Why I’ve Brought Comments Back

After a Year-Long Experiment, I’ve Changed My Mind

A year ago I decided to pull comments from my blog. I did it as an experiment, but I was pretty convinced it was the right thing to do. Then I wasn’t so sure.

After a while, I missed comments. Still, I decided to stay with it for at least a year and measure the results. Well, the results are in.

Last year, 2015, was the first year my blog traffic has not grown. Removing comments was not the only driver—not even the primary driver—but I do believe it had an impact. How so? It communicated I was somehow less accessible and unwilling to engage with my readers.

Interestingly, Copyblogger came to the same conclusion, though I didn’t know about this until after I had my decision to bring comments back. And I am, beginning today!

There are seven reasons why:

1. I Want to Be Hospitable

There is something about a blog without comments that feels cold, sterile, and uninviting. It’s like I’m saying I’m uninterested in my readers’ thoughts—which is about 180-degrees backward.

I want my readers to feel welcomed and know that I am interested in their thoughts as well.

2. I Want to Add Value Beyond My Content

Many people never read comments. In fact, when I polled my own readers, the No. 1 reason people said not to bring comments back was that they don’t read them. I get that. But for those who do, they’re important.

I know this from my own experience. When I read a post that provokes my thinking, I almost always read at least some of the comments.

Those comments often expand and amplify the content, driving it deeper or exploring nuances that the post itself didn’t consider.

3. I Want to Encourage Dialog

One of my core beliefs is that all of us are smarter than some us (thank you, James Surowiecki!).

Standing on a podium and delivering a speech is not my favorite form of communication. That is why I always try to offer Q&A after a speech or webinar to encourage dialog. I’d forgotten how much my blog needs that as well.

4. I Want to Foster Community

“People come for content,” as my friend Stu McLaren says. “They stay for community.” Content—if it’s interesting—leads to conversation. People want to discuss it.

But without comments, there’s no easy way for people to do that. They gravitate to social media. It’s like we’re trying to do a family reunion in a thousand different cities. There’s no venue for the party.

Whatever you call it, it’s not much of a community. Which leads to…

5. I Want to Create a Central Location for Conversation

Initially, I thought it would be more natural to encourage people to comment in their favorite social media channels. But this had the impact of disaggregating the conversation.

There was no central location for the discussion—some comments were on Facebook, some on Twitter, and some on LinkedIn. Worse, readers were confused about where to comment. That means readers are missing what the full community can offer in terms of insight and dialog.

6. I Want to Learn from My Readers

This is major. I respect my readers. They’re smart people. Without comments, I am missing the opportunity to learn—and grow—from them.

Sometimes they point out something I have missed. Sometimes they provide an alternative viewpoint. Occasionally, they disagree and directly challenge my thinking. Regardless, as long as it is civil, everyone benefits. We collectively learn from one another and sharpen our thinking.

By disaggregating the community, I’ve lost direct access to all of that wisdom and insight.

7. I Like to Experiment

As my teammates will tell you, I like novelty. I often try new things, whether it’s a strategy, a procedure, or software.

This is one of the major ways I learn. I develop a hypothesis and then experiment to validate or negate it. In this case, I think I’ve negated it. There were upsides to going without comments. But I’m glad to bring them back because there were big downsides as well.

But this is an experiment too! I’m inviting your comments here. This won’t work if no one participates. So I ask you…

Question: What can I do to make sure blog comments add value to you?