Do Comments Actually Increase Your Search Traffic? A Data-Driven Answer

comments

Theoretically, the more content you have on each page, the more keywords you rank for, which should increase your overall traffic.

That should mean the more comments you have on each of your blog posts, the more search traffic you should receive, right?

Do comments actually increase your search traffic? Download this printable data-driven answer.

Although it sounds logical, I am not convinced it is actually the case. With Quick Sprout, I get 176 comments per post, but are those comments really helping drive more search traffic? Let’s look at the data.

Word count comparison

As of today, Quick Sprout has 560 published blog posts. Excluding the guides and the university videos, each blog post on average contains 1,481 words.

I am also averaging 176 comments per post with 22.6 words per comment, which means the comment-generated word count for each blog post is 3,978.

word count

If you combine the word count for each blog post with the comments, you have a whopping 5,459 words per page. The blog post itself is responsible for 27% of the words on the page, while the comments make up the other 73%.

Now that we’ve determined the post/comment word count ratio, we have to ask: are these 3,978 extra words on each page driving more search traffic?

Do more comments mean more rankings?

Data provided by Google Analytics makes it tough to answer this question, but Google Webmaster Tools provide you with a list of all the terms you rank for and the traffic you’re receiving for each of these keywords.

google webmaster tools

The search traffic numbers within Google Analytics are substantially higher than those reported in Google Webmaster Tools. But in this case, some data is better than nothing.

To move forward with the analysis, I enlisted the help of 23 Quick Sprout readers.

First, I downloaded a CSV file that contained 10,269 keywords I rank for.

Then, my helpers and I Googled each keyword. What we found was interesting.

We weren’t able to find Quick Sprout’s listings for 2,852 of the 10,269 keywords.

The remaining 7,417 terms fit into one of 4 buckets:

  1. The keyword was mentioned within the title of the blog post.
  2. The keyword was mentioned within the body of the blog post.
  3. The keyword was mentioned within the comments.
  4. The keyword wasn’t mentioned anywhere on the page.

Here’s the split:

google webmaster tools keywords

As you can see from the pie chart above, 1,048 keywords were mentioned in the title, 3,054 were mentioned within the content of the blog post, 1,983 were mentioned in the comments, and 1,332 were not mentioned anywhere on the page.

When we dug deeper into the keywords that weren’t mentioned on the page, we found that Google seemed to have used its latent semantic technology. That means the keywords it ranked Quick Sprout for, although not on the page, were relevant to the page… Google was acting more like a thesaurus, matching what people searched for with what they were actually looking for.

Now that we’ve figured out that text from blog comments does rank within Google, let’s look at how much traffic it drives.

Do rankings equal traffic?

Just because your website ranks for a specific keyword, it doesn’t mean people are clicking on your listing.

The cool part about Google Webmaster Tools is that it breaks down both how many impressions your listings receive and how much traffic you receive.

google webmaster tools impressions

The 7,417 keywords, for which we found corresponding listings on Google, received a total of 5,295,506 impressions. Out of those impressions:

  • The keywords mentioned within the title received 695,282 impressions
  • The keywords mentioned within the body received 2,596,663 impressions
  • The keywords mentioned within the comments received 1,308,788 impressions
  • The keywords not mentioned anywhere on the site received 694,773 impressions

But that data isn’t very interesting because you already know that long tail terms drive the majority of traffic. So let’s dive into the actual clicks:

google webmaster tools placement

Although comments brought in 24.7% of the impressions, they didn’t bring in as many clicks as I would have thought. They only brought in 27,713 visitors, which is roughly 16% of total impressions.

Keywords located within the title brought in 22,517 visitors (roughly 13% of impressions). Keywords from within the blog post brought in 107,310 visitors. And the remaining 15,669 visitors came from keywords that weren’t mentioned on the page.

Conclusion

I would have expected the keywords mentioned in the title to bring in more traffic, but when I dug a bit deeper, I noticed those keywords didn’t rank as well as long tail phrases.

Those long tail phrases tended to rank on the first few pages of Google, while some of the head terms ranked on page 19.

Comments didn’t drive as many visitors as I wanted, but considering that it’s user-generated content, it’s not that bad. It could be that Google may not be placing as much value on text created through comments or words appearing lower on a page (since comments are located below each blog post) as it does on the post itself.

