Health IS Technology Blog

Engagement is Key: The Importance of Comments


Laptop with magnet icons attracting communication bubbles with a web of people

When running a blog, a lot of the time it can feel like a losing battle. Between the initial work of actually writing something, there are reviews, fact checks, social-impact checks. It can be quite exhausting, especially if the blog you’re running is for a business - then you have the added stress of workplace politics. All of this being said, there aren’t many feelings better than the one you get when all of your dedication pays off. With blogs, this payoff comes in the form of comments, shares, likes. But, does engagement really help your blog, or does it just help fuel your passion?

Do comments matter?

Put simply: yes. Comments matter. All engagement matters. In a society fueled by social media, having a blog post or webpage crawling with comments and likes will help search engines recognize your name, will help customers find you, and will help customers trust you more. If you’ve ever looked on Yelp before going to a restaurant, then you know how important quantitative and qualitative reviews can be. 

O'Brien's Irish Pub & Grill yelp review page with 4 reviews

Katz's Delicatessen Yelp review page with over 9,000 reviews
When you compare the above restaurants, is there one you’re automatically more drawn to? It’s probably the one with thousands of comments and ratings. Of course, no customer is going to read all 9,000+ reviews, but it’s human nature to find comfort in something that has already been experienced by many others. This is no different when it comes to comments on blogs.

Not only do a lot of (genuine, not spammy) comments encourage your readers to trust you and your business, but they also encourage discussion. A great blog that usually fosters incredible discussion in its comments is Moz. Take a look at this article from Moz and glance at some of the comments. If you notice, the author is directly mentioned by readers with questions and he will respond with his answers, sometimes linking to other Moz articles.

Replyable says:

“If a visitor arrives on your blog and sees a back-and-forth discussion, it immediately instills a perception that this is a business that cares about its customers.”

What the Moz author is doing is garnering more clicks for the website, while also showing loyalty to the reader by responding to them. Even more, a lot of times readers will engage with one another in the comments and find solutions to mutual problems. This is all gold!

Is there such thing as bad engagement on a blog?

Comments on blogs can be both a boon and a plague to the admins, due to the fact that there is an element of policing needed to keep the conversation healthy and friendly. Much of this has to do with the technology used for the comments themselves. Due to the openness of the forms used for comments, as an admin you will get a lot of gibberish pushed by spam engines, and also anonymous trolls, saboteurs, and sometimes worse.

If you are going to open your blog to comments, then I would suggest using a tool that makes the moderation simple, and automates checks on whether a commentator is a human being, is using acceptable language, and isn't posting harmful links or self-promotion. It can be a lot, and even with a strong moderation engine in place, you still have to be present to stop ad-hom attacks, people using tricks to still bring across slurs and bullying. This is why you find many blogs forgoing a comment section altogether, which is sad, considering the bonuses that a comment section presents. A comment section puts you in contact with your readers, allowing you to poll them, extend the article by speaking to them. Many commentators are smarter than we writers are, and give valuable insight below our articles.

Moderating your comments with Disqus

Disqus is a blog comment hosting service.

“With Disqus, your website gains a feature-rich comment system complete with social network integration, advanced administration and moderation options, and other extensive community functions.”  

A great feature of Disqus is its ability to sync with your own WordPress database, so that you keep your comments even after uninstalling it. They pay you for activity on your comments, if you allow advertisements, and they have an algorithm that can be tweaked to flag certain words used as spam or ones that need moderation.

It’s also user friendly. It will email you once a day to let you know what comments are in moderation. You can reply to that email with one word answers like "spam", "approve", "trash", etc. and it will automate that action. Disqus is also a social media platform in its own right, since commentators can log in and out to see discussions from blogs they follow and replies to their comments.

Comments are King

If there’s one lesson to take away from this article, it’s that most engagement is good engagement. Comments are key because they encourage discussion, improvement, and reader loyalty. As long as you implement an intelligent comment moderation system, your blog and your business overall with improve!

USF Health Information Systems is a comprehensive technology group serving the needs of the Academic Research and Clinical missions. We partner with our customers to deliver agile responsive technology solutions that drive business value and make life better for our students and patients. Be informed at all times by visiting health.usf.edu/is/. You can connect directly via phone by calling (813) 974-6288 or by sending us an email via support@health.usf.edu, after hours.

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Bekah Witten
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Bekah is the content writer for the University of South Florida department of Information Technology.