Increasing user engagement is always a key concern in the life of any publisher’s site. An ideal audience is not only interested in the article they’re currently reading, but motivated to return to your site time and again. With user behaviour becoming a greater factor in providing positive SEO signals, this has never been more important.
User generated content will not only mean a broader range of content on your site, but help turn your audience into a fully-fledged community. Implementing comments is an excellent way to do this.
Any blogging platform or socially driven CMS worth its salt will have a mechanism built in which could well be enough, but what if the default options aren’t right for your circumstances? Maybe users aren’t engaging with your site as much as you’d like, perhaps a branded solution with a recognizable interface could help tackle that? Let’s take a look at the options available and try to weigh the pros and cons for each:
A commenting system that comes as part of your platform is a common solution. Popular blogging and CMS platforms will make use of their own native implementations which can be flexible and powerful. For example, you may want to add unique fields to your comment form, or include a rating widget. Having content directly posted to your site will mean you retain its ownership and search engines will treat it as any other content found on your site, hopefully benefiting your site in organic search.
A native commenting system could also be integrated with other parts of your site that have a social aspect. For example, a user account created for article commenting could be used in a site’s forum. You may find yourself being inspired to create social areas on your site to take advantage of your newly engaged audience, be creative! Finally, creating an account for commenting means you now have a point of contact via email. This can be used as part of a mailing list strategy (opt-in of course!)
All this power and flexibility however potentially means more configuration and time spent on maintenance. Moderation will be required in terms of both keeping order and complying with any policy you may have in place. A good spam protection strategy is also vital. Although popular platforms may have “out the box” methods in place, consideration for effectiveness and impact on user experience should be taken into account.
Many sites use third party solutions for commenting. Companies like Facebook, Google and Disqus have created powerful, feature-rich platforms that allow for quick integration with your site. As these platforms are commonplace throughout the web, users of your site may well be familiar with the interface and comfortable with their use. These solutions often have powerful anti-spam measures in place and as such is less of a concern.
Finally, although a slightly more contentious point, user interaction with your site via common social networks such as Facebook and Google+ could indicate positive social uplift, or at the very least increase reach to an engaged user’s friends.
Third party solutions will however raise issues of ownership of the comments. Another point of much debate online is on the ability for search engines to index content created via these platforms. Anecdotal evidence suggests some is and some is not with workarounds being suggested. Be sure to research your particular platform of choice and decide what the main reason is for integrating commenting. Is new content creation a key goal? Is this really about creating a community?
Should you decide on this approach, here are some links to help you get started:
Disqus – Disqus for Websites is a robust commenting platform that boasts ease of integration, effective spam filtering and is free to set up. It purports to create crawlable comments (although whether content is indexed is at the discretion of the search engine). Importantly, you retain ownership of your data.
Facebook – The Facebook Comments box allows your users to comment on your content when logged into their Facebook account. Moderation tools come as standard and sites can benefit from higher social relevance ranking and reach to a user’s friends in their news feed. Bear in mind that to allow for comments to be indexable that you should use the Graph API implementation rather than using iframes.
Google+ – Here’s an unofficial way of integrating Google+ comments based on the Blogger method. Keep in mind that this method isn’t future-proof and an official API integration may be required further down the line.
A Quick Summary (Pros and Cons)
A final round up:
- Full ownership of comments
- New, indexable content
- Create a mailing list from new accounts
- Potentially more work to implement
- Moderation may well be required
- Spam protection issues
- Ease of integration
- Powerful, feature-rich
- Solid spam protection
- Potential social uplift signals
- Ownership issues
- Indexing issues
Use a popular platform with a built-in commenting and want your own fields in the comment form? Consider the onsite method. Use a bespoke platform and want integration with minimal fuss? Consider the branded route.
Whichever method you choose, research your options within each area and measure any changes you make further down the line.