I’ve never been a fan of closed comments, though they are a choice for many bloggers. However, I’ve never liked the idea of closing comments on old posts with the hopes of preventing or restricting comment spam. Here are a few reasons why.
The Myth of Comment Spam Prevention
There are a lot of myths around comment spam. One is that the more popular your blog is, the more comment spam. This is false. The more incoming links to your blog, the more comment spam. Comment spam bots follow those precious links, nofollow and dofollow, to your blog and spam it.
You could say that the more incoming links you have, the more popular your blog is, but that is not always true either. Trust me, it just takes one link to open the door to a voracious comment spam bot, as I’ve proven repeatedly on brand new blogs. These sites have no comment spam for months until that first trackback or incoming link.
The “old posts” myth about comment spam is that comment spammers hit older posts more than current posts. This is also not true. Comment spammers will hit EVERY post they can. Comment spam bots and human spammers don’t check the date of the post before they hit, thinking, “Hmmm, this one is at least six weeks old, ripe for spamming.”
Use the right keywords in your blog post and you can get comment spam in the time it takes to hit Publish and load the post to see the results. Words like credit, foreclosure, mortgage, finance, debt, and such attract comment spam faster than flies to honey. An article I published here on the Blog Herald on Give Credit When Credit is Due: Skip The Middle Man was slammed by comment spam within seconds, all aimed at promoting the get-rich-quick and out-of-debt-over-night schemes. The article had nothing to do with any of these things, but keywords are keywords in the eyes of spammers.
Human spammers also don’t check the expiration date of your blog post. They want your traffic and they understand the nuances of how Google’s Page Rank works. They target posts with similar or related keywords and topics so their trackback spam “counts” towards them and away from you.
Closing off old posts to prevent comment spam doesn’t work and has little or no impact on comment spam. Sure, it will eliminate comment spammers, human and machine, but it will also eliminate legitimate comments on those old posts that still have value.
Loss of Input and Feedback Sends a Message
When you close comments on all posts, you block off input and feedback. If your blog has no need of comments and feedback, then it doesn’t matter. But when you have open comments, then close them, what message are you sending to your readers and potential customers? We will listen, but not for long?
When they arrive and find the comments closed, with or without other comments, you are sending a variety of messages about your past posts, as well as your present ones. Here are some I’ve heard from students and participants of my blog workshops:
- They don’t care what I have to say or think.
- Guess my opinion doesn’t count here.
- So you mean I have to tell them what I think only on my blog?
- I bet they get more comment spam than good comments if they do that.
- Don’t they know I have something of value to add here?
- Screw them if they don’t want me to participate.
- Why should I listen to what they say if they won’t listen to me?
Rarely do I hear, “Of course they should close comments after a certain amount of time. It’s the right thing to do.” Or “Bet they are saving time by closing comments. I’d do the same thing.”
You Lose Valuable Feedback
Researching an article recently, I ran across a bunch of articles and reference resources with closed comments. Those articles had dead links, and wrong links and misinformation, though the content was basically still valid. Another article was scrambled with an error in the code. Since comments were closed with no clear, easy-to-find contact link, there was no way to contact the blog author to let them know of the problems with the page.
If I found those errors, others are finding them, too. With no way to communicate, poor information and problems continue to plague visitors, and the site owner may not realize there is a problem.
On another blog using an auto-closing comment WordPress Plugin, they had asked for help with only one unhelpful reply of commiseration. Since I had the answer to their problem, I wanted to let them know in case they were still battling with this issue. Without any way to comment, nor a direct link to their comment form, I gave up. Guess they didn’t need my help after all.
There are sensible times when it is appropriate to close comments. If a post has more than a hundred comments, has everything been said that needs to be said? Maybe it’s time to close the comments and start a new post to continue the conversation in the direction the comments took. Once it crosses a certain threshold, comments, threaded or not, become very messy to navigate.
If you’ve asked a question, poll, or survey, or offered customer support with the answers clearly in the blog post and in the comments, some like to close comments then as the rest of the comments tend to be either clutter, time wasters, or people asking the same things over and over because they just don’t read the post. Make the last comment include a summary with links to all the answers, like a FAQ, echoing the information in the blog post, and close the comments.
Comments are critical feedback and information. By closing comments, you may be missing valuable feedback that can help your blog now. Feedback that can update a post, or even suggest a new blog post idea that will link back to the old post, networking your content together and building a body of work.
If you choose to close the comments on any blog post, ensure there is a clear link to contact you so you keep the lines of communication open.