Why (I Think) Copyblogger Is Wrong To Turn Off Comments

Regular readers will know I love copyblogger. Indeed, I even wrote a whole post about my adoration for the zen masters of content marketing.

However…

When today’s email popped into my inbox I nearly choked on my starbucks grande latte as I doubletaked at the title: –

‘Why We’re Removing Comments On Copyblogger’

Then I relaxed as I thought…

‘ah, this will be some clever clickbaiting title. They won’t be actually removing comments from the site. You guys!’

And then I clicked…

Damn.

This was no clever clickbait. Comments were going from the site. For good.

So why are they doing this?

They (specifically Sonia Simone, although I believe she is speaking on behalf of the team) have given 3 reasons: –

  1. Discussion tends to continue on other platforms (facebook, twitter etc)
  2. People would be better off spending their time writing their thoughts on their own site (copyblogger comments can be pretty epic)
  3. Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam….

I suspect that this list could probably be reversed in order of priority…

Of course it’s difficult to disagree with the above and at first it may seem that their arguments for arriving at this decision are compelling.

In my opinion however, this decision is the wrong one and here is why…

Social Media Is Fleeting

Twitter is great for a quick discussion on a topic (and clearly amazing for generating buzz), but in a few hours those tweets have vanished down the timeline and are lost in the ether.

A comment is there for good.

An Alternative Point Of View / The Word Of God

While copyblogger is right most of the time, it is always good to have a balanced view and providing readers with the platform to present their alternative viewpoints in the same place is (in my opinion) healthy.

This is particularly important when the subject matter is a topic which is not clear cut (for example anything to do with author rank).

Turning off this facility gives copyblogger an air of godlike infallibility, which is (again in my opinion) unbecoming.

Comments Are Where It Gets Interesting

I don’t want to go into this too much as it has been discussed to death, but comments are often where a blog post comes to life.

Losing them on a site with a comment section as vibrant as copyblogger makes me a sad panda…

Rewarding Readers

While the argument about readers being better served spending time focusing on content for their own site/interests as opposed to writing up lengthy comments for copyblogger may seem a strong one, it is a little flawed.

Adding insightful, well written comments on other blogs has long been an excellent (and white hat) way of introducing yourself to a new audience and can generate strong referral traffic/new subscribers.

I read a great quote earlier today (annoyingly I can’t remember where!) which said that successful content marketing was 20% content creation and 80% marketing of that content.

I would agree with these figures and taking the time to comment on other blogs is a big part of that 80%.

Copy Bloggers

Trends have to start somewhere and when a site as authoritative and universally respected as copyblogger turns off comments, there are sure to be those wondering whether they should do the same.

Sonia made a good point on twitter: –

I take Sonia’s point and certainly the post advises other bloggers not to follow their example, but how about 6 months down the line?

Anyone starting out in blogging/content marketing and looking for advice will surely gravitate towards copyblogger and will no doubt see that they don’t accept comments.

Without context (i.e. today’s post) it may well be considered that this is now best practice.

Not Letting The Spammers Win

As I hinted at above, I believe that the driving force behind this decision may well be the sheer volume of spam comments the site is receiving and the time taken to administer same.

Turning off comments seems a little like waving the white flag to the spammers.

So, what do you think?

Probably the words most oft used at the end of blog posts and today perhaps more pertinent than ever.

In my opinion turning off comments is a bad move by copyblogger (for the reasons I set out above), but what do you think?

Leave a comment below and let me know!

About the Author

I'm a web developer, programmer, blogger and SEO expert from Glasgow, Scotland, with over 15 years experience in the industry. When I'm not writing about marketing and SEO you'll find me strumming the guitar in my band or listening to Revolver on repeat. Follow me on twitter, connect with me on google+ and add us on facebook to keep up with all the latest trends in SEO and online marketing.

Leave a Reply 36 comments

Sonia Simone - March 24, 2014 Reply

Ah, if only we actually had this whole “air of godlike infallibility” thing going. We keep trying, but the audience has other ideas. 🙂

We’re having an interesting discussion about this on G+. Basically, philosophically, I think it comes down to the fact that I don’t feel a need to own or preserve my conversations. What endures about a conversation is how I grow and learn from it — and that can’t be taken away.

If twitter or Facebook or G+ gets taken out by a meteor tomorrow and I lose those conversations, that’s all right with me — because the important part is how the conversations have changed me.

That’s very different from my work, about which I am a positive control freak, and which I like to keep control over by hosting it on my own site (with ample backups).

    David McSweeney - March 24, 2014 Reply

    Hmmm, that’s an interesting take. I take your point that *you* have learned from the conversations, but that isn’t going to be an immediate advantage to someone reading the post, whereas threaded comments with questions/discussions will be. Although I guess, they will hopefully go on to read future posts from you (the blogger) in which you will make use of (and impart) that new knowledge/insight…

      Sonia Simone - March 24, 2014 Reply

      In an ideal world, I’d actually rather they spend that 10 minutes clicking through to more of our work than spend it reading the comments.

