Comments have long been considered a good way of generating search traffic. It is because of this that some sites will even go as far as to hire freelance writers to make comments so then it encourages other visitors to do the same.
Even though comments are considered to be quite important when it comes to generating search traffic, it’s never been categorically proven that comments are actually beneficial. Here we will take a look at reasons why comments may or may not be beneficial to site traffic, and we will try and come to a categorical conclusion.
Word Count Effect
If you are able to generate enough comments, then you will be able to increase the word count on your web pages. For example, if you have written a 500-word article and you have received 20 comments that are all around 20 words long, then your page word count would make a big jump up to 900 words. Given that search engines like Google require you to have content pages that are at least longer than 400 words, this looks slightly beneficial.
Word count though isn’t the most important thing. If you have a certain keyword in mind and the comments don’t contain them, then they may not have that much benefit. On the other hand, if you have written a 400-word piece that has enough uses of your chosen keyword then the comments should just help add to the word count total.
How Comments Effect Rankings
If you want to really analyze the impact that comments have on your search engine rankings, then you need to check how often keywords and phrases are used in the comments that are left by visitors. Unfortunately, this is a very difficult thing to measure as systems like Google Analytics tend to combine all the data from the page instead of differentiating between content and comments.
Having said that, the tools provided by Google Webmaster can be very helpful. They are able to provide you with a little bit of data before you start doing your own testing. To see if comments are affecting your ranking, you need to do Google searches that involve the keywords used for your pages. Once you have done that, you need to see where the keyword is located and how Google has found it. If you do this for several pages and use all the keywords on those pages, then you should be able to figure out how Google has decided where you should be ranked.
For the majority of sites, keywords used in the actual post are the most effective at improving ranking. After that, comments will start having an effect. Therefore, even though comments are not one the very first thing that Google looks at, it is still up there as something that they greatly consider. When it comes to ranking at least, comments do have an effect.
How Rankings Effect Traffic
Of course, just because comments are playing at least a small part in improving rankings, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it helps drive traffic forwards. To start with, you need to check with Google Webmaster how many impressions you are able to generate on each web page.
In the majority of cases, over half of the impressions come from keywords based on the actual post. Again, comments are probably up to there at the top of the list along with titles and headings. This data however is only part of the process, after all, you should already know that long-tail keywords drive forward traffic.
Once you have figured out all of the numbers from impressions, you need to then make the final check with the Webmaster to see how many clicks are generated through keywords in comments. Again, the results will probably show that clicks are mainly generated from the content in the post. In fact, nearly three-quarters of the traffic will probably be generated that way. Comments for that reason actually don’t play that big a part in clicks as actual content.
What This All Means
Ultimately, comments do play a part in driving forward traffic, but not nearly to the extent of post content. The main reason for this is that comments are unpredictable. If you have written content that is designed to attract visitors based on specific keywords, then there is no guarantee that people who are commenting will use the same words. It’s even possible that people commenting could end up optimizing the page for a keyword that you haven’t even used, thus resulting in a low ranking for that particular word or phrase.
This shouldn’t put you off from encouraging people to post comments though. Even though they do not have a big effect, it is still a little beneficial. It also helps encourage visitors to your site to stick around so then they can either interact with the people who run the site or with people who also want to share their opinions. Comments should always be considered something that helps a site grow in several areas, but generating search traffic should not be the main purpose when you are encouraging comments.