REAL ESTATE

Comments section on websites, in or out?

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Jay Dillon

Director of Strategy and Creative at Inbound Experts
Jay is a digital marketer and producer whose creative and technical skills have developed digital brand strategies and sales campaigns using a range of complex internet applications from stand-alone websites through to Facebook API integrations.
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There was a time (back in 2009) when the comment section on a site was central to the product. Every detail was scrutinised, interactions debated and “comments per article” were even considered KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). Fast forward five years later to 2014, and the debate is this: though it was never the intention, time has shown that comment sections often create negative space and usually provide a negative experience for the reader, writer and publisher. This article intends to layout today’s debate with solid pros and cons to help you decide if and how you should integrate a comment section for your content.

Many writers have discussed the issue of comment abuse and bullying in great detail and most likely you have already come across articles and scrolled down enough to read some of the heated insults, corrections, and plain useless input. I won’t elaborate on the social aspects of this issue but rather, I will explain the business reasons for avoiding or keeping comments.

THE CONS OF COMMENTS

In short, the “real estate” traditionally devoted to comments is too valuable to be wasted on a component that adds minimal value. Take Bustle, a website that made the conscious decision to launch without comments and has opted instead to replace the comments slot (typically directly below an article’s body text) with a section displaying “related content.”

Placing related content underneath an article has become a shifting trend and if you haven’t noticed it, you will next time you browse new blogs/sites. And yes, it happens more often than not, when websites have to struggle with inappropriate comment sections such as Jezebel’s recent strife. But the real reason why many digital marketers have started to ignore the comments section is because it provides no real opportunities for site optimisation. However a ‘related content’ feature at the bottom of an article can, for some publishers, provide extra revenue for the business.

THE PROS OF COMMENTS

Advertisers have never really loved comments and publishers have long struggled with how to address the “freedom” of allowing comments while satisfying advertisers’ taste for clean content without the pitfalls of comments. Putting them on a different tab or heavily curating comments isn’t a particularly optimal path…so why do sites still allow comments? Traditional convention is the big one, but there’s a pro here that a lot of bloggers are forgetting. Creating that interaction with your readers, sharing accurate sources, and obtaining constructive criticism with a different point of view for all to see and learn from. Some say that the ultimate goal is to bring about commenters who are as good in quality as the articles themselves.

FUNNELLING COMMENTS

One feature that is starting to become popular is “funnelling” of comments, so the user only sees comments that were liked/read the most; the hope being that these comments are the ones that sparked a well informed debate. This feature might be a better option for those who still wish to allow site visitors to comment on their posts.

A good example of “funnelling” can be seen in Facebook’s integrated feature, allowing the user to sort comments chronologically or by activity (top comments). Given that to comment on these articles all you need is a Facebook account, major sites such as the Huffpost have incorporated this method into their posts. As always, however, it comes down to personal choice and the pros and cons listed are here to help you decide.

Of course, feel free to use our own comments tool below to tell us how you manage this aspect of your business website.

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