When analyzing the Google Webmaster Tools data, I also noticed that the keywords found within the comments didn’t rank as high in Google as keywords found within the text of the blog post. This explains why keywords found within the comment section had a click-through rate of 2.1% versus 4.1% for keywords found within the text of each post.

All in all, bringing 16% of all search traffic through comments isn’t too shabby. I know text from comments makes up the majority of the words on the page, but you have to keep in mind that many of the comments just say “good post” or “thanks.”

So, has this post convinced you to focus on encouraging more comments? If so, what are some ways to encourage your readers to comment?

P.S. If you need help getting more traffic from your blog comments click here.

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Comments

  1. Interesting stuff and also reinforces the value of titles.

    It’s worth mentioning that for comments to have an influence they need to be indexable. Comment systems that display comments in html should be fine, but with JavaScript ones there is less of a guarantee.

    Disqus comments seem to have been given a special privilege and have been crawlable for a long time. With Googlebot now rendering content we should see other JS comment systems also being indexed.

    • Tony, great additional points and tips.

      I think Disqus has really made a name for itself by making it seamless to comment. I still prefer using WordPress as it’s always worked well for me and it personalizes the experience.

    • I actually was going to ask if third-party commenting systems count with your data but then I saw Tony’s comment. Great insights here, Neil.

    • Tony’s comment was very helpful, I had no idea! This post was just fascinating on so many levels. I’m constantly thinking about comments on my blog…..analyzing just how important they are.

      When I visit a new blog, the first thing I check is to see how many comments they have and fair or unfair judge just how “big” that blog is based on the comments, and that is only sometimes true! Sometimes blogs getting insane amounts of traffic only get several comments, I think it just depends on how much the writer pushes or just flat out asks for comments. For me, it’s key to ask the reader a question they might want to answer, even if it’s not strictly 100% on topic for the day.

  2. Neil,

    Do you believe that third party commenting platforms like Disqus have the same effect with rankings as the general WordPress commenting platform?

    I ask this question due to the fact that most of these comment platforms use jquery and I know that Google has a hard time reading content within jquery.

    • Donny, check out the comment above that Tony left. I think it will clear up a lot of questions you may have. If you have any additional questions please let me know.

  3. I’ve visited a number of sites that have valuable content but no comments. Then again some sites have only Facebook comments enabled which drives traffic to their Facebook page and not their website. Your website is your hub and in my opinion that’s where you want the comments. If there’s going to be any ranking benefit you would need those comments on your site.

    • Toni, great points and I like how you tied it to Facebook. People always tie engagement and campaign success to comments on Facebook. I wish they would hold the same standards for blogs. Ultimately, your comments speak very highly of how well you are doing in regards to engaging your community.

    • Good point Tony. But you have to consider, are you going to drive more traffic with the SEO benefits of your comments or will more people read those comments on facebook (especially if the commenter allows that comment to be posted on their page) and click through to read about your brand / page and hopefully follow you…

      I guess it depends on the type of website / product you have.

  4. Thanks for the thorough analysis of keywords and search traffic. You have a huge amount of data from your site so it make the numbers statistically relevant.

  5. I would argue the comments I’m general are a better indicator of popularity than a generator thereof. However, I have seen that Facebook integrated comments that link to the original post can be a positive source of referral traffic.

    • Vi, Great point. Referral traffic from Facebook is always something that is a positive. Ideally you should be doing everything possible to get eyes on your site.

  6. Extremelly great article and gives a deep insight on how comments can be helpful in ranking and bringing traffic to our websites.

    My blog is almost same as yours from comments and blog statistics point of view .. around 620+ published posts and around 150+ comments per post on average ..

    I encourage my readers do leave comments and also engage them in comments section .

    Thanks for writing this article . I am wondering if you can do a post on how one can also analyse their own blog data to find out what you have done for your blog ?

    Manish

    • Manish, awesome! Sounds like you are on the right track. At the end of the day if people are speaking about you and to you on your blog then that speaks volumes to your success.

      At the end of the day it’s all about creating that open dialogue.

      Can you please clarify your last question? I didn’t quite understand.

      • My last question was about a tutorial on “How one can analyse their comments data just like you did??

        The way you analysed your comments, can there be a tutorial on how one can do it for their own blog . A step by step tutorial ?

        How do I know my own numbers like you have got for quicksprout ?

