Why allowing users to comment on web pages is so important today: key takeaways and things to avoid.
Comments help you create and maintain a community of interested users for the long term. Past experiences have shown us that making it difficult or completely removing comments from websites are bad ideas. Conversation is essential, especially for the new generation. Not being interactive is one of the main reasons that is causing the decline of print media. And put on top of that, as a cherry on a cake, the fact that the number of comments on a website is a ranking factor.
One of the main things that make internet alive and intense is the ability to talk. Back to the 80s, when USENET was the “big thing”, there were newsgroups that left the user with his own thoughts about a story. This was huge. People stop being simple readers started interacting with the story itself and other users.
After that, in the mid 90s, guestbooks started to flock around the internet, again creating a huge buzz. Soon after that appeared blogs, in which one of their main features is the ability to let users comment and then WordPress, which now powers more than 22% of the internet.
Today it’s impossible to disassociate user-generated content, comments and interaction from the internet. No one wants to be a simple passenger, people want to have a voice, show the world what they think. Also, a considerable amount of people want to read what other people think about the story, what they are saying, pros, cons, addition or even jokes. That’s what keeps a website alive today.
Really, it’s a long list. We will try to keep only the facts that create the most impact here.
THE NUMBER OF COMMENTS ON A PAGE IS A RANKING FACTOR
After several studies, experts have concluded that the number of comments on a website is directly connected to the quality of the story. If people are commenting on a story, then it must have some value, so more people would see it. There’s no denying, comments is a signal of user-interaction and quality. When you combine it with ratings and reactions you have an even more powerful ranking boost.
Based on the idea to keep this list as short as possible, we will talk about another pro here.
Dwell Time is another Google Rank factor. This works by comparing the time a user spends on a website after reaching it using a search engine. It’s a fact that a website with user comments enabled will have more content and more content usually means more time spent on site. But let’s draw your attention to the data we have.
Using data collected from Bhaskar.com, when it was using Vuukle comments platform, we see that 7.3% of users read the comments section. Around 17.4 million pageviews were interested enough in the story to read it and check the comments. Those users spend around 60 seconds more on Bhaskar.com website and hence, increasing overall time on site.
The final truth about this is that it creates a chain effect. While users leave comments on your website they will be expend more time and thus increase search rankings. With better rankings you gain more search visibility and attract more users and with more users you have even more comments and all those benefits start happening again.
Ron Stitt, ex Digital Media VP of Fox News, actually wrote a great article on why comments are so important, and how allowing visitors to comment positively impacts important KPIs like bounce rate and time on site, which in fact are ranking factors too.
USER RETENTION AND LONG TERM BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT
What really moves a business, be it an e-commerce, a news website or a social network, is their engaged users:the ones that keep returning, day after day, sometime even several times a day. In order for this happen, among several other factors there’s a need in the users to feel that they are a part of the business.
Sure, in the short term, removing the comments sections can give you some peace of mind, trolls will leave, there won’t be a need to deal with harsh comments, etc, but the conversations that are started on the comments section are the heartbeat of a website. And proof of this can be found in a real life example much less aggressive than completely removing comments section I didn’t understand this sentence!.
Back in 2011 Techcrunch.com decided that was a good idea to move to Facebook comments. In their words, this would solve the trolls and anonymous cowards’ issues, create social virality, make life of the commenter simpler because if he was already logged onto Facebook and he could just load the page and comment etc.
Sure, this change completely removed their trolls, but it also drove away their regular comments. Some people aren’t interested in giving their opinion if they need to show their real name, the anonymity of the internet is not always an issue. The social virality it creates ultimately lead people to Facebook, because that’s what Facebook wants. When you install a Facebook Comments box into your website, Facebook can gather even more data about their users and whenever possible bring them back to the Facebook website. This greatly reduces time on site and pageviews, specially between people that usually comment and read the comments.
Then, 2 years after(yes, took them a long time to realise that they were losing more than winning,) Techcrunch decided to remove Facebook Comments, and urge their visitors to engage in the rhythm in which they engaged in 2011.
Generation X Dominates the internet and more than 50% of active online users are from that generation. One of the key points to convert and retain users from that generation is give them the ability to express themselves, which isn’t possíble without a comments section. Also, there are some researches which prove that Generation X usually trust anonymous people online than recognized media outlets. This translates to the huge amount of websites that aggregates reviews of products, services, etc.
Although slightly different, this also applies to news websites. People from Generation X like to know what others think and not only reporters. If they don’t get it where they are now, they will look somewhere else to get it.
Developing a community has a really important role on the success of a website in the long term, this means that usually 10% of the most active users on your website or service are the ones that will drive growth because they improve a website’s stats, rankings and consequently bringing more users. That top 10% of your users are the ones who comment, give rating and leave their reactions. They are the most important users of your website. How to keep them happy and returning? Again, give them a way to express themselves.
You can never neglect the power of free content. We’re not even talking about indexation and search engine power. No, we’re talking about the essence of user generated content. More content means more time on site. Even heated discussions, can only do good.
During our research we came across few reasons why you shouldn’t use comments section on a website. Except for one, all reasons are completely nonsense. And even the one that should be considered is inexistent if you use a good comments platform.
PEOPLE CAN USE BAD WORDS OR BE AGGRESSIVE
Well, they can. But as we said before, a heated discussion is one of the best things you can have on your website, they attract attention, people tweet about it, come back to read what’s being said and several other things.
But obviously, things should be kept in check and according to social contracts. Using Vuukle we automatically block comments with bad words and prevent bad behavior from happening.
We will not even think about other reasons like “it’s my website and I want to control everything” because they make no sense.
FEW MORE LINKS ABOUT IT
With something so important as comments on your website, you need a tool that you can trust, something that you know that will work even if you have a high spike in traffic and that’s what we created here on Vuukle.
We’ve handled more than 150 million actions without a glitch and in less than 200ms, we’ve also shared more than half million dollars in revenue with our clients. Talk with us and we can schedule a meeting to demonstrate you the full potential of Vuukle and what can we do to make your website better.
It’s more than proven that having a comments section on a website is a win/win situation. There are simply no downsides to it and you can still make some more money using Vuukle.
Feel free to ask us any other technical questions you may have about this, we will be more than happy to answer them.
Izaias Almeida – StrongMedia CEO, Digital Marketing Consigliere and SEO Expert