Website comments. For some of our clients, they seem to create negative images and assumptions. They shouldn’t. Website comments should be embraced and encouraged by most business owners who are actively engaged in content marketing. Let’s explore this a bit more.
What are comments?
Simply put, comments are a response to your content from people who took the time (we hope) to read it. Comments can be positive or critical, they can ask questions, and they can add to the relevant information on the page. That last item is the most important part for folks actively involved in content marketing.
Should you allow comments on your website?
A common question that I talk to clients about is “Should I turn on the comments?” In almost every single case, the answer is yes. There are a few important reasons why you should do this.
- Comments help develop a community for your site. When handled properly, comments can increase the traffic, subscriptions and interactions on your website – they create a conversation and a way for your customers to get together. This is all great for your content marketing results.
- Comments are free content! Comments on your page become part of the page and part of Google’s index. That’s free content that you don’t have to create. So are your responses. You may have to create the responses, but the comments save you the trouble of coming up with those topics. Free content sounds like a pretty good deal, wouldn’t you agree?
- The number of comments is probably a ranking factor to Google. Popular opinion agrees that Google looks at a post with a lot of comments as something that is relevant.
Why clients don’t want comments turned on
I also hear a lot of reasons for not wanting to allow comments on client websites. Here are the most common, and my unfiltered responses to them.
- People might say bad things about my staff or my store. They might. Get over it!
- I don’t have time to respond to comments. Suck it up and make time, or assign the task to a staff member. Responding to comments is a very effective use of your time and shows people that your site is active and relevant, that you care about what you do, and that you care about your customers.
- This is my site and I want to control everything about it. True, it is your site, but doesn’t the prospect of free, searchable content a reasonable trade-off?
How to handle comments
As you can see, it is my opinion that comments should be enabled on all of my clients’ websites. But it is critical that they be handled properly. There are several important things to consider when setting up a procedure for handling comments at your website.
Handling comments effectively starts with responsiveness. You need to respond to comments consistently and in a reasonable timeframe. How quickly should you respond to comments? Ideally, you would want to respond to a comment in 24 hours or sooner. This will not happen every time, but it should be a goal. Having a person specifically in charge of handling comments is key to making this happen.
Be courteous when handling criticism
Not everyone has the same point of view. Some folks are very happy to tell you that they think you are wrong. It’s OK. Respond in a courteous way and show them that you value an opposing point of view. Don’t be defensive and don’t preach. Thank them for their response and move on. This is a lot easier said than done, but always keep in mind that their comment is free content, so it has value, even if it isn’t what you’d like to see.
I want to make one thing clear: Critical comments are very different from offensive comments. If someone just has a different point of view, there is nothing wrong with that. If someone is verbally offensive, uses profanity or is belligerent, don’t waste a second before hitting the delete button. Your site is your “house” and you are free to ask anyone to leave!
Keep in mind that even a negative comment is an opportunity – to tell your side of the situation, calmly and clearly; to defuse any potential issues; to bring the conversation around to the positive.
Answer questions clearly and thoroughly
People take the time to pose a question because they want an answer. Be sure to do a great job of answering the question. Be thorough, but don’t lecture. Get to the point, but cover it well. Remember: Your responses are content as well, and Google will be happy to index it!
Pro tip: Use comments, not e-mail
At Mobile Edge, we get a lot of comments on our site. Most of those are from people who live far away and will not have the opportunity to do business with us. That is fine with me for all of the reasons above. But we do have a rule that we never break:
If a reader from far away sends us a contact form or e-mail asking a question, we send them this prepared response:
“Thank you for contacting us with your question. While we would love to respond via e-mail, we simply do not have the resources or staffing to handle the quantity of requests that a site like ours has. What we would ask instead is to post your question in a comment on a relevant page on our website. We recommend this one [link to a relevant page]. We would be happy to respond there. This way, your question and our response will be searchable and can help out many more people who have your question. Thanks again!”
This works like a charm and everybody wins. You get free content, the readers get their answers and future visitors find more value in your website.
What about comment spam?
Comment spam is a serious issue. Unscrupulous marketers use “robots” to post comments promoting a product or a link to other websites. The result can be a mess unless you take precautions.
Having anti-spam software on your site does not mean that spam will not filter through. Just click “Delete” and move on!
WordPress users have a lot of great solutions for addressing comment spam, starting with settings that mean comments can’t go live until you review and approve them. Even better, if you are a client of 1sixty8 media and we actively manage your site, you are already protected!
What to do next
By now, I hope I have convinced you of the importance of comments on your website. In most cases, allowing comments is usually as simple as checking a box in your admin. WordPress users can go to the checkbox in Settings > Discussion and check “Allow people to post comments on new articles.” Of course, if you are a 1sixty8 media client, simply pick up the phone or send us an e-mail, and we will take care of it for you!