5 Truths About Blog Comments and Why Quality Content Is Still King

BlogHer Original Post

I have been blogging for over nine years now, and I've watched it grow from small groups of what felt like dear penpals to the vast, millions-strong sea of blogs we have now. What I find interesting, though, is that, despite all the changes that have happened with regard to weblogs over the last decade, certain questions about what we do come up again and again, and one of those questions is this: what is more important to you, writing well or receiving a lot of comments?

This is a hard question to answer, because most people have the urge to say that it's the writing that matters to them most. It feels like the morally superior answer, and it's the answer that makes us feel less vulnerable. It's the answer that makes us sound competent and strong.

The fact is, though, that we are needy. I don't mean to say that we're all needy in that pathetic please-look-at-me-because-no-one-else-will way, but I do mean that we like the attention of a good comment. No one, unless they have no idea how the internet works, writes a blog without the idea that someone else will pay attention; otherwise, why would we go through the technical bother when a pen and a notebook would do as well to fill the need?

Photo Credit: Comment via Shutterstock.

This is where the fine balancing act of writing in a social medium comes in, and it can do a number on our creative sanity some days, especially if we start finding ourselves checking and rechecking our email to see if anyone's left us a comment yet, or we even find ourselves constructing our posts in order to elicit more reaction. It can make us wonder why we are really here in the medium in the first place.

Balance is key, because blogging is both a creative endeavour and a social medium. If we disregard the social end of things, the medium's beauty is missed, but if we concentrate so much on garnering comments that we let our content's quality slide, then we're doing a disservice to both our content and the people who come to read it.

5 Truths About Blog Comments and Why Quality Content Is Still King

1. Most comments add little insight to the immediate conversation and do not amplify your ideas, but a quality post will continue to create conversation and have its ideas amplified over the long term. If you write well, stating your ideas clearly and with originality, people will not only hear you, but they will also want to share what they've heard.

2. High comment numbers do not indicate higher blog post quality, but the activity generated by that post in terms of traffic and inspiring others to share over the long term does. You know what I'm talking about. You write a truly heartfelt piece about the plight of enslaved girls and get three comments one day, and then you toss off a five-minute piece about how you prefer this season's colour palette over last season's and get 77 comments another day. The 77-comment post might make you feel good, but its the post about the enslaved girls that is going to bring people back weeks and months down the road while that pedicurist post quickly slips into obscurity.

3. Most comments are forgotten almost as soon as you've deleted your email alert about them, but a high quality blog post lives on to touch more minds and hearts more often. Some comments can be supportive or even insightful, but most amount to a tiny little notch in your blogging bedpost that you won't even remember next week. I'm not knocking comments, because I've had some life-changing ones over the course of my blogging career, and there's nothing wrong with all the little sweet nothings, but most won't stand up weight-wise to a smashing blog post in terms of traffic and good old bang for your buck.

4. If you think comment numbers are where it's at, you're missing out on where your community's conversations are happening. Way back in the olden days of blogging, when bloggers were few and domain names cost $50, comments were one of the only ways for bloggers to feel the love, but times have changed. Media has become far more social, and the majority of conversations have moved out of comment sections and onto platforms like Twitter and Facebook. It's common now for someone to read your post and then tell you they liked it on Twitter or share it on Facebook. There are fewer comments these days, but there is more conversation. The conversation has spilled out of blog comment threads and spread out to where more of the people are, and that's actually a good thing. It means that your ideas can be shared and heard in more places.

5. Too much concentration on increasing comment numbers leads many a writer to writing linkbait, and that will degrade a brand pretty damn quick. If you get too comment lusty, it's easy to find yourself justifying titles like "Should This Mom Go To Jail For Making A Different Decision Than You Would?" and insisting that your scathing criticism of a certain behaviour, person, or trend is a moral imperative. The comment attention may seem exciting, but people's stock in your integrity will dwindle, and that's something that's hard to earn back.

Blog posts pack a weight and power that comments simply do not have over time, and while it is great to get slammed with comment numbers in the double and triple digits, what do those numbers really mean? Do they really underscore the quality of your work or your value within the community? Will your ideas be remembered? Will you have a body of work to look back on one day that will continue to speak to you and others?

If you are blogging for the attention, which is not necessarily wrong if that's the thing that puts the umption in your gumption, then keep on with your bad self, but if you're in it for both the love of the craft and the community, keep the truth about comments in mind. Quality writing will put out roots farther and wider than even the most robust-seeming comment sections can fathom.

Schmutzie can also be found at Schmutzie.com, Ninjamatics, and Grace in Small Things.

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