Wouldn't it be great if you could put out a piece of content on your website, and that content was continually updated and improved with no additional work on your end?
There is such a thing - it's the ability for people to leave comments on things you write. When you give this ability to your visitors, you not only get free content, but the search engines love you more because every time they come back to a page on your site, there is more keyword rich and industry-related information about your product or service.
For instance, check out this blog post. The company, STLBeds, created a great piece of content on the problems people were having with memory foam. This piece took a few hours to craft, and resulted in a total of 916 total words published. Since that piece went live on their site, they've had over 150 additional, free comments added. The result? As of writing this piece, 20,469 words - all related in some way to memory foam, mattresses, and other keywords that STLBeds is targeting in the first place.
Many people, however, shy away from asking for comments, or they disable them altogether. That's a tragedy - they're missing a huge opportunity for free content. Below are my thoughts on the comments section of your website, the various ways to handle it, and why some great WordPress plugins don't really do the trick.
Anyone Can Leave Comments on My Site
The most common reason I hear for people not wanting comments on their website is because they think anyone can leave any comment on their site. While this is technically true, it's important to know that any comment added to your site can be put into moderation. This means it won't 'show up' on your website until you approve it.
If you had ultimate control (which you do), why wouldn't you enable the comment function on your site? If someone (mainly a competitor or mad employee) leaves harsh comments, all you have to do is not approve them, and no one will ever know.
I Get Hundreds of Spammy Comments Every Day
First off, let me just say: we all do. I can't even fathom how much wasted electricity and bandwidth is wasted each month on comment bots that troll the Internet looking for blogs they can spam.
But once again, this is actually really easy to control. For WordPress, spam filtering plugins like Akismet and Anitspam Bee are great at learning what IP addresses are typically spamming, what keywords are related to spam, and how to automatically quarantine these messages for website owners.
Now, it does take these services some time to learn who's good and who's bad, so a spammy message or two may fall through the cracks from time to time, but the amount of spam they catch makes those few infractions worth the headache.
I Like Facebook Comments Better
You're right - integrating Facebook comments into your website has some terrific benefits:
- The amount of spam is nearly zero because everyone has to be logged in to leave a comment.
- Comments are posted to your Facebook page, causing more interaction and traffic.
- Other people see their friends' comments and come to my site.
- Easy integration with a plugin - I don't have to spend time moderating
While these are true, there's one deal breaker for me - Facebook comments aren't SEO friendly.
Let me explain.
The problem with Facebook comments isn't really that they're not SEO friendly, but rather that they're not SEO friendly for your site. It's in the way that the comments are pulled in. The code behind the scenes simply overlays Facebook's comments onto your post. When the search engines come to read your content, they don't see those comments because they aren't really part of your website - they're part of Facebook's content that just happens to show up on your page.
Which means you get no credit for them.
Which means no one is building free content for you.
In my opinion, this makes having FB comments on my site a no-go. I want that content. I want the search engines to give me credit for that content.
Disclaimer: There is a way to integrate Facebook comments into your site, where the search engines see them as actual content on your site. This can be achieved by using the API graph from Facebook, causing the comments to, as I said, show on your site. The biggest problem here is that Facebook can change that API at any time, causing your comments (ie: free content) to disappear along with them.
What About Disqus Comments?
Not much different than the FB situation mentioned above, Disqus is another great way to keep your comments in one place for easy management. The problem with them is that they use some somewhat sneaky ways to show the comments on your site. The tags they use cause the content to be hidden by default from the average user, and that's a problem with Google.
Is it worth getting on Google's bad side? No way.
I'm a fan of doing things right and not trying to cheat the system. I'm also a fan of keeping on Google's good side. Because of those two things, I avoid using third-party commenting systems for my site.