We did something completely different on this episode of Get on Track, Stay on Track. Instead of a single expert, I invited THREE esteemed and experienced digital marketing professionals, each with their unique area of expertise.
> Mark Traphagen is the Senior Director of Online Marketing for Stone Temple Consulting, and THE go-to guy on all-things concerning SEO.
> David Amerland is the best-selling author of seven books, most notably Google Semantic Search.
> Donart Nummer – one of my closest friends – specializes in advertising and re-targeting.
Q.1 What is the value of comments at all? Do bloggers even need a comment system?
David Amerland kicked off the conversation by stating that several bloggers asked the same questions. Since social media offers many ways to interact with an audience, they wondered whether it was even worth it to ‘split a conversation’ using commenting systems. But he noted the following advantages of enabling comments:
- Comments can convince visitors that the page is active and interesting
- Comments can help increase the scope and breadth of the blog
- Comments add additional space for keywords and can help with search (SEO)
- Comments can help people find you
However, David made it clear that the final decision rests with the blogger. Paraphrasing him, if you have the energy, willingness, time and quality of writing to create a conversational environment, a comment system will definitely help. But if you have a lot more traction on social media platforms than on your blog, perhaps it is okay NOT to have a comment system.Add-in comment systems include more functionality and utility that than a default system. Click To Tweet
According to Mark Traphagen, while some blogs have their own ‘native’ comment system, others can be ‘added in’. Add-in comment systems include more functionality and utility that than a default system.
Like David, Mark mentioned that having a comment system depends on the needs and requirements of the blogger. A comment system enables comments to become social and widespread, while also keeping track of discussions. In addition, an add-in system might give the moderator more levels of control
Finally, Donart Nummer noted that a comment system that offers the best value in terms of semantic search, authorship and credibility as a blogger is imperative today. A native system might not be enough to provide that wonderful ‘SERP JUICE’ to rank high in searches.
Moving on, I identified three ways of looking at comment systems: using it for SEO value, social signal value and semantic value. David agreed that ‘semantic search’ is almost like a bridge between SEO and social signalsA comment system enables comments to become social and widespread.Click To Tweet
Q.2 What are the advantages and disadvantages of the most popular commenting systems?
Comment System 1: Google Plus
This is a Java Script based comment system that is embedded into your blog, although the comments live IN Google Plus. David clarified that comments do get served from the blog, thereby “seamlessly fusing the website and Google Plus into one conversation”. I cited the Confluent Forms blog by David Kutcher as an example of the superior level of engagement possible due to this integration.
Donart added that utilizing a Google Plus commenting system may help by sending social signals back to Google. This might have a positive impact on your SERP rankings since Google is now focused on redefining search based on semantic and/or social signaling.
Mark, however, issued a warning that Google has only released this comment system as a native integration for its own Blogger platform. If you see a Google+ system on any other platform it is kind of a ‘hack,’ designed to pull comments from Google Plus into someone’s blog.
To stay current on Google+ Comments, always refer to Google’s official page: G+ Comments FAQs
One of the major drawbacks of Google Plus’s commenting system is that, until Google releases a native version, you do not have much control. Following are some downsides of this system:
- You will not receive any notification of new comments, which forces bloggers to manually go through the comments and respond.
- Your blog might be riddled with comment spam.
- Not everyone would WANT a G+ system because of a negative perception towards Google, in general. Bloggers might not want to be forced to incorporate something against their will.
But David asserted that no comment system is perfect, and bloggers have to choose an appropriate one based on what is important to them and the purpose of their blog.
Mark expects Google to release an all-encompassing system soon since this would give the biggest search engine company access to everyone’s data by tying into thousands of people’s blogs
Comment System 2: Facebook
The primary advantage of a Facebook comment system is its low barrier to entry. Almost every commenting system requires some kind of login or entry system. Since most people already have a FB login, this familiarity is a huge asset.The primary advantage of a Facebook comment system is its low barrier to entry.Click To Tweet
BUT, our guests unanimously agreed that a Facebook system doesn’t offer any search benefits YET.
According to David, tests, which were carried to study the search signals out of the world’s biggest social media platform, indicate that Google – either intentionally or because of FB’s opaque system – largely disregards them.
That being said, you cannot discard FB completely because, again, a commenting system should satisfy YOUR needs. If you have a large FB audience or crowd, this commenting system makes sense.
