Do Your Blog Comments Have Search Ranking Value?

    November 28, 2012
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

When Google unleashed the Panda update, it waged war on “thin” content in its search results. Google wants to provide pages that offer information valuable to searchers, as opposed to content that was hastily thrown together.

It’s easy to hear “thin” content, and associate that with content in which there is not a lot of actual content. In other words, you might take this to mean that Google does not like short articles, and would favor a longer article in a case where these two pieces of content are competing for rankings.

Have you seen search ranking success with short content? Let us know in the comments.

The fact is, Google may very well favor the longer, more in depth piece, but that does not mean Google will not value a short article.

In a Google forum thread, a webmaster asked the question: Is short content = thin content?” As Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Roundtable points out, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller, weighed in on the discussion. Here’s what he said:

“Rest assured, Googlebot doesn’t just count words on a page or in an article, even short articles can be very useful & compelling to users. For example, we also crawl and index tweets, which are at most 140 characters long. That said, if you have users who love your site and engage with it regularly, allowing them to share comments on your articles is also a great way to bring additional information onto the page. Sometimes a short article can trigger a longer discussion — and sometimes users are looking for discussions like that in search. That said, one recommendation that I’d like to add is to make sure that your content is really unique (not just rewritten, autogenerated, etc) and of high-quality.” Emphasis added.

Last year, Google shared a set of questions that one could ask himself when assessing the quality of a page or an article. One of these was: “Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?”

Shallow does not mean short. The beginning part of that, which talks about experts and enthusiasts, is likely to have a stronger bearing on how Google views the content. Who you are matters to Google. That’s why they’re looking to push authorship as a stronger signal in the future. Length of a specific piece of content is not necessarily as much of a factor.

Still, that doesn’t mean it’s not a factor. If one piece of content is simply more informative, which it may very well be if it is longer, it might still be the better result, regardless of who you are. There’s still something to be said for a well researched, insightful article. Google is not looking to ignore this kind of content, by any means.

Another of Google’s questions is: “Does the article describe both sides of a story?” Sometimes, it may take more text to answer that with a yes.

One thing about Mueller’s comments that stikes me as interesting is the part about comments. In an article a while back, we looked at the SEO value of comments. Blogger Michael Gray, who turned off his comments several years ago, told us, “It was one of the best decisions I made, and regret not doing it sooner.”

“Does Google take a look at factors like time on site and bounce rate?” he said at the time. “IMHO yes, but you should be looking to increase those with good information, and solid actionable content, not comments. The biggest effect comments have is giving Google a date to show in the SERP’s. This is a huge factor who’s importance can’t be unstated. If I’m looking for how to fix the mouse on my computer, or what dress Angelina Jolie wore to an awards show, having the date show up in the SERP has a lot of value for the user. If I’m looking to learn how to structure a website, the date plays almost no role. The author’s expertise and understanding of information architecture trumps the date.”

It should be noted that Google’s Matt Cutts has reportedly said since then that Google doesn’t use bounce rate.

Interestingly, according to Shoemoney blogger Jeremy Schoemaker, who we also spoke with for that particular article, a Google engineer said at the time that, if anything, comments were diluting the quality score of a page, by possibly diluting overall keyword density. There is also the possibility that the few comments that go through that are clearly spam, could send poor quality signals to Google.

“So he said he did not see a positive to leaving indexable comments on my site,” Schoemaker told us at the time.

But now, here we have Mueller talking up the value of comments.

Of course, it’s not as if this is the first time that Google has sent mixed signals to webmasters and content creators. But on the other hand, you can’t really hold every person at Google, speaking candidly, accountable for knowledge about every aspect of how Google works, especially when it comes to the search algorithm – Google’s secret recipe.

It stands to reason that Google would look at comments in similar fashion to how it views the rest of the content on the page. Some comments are obviously of higher quality than others, even if the spammy ones have been cut out. But if quality is there, Google may just see how such comments could be valuable to users.

Perhaps webmasters should be more stingy with the comments they allow, but then you’re talking about censorship, which is not necessarily a path you want to travel.

Do you think comments on your blog have helped or hurt you in search? Do you believe they’ve had any effect at all? Should Google take them into consideration? Tell us what you think.

  • http://seoenquirer.com SEOEnquirer

    While probably not adding a whole lot of SEO value commenting systems like disqus actually make sites more participatory. These systems turn blogs into mini forums that can have some interesting discussions with the added bonus of driving impressions up!! Why isn’t webpronews using something similar?

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/ Nick Stamoulis

    Comments might add a little bit more “meat” for the search spiders to grab onto, but I don’t know how much of an impact they may make on the search results. An ever-green posts that still gets comments days, weeks or even months after it goes live is probably going to do better in the SERPs than a outdated news blog post, even if it did get 100s of comments, but I think that has to do more with the post itself.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/author/chris-crum Chris Crum

      Good point about evergreen content. I wonder how many evergreen posts are out there getting spammed without sites realizing it, while lowering the quality of the pages, and potentially being hurt in rankings.

    • Lloyd Sexton

      Good quality ever-green content will probably rank well without comments. I agree it’s the post itself. Comments are just too volatile a signal to be used seriously for search ranking.
      They are also too easy to manipulate.

      They do help keep people on your site and encourage interaction though, so there is indirect value for the search factors that take that sort of thing into account.

