I recently saw some bloggers in a Twitter chat stressing over the number of comments their blog posts get, one of the worriers starting asking people to comment on her latest post. For several reasons this is not a good road to go down, the main one being that any comment someone wants to make should be organic and something the commenter feels inspired to do. Commenting anxiety stems from a worry that your blog isn't being engaged with, the number of comments seems to be as equally important as blog traffic to some people. I'm here to tell you that blog comments really don't matter as much as you might think.
I earn most of my income from blogging, I've worked on sponsored posts with brands like Nokia, Diet Coke, NutriBullet, and some exciting startups such as Elle Macpherson's WelleCo, and Strathberry of Scotland. I've never had one of these brands turn round and say, oh sorry – we've just double-checked your blog and see you have little-to-no comments on your posts, let's call the whole thing off. This is because for a long time now brands and PRs have cottoned on to the fact that most comments on blog posts are from other bloggers, many of them just doing this so that they can 'advertise' their own blog and leave a link to it. Of course some bloggers will have their own loyal group of blogging friends who leave genuine and interesting comments, and not the type of comment that equates to a vague thumbs-up and a link to a blog. But this is no good to a brand either, they don't want to see the same small circle of influencers engaging with a blog, they want to see what their average consumer thinks, and comments are the least effective way they can do this with smaller bloggers.
I might be more worried about blog comments if I hadn't had some excellent advice from uber-blogger Kat Williams when I first started out a couple of years ago. She explained to Blogcademy delegates that in the early days of blogging comments used to be the only way for bloggers to interact with their readers; social media platforms such as Twitter were yet to be invented, and bloggers were afraid to give out their email because the internet was deemed to be a place filled with dangerous weirdos. This is how brands and PRs initially placed importance on comments as something with which to gauge engagement. Kat said that now comments mean very little for engagement because bloggers can interact with readers far quicker and more enjoyably on other platforms, and comments tend to be the place where self-promotion, unfortunately, reigns over meaningful comment. Also, advances in technology mean that more people read blog posts on devices whilst on the go, and don't always have time to comment. I often read blogs on my phone whilst commuting round London, and try to remember to tweet the blogger later, or if I know them I might just wait until I next see them to say how much I enjoyed what they wrote.
This advice made me confident enough to turn my comment function off about six months after starting my blog because I really did have a lot of "great post – anyway here's my blog" type comments that meant nothing to me (and don't get me started on brands spamming the comments too). I kept the comments switched off for well over a year and in that time my blog grew and turned into a business. I was also really pleased with the interactions I had with readers, they'd get in touch via email or Twitter to comment, and because they'd gone to this trouble the feedback, praise, personal input and even the constructive criticism meant a lot more to me. I've had a journalist I really admire tell me on Twitter they love my blog, and the editor of a digital magazine I'm crazy about tell me I'm very talented. When I wrote about a terrible experience I had at a hair salon I was amazed to get dozens of emails from women in several different parts of the world reaching out to tell me their similar stories and empathise with me. Who cares if no one else can see those emails, or only a few people will see the tweets, it means more to me as a writer to get genuine comments that I can use to learn about my readers and to get better at blogging.
Now that my comments are back on (more as an experiment than anything) I'm not saying I don't want fellow bloggers commenting – it has made me really glad I changed my mind when I get a comment that makes me laugh out loud or tells me something useful. It still means more to me to get one great comment that shows the post has actually been read and reflected upon than twenty shallow, unsubtle blog adverts. So, if you're a new blogger, or one who's been doing it a while and is worried about how comments 'make you look' – honestly don't. If your content is good and, very importantly, you're enjoying what you're doing, don't feel like comments are something you're being judged on. Just keep doing what you're doing and remember that comments mean very little to brands, that bloggers often leave comments so that they can leave their links, and that people may not have time to comment but that doesn't mean what you wrote didn't have any impact upon them.