ken Y-N says:

    I barely manage one or two comments per day (excluding spam of course!) but I have one story that’s gained over 100 comments in a year, been quite heavily linked, and has produced a keyword-rich page that nets lots and lots of search traffic. On another story on password security, a friend posted a joking comment on how he was going to go hack some pr0n sites with the info, so now I get a trickle of traffic of people looking on how to hack said web sites!

    Therefore, as long as you have decent spam protection, I cannot really see any reason to turn comments off. Set to always moderate if you want to control the conversation completely, of course.

  21. I posted the exact same comments, but about FeedBurner widgets:
    http://www.harpzon.com/articles/72/1/Dont-Publish-Your-FeedBurner-Widget-If/Page1.html

  22. The people that read my blog aren’t all that tech savvy, so I almost never get comments online. Instead they all email me.

    After blogging for a year now, sometimes I find the lack of comments discouraging. And I sure as heck wish some of nice emails were public!

    I leave comments open, but know that until my target market learns about feedreaders & blog communities, my blog’s popularity looks quiet even though it’s not.

  23. Jen says:

    Then again, Seth Godin doesn’t have comments on his blog. He’s come under a lot of flak for that, of course, but makes some good arguments for his decision – the time commitment comes immediately to mind, but he also says that anticipating what commenters might say has the effect of changing how he writes. Interesting POV… but I’d vote for comments enabled, no matter the size of the readership. It’s a big part of what makes a blog a blog, and not just a frequently updated website.

  24. MJ Ray says:

    @Martin: I use a CGI-to-email script to send comments to me in a form that I can cut-and-paste into the blog quite easily. This means that most comments get the same status as new posts, which seems to attract more comments. There are drawbacks (requires editor intervention, but that’s the same as any blog with pre-moderation; have to make sure the CGI-to-email script can’t be used for spamming) but it works fairly well.

    One thing I’ve noticed is that I get the same spammers trying to submit through multiple comment forms. If you’re running a low-traffic site, you might like to find some way (links, iframes, whatever) to have only one comment form for the whole blog and then you shouldn’t get enough spam to worry about tweaking the anti-spam settings all the time like I do.

  25. On a related note – if you get comments, respond!
    Seth Godin responds. Howard Lindzon (Wallstrip.com and hedge fund manager) responds.
    But I’ve been the only commenter on a topic and nary a burp from the blogger.
    So I made a pledge – I’ll always respond to commenters.

    http://goinglikesixty.wordpress.com/2007/03/23/thanks-for-your-comment/

  26. Ari says:

    In my opinion, not that any one cares about my opinion, it depends. I read and commented repeatedly on a post a couple months back on JohnTP’s blog regarding this issue.

    I always felt that comments should be turned off if you are a low traffic blog. Then one day I was checking my shortstat results and saw a lot of people were hitting my blog because of a post I had written on a scamming website. As a result, I decided to turn on comments for my blog. Literally the next day I had two comments on that post. Now after 2 and a half months I have over 50.

    That may not seem like a lot for the big bloggers but I have only been online since December and my traffic is in the tens a day not thousands.

    One good tip that I I got from John Chow’s blog, as many bloggers suggest, is to consider enabling the Top Commentators plugin. This way if you only have a few posts with some comments people will know that your blog gets comments.

  27. I just recently turned off comments on my personal blog, http://www.elainevigneault.com because the comments I get tend to be mean spirited and I have thin skin. I spend a great deal of time moderating comments that could be spent writing better posts or working on other projects.

    However, i just recently installed the top commentors plugin for the communal blog I manage, http://www.2kbloggers.com and I hope it will encourage more discussion.

    The funny thing is, my personal blog currently gets more traffic. But you wouldn’t know it if you looked at the comments.

  28. Brett says:

    Great article. I have been reading your blog off and on for the last two weeks. I must say your blog is my favorite – really. Not only is the content relevant and useful, but I have learned a lot about what to add and not to add to a blog. One thing about your blog that I like is that it is uncluttered. It has the perfect balance of content in my opinion, and I have scoured at least 50 blogs before creating my own. I just started a blog, and I don’t understand why anyone would even think of disabling comments. My blog is “small” but have to start somewhere – right?

  29. Zach Everson says:

    I get a fair amount of traffic, but because of my subject (grammatical pointers) I don’t get a lot of comments. I wouldn’t think of disabling them though. I’ve had book publishers and authors comment; obviously if I hadn’t had comments enabled, I never would have engaged in some great conversation with them.

    Also, you never know when a popular blog will link to yours and its readers will want to comment on your site. Lifehacker linked to one of my posts a while back and I got a slew of comments from its readers.

  30. I’m the guy whose question Darren has addressed in this post, and I want to thank Darren and everyone who has added their valuable comments on this subject.

    The concensus seems to be overwhelmingly in support of having commenting activated, and I can now see the merit in this, even for a low traffic blog. I’ve chewed over what’s been written and have decided to allow comments from now on. While the traffic is still low, I imagine the spam and admin overhead should also be low or non-existant.

    My other concern, apart from spam, was not responding to comments in a timely manner (I can be offline for many days at a time). The obvious solution is to simply be more diligent and check each day – it shouldn’t take long if there are few visitors or comments. And if I disappear into the bush for a week I could do what Darren has recently written about – get someone else to handle the blog admin while I’m gone. I’ll give it a go.

  31. I’ve just been staying at home waiting for something to happen. I just don’t have anything to say right now. My life’s been basically unremarkable , but eh. I can’t be bothered with anything recently.

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