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The Value of Comments to a Profit-making Blog

We’ve talked about the issues of blog comments before on Problogger.net, but never from a point of view of profit-making.

Coins

Image courtesy stock.xchng user lusi

But as I was looking at the stats on dPS last week, I found that this short, helpful opinion post from 2010 was still attracting a steady stream of readers—and comments. I explained on Google+ why I think that post’s still so popular, but today I wanted to look a bit more closely at how comments can help a profit-making blogger.

So let’s step through some of the ways blog comments can—directly and indirectly—add to your bottom line.

Increased ad revenue

Posts that engage readers are more likely to be shared, which draws more traffic back to those posts. Commenting is a very strong kind of engagement. That lenses post really does stimulate discussion, and at the same time it’s very helpful to those trying to work out which lenses to buy.

So if someone comments on that post, they may also be more likely to share it, which would boost traffic and ad impressions. And if your blog has a “most commented” or “most popular” list in the sidebar, an ongoing comment stream could push the post into that as well, drawing more attention to it from users on other pages of your blog.

Ongoing affiliate revenue

Imagine if this post had included affiliate links to actual products. So long as I’d kept the links up to date, I could still be making affiliate revenue from a post we’d published nearly three years ago. Not bad!

Potential sponsorship

This post obviously draws strong attention from my readers. It’s been shared on Facebook nearly 1,000 times, and pinned to Pinterest more than 17,000 times.

This could give me good reason to approach brands that make the types of lenses covered in that post, or mentioned by users in the comments themselves. I could contact them to see if they’re interested in buying paid sponsorship either for that post, or an updated version of it.

Audience research for new products

The comments on the post are really insightful. Have a read and you’ll get a feel for the experience levels of the users, what brands they prefer, what they’re shooting, how they use their equipment, and so on. They’re also tagged by date, so they provide some insight into the way my audience has evolved over time.

By spending a little time going through these comments, I might easily come up with a couple of ideas for new products to try with my readers.

Encourage first-timers to engage

There’s nothing worse than clicking through from a search result to find the article you’ve chosen is old and outdated.

Comments really do keep your evergreen content fresh and alive. This is a short post, but the scroll bar indicates there’s a lot more on the page. Any new visitor who scrolled down would likely be surprised by the number of comments, and the fact that the discussion is ongoing.

They might be encouraged to comment themselves, or at least to look around the site a bit more. Best-case scenario? They subscribe to the RSS feed or mailing list, prompted by the strong evidence of a passionate readership, as indicated by these comments!

In short, comments:

  • attract attention
  • keep the discussion growing
  • are helpful to other users
  • can solicit on-site engagement in a range of ways
  • can excite users to share, driving more traffic to the post.

But there’s a catch: not all comments are good comments—especially for those with a profit focus. So let’s look at the characteristics of comments that will help you achieve the goals we’ve just talked about.

Good comment, bad comment

The kinds of comments I want to keep on my posts are those that:

  • add to the discussion, rather than just repeating the article’s main points
  • contribute insight or personal experience
  • are clearly written
  • have a username, email address, website or avatar attached.

These are the kinds of comments that potential post-sponsors will want to see, as will any advertisers or others who are considering investing marketing budget into your blog.

The kinds of comments I try to catch before they’re published are those which:

  • criticize without contribution: I love respectful disagreements in comments, because often they’re a great way to learn. But criticism that doesn’t add value is usually pretty unhelpful.
  • aren’t clear, or don’t take the post or author seriously: Again, this doesn’t really add value to the discussion. it certainly won’t inspire potential ad-space buyers about your readership.
  • simply promote their own products: Sometimes, this can be a fine line, but if a commenter simply suggests readers look at his or her own site, and doesn’t add to the discussion in any other way, I tend to send their post to the trash.

On that basis, I don’t necessarily delete comments that:

  • include offsite links
  • talk about other (or the commenter’s own) products
  • criticize or disagree with the author
  • are short or informal.

If I did that, the comments could end up feeling fairly stilted and contrived—and that’s not going to encourage further comments over time. But also, the presence of any of those things doesn’t mean the comment’s no good. Each comment really does need to be judged on its own merits, and in the context of the post and other comments that haven been made.