      In any event, I’m very excited and energized to see what happens with it. Certainly has people talking. 🙂

        David McSweeney - March 24, 2014 Reply

        I was actually thinking about that…

        Wouldn’t surprise me if the whole thing was a bit of copyblogger genius marketing in which you attract a load of buzz/traffic/links and then say it was all a big joke/tutorial on linkbait 😉

Mark Hodgetts - March 24, 2014 Reply

I’ve been wrestling with this for sometime. I’m finding I’m getting better feedback via Facebook than anywhere else and the sheer volume of spam bot comments seriously does my head in. But….comments on the site give some air of community and create an enduring sense of worth. I was also under the impression that comments were one of the things that search engines picked up as social signals, . For the time being, I prefer to continue with comments allowed. I tell you what though if someone ever comes up with an intelligent comment spam blocker plugin, I think I’ll be first in line to buy it

    David McSweeney - March 24, 2014 Reply

    Comment spam is a real pet hate of mine (I particularly hate the one about the girl on the beach with the seashell), but I think just throwing in the towel is not the way to go. Community is what makes blogging (and the internet) so special.

Jeffrey Trull - March 24, 2014 Reply

I think comments are simply overrated nowadays. We’ve gotten used to having them, which is probably why it’s so hard to let them go.

I see your point about “rewarding readers,” and saying comments can “generate strong referral traffic/new subscribers.” But that’s a big reason why comments have failed us, too. Too many people are trying to do this now simply as a traffic strategy. While Copyblogger has done a great job at moderating comments, it’s clearly not something they’re thrilled to do.

I’ve long since given up on commenting on blogs, so for me I hope this gets me back into the discussion in a different format like Google+ (where I’ve participated in the discussion for much of today).

    David McSweeney - March 24, 2014 Reply

    I think what’s missing there though is that even though sometimes a visitor might originally come onto your site with the intent of just posting a comment for the benefit of his/her site, your content should be good enough to get them hooked. They might not have visited in the first place if comments had been disabled.

    Sonia Simone - March 24, 2014 Reply

    Been good talking with you on G+ today, Jeffrey!

Marketing Day: March 24, 2014 - March 24, 2014 Reply

[…] Why (I Think) Copyblogger Is Wrong To Turn Off Comments, http://www.top5seo.co.uk […]

Demian Farnworth - March 24, 2014 Reply

Vibrant comment section is probably an overstatement. Less than 1% of our audience comments. That’s still a lot of people because of our size, but vibrant is not the word I would use to describe it.

    David McSweeney - March 24, 2014 Reply

    Everything is relative i guess… seems pretty vibrant to us mere mortals 😉

Susanna Perkins - March 24, 2014 Reply

I’ve commented about this on G+, but just saw your article float by in my Twitter stream. Sonia mentions that if someone has a great comment they can convert it to a post on their own blog, but that’s not always true. Not all of us inhabit the blogging/copywriting/content marketing niche, and if I posted something on my site about why comments should be on or off I would just confuse the heck out of my audience. . . I also like to have the choice about whether I comment directly on someone’s blog, on G+, Twitter, FB or wherever.

    David McSweeney - March 24, 2014 Reply

    That’s a brilliant point Susanna

Marketing Day: March 24, 2014 | Smart Affiliate Secrets - Affiliate Marketing Strategies - March 25, 2014 Reply

[…] Why (I Think) Copyblogger Is Wrong To Turn Off Comments, http://www.top5seo.co.uk […]

Ken McGaffin - March 25, 2014 Reply

Hi David,

I had exactly the same reaction as you – this is some clever piece of clickbait. Then I thought it was a clever piece of linkbait.

The controversy generated your thoughtful post and many others. In other words Copyblogger engaged with a lot of thoughtful people, got them to ‘think’ about comments and whether they are or are not useful, and got them to write about it – and got their readers to think and comment too.

So my conclusion is that it’s a fantastic piece of ‘mindbait’ 🙂

I’m sure we’re nowhere near the end of this debate. Cheers

    David McSweeney - March 25, 2014 Reply

    ‘mindbait’… I like it!

Adegboye Adeniyi - March 25, 2014 Reply

Well they might be write. Hardly do people leave comments on blog post these days probably because blog commenting has been devalued so much.

    David McSweeney - March 25, 2014 Reply

    I’m not so sure about that. Some great comments on here already for example!

Artio - March 25, 2014 Reply

About a year ago I started getting interested in the whole ‘content-thing’ and obviously landed on copyblogger. Read every single post they did this year.
Being a bit squimish online it is a huge thing for me to actually write a comment.

Why? I don’t have a blog, I don’t have an audience, I don’t do the social stuff. I just don’t like to be an online persona.

However when reading every single article on CB I concluded I should test the waters. Not be as afraid of the online world. Having CB tell me every single time even my comment mattered, I decided I should just comment. Insightfully, when I had a feeling it mattered. So I did.

