Should You Enable Comments on Your Website?

We get the question often about enabling comments on the radio station websites we create. Are comments worth the time? Do comments work? What options are there?

Personally, I never thought about comments that much because they took a lot of time to moderate, approve good comments and remove the spam comments.  However, Lou Vito at his group of stations at peakofohio.com is very passionate about including website comments.

Blogging experts out there are divided in their conclusion on the importance of comments.  Some say that comments are essential for online success, while others will make a point that they are not so important. So, who to believe?

They got me to research more about them.  Today’s article/episode is all about those findings.

Consider Your Visitors

One of the most important aspects of website comments is allowing your visitors to have a voice. If they have spent their time reading through your content and want to share an experience, or they have a question or concern, they should be able to do this easily.

Sure, they can likely find the article on your station’s Facebook page and comment there, but that requires extra steps that few people will find worth their time.

Being able to share their point of view on your website helps to build a stronger relationship with your audience.  This means that people are more likely to sign up for the station newsletter, download the station app, or follow your station on other social platforms.

Comments Add to Your Content

Comments don’t just fuel discussion on a site — they also improve the site itself by adding to your content.  Whether the visitor is a search engine robot or an actual person, comments are viewed as additional content, and they increase the overall page or post length. That means if your news or blog post is 600 words long and you have 400 words worth of comments below, your post is judged as having 1000 words total.

Comments are a wonderful asset in this regard because your audience is helping to write content for you and keeping your content fresh.  Plus, this engagement keeps visitors to your website longer. The longer a visitor stays on the site is a ranking metric for the search engines. So, commenters help the optimization of your site within search engines (SEO).

We’ve mentioned before that you should base your content around certain keywords. Search engines crawl content and rank them appropriately according to these keywords.  For example, the keyword for this article is (you guessed it), “comments”.  Within your content, you will also get ranked for other related keywords known as Latent Semantic Indexing keywords. These are other keywords that are relevant to the subject.

In other words, you can write a post targeting one main keyword, but actually, get indexed and ranked for other keywords within the same piece of content.  For instance, people may start talking about which comment plugin is best.  If enough people mention the “comment plugin” phrase, the article could appear in a search for that, in addition to other keywords like “comments” (plural).

Why would you want to get ranked for additional keywords?  Well, these are the words that people are searching for.  Being high on any search list means more traffic to your website.

Comments Enhance Your Content

Allowing comments on your website is also a great way to enhance your content. You will find that people will ask a question because the article you wrote failed to provide a key piece of information they wanted. A question posed in the comments section would allow you the ability to make that addition there or provide an incentive to change the article content.  Comments from your listeners could provide ideas for creating more helpful and engaging content later.

Remember that people are more likely to comment if there are already comments on the page.  It’s like some call-in phone topics on-air.  It’s sometimes hard to find that first person to call in, but when someone does the flood gates open.  Once you have a flow of comments and opinions, it is more than likely other people will add their points of view within the comments too. Very often dialogue can be created between your visitors and guess what, this is all content going onto your website.

Be Careful of Weak/Spam Comments

Not all comments are good.  Only approve good quality and relevant comments. Comments that are not relevant or are spam can do more damage to your site than good.

For example, a comment like, “Great article!” or “Excellent, Thanks for posting this!” are nice comments, but they do not add any value or dialogue to the article.  In these situations, you can privately reply with a “Thanks for the comment” email, but do not approve the comment to be visible on the website.  This personal reply will help further a one-on-one connection with that visitor.  Of course, always identify if it’s an actual commenter and not some robot trying to post their malware links in your comments section.

Dealing With Negative Comments

No matter how politely you and your team write articles and blog posts, you are bound to receive negative comments. There is just no avoiding it, and the beauty is that everyone has a chance to give their opinion.  Embrace that.

One of the worst things you can do on your site is to ignore negative comments and never post them or reply to them privately. It will give a reader one more reason to dislike your website and ultimately, your radio station.  And that will give them a reason to leave more negative comments in the future.