In David’s words, “There is NO prescription here. Each case is largely unique depending on your approach, style and audience”
Another disadvantage of this commenting system is that your comments on a blog will be displayed on your Facebook stream. Although you can disable these settings, most people forget to take this step, and hence are hesitant to send out ‘signals (to a crowd) that they might not want to send’
Overall, if your real goal is to send social interaction and engagement back to your social network, then Google Plus and Facebook are good choices. Internet marketers, people who are already entrenched in either of these two networks and/or know how to leverage Google Ads generally use these networks.Each case is largely unique depending on your approach, style and audienceClick To Tweet
Q3. Is there any specific SEO value by having comments on your stream and – in particular – do you get any SEO value from FB and Google+ commenting systems?
Mark explained that a brand new patent from Google talks about social signals in various ways, in which, the word ‘Like’ has been mentioned for the first time. Past studies from one of Mark’s colleagues and another Digital Marketing expert, Eric Enge, confirm that LIKES from FB have almost NO EFFECT on Google’s search rankings. While studies show very high correlations between LIKES and SERP rankings, correlations are NOT causations.
This, however, does not imply that Facebook Likes will never affect Google rankings. According to Mark, Google has made it clear that they look at the long-term effects of social signals. In other words, post-by-post signals don’t matter as much as consistently high quality content and positive social signals.
So a site that receives a lot of Likes over a long period of time signals to Google that ‘you are trusted and engaging.’ This way, LIKES might have an indirect effect on rankings, but no direct correlations exist, as of now.Studies show very high correlations (but no causation) between LIKES and SERP rankings.Click To Tweet
Commenting System 3: Disqus System
The Disqus comment system allows links to other blogs, which can be controlled. You could either link back to your own blog or even help fellow ‘disqus’ers by sharing their links.
Mark cautioned that since Google is devaluing ‘blogrolls’ or sites with listed links, this isn’t necessarily an advantage!
Donart agreed and restated that Google is moving in a ‘semantic’ search oriented direction, meaning that, today, social signals are far more important than random link listings. David rounded off this discussion by emphasizing that removing any temptation to game the system is ALWAYS good.
Q.4: What is the favorite comment system of each of our three experts?
Mark chose Disqus because he was familiar with it, and the notifications functionality helped him keep track of his conversations. Donart seemed very confident that it would be advisable to go in the G+ direction.
David concurred with Donart, stating that while he used to have Disqus, he has now implemented the G+ system because it saves him time. Most importantly, he has seen interaction and engagement go up after making this transition.
All of them made it clear that these were just personal preferences, not recommendations.Removing any temptation to game the system is ALWAYS good.Click To Tweet
Q.5 Are accordion-style comment systems that support multiple platforms, such as the popular Comments Evolve WP Plugin,a good idea?
None of the experts seemed enthusiastic about such a multiple-platform commenting system.
David stated that mixed environments can act as psychological barriers by easily confusing those who are ‘familiar with a single environment.’
While multiple commenting systems sound good in principle, it might take some ‘getting used to.’ Donart and Mark echoed David by adding it is not a good idea to have ‘virality’ broken into multiple commenting systems, for this will cause confusion.
David Amerland’s Three Criteria for Choosing a Commenting System (Pulled from the Comments)
In order of importance:
- Is it good for generating engagement?
- Is it easy to implement?
- Is it a big obstacle for your target audience?
Boy, wouldn’t it be fun to talk to these guys forever?! Unfortunately, our 30-minutes were ending and we moved on to the Lightning Round.New engagement can help the original blog post resurface in search.Click To Tweet
- Does having more comments necessarily equal better SEO value?
- Do they have to be quality comments?
- Follow or NO Follow all comments in your blog when using native WP?
MT: Depends on how you want to manage your blog. Lots of blog owners are defaulting to No Follow, meaning Google doesn’t pass on authority or page rank.
- What if I engage in keyword-stuffing strategy in comments?
- Your comments will most likely get deleted
- People are very SEO-savvy and will reverse engineer your strategy to negate your engagement levels. If the owner engages in such ‘spam traffic’ and devalues the engagement of comments on your blog, people will be unlikely to come back
- Will adding new comments do anything for refreshing your SERP ranking?
MT: Not very sure, but if Google can treat the comments like part of the content on that page, they could refresh your indexing.
DA: Yes, blog posts are coming back into vogue because people are starting new conversations in the comments. Such ‘new’ engagement can help the original blog post resurface in search, which is a valid strategy in terms of engagement and SEO. This is another reason to re-share evergreen content!Utilizing a G+ commenting system may help by sending social signals back to Google.Click To Tweet