And now I own a miniture-sized blog (still somewhat anonimous the way I like it) and I comment. I do all the things CB taught me. I write, I have an oppinion, I don’t do the linkbuying stuff, I try to deliver quality content and so on
……
but I have no way to tell them.

(yeah yeah, I know I’m foolish for not doing the twitter G+ thing… 😉 )

Do I think they made a mistake? I don’t know, but this has and will change the way I see CB. No longer being the Mighty One Open to All, but the Mighty One No Longer Open to Me…..

It might be the best thing for them, but it won’t be for me.

    David McSweeney - March 25, 2014 Reply

    That’s a great story Artio and sad that there will be those in the future starting the online journey like you that won’t get the same opportunity.

      Artio - March 25, 2014 Reply

      Thanks! The thing I find sad is they will find all cb-posts and they will read the love-thy-audience-posts, but they won’t know ‘how it’s done’.
      They will no longer see for themselves how invested all contributers are, that you can get a respons (like now, thanks!) or what is considered a ‘quality comment’….

        David McSweeney - March 25, 2014 Reply

        Definitely, they were a shining example of how to engage with your commenters

Neena - March 25, 2014 Reply

It seems to me that they should compromise. Allow comments for a week on new posts and then close them. Any subsequent discussion can happen in social media or other avenues.

My site is not even a fraction of the size of Copyblogger and yet it still used to get tons of spam comments. Now that I close off comments after a set time, the spam situation is under control.

    David McSweeney - March 25, 2014 Reply

    That’s what I’ve started doing – closing comments after 2 weeks.

    Louise Swift - March 27, 2014 Reply

    Aha – sometimes the best solutions are the simplest! Thanks for mentioning it here; I’d been wondering about all sorts of (overly-)complex commenting systems that could handle spam while encouraging discussion, but think I’ll stick with just turning off comments on older posts for now.

James R. Halloran - March 25, 2014 Reply

David, I couldn’t agree with you more!

I think to remove comments altogether is just giving in to the spammers. I have visited many blogs where the comments turned out to be the “reward” for reading the post. Take a look at SpinSucks[dot]com, for example.

They not only feature great articles but also have these awesome discussions full of intellectual, playful banter. The comments are really what bring that site to life. If they were to remove it like Copyblogger did, the site would lose 3/4 of its potential value.

I think instead of deleting the comments altogether, Copyblogger should have focused on curating that section. They should have instigated a moderator to prod and reply to every commenter, even if it was just to say “thanks.” That’s exactly what I do with our blog. You can see me reply to at least half of them, and I do it solely to instigate discussion and engagement.

And I also agree that social media is not the place for this discussion and engagement. I understand Sonia’s point about taking the conversation where more people will see it, but I think you’re right here. I’ve also noticed how fleeting Facebook and Twitter have become. Even LinkedIn doesn’t have a good discussion ground to replace blog comments.

I can barely see something my friends post on Facebook nowadays, so how am I supposed to hope they’ll see an active discussion on it without paying for a sponsored post? With Twitter’s 140-character count, how is one to discuss their points in detail? And for LinkedIn, most people have to already be in a group to generate that kind of discussion. So, how are any of these good replacements?

Anyway, I just wanted to say I’m glad you wrote this rebuttal. I’ll be sharing this pronto!

    David McSweeney - March 25, 2014 Reply

    Thanks James, valuable insight as always and a case in point of exactly why comments are so important!

Bronson - March 25, 2014 Reply

copyblogger commenting on a blog post about copyblogger removing comments from their blog … I think my head is going to explode.

How To Succeed With Guest Blogging In 2014 - March 28, 2014 Reply

[…] (unless the site is copyblogger!), social media shares etc are a sign that the site is popular and has an active, engaged […]

Cole Wiebe - April 3, 2014 Reply

Hi David,

Turning off comments is just sacrilege, considering the influential place in blogging CopyBlogger and StudioPress/Genesis hold.

Will I stop reading CopyBlogger’s content? No, but it will irk me every time I want to join the conversation, and that’s no longer possible. And I can’t help feeling that CopyBlogger has just told me just how little I matter as a reader.

My concern is the impact it may have on commenting overall. “If CopyBlogger has decided that managing comments isn’t worth the trouble…”

– Cole

SEO FC: The Internet Marketing 11 - April 4, 2014 Reply

[…] point: Could media darling Brian’s recent decision to stop giving press conferences at his home backfire or will his fans continue to follow him […]

Gretchen Louise - January 14, 2015 Reply

I so appreciated the points you made in this post, David. Thanks for taking the time to analyze this growing trend. I, for one, am glad there are still bloggers who believe in the value of comments.

4 Reasons Why Blog Comments Are Important - January 22, 2015 Reply

[…] Why (I Think) Copyblogger Is Wrong To Turn Off Comments by David McSweeny at Top5SEO.co.uk […]

5 reasons to ignore the trend and keep comments on your blog - October 13, 2015 Reply

[…] –David McSweeney, at Top 5 SEO […]

Leave a Reply: