Are Visitor Comments Worth The Bother?

  • Added:
    Nov 04, 2013
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Are Visitor Comments Worth The Bother? Photo by Peter Brittain

The "battle cry" of online marketing in the 2000s was "engagement!" We're going to engage those users, get them involved, make them invest their time, participate! It was a startling revolution in about 2003 or so. Content on the web was no longer a matter of an author in an ivory tower handing his or her decrees down to the shuffling masses. Now it was egalitarian, free-flowing. Anybody could be a star of the social web, because everyone was engaged. Content on the web for the past decade has been a 2-way street.

And do you know what we found out? A lot of people out there don't seem to have much worth saying.

Sure, you have that occasional saint, a helpful commenter who will inform you of something new you didn't know, drop a tip, share some insight, or just comment cheerfully about what a swell hangout you have here. Those are rare. More frequent are the trolls, the spammers, the flamers, and all the little squabbles they get into. People with foul mouths and ill tempers.

At first, you probably took the high road. No oppressive host, are you! No, you're going to be open-minded and respect everybody's right to free expression, even if we don't all agree with them. But oh, you eventually have to moderate. And then the spammers descend on you like a horde of locusts. You fight them and put in better and better filters. They invent better and better bots to get around them. Beyond that, you have to watch for security holes and exploits. And there's always that one bothersome pest of a troll who will insult you and every reader you have, and will spend hours playing on your site while you first delete them, then block them, then fight to keep blocking them when they get around your IP filtering.

If you haven't given up by now, you'll notice that most websites that still have comments are using some third-party comment-hosting system, such as Disqus. Disqus is a drop-in plug-in that supports most blogging platforms and is pretty good at fighting spam.

But look at what we're fighting for: It's time to ask ourselves if comments from users are really worth all that effort after all? Not always. Instead, you can let engagement happen to some degree with sharing. Those social media icons along the bottom of most blog posts, which let people post the link to Facebook, Google+, and whatnot. More importantly, people can have their say on one of those social media platforms, and then moderating them will be somebody else's problem and not yours.

We're seeing the tide turn against the comment revolution, and it's probably about time. There will always be places for any user to share their thoughts. The web has no shortage of places to do that. Your little marketplace, maybe, just doesn't have to be one of them.

Author's Profile

Peter Brittain is the owner of professional Digital Agency, Slinky Web Design. He is also author of Northern Lights an online marketing blog offering advice and strategies on SEO & website marketing.

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