Can You Get More Links if You Turn Off Comments?

By: Chris Crum - June 18, 2010

Every so often, an argument and ensuing discussion erupts in the Blogosphere over whether or not it is ethical to block comments on a blog post and what value they actually add to content.

Would you rather have blog comments or Facebook "likes" and retweets? Let us know.

The latest one started when John Gruber at DaringFireball wrote a post in response to a John Battelle post about Apple blocking Google from iOS app Ads. Gruber has become somewhat famous around the tech Blogosphere for not allowing comments, and is ususally referenced in these conversations.

Joe Wilcox at OddlyTogether wanted to respond to Gruber’s post, but obviously couldn’t do that via a blog comment, so he wrote his own blog post instead, questioning Gruber’s manhood. "If John Gruber allowed comments on his blog, I wouldn’t need to write this post, and it has been long-time coming," wrote Wilcox. "I considered writing it every time I read something outrageous at Daring Fireball but couldn’t directly respond because John doesn’t allow comments. Finally, this morning, I had enough."

"A man pushes out only as much as he can receive back," he added later in the post. "By comparison, I see John attacking from a fortified position. He can attack but not easily be assaulted, and, yes, many of his posts are attacks on others. Sarcasm and witticism are the ammunition. Maybe John has different values of what is a man. My values are clear. A man—hell, a good writer—doesn’t hide behind his assertions. He stands by them. Discussion and response test his assertions and expose him to more points of view."

Benefits to Eliminating Comments?

One thing seems clear to me. If you turn off comments, it forces the conversation outward. As Gruber has proven, people who want to respond to one of his posts have no choice but to blog about it themselves, tweet about it, or choose some other venue to discuss it. Most likely, those who wish to discuss it are going to link to DaringFireball to give their own content context. It seems entirely possible that by not allowing comments, Gruber is encouraging more links to his content. This may not be his intent, but it would appear to be the case nevertheless.

That’s not to say that this strategy will work for everyone. Don’t expect to turn off comments and automatically get more traffic. Obviously, you’re going to have to create great content that people want to discuss in the first place. The question you have to ask yourself is whether you want the conversation to happen where it started or to be broken up all over the web.

That said, the conversation (if enough people find it worth having) is going to be broken up all over the web anyway. Regardless of whether or not you allow comments on your blog, people are going to respond to it in what ever manner they prefer. These days for many people, that means simply retweeting it or liking it on Facebook (now people can even "like" the comments on Facebook too).

Maybe the real question is this: how much do blog comments matter anyway? There is no containing the conversation. It’s really been this way as long as blogs have been popular. People have always responded to others’ posts with their own blog posts. The fact that services like Facebook and Twitter have become so popular in the mainstream is what has changed. It’s so much easier to add your comment in a quick status update or tweet than it is to write a new blog post.

Likewise, many will find it easier to simply hit a "like" button or a "recommend button" for Facebook or a retweet button to express their approval of a blog post. With a tweet, they can add their own commentary too, and it really provides more benefit to them, because they are bringing the people they know into the conversation, as opposed to just participating in a conversation with a bunch of strangers that also read that blog.

Naturally, this also benefits the blog post by opening it up to increased exposure, and obviously more traffic, as well as potentially more links, which can even benefit you in search.

Comments Still Have Value

Comments can add value to a blog post by presenting different perspectives around the subject at hand. Even Gruber has acknowledged this. But increasingly, more of those perspectives are being expressed externally. The entire conversation rarely (if ever) takes place on the blog post itself.

Comments, Tweets, Buzzes, Recommends, etc.

When readers see that a post has a lot of comments, they may be more inclined to read it. This is another valuable trait comments have, but if you display a count of retweets or Facebook Likes or Google Buzzes or Diggs, or whatever, it can achieve a similar effect. However, only the people that actually go to your site in the first place will see these counts. A more important factor to consider is probably that as more content is shared throughout networks like Twitter or Facebook, users will be more likely to read a post based on things like the title, who shared it with them, and what that person said about it.

Interestingly, Gruber was able to convince Wilcox to turn off his own blog comments. Would you ever consider taking that leap? For more background and viewpoints on the conversation (of which there are many), I suggest reading through the various posts at DaringFireball and OddlyTogether.

How important are comments to content? Tell us what you think.

Chris Crum

About the Author

Chris CrumChris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.

View all posts by Chris Crum
  • Boat Paint

    Blog comments only matters when the content is unique and catches most readers eyes. Only works if you are leaving comments in the relevant industry of say, seattle construction attorneys (construction laws) or ceramic tile woodinville (tiles) or book keeping – IRS loopholes etc….

  • Joe Wilcox

    You asked the right question, Chris. I’ve been asking it, too.

    By the way, I’ve turned off comments for 14 days, as an experiment. I can’t say it will be permanent. Since John Gruber wouldn’t try it my way (turn on comments), I decided to try it his way (turn off comments).

    Your post is a thoughtful extension on the comments/no-comments topic.

    • Chris Crum

      Hi Joe, Thanks for the compliments and for weighing in. How’s the experiment going by the way?

  • fendi_scropio

    blog comment is quite important if i thinking on my side..but i would prefer to know it doesn’t make any bad effect???

  • Jason

    I recognize the irony of posting this in the form of a comment on a blog.

    When the option to comment first appeared and gain popularity, it was a neat way to share an opinion and read the opinions of others. It still is on some web sites. But as John Gruber wrote on DF, it has become more about people using web sites that other people have built to get a voice they have not earned. I do post comments from time to time when the blogger allows it as a feature, and I am not excited enough about the topic to voice an opinion elsewhere.

    Bottom line is Gruber is right, but only in that he determined having no comments was best for his site. Chris Crum is right in that enabling comments also has some positive effects, and I have no problem with sites that want to enable them. I don’t get Wilcox’s argument about manhood though, I mean this is cyberspace for pete’s sake, everyone can be brave and “manly” when posting a comment from the safe place of their own home or office.

    • Chris Crum

      We definitely like getting comments (legitimate ones at least), but we recognize valid points to both sides of the story.

  • Steve Lorenzo SEOVirtuoso

    I am sure that there are very few people turning off the comments and I don’t see this as a future trend either.

    Whatever the reasons may be, I think turning off comments for a debate type of post simply shows that the authors have no respect for their audience.
    In such a case I wouldn’t bother to re-visit, bookmark, etc… that blog or blog post.

    But people differ and others may do it.
    Especially with today’s ease of 1-click bookmarking/tweeting/etc… integration.

    So in the end, the best approach may be to let the comments on for a while (limited time like 7 days or so…) to get the first wave of traffic and buzz and build a community of like minded people around that blog, then, after closing them, to benefit from the extra traffic given by the ones who would be ‘forced’ to link, tweet etc… instead of writing directly on page their opinions.

    Furthermore, interested people would feel compelled to come in early if the rule is clearly stated, in order to get a spot there and leave their thoughts for posterity… 😉

    I know a marketer who limits the total number of comments to like say… 100 and then closes that post and writes another.
    This seems to be a good tactic too; what do you think of it?

    Steve Lorenzo SEOVirtuoso

    • Chris Crum

      If a post is sparking that much conversation, I personally would just as soon let it continue unless it all became too spammy or insulting.

      • Guest

        It seems to be in fact a way of ‘training’ the audience to leave blog comments while they can…
        Could be addictive, ha, ha…

        Steve Lorenzo SEOVirtuoso

  • Jennifer Finger

    I wrote a blog article about this a while back myself. My own blog still has a comment section I haven’t turned off, but I’ve wondered. Since about 75% of comments and editorial letters are snark, I’ve really got to wonder if it’s just a tool for fighting and mocking rather than for serious and valuable communication.

    • Chris Crum

      It certainly goes both ways.

  • Joao Paulo-BacklinkSpeed

    Very useful article. I plan on creating numerous blogs based on my website

  • Efren Penaloza

    The Stop it, is in You
    I understand them and removing the option of (your website) URL, including the implementation of rel-nofollow tag to comments made by all the visitors who had to either leave your comment and avoid the Spam blogger. But to create articles and post for websites that do not even have the consideration (education) to interact with your visitors and only seek to obtain links, ranking, popularity, rating, increase the value of your blog and website “The Pause that is in you” no they follow the stream-watch or do not even think to mention those (webmasters, authors, websites) that carry out these dark and unethical techniques, I will not cooperate, but if you tell.

  • Ms Chandler

    I totally agree with the “manhood” remark. People who hide behind a page and won’t allow others to respond on that page, this day and age, are cowards. If you can’t take the heat from your own reader’ comments, get out of the game.

  • John Sullivan

    Seth Wolf and all these other well known GOOFS that have no comments sites like this one that change from DO FOLLOW and then once they got it going on switch back to NO FOLLOW are pathetic and irrelevant as far as I can see.
    Who needs these sites not me and dude writes about a tribe and other social nonsense and has no comments another think their some SEO Legend these people are like dust
    Wake up people support the sites and people that support YOU PERIOD
    Thanks now back to the GAME

  • Andreas Krokene

    The “traditional” wisdom is that by leaving comments-on we can interact with our readers, and because of that they will come back to post a link for SEO purposes.

    Yet, John Gruber may be considered shrewd for “swimming against the flow” of this wisdom by not following the pack. It had never occurred to me before this WPN article that there was any argument for comments-off other than to stop spam and similar rubbish, not to mention possible legal problems with illegal content that may be posted in a comment via a link.

    So it is almost certain that this subject will be an evergreen one for quite some time.

    Thanks Chris and WPN for this article.

  • Guarantor Loans

    For me there is little or no point in having comments turned off, you want people to post and spark debate – I agree with Chris Crum, unlesss it gets insulting or offensive, leave on…

  • Andy Dale

    Yes, I believe comments are very important and I like to read them, but I am getting frustrated.

    My SharePoint blog has a weekly audience of around 5000 yet I get hardly any comments left. Any ideas what I am doing wrong?