  • http://www.xponex.com John Beagle

    Do Your Blog Comments Have Search Ranking Value?

    To sum up the article: Yes and no. Sometimes comments can help other times they can hurt. You can help your quality by closely monitoring and only allowing ‘good’ comments. But that in itself might be considered censorship to your readers.

    I bit wishy washy in my opinion. So goes the world.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/author/chris-crum Chris Crum

      It’s open for discussion.

  • http://tokomodem99.com/ mull

    I think coment is important actually in forum, because sometime coment help your web to index in google, but the quality coment not spam or link spam

  • http://www.websupportguy.com Web Support Guy

    Spammy comments must hurt your SEO, if only because they are often duplicated across many sites. But I like to think conversational threads such as this are generally helpful and that’s why forums mostly continue to rank well in the SERPs.

  • http://www.stepmarketing123.com Dave Innis

    Thanks for this article, Chris.
    I do screen all comments, not for “quality”, only for spam. I want people to feel included if they desire to be a part of an article discussion. I think that is perhaps more important than how Google may or may not rank any particular piece.
    Dave Innis

  • http://umstrategies.com Peter Sundstrom

    I’ve had good referral traffic from my comments on relevant sites/posts.

    I’m sure Google’s algorithm can tell the difference between a blog that has been hit by comment spam and a blog that has real comments.

    Wonder if the ratio of the author responding to the comments has any weight?

    • http://thecomputergal.com Nora McDougall-Collins

      I agree with you Peter. I frequently see referrals from sites where I post comments. Although the topic presented here is what Google is doing with comments, there is other value in participating in the conversation. For technical sites, the comments are often more helpful than the original post. Somehow, I think that the Google developers are smart enough to pick up on that fact.

  • http://www.captaincyberzone.com Cap’n Cyberzone

    If the content of a subject offered is as accurate as the subject matter allows and the content is not pages long without adding a lot of useless babbling (brevity is not only the soul of wit but also good communications) then Google needs to revisit the parameters of its latest (manic) Panda updates [tweaks] and revise accordingly.
    (Really guys, this past year + on this “Goo-coaster” is getting old, if you know what I mean).

  • http://danatunaijogja.blogspot.com Dana Tunai Jogja

    I think it’s work sometimes, but for good grammar languange will to increase value your blog.

  • http://www.shlongji.com longji

    Do you think comments on your blog have helped or hurt you in search? Do you believe they’ve had any effect at all? Should Google take them into consideration?

    Of course not,any comment left on you blog approves the information from your blog,have beated somebody.Even if an advertisment has been left on the comment.

  • http://www.blogclerks.com Alex at BlogClerks

    I think number of non-spammy comments on a unique and quality written blog post indicate a true measure of quality, and that is engagement. More non-spammy post have to be a consideration when it comes to ranking. I have to wonder how much comment relevancy plays into it as well.
    Alex – BlogClerks

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  • http://www.localtechmarketing.co.uk Local Tech Marketing

    The most of the comments in my website are spam. Many of them are generic texts you can use in the most of the articles, and all of them with their website URL attached or, simply, a URL. Obviously I don’t allow those comments to be published.
    Great article!

    • JC

      The pot calling the kettle black. So, you wouldn’t allow comments like the one you left. Ha Ha.

  • Mike

    I have used minifreelance to a great degree of success to get good comments on my website. But more often I have to post initial few comments myself. That sets the flow and quality that naturally then follows.

  • http://dyslexiaglasses.com John Hayes

    I’m not sure about search results from comments but I do see some traffic from them.

  • http://www.rejseguide365.dk Flemming L

    In my opinion and experience as long as you make comments that are related, not spammy, and are “fresh” of nature (meaning don’t comment on a blog where the last comment was done 12 months ago) it might help you a bit overall.

  • http://www.bigoakinc.com Shell

    Comments do get cached by Google and if something is cached Google is considering it with the rest of the content. Moderating comments that are useful is a good use of time. If all you are doing is deleting spammy comments, best just to turn off the comments and save yourself some time.

  • http://www.go4seoindia.com Prashant

    I think commenting on blog or article is good think.If somebody comments, it means he is describing his views on that particular article or blogs.Commenting always gives a way to discuss on that topic and discussion always gives a solution.

  • http://www.funnelscience.com Alex Fender

    First, how short is a short article and how long is a long article?

    I believe we have a short page that has been on page 1 for the keyword “100% bounce rate” & many variants and we do not have comments or a lot of content. Check it out at http://www.funnelscience.com/why-your-google-analytics-are-reporting-100-bounce-rate-b-2/
    Our analytics show we receive traffic from around the globe for this query and landing page.

    We believe in providing a better user experience and you will be rewarded for it both in search rankings and sales. We also believe that 95% of the SEO industry is a scam, both companies and the tools, and you should never be more concerned about the SEO value over the value to the potential customer.

  • http://www.billigtbredbånd.dk Peter A. Lorenzen

    I always allow comments on my pages, because of the freshness they add to the site – and websites with comments use rank well on the SERP’s.

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  • http://www.jasmineincindia.com Flower Vases

    Yes, I agree…
    Commenting on blogs it help to search engine ranking.
    This is most popular method for link builders they are used for increase back links.

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    i think this a good news for me and nice article i learn much about this article.

  • http://www.varmareview.com/ varmareview

    Interesting discussion going on dudes

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