Most blogging systems allow your readers to leave their own thoughts at the end of a post, but should you let people post everything and anything or should you filter out the good comments from the bad?
In this article, as part of our series on 29 blogging debates we look at how you should treat the comments left on your blog.
Talk With Readers, Not At Them
Interacting with your readers is one of the core attractions of running a website. I have chatted to hundreds of fascinating people and have even made some good friends since I became a webmaster.
Comments are the Window to Your Reader’s Soul
In many cases the little comment box that appears at the end of each post is the only connection you have with your readers so it would be a shame to ignore it. However opening up your website brings with it some problems:
- Other webmasters will try to use your comment area to promote their own site. There only intent is to get visitors from your site to theirs
- People will inevitably post rude and unhelpful comments
- Automated spam bots will tirelessly post rubbish to your comment area day and night
But don’t let that put you off, the pros outweigh the cons and as you will see, there are ways to deal with these problems.
Should I Censor My Blog Comments?
I have a policy of posting all comments that appear to be have been entered in good faith. That is they are posted by people who have something to say about the post, they want to add something to the discussion and not just from people who haven’t even read the article and are most likely trying to promote themselves.
Note: This does include posting negative comments and criticism, sometimes bloggers get quite spiteful messages on their blogs, other times it is very constructive and helpful. Either way I tend to let the entries stand.
One area you should always be careful about is your legal responsibilities. In some parts of the world, such as here in the UK, publishers (that’s you!) are jointly responsible for content. So that means if you actively chose to post illegal user generated content you could find yourself on the wrong side of the law. In particular you should watch out for potential libellous comments. If in doubt – consult professional legal advice.
How Should I Deal with Negative Comments on My Blog?
First of all, never take the comments personally. By posting your thoughts up to the Internet you are potentially sharing your ideas with thousands of readers and at least one of them (most likely many of them) will disagree with you.
There is just no way you will be able to appeal to all of the people all of the time!
If you really can’t bare the thought of being criticised then blogging isn’t for you!
When the inevitable happens, you need to keep your cool and act rationally. By all means respond to the comment but think carefully before doing so. It is advisable to show your reader that you have listened to them, taken their thoughts on board and although you might not agree with them they should still be allowed to have a say.
What you don’t want to do is enter into the classic Internet style argument (also known as the flame war).
I have seen many pointless arguments pan out over the years, some that have gone on for weeks and weeks. Often several parties are continuously posting up “clever” responses within minutes of each other. It is sad to see so much time and effort going into such futile inane debates – they could have spent the time Blogging! Positive and constructive debate should be encouraged but when a thread goes sour – do yourself a favour and close it to further posting!
Spotting Comment Spam
Here are some top tips for spotting comment spam:
- Does the comment actually reference your post? Spammers have got much better at creating generic comments that look like they might be genuine.
- If your blog accepts links, have a look to see what they are linking to. If it is anything to do with betting, pharmaceuticals, etc then it can be ditched. If in doubt have a look at the site – genuine content and community? Let the comment stay. Nothing but affiliate links and ads? Bin it.
- Is the comment Nonsense? In many cases the comment will not make any sense at all, don’t think twice about trashing the posting!
If in doubt, bin it. Having spammy looking comment around your site makes it look like you don’t really care about keeping it clean and tidy. A blog that looks unloved will be far less attractive to new readers.
How Do I Moderate Comments?
Here on the Blogercise site I have a very strict comment policy and in fact I might turn comments off entirely as I haven’t really had time to approve any comments.
Unfortunately any website remotely connected to “making money online” attracts a great deal of comment spam from people looking for a quick win. Ironically if these people took the time to email/tweet me and talk to me (as many of you do) you’d find I would be happy to talk to you and would see if I could put up a meaningful link back to your site. But no, that would be too much effort!
On other sites I either:
- Leave comments off from the start. If the site has been built just to get people on and off quickly then there is no real need for comments. I like these sites to be zero maintenance so I don’t want to be checking for valid comments on them. Or,
- Carefully moderate and manually approve posts. I only let through posts that look to be from genuine readers of the site. Anything that doesn’t make sense or consists of just a one line “nice site” gets binned instantly.
Once a comment is posted I always take the time to respond. If it is positive feedback I thank them for their thoughts and try to show further interest. If it is a negaive comment the first thing I do is think carefully about whether they have a valid point.
I’ve actually made some big improvements thanks to criticism that has come though. If many readers are saying the same thing then maybe they have a point?