        Manish

        • Manish, I would assume the best way is to follow what Neil has already outlined in the post: Google Webmasters data + A few people to help out with the google searches and rankings + Excel to manipulate the data + A good chunk of time to do it all.

    • Manish, Loved your comment about engaging readers in the comment section. It reminded me that someone said they frequently (not always) leave a comment on their Google+ posts to start the conversation as people don’t like to go first.

      I’m going to experiment with this idea as I don’t seem able to get the conversations going, and often wonder if it’s my target readers who aren’t web savvy, aren’t writing anything & have no clue how this all works.

  7. Interesting stuff Neil!

    I wonder how your results would change if:

    A. You would move the comments section to the top of the page (at least in some of your posts).
    B. If you had a different audience and the comments weren’t well written or included words which would negatively affect your results

  8. Neil, thanks for an interesting data-driven research.

    Intuitively I have not treated comments as a serious direct search traffic generator factor. Although 16% of additional traffic is not bad, I think the comments are more important for the following points:

    – Social proof (new visitors see you are popular)
    – Engagement factor (people see that the author is engaged in the dialog with their readers and the comments are replied)
    – Welcoming atmosphere (the fact that all, or nearly all comments are answered give people the feeling that everyone is accepted, no one will be rejected. IMO, it is a strong positive factor especially for beginners.)

    So comments, as I see it, is more social proof and reader-retentive factor rather than SEO.

    • Michael, glad I could help and glad that you found it helpful.

      I always enjoy your additional points as they are always very helpful.

      I liked your part about social proof especially. That is something that people often overlook.

      Thanks again for all the feedback.

  9. Neil, loved your research really intriguing and stimulating. Please love to know if you’ve defeated Google not provided

    • Peter, glad I could help. I’ll never defeat Google haha.

    • Hi Peter,As Neil Said he will never defeat Google but we believe he could.
      Anyway if you are looking for your “not provided” keywords then this tool called “hit tail” will help you.It integrates with Google analytics and pulls out the keywords that Google is not giving you access to.i don’t know how their software works but you can get majority of your keywords back.

  10. I’d say you’ve got lots of comments because you focused on building a community of followers, and you’re getting some traffic for this investment which is great. I find that folks in tech know they’re supposed to comment but I help homeowners & they’re not sophisticated about anything online, so comments are few & far between. Any advice?

    • Tina,
      I think you can create a culture of commenting in a variety of ways. I have found that it’s not only a tech thing.

      The more engaging your makes your posts the more people will want to provide their two cents. I would highly suggest posing questions to your audience to pry into their mindset.

    • Same with us, only we work with small business owners. There are definitely eyes on the blog, but no one really engages with the posts beyond reading them (other than the occasional pin or share).

  11. This is a fascinating perspective Neil. How ironic we’re commenting still 🙂 The BOTTOM LINES is in the end, “commenting” is meant to serve one purpose: to encourage discussion. This whole SEO, algorithm change, what’s ‘in’ or ‘out’ in the seo-game changed has become something that permeates evrything and every medium we use online. That’s my 2 cents.
    Thanks,
    Teddy Afro
    https://www.twitter.com/TeddyAfroAlbums

    • Teddy,
      Thanks for sharing. I think you got to the bottom of it. It’s all about engagement and as you said anything that encourages discussion is ultimately going to provide a positive net result.

  12. Neil, I must say that you have provided a very interesting case study. I always thought that comments are ignored by search engines but your study shows that comments with some keywords in them do get impressions. Thanks for sharing this worthy information.

  13. hi neil,

    thanks for such a nice post.

    So good post = keyword the title of the blog post +
    keyword within the body of the blog post + keyword was mentioned within the comments + long tail keyword

    Great

  14. Hi Neil,

    Wonderful topic. Comment system can really boost our traffic. Even, I am experiencing good traffic via commenting.

    Commenting is another great way to get connected with other bloggers/internet marketers. I really love commentingand experiencing better.

    Thanks for sharing this nice topic.
    …..Nisha

  15. Hi Neil.

    The take away for me is the basics of SEO still apply and longtailed keywords matter a bunch. You verified blog posts have to thoughtfully constructed to be truly useful.

    Good post,

    Dave LeBlanc

  16. Profound analysis Neil! As you are the main voice of Quicksprout I do feel comment data is necessary to dig in but for certain niche as event planning where I personally create content to bring value/entertainment comments are sometime really not constructive. I do prefer to cut content off the blog and let this type of discussion on social media. Would you still enable comment or cut them off?