    Andy Dale
    Office Talk

    • ????? ??????

      Hello Andy,
      I visited your blog and besides the fifa (I do not follow it) your blog is too tech and focused on sharepoint, go for more day-to-day/average tech/common stuff like using sharepoint at home or security issues or some case study scenarios.

      Think, to whom you adress the blog, and you will find how many will read it.
      Think, are you giving an “open” article or you state facts, if you state a fact there is no need to comment except “thank you for the post”, if you write an open article that leads the reader to think and write his own comment then you got it.

  • Liz

    Insightful post! I think comments are a good thing but due to spammers they require monitoring and not everyone wants to keep up with that.

    When I write a post I like hearing what people have to say about it. I’m not motivated by writing something and sending it out into the void without possible feedback, I get excited when someone has input on it. Call me crazy, but it keeps me interested and motivated so I guess for me, it’s almost more of a personal thing.

    I do think however, that the good out weights the bad overall. It creates discussion and interest which brings attention to your blog and with the right feedback it can help boost your page rank as well.

    • ?????? ??????

      You are not crazy at all, discussion an a topic can benefit the writer and the reader, it gives a better understanding of the posted article and sometimes may even give the writer an evaluation of what he posted.
      It is like a mass test of the action the writer have made, for example an article about what google is doing new may give them a positive or negative response from the comments and they may improve their way of thinking.

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  • Registering a Website

    I think the entire debate is overblown. Obviously, there are people who have found success without allowing comments and their readers don’t seem to mind. It’s hard to argue with their success. I have blogs where I invite and encourage comments and others where I don’t. You don’t necessarily want to engage every audience.

    That said, I suspect that not allowing comments can make on-page SEO a lot easier in some cases. In theory, comments add text to your page, which could dilute a page’s perceived relevance to certain keywords. If you’ve got important/profitable posts that are ranking very well for keywords you’re targeting, why take the chance of altering what the spiders see when crawling your pages? Granted, I’m no SEO expert and this is an untested theory, but I think it may have some merits.

  • Jennifer

    As long as you have an anti-spam filter, comments are great! They can actually inspire further blog posts and allow you to connect with your readers. I don’t see much benefit in turning them off; if it’s really good content to start with, it’ll go outward regardless of whether comments are on or off. The only that upsets me is when all the comments want to sell me shoes or prescription medicines…

  • Phil

    Somehow i do not agree to block the comments, if u can not interact with your readers, than you should have any other easy way to interact with them….

  • Donna

    I personally like having the ability to go to one place to read the blog entry and all comments associated with it. Time is valuable. I will not go “hunting” for comments. That said, I also find comments fall into two categories – valuable and waste. I wish there was a way to separate one from the other again, in the interest of saving time. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all refrained from the keyboard until we could answer “yes” to the question “does this add value to the discussion”?

  • Florida Web Design

    I’ve always found it weird that blogs have comments turned off. When I go to an article page and I see just the article, that’s fine. But when I go to a blog post and I see “Comments 0″ and clicking on “Leave Comments” displays, but shows “No comments” message on submit, I see that as the author is trying to talk AT me and I usually navigate away from the site. That’s just me I guess.

    I think if you do not want comments, the site should not have any mention of “Comments” at all. “Comments 0″ with a link to the “comments” form should be hidden.

  • Dav

    Well talking about turning comments off, what if there was no commenting on webpronews…. Wouldn’t that be bad for us all ?

    Comments are important, the one that makes the topics is not searching for comments on search sites. It is just “Here is my opinion, now bugger off!”

  • Chris

    Here’s the thing, Facebook is a fad… they are trying to be the old AOL and we all know how that worked out the first time.

    I’d rather have the comments, they are more real to me. Likes are sympathy from people that are looking for a publicity outlet and Facebook is that temporary outlet. People are FAKE on Facebook, it’s all puffery and real people are starting to catch on.

    Comments are real people with a real connection to your site and they will be the ones to come back. Facebookers are just interested in themselves and if you have Facebook friends that actually show an interest in you then you are very very lucky. For the rest of us we watch news feeds from people who make crap up from their parent’s basement and 90% of the people in our news feeds never have comments or quality content other than what is going on in their Farmville account.

  • SEO Copywriter

    Interesting proposition. I guess, like anything, whether you do or don’t enable comments is really about your goals and objectives in the first place. Are you there to vent, build credibility, share with others etc. If the whole concept is, say advertising revenue generating, the goal posts shift again.

  • Harley

    I love to read the post plus the comments if it is a subject that interests me.

    It’s very sad that people are not thinking about the real purpose of blog communication any more but about what their comment does to their Google ranking….

  • Ian from CommentFlock

    I think actualy comments on your blog are the most important, but having tweets and likes are important as well. I wonder if there is a plugin that would alternate keeping comments on and shutting them off but adding a message that says to tweet it and like it. I guess you could do it manually now at I think about it. :)

    Great post,

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  • seohk

    I think comment function is better enabled.

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  • henry

    Wonderful post and it really is definitly worth a comment from me. You’ve got earned a loyal fan.