Taken with the post itself, the comments should ideally provide real value that encourages sharing, bookmarking, repeat visits, and more commenting—that’s where the greatest profit potential for comments lies.

Do you treat comments as adding to the overall monetization potential of your blog? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the 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. Two kinds of people make bad comments according to me. One, who are involved in bulk spamming. And two, are newbies. They just know making comments give these much thing but they never know making such bad comments harm their blogs image.

    I really like the idea of encouraging first timer. As they come to your blog for the first time and if they didn’t get any attention like replies or welcome they won’t take any interest in your blog as there have thousand other blogs to pass their comments on. I think giving some attention to them will help us in getting a lot of attention in return.

    • Nick says:

      Irfan,

      I`ve just read your comment & had to jump in & endorse your mention of newbies.

      When your first start out you know very little, if anything, but still feel that you want to contribute. Unfortunately, this can be a case of a little knowledge is dangerous &, as a consequence, end up talking a lot of nonsense!

      Some people say that you are an expert if you know more than the next person!

      When is the time right for the newbie to know that he / she has been around long enough to have something of vale to share?

      Nick

  2. Allie says:

    Darren,

    I never thought of comments in this way. The one idea I really liked was that you stated that comments can keep a post evergreen. While searching for an answer to something, I have come across old posts that ranked well in Google but are a bit outdated. If there are comments I will read them hoping to find an answer and many times I do.

    ~Allie

  3. Pretty dope. I have always viewed comments for SEO purposes and link backs. The conversation piece is the most important. If you give some really dope advice I am pretty sure others will visit your site. Hence making you money as well.

  4. Mike Collins says:

    Hi Darren,

    Commenting is something that I need to spend more time on. There are so many different tasks involved in running a blog that moderating comments can get pushed to the back burner. But I’ve learned that comments are a good way to engage with readers and I have to make time to do so.

    thanks,
    Mike

  5. Hugh says:

    Thanks Darren. Like Allie, I never quite thought about this subject in this way. There have been many times I’ve read a post that was just okay, but the comments were so concise and insightful that it prompted me to comment myself.

  6. Comments are so valuable simply because it shows that people are actually reading your stuff and taking the time to engage with it. I have several blogs and I have a hard time getting people to comment on the actual blog – usually I will get comments on facebook, but not on the actual blog! I wish I knew how to get readers to do this.
    But its very true that if a blog has alot of comments, I am more inclined to add to it – whereas if there is no comments, I rarely do.

  7. JohnnyFit says:

    Nice perspective on comments. Comments can also contribute to SEO as well. I know that I have found several articles after doing a Google search and discovered that the keywords were in the comments.

  8. Sarah says:

    There’s nothing I dislike more than scratching my head over a comment that may or may not be spam, not wanting to offend the commenter by deleting it out of hand but strongly suspecting it might not be a real person on the other end. Usually I can tell, but there’s that occasional comment that makes me stop and think!

    • Sarah,
      When I’m in doubt I will click through to the commenter’s url and check it out. If I’m still suspicious I will let the comment go live but I disable their url. I’ve done that once or twice.

  9. MonicaP says:

    I’m a new blogger so comments make me feel .. hmm, not so lonely! I mean, if someone comments then at least I know my post has been viewed :-)

  10. Especially for noobs, the comments can form your blog into something great. Listen and interact. Don’t just rant, rave, and close comments. That is why newspaper companies are so close to failure all the time. One way streets are the least favorite of drivers (your readers). Let them respond in an honest and sometimes constructive way.

  11. Gary says:

    I think that if someone takes time out to make a comment on my blog (relating to the content and not just spam) then I am serious about responding to their contribution. Do others feel the need to respond or does comment fatigue set in when the number of comments goes through the roof?

  12. Daniel says:

    Agree that comments do seem to have many positive affects for a site. Though, as mentioned, above in “comments’ it would be preferred to have more quality comments than those “great post”! type of offerings….

  13. Of course from a relative newbie, any blog comment (that isn’t spam) gets approved because it will only add to the social proof. There is nothing worse than spending ages on writing a good post only for it to not attract any comments. That being said, something I really don’t approve of is when the same 5/6 people keep appearing on every new post by certain bloggers. It comes across to me like they are just in a little pact to promote each other and take turns in doing so.

