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Can too many WordPress blog post comments hurt SEO rankings?

     
8:28 am on Feb 13, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Ok, I have a site that's recently experienced a traffic decline for some pages. It's a small site, but one thing that I've been thinking may be the cause is the large number of comments left by users. These are real comments, with no external links. All comments are on-topic.

The thing is, the page is pushing 400+ comments, has ballooned to 700KB in raw HTML, and is super long.

Now, the site and page is well optimized. CDN used for images, scripts, css. GZip implemented. Caching plugin applied.

I suppose I could trim the page down some by eliminating some CSS classes and extraneous DOM elements. I could probably shave off 50KB, but after another month or so, the page will acquire a bunch more comments and I'll wind up right back where I started.

So am I concerned over nothing? Or should I do something such as split the comments across multiple pages? Should I offload it to Disqus? I'm just concerned these comments are doing more harm than good.

Thanks.
1:19 pm on Feb 13, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I use Disqus myself, but I didn't always, and I never found the comments to cause a problem (unless spam creeps in, of course)
2:16 pm on Feb 13, 2014 (gmt 0)

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In fact that should sign to search engine that the website is popular.

Again can uaddressed SPAM comments could be a problem? Can anyone clarify the same?
2:48 pm on Feb 13, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Unaddressed spam comments are definitely a problem. Get rid of em.
5:11 pm on Feb 13, 2014 (gmt 0)

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For my situation, unaddressed SPAM isn't an issue. I have a plugin that has, so far, filtered out most of the SPAM. All comments are moderated. The last time anyone was off topic or tried to include a link was several weeks past.

I noticed ProBlogger splits their comments into pages. I'm starting to think it may be wise to split the comments into groups of 50 or 100 per page like them, but I don't want to end up doing unnecessary harm to the site and its rankings. I only have a few pages ranked well.

As ganeshjacharya originally said, I took the steady traffic as a sign that the search engines looked favorably on the page bloated with relevant comments, but I've recently begun to think I've crossed a threshold from acceptable to detrimental.
5:30 pm on Feb 13, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Google likes sites that engage the user, so this should be a good thing.
The only issue you may have (but ulikely), is if too many comments include too many keywords.

For me, if it isn't broke don't try to fix it.
5:43 pm on Feb 13, 2014 (gmt 0)

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flanok, let's assume that google doesn't have a problem with the content of the comments. Virtually all the comments have a mish-mash of the same keywords as they're all discussing the same topic. The page has ranked well for months but has only started to drift downward.

What if the potential problem isn't content, but simply page weight? Too many DOM elements? Too much data to load, which "could" be causing folks on some more demanding devices (e.g., iphones, androids) to struggle simply due to the page being too big (700KB) and long to navigate?

Perhaps Google and other SE's considered the page ok when it was hovering around 100-300KB, but now that it's gone way above that perhaps I'm starting to get demoted?

I'm just concerned about what happens when the page gets to 1000KB or 1500KB. Do I just let it balloon to showing all comments on one page forever?

I can easily paginate the comments into X-number per page within WordPress settings, but I don't know if I should or what the threshold per page should be (e.g., every 50, 100, 200 comments).

Thanks.
6:32 pm on Feb 13, 2014 (gmt 0)

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It is true that Google does have a speed page filter.

So if website/page takes too long in time to load, it will go down the rankings.

To my knowledge though, it is measured in time, NOT the size/data/kb of the page as your worry.

So, does it load quick? i.e. under a few seconds. If is taking say 10 seconds to load, then there is a chance load speed is an issue.


But I still come back to content.
Just suppose the weight/quantity of the comments is now greater than that of the original post.
This is likely to change the dynamic of the page and affect rankings.

So if you can remember where the cut off comment was, when you last ranked at your highest point, you could experiment taking away comments from that point to see if rankings come back.
This could be the theshold you are looking for, but will be different for every post as 10 comments on one post, could have more content than 100 comments on another post.

I personally hate page 2 (pagination) of blog comments, as often the comments are too similar in content matter to the main page. In a Google Panda world, I avoid. (This is just my opinion, rather than advice).
7:01 pm on Feb 13, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Hi flanok

> So, does it load quick? i.e. under a few seconds.

When I test the page at webpagetest.org it scores

PageSpeed 1.12 Score: 96/100
First View:
- Load Time: 1.643s
- Time to first byte: 0.166s
- 7000+ DOM elements

> Just suppose the weight/quantity of the comments is now greater than that of the original post.

That ship has sailed around 8 months ago. The comment word count exceeded the original blog post's word count after about 8 comments. There are some folks who leave extended comments rivaling the length of the original post.

> So if you can remember where the cut off comment was, when you last ranked at your highest point

That was about 2 weeks ago, when it hit around 420 comments.

Afterward, day after day, the traffic for the page started at a downward trend for the first time in nearly 9 months.

> I personally hate page 2 (pagination) of blog comments

Do you use a canonical url to point to your main page? Wouldn't this alleviate your concern?
8:28 pm on Feb 13, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Speed if fine in fact good, for so much data.

"Do you use a canonical url to point to your main page? Wouldn't this alleviate your concern?"

Yes it would remove my concern.
So you could use a canonical tag!

And to be honest, never had so many comments as you, about 140 was my max. I just chose to be very selective over the posts (removed similar comments) and then closed them at a point where nothing new was being added. so everything would stay on one page.


You could also use "alt noindex follow" on the second page onwards like you would on "tags", "categories" etc on a wordpress blog, again this is probably my personal preference, I would want to make sure that nothing on the second page etc, is consolidated into the first.

But speak to someone else and they would prefer the canonical tag, just in case someone linked to the comments page so the page rank is passed to the post.

My opinion only.
8:32 pm on Feb 13, 2014 (gmt 0)

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One more final comment

Are you sure you are losing rankings, rather than other sites around you gaining rankings?

If they are getting more shares, google + interaction, new fresh content, links to the posts etc.
8:45 pm on Feb 13, 2014 (gmt 0)

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> Yes it would remove my concern. So you could use a canonical tag!

flanok, and others, thanks for your advise. I think I may try the canonical tag to see if that does something. Many of my blog posts don't have many comments. Very few of them reached comments that high so I'm trying to be extra careful not to mess them up.

If I split up the comments and my Google/search engine traffic doesn't improve, I guess that'll prove I was chasing a dead end. I could always un-split the pages and merge them all back into the original giant page, but I'll probably end up worrying about the damage reversing myself would do. There's no clear answer.

> Are you sure you are losing rankings, rather than other sites around you gaining rankings?

Not that I could see. The topic and overall site is pretty niche without a lot of similar sites discussing it. It's not any sort of money-maker topic/keyword. Any "competitor" page ("alternative" is probably the more appropriate word) doesn't delve into the topic in any greater depth. They certainly don't have as many comments.

I don't know. The traffic drop started two weeks ago, and hasn't let up. It's been like a 10-15% drop every week for the past two weeks. Like a slow bleed.
 

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