    P.S: Like the haircut you actually have right now!

    • Steve, while I think that’s a great idea. I like to keep things on the blog because it’s easier to monitor and reply to people. Often times on social media things get lost in the fray.

      Thanks for the support on the new haircut!

  17. I definitely agree comments increase search traffic, it’s a no brainer. I’m inspired to encourage comments by the amount of work you have put to prove they do.

    I have always felt the much one can do is produce relevant contents informed readers will comment if they have something to share while content reporters just take the information and walk, it all depends of what a reader wants to get.

  18. Great article. I never considered comments in my SEO strategy. Thanks for great content that has value.

  19. Thanks bro 🙂
    helped me a lot 🙂

    by this article i get to know “How to increase Traffic”

    Thanks!!!

  20. I don’t comment very often anymore but I am not convinced Neil wrote this, I read him often, and the way this is written and reads, doesn’t sound like Neil?

  21. Great article.Thanks for great content that has value and thanks for sharing.

  22. 16% of all search traffic is not bad at all.

  23. Really interesting information. I never knew Google can use the keywords in the comment section to determine a page’s ranking.

    Thanks for the awesome post!

  24. A great article Neil… Very helpful… Thanks.

  25. Pretty insightful post. You deserve a beer Neil (Kidding).
    BTW, you have asked a question at the end line that what are the some ways to encourage readers to comment more?

    I would say- do exactly what you did in this post that made me leave a comment here! Asking question, seeking opinion, etc do count as cool CTAs that bring more comments.

    What else one can do?

    • Shah, haha I will gladly take a beer.

      But to your point — you are spot on. You really have to get into people’s heads and make them want to comment. Asking questions never fails.

  26. Nice report, Mr. Neil.. I never thought that comments will bring traffic so much.. Thanks

  27. Neil, you answered a very interesting question, thank you for the insightful post.

  28. Yet another useful blog. Thanks Neil. You been good since day one..

  29. Hello Neil Sir,

    I truly believe commenting is always an essential part of any blog,so I always try to concentrate on it not only for traffic reason but also it encourages us in blogging as well

    Regards
    Debarpan

  30. Hi Neil. My browser bookmark is full of quicksprout links. Your articles changed my way of thinking. Great work bro.

  31. Hey Neil, Thank you very much for the article. I think you get more traffic with blog comments from us, remember GA does not show everything they do miss things out

  32. Great article! There’s a lot of helpful traffic ways in here. Free traffic is obtaining a nasty wrap latterly ,but there are still plenty of cool and effective ways that to blast tons a traffic to your web log for free of charge.

  33. that’s a great post using keywords in comments gives impression that’s a great case study

  34. Thanks Neil I was looking for some hard data to help me decide whether to add comments or not on a few of my sites.

    16% is nice but as mentioned above the trust factor and giving the user a better experience is probably much more valuable.

    Which leads me to the next thought, kinda like the chicken & the egg. I would think that if you did not have comments on the page, the three sections you measured would not be performing as well.

    Without comments your blog would not be as informative. As to the metrics time on site would be lower, page views per visitor lower even bounce rate would be different, all of which contribute to the overall authority of the blog and it’s rankings / traffic.

    I have a decent site in mind that I can add comments to then measure metrics before and after, maybe you can use it as a follow up to this case.

  35. Thanks Neil for the post. Great post. I must confess that you are the reason I started my blog. You are such an inspiration. For us amateurs, this post teaches us something: creating useful, original content is the only way you can attract comments to your blog. I will be using my 45 blogging affirmation to help me to continue writing on my blog. http://www.thesuccessmag.com/?p=132
    Thank you

  36. James Darvell :

    Great experiment Neil. Just out of curiosity, I wonder what would happen if you reversed the source order of your comments and your post, and used CSS to display it in the correct sequence. (Obviously you couldn’t do this on an important blog like this one!)

    In theory, the comment keywords would then rank more highly, and the post keywords would be lower.

    Naturally, there would be zero marketing benefits, but it would be a good way to test a theory.

    Why? Because… Science!

    Anyway, it’s good to see some hard data instead of opinions.

  37. Ok you said ” –It could be that Google may not be placing as much value on text created through comments or words appearing lower on a page–”

    What if I move the comment section within the entry-content ( Google’s suggested markup ) tag but visually make it look like comments.

    Any thoughts?

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