    I suppose we all do it to some degree. Half of commenting is self promotion, but in my opinion there is a right and wrong way to go about it.

  14. Trevor says:

    Hmmm . . . makes sense.

    It seems that a profit-making blog should only be able to earn profit in proportion to the value it provides. Since comments provide such great value to a blog, it only follows that they should help to increase a blog’s profit as well — directly or indirectly. Now if I could just get a few comments on my blog!

    Many thanks for the insightful post.

    Cheers!

  15. Margo says:

    Commenting on comments: I do not have a blog or a website but I am a voracious reader (I also take photos). All of these comments are thoughtful. and have a basis in sound business practices. 1. Encouraging first timers does make for a repeat customer. 2. Comments do engage readers to a further level and therefore provide a reason to come back to a site. 3. And bitch girl hit it exactly right – if there are comments a person is more inclined to comment and if there are not any then unless the blog has really hit a nerve the tendency is to move on. 4. Not all readers read your product the day you put it out, so closed comments do just that, they close the subject to someone who might have had something very pertinent to the subject to be unable to contribute. 5. “Great post” means just that. It is a compliment. It adds validity to the subject and the blogger. Maybe the person did not have enough time to add more or maybe they are insecure about their writing skills. It’s ok. It was a voice. Thanks this was fun.

  16. Richard Ng says:

    Totally agreed with you Darren as commenting is mainly how we (bloggers and visitors) communicate in the blog community. The more the merrier…

  17. CJ @ StrategicMarketingGuy says:

    How does everyone feel about the CommentLuv plugin? Coincidently, I was considering getting it today. I have some more research to do, but much of the material out there on it is kind of dated. Wondering if it’s still relevant and what the PB community thinks. Cheers!

  18. Ali zia says:

    Hi Darren,
    Comments have big hand in the profit of blog.And in the form of comment Visitors also gives their personal experience and tells more about any point which are missing in post.Comments also increase leadership and attract the visitors
    Thanks for nice article

  19. Vikas says:

    comments are important as they encouraged the debate on the post.

  20. Darren,

    I’ve always thought that having comments enabled on a blog was a positive thing. Then I started hearing about other bloggers disabling them. For example, Seth Godin doesn’t allow comments on his blog. That being said, I think that it’s really important for new bloggers to have them enabled, but they must actually respond to them to keep the conversation going.

  21. Tom says:

    Great post!

    What I usually do to encourage constructive comments is adding some questions at the end of my post. I’ve found it very useful and readers like it.

  22. Angie says:

    As a newer blogger, I had not thought about that comments keep the content fresh. I do have a post that is geared more towards the May/June time of year and somehow it has become the most visited and commented post on my blog. The comments have definitely added to my content.

    Now if I could just get that many comments on more posts, I’d be on my way.

    In addition, I enjoyed the webinar last night – my daughter was impressed with my 7 pages of notes! ;)

  23. Tom Clark says:

    Great idea on the evergreen element. I have akismit as there are two many spam comment but some great ones also which I can react upon and make a new guitar student or sell an ebook. If you update an old post does it appear with an updated date?

  24. Commenting always generate a lot of traffic, and traffic means earning a lot more also.

  25. Dan Erickson says:

    I’m a fairly new blogger and first time commenter to your site. I’m finally getting a few followers and good commenters. Your article is right on about engagement and increasing traffic. I’ve noticed my duration time increasing, too.

  26. Harsha says:

    Great post as always.. actually was planning to buy 31 days blogging book .. hope it includes all these things :)

  27. Getting comments to new blog is really difficult but content can help you a lot to do so. In a profitable blog comments really matters a much.

  28. Beth Hewitt says:

    Commenting should be part of any serious bloggers marketing strategy. Not just on other people’s blogs but also interacting with the blogs comments that are left on your own page. I get lots of juicy traffic from blog commenting. But I agree that some people only do it for the traffic. The really beauty of blog commenting comes from the amazing relationships and opportunities you can create.

    Beth :)