Comments blog-comments-and-seoI’ve been thinking about commenting on comments for a while now. Though I’m still a relatively newish blogger, I’m a very longtime commenter and I do have some thoughts on comments and commenting that I’d like to share.

In my view, comments are what make blogging such an interesting phenomenon. Via their blogs, I’ve had the good fortune to meet Steve Cotton, Gary Denness, “Felipe Zapata,” Barbara of San Miguel de Allende, and had the fortune to correspond with several others. As you might expect, these folks are engaging, adventuresome folk who had the gumption to pick up everything and start new lives south of the border (SOB). I don’t get the chance to meet such people every day, and it’s unlikely that I would have met all of them within the space of a few years without having read their blogs. And I now consider them friends, and look forward to spending time with them in the future.

How did I gain their trust to meet me in person? I had been leaving comments on all these bloggers’ blogs for a long time. Though my own blog only got off the ground in July (after many years of threatening to write one), I had been leaving comments on many of their blogs for years. In fact, I’ve been leaving comments on a predecessor to Felipe’s blog since 2006, when I first became really interested in Mexico and the possibility of someday moving there. So people felt like I was a bit of a known quantity, or at least not some random stalker. In Gary’s case, I volunteered to buy him a camera in the US and bring it to DF with me, thereby saving him a good 20-25% on its cost.

I also believe it’s crucial for the blogger to respond to comments, preferably within 24 hours. The truth of the matter is that most blogs (especially this one) don’t come anywhere close to the professional content available at commercial news sites, magazines, or other places. But they do offer insights into particular places, and the opportunity to engage with someone with shared interests. But if the blogger doesn’t respond to comments, I almost always find myself losing interest in the blog, no matter how promising the blogger’s topic. It’s nothing intentional, but a blogger that doesn’t reply to my comments just can’t seem to hold my interest. Conversely, the bloggers who respond keep me coming back and often adding comments to the comments, creating a real conversation in the process. I’m also finding that the comments make me want to write more posts, so it’s truly a virtuous circle.

Comments should also be easy to leave, and approvals should be minimal. Now that I’m actually writing a blog, I can see how this works from the other side, and I can see no good reason why most comments shouldn’t be fast, easy, and immediately displayed. This blog is set so that anyone can leave a comment, but the first comment requires approval before it becomes visible. After that, a reader’s comments are visible immediately. Why is this good? Comments tend to feed off each other. Bloggers with well-established communities such as John Calypso, Steve Cotton, Barbara of SMA, or “Felipe Zapata” can get interesting discussions going amongst the commenters. If every single comment had to be approved, the lag would likely discourage such interaction, and the blog would be poorer for it. So if you have a blog that requires approval of every single comment, what are you afraid of? Your regular readers aren’t going to post anything embarrassing, and if they do, you can either require that they be approved each time, or just block them. Don’t punish the majority because of an irrational fear. And more importantly, don’t deprive your blog of the vitality that comments provide.

As for spam, at least on WordPress, the Askimet filter seems to work pretty well. Though one or two legitimate comments have ended up in the spam box, I’ve never had a spam comment that wasn’t properly flagged. Three weeks ago, I got a run of pornographic spam (fortunately all captured by Askimet), and I began to worry that deleting these comments would become burdensome. I was getting about 35 of them a day, and I feared that they would blossom into the hundreds. But after quickly reading through them to make sure I wasn’t deleting legitimate comments, it was easy enough to hit the “bulk delete.” Within a few days, this spam stopped, and I wasn’t forced to activate any of these “prove-you-are-not-a-robot” settings, which I find very annoying. I’d imagine that the system on Blogger or Blogspot must work equally well. So if you have a blog, please consider making your commenting systems as easy-to-use as possible, and please stop requiring approval of every single comment of repeat commenters.

If you have your own blog, by all means, enter the web address when you make a comment. I’m surprised by how much traffic I get from clicks on the comments I make on other blogs. If you don’t do this, you are depriving yourself of traffic you deserve. I know a couple of you who have started commenting here aren’t putting your blog address. And I can assure you, you are losing traffic as a result. And you’re probably losing traffic from the people most likely to comment, since they’re actually reading other peoples’ comments.

Finally, of course, please comment on my blog if you are at all so inclined. As a blog writer, I can attest that it’s fun to read comments and respond to them. I really enjoy the dialog, as do other bloggers. I’ve also found that readers’ comments can really add to the original post. And some day, I’m hoping to get to know a few of y’all too!

And to those of you who already leave comments, a BIG THANKS!!!! I am very gratified to have a young blog that already has such a nice level of commenting and interaction. Thanks for helping me get this blog off to a great start!

What are some of your thoughts on commenting? Please comment!