When we launched our marketing site redesign several weeks ago, I decided to do a little experiment with our blog. I removed the URL input field for blog comments, because I wanted to see how it would affect the quality and quantity of comments.
Why do people comment?
I predicted that removing the URL input field would result in:
- Fewer comments
- URLs inside of comments
- URLs submitted by bots
All three predictions came true.
Genuine comments usually appear when we announce an interesting new feature, or broach a controversial subject. Sometimes there’s just one comment, and sometimes there are 20.
Most of the time, we blog about small (but significant) changes to the system. Those entries are are meant to keep our customers informed about changes, and generally don’t evoke a response. Upon launching the new blog design without the URL input field, we saw saw comments dramatically drop on those types of entries.
While there has been a decrease in comments, we’ve seen an increase in URLs being left in the comments. The vast majority of those links have been unrelated to the blog entry, promotional in nature only.
This type of commenting behavior leads the moderator to believe that the commenter’s motives are disingenuous.
During the experiment, bots, or the software that’s used to comment on blogs, were easy to spot because they had URLs! Whenever I saw any comment that was submitted with a URL, I knew immediately who was spamming us.
Should the URL input field be used?
The short answer is yes. Whether or not comments are used for self-promotion, well moderated comments are beneficial to the blog and the readers. There are a few benefits to including the URL:
- It provides a public reference point to who the commenter is.
- It encourages more participation, which increases user generated content.
- It keeps people with good ideas from junking up their comments with self-promotional links.
I’m adding the URL input field back for those reasons.
When it comes to blog comments, I think there are two good approaches. You either turn comments off completely, or allow commenters to leave all of the details they want, including the URL.