If your post was missing something or the wrong message was conveyed, then apologize and move on accepting that not every reader will agree.  Just remember to look at every one of these opportunities as a chance to win another ambassador for your radio station.

Dealing With Spam Comments

You should understand how and why spam comments appear in the first place.  Essentially, most spam comments are part of someone’s poor SEO strategy aimed at getting as many links to their website out there as possible.  This isn’t the answer to higher rankings, by the way, and search engines actually penalize sites for doing this now.

Most spam comments are not posted manually, but with a help of special spamming software.

If your website is open for comments, sooner or later you’ll experience comment spam. As your blog grows, comment spam can become a daily hassle.

Here are a few ways to combat spam comments:

  1. Enable comment moderation: This means every comment will be emailed to you for approval before it gets published on your site. This should be required of all sites allowing comments.
  2. Turn off trackbacks: A trackback is a notification that someone else has linked to one of your posts. Picture a trackback as a conversation that links two blog posts together.
  3. Automatically close comments after 30 days on all your posts. You will get most of your valid comments during the first few weeks after you publish a post. Spam robots will try to add comments regardless of the article date.
  4. Use a comment blacklist: This allows you to clean your moderation queue by creating a blacklist of spammy words, websites and IP addresses. Browse through the past spam comments and add all the IP’s and common spammy words to the box.
  5. Use comment moderation plugins to monitor your site: These options include Akismet, CleanTalk Anti-Spam, AntiSpam Bee, Titan Anti-Spam, and WPBruiser. All of these filter all the comments for you without any additional settings needed, but most are not free for business websites.

Third-Party Comment Systems

If you have a WordPress website, comments are built into the website ecosystem.  However, there are other options like Facebook comments, Jetpack, Disqus, Intense Debate, and Thrive Comments.

Facebook comments is the only one of these third-party options that is free.  A few site administrators we’ve talked to say that they can manually remove spam comments, but there’s no way to automatically deny them.  That means that they appear for a short time before they are removed.  So, the moderation tools within Facebook Comments must be improved for this to be a great option.

The other paid options we’ve mentioned either use algorithms and a forced login to eliminate spammers from commenting on your website, but they are not completely spam-free.  Each has its own pros and cons.

The main pro with these third-party commenting systems is that comments use their data centers rather than the server your site is hosted on.  If the load from your comments isn’t on your host server, it means you won’t have to deal with enormous comments databases that can slow your site down over time.  We highly recommend culling old comments at least once per year to keep your site running fast.

Wrapping Up

Is there time involved with moderating comments?  Sure!  Anything that’s going to benefit your website is going to take time.  You should never open your comments to be automatically approved to save time. This opens your site up to spam, malware and blacklisting.

Should you allow comments on everything?  Absolutely not.  Contests and events that only appear on your website for a couple of weeks might not warrant opening comments.  So, pick and choose.  Personally, I recommend only allowing comments for the local news posts that you and your team create. How much time can be devoted to comment moderation should be the deciding factor as to open comments for other categories like national news, sports, etc.

So, are comments good?  For most radio station websites, absolutely.  If your readers love the news and blog posts you’re creating, they will keep coming back. Comments are just one aspect of building trust and keeping that connection.  In some cases, comments can attract more eyes that the article they are about.  If you can encourage readers to involve themselves, engage and share your content, then better rankings and more visitors to your website are part of the reward.

We hope this article helps you.  Please help us by sharing this with a colleague and signing up for our newsletter.  Need help with your radio station website?  We’d love to help.

Jim Sherwood serves as the chief creative, brand strategist, lead developer, meticulous project manager, and station collaborator for all Skyrocket Radio sites and projects. Jim is a 30+ year radio veteran with a resume spanning several small, medium, and large markets including roles as Digital Content Manager, Program Director, Production Manager, and Morning Show Host.