Content Marketing, WordPress

Keep Your Content Fresh! Including Comments

I haven’t ever done a ‘head to head’ comparison of a blog post written with a date and one without a displayed date. Over at DoshDosh, I noticed that they have dates on comments, but the date is no where to be found in the post itself. I believe this is a better approach than my blog, where I have the date very evident in both the URL and with a date graphic. I just can’t turn the clock back now without doing a lot of work!

Business and technology moves at such a rapid speed that a blog post that is one year old may no longer be applicable today. If I see a few blog posts on a topic, I’ll often select the freshest date in the pack and ignore the others.

Page Freshness and Search Engines

Surely there are many others that are doing this as well, which I believe is evidenced in search results. Search Google Blogsearch and the results are sorted in reverse chronological order. Even within Google, I often notice that newer articles are nearer the top of the results. I’ve also noticed other bloggers who often ‘republish’ content – 2 articles almost exactly the same but one published recently. Although the content is nearly identical, the newer article appears near the top!

Page Freshness due to Commenting

I can not believe it’s a coincidence that my most popular posts on my blog are ones that have a consistent chain of comments. User generated content, like comments, ‘refresh’ a blog post by causing a content change that the search engines then reindex. In short, comments keep your content ‘fresh’ to both readers and to the search engines.

Commenting Services kill your Freshness

There’s quite a buzz on the few commenting services out on the market that are making quite an impact. Understanding these technologies is important, though!

Notice that when a User makes a request for your page (B), the user’s browser makes a request for the page content and then an additional request for the comment content. It’s pretty seamless. In fact, if you’ve got a large conversation, it’s quite nice since the comments load after the page via JavaScript (aka client-side). The browser puts the pieces together!

The problem is that a Search Bot, the programmatic engines of the search engines, is not a browser! The Search Bot will make the request (D) for your page and that’s where it stops. Regardless of how much great content or fresh content is being added via the comments, the Search Engine is oblivious since it never requests that information. Your page is stale and forgotten.

There is Hope!

These services are incredibly robust and fun to use, so I’m not knocking them altogether. Personally, I simply don’t believe that the features of these systems outweigh the benefits of user-generated content and search engine optimization. The fix is to develop server-side Application Programming Interfaces for these services (F). This way, my web server can still display the comments for a user OR search engine and my site will benefit from it.

With a handful of these services on the market already, you have to ask yourself:

how do you control and manage the ton of your content that they own?

If they go out of business, how do you recover that information? If you decide to leave their service how do you recover that content? It could get ugly!

I’m a Software as a Service professional, so I do believe in the benefits of third party applications like this for managing processes more efficiently. In this case, I want to ensure that I benefit fully from comments made on my blog, though! If they go server-side, I may give switching over some thought, but until then I’m steering clear.

9 Comments

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    Hi Doug,

    have you taken a look at SezWho?
    We provide a lot of additional functionality with regard to user generated content, however we augment your existing comment system — we don’t replace it. Would love to get your feedback…

    tedd at sezwho

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      Tedd,

      I’ll definitely give your service a second look. You may want to more prominently differentiate your service from the others! I think many people think that you guys are just like the rest.

      Doug

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    Morning,

    That’s a very thought-provoking article. I think not having the date on the post makes a lot of sense, so I just implemented that myself. It’s not that difficult to do – you just have to update your single.php and remove the php references to the date.

    Regarding commenting services, I never gave them a thought. I just have straight plain basic vanilla commenting on my site. I’ll have to think on that as well.

    Data points,

    Barbara

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    Are you actually saying that it is ok to remove the dates (and you wish you had) because having a date reveals the age of older posts?

    So if I smudge out the expiration date on my carton of milk does it not spoil?

    Please leave the dates alone (they look nice here anyway)… and let’s not encourage others to adopt this really bad practice. It’s bad for the users and eventually those who do it will be cast in a bad light.

    Note to bloggers who make it this far: If you want continued traffic to your blog, keep writing great content. Don’t rely on you users to sustain your traffic… ish.

    All around frightening vibes going on here, Doug. 🙁

    • 6

      Hi Matt!

      You put such an evil spin on it. By no means did I mean to infer being dishonest. Doshdosh is a great site with fantastic content, both new and old! I believe their ‘undated’ articles allow them to linger longer, though.

      If I write an article on Excel formulas and it’s a great article, the problem is that the Search Engines find a ‘newer’ article and then push mine aside. People visit my site and see it’s a year old and they tend to look for something newer – even though my content may be better.

      This is the reason why, if you pay attention to some of the top bloggers (using dates), they tend to regurgitate their content over and over. Fresh content keeps the search engine traffic coming – which allows you to grow your readership.

      I absolutely agree with you, great content will always prevail. I’m just noting that you may be putting yourself at a disadvantage by ‘expiring’ content that is still worthy of attention!

      Great comments, Matt!

      • 7

        lol @ evil spin. That’s one thing I’m good [bad?] for: seeing the worst of everything. (In a company setting it’s a valuable skill, it evades bad PR… so sorry… I train myself to see the nasty and am encouraged everyday to look for the worst angle… so that tends to be what I pick up on.)

        I had not considered the bloggers who re-hash their old content as a new post to make it appear fresh. I would, of course, see them cast in the same icky light. (Probably a worse light, even… as the shadiness of that practice is downright overt.)

        In response to the Excel Formulas example… If the blogger had installed a 3rd party commenting system and left the dates in place and wanted the article to stay “fresh” I would suggest casually updating the body of the post every 3-6 months. Adding things like “Update: *Joe Schmo* has come up with 2 *alternative formulas for calculating a mortage*.” (Where the text in asterisks is accordingly linked.) This will give your page the “updated” boost in the search engines as well as provide some additional link-outs to other bloggers (which tend to get reciprocated creating a broader network which in turn leads to new content/ideas… such a win-win-win. You win, your readers win, and your fellow bloggers win. I would almost go so far as to say that approach is so good for everyone that it MAKES the other things bad practice. They are bad practice not because they are riddled with bad intention (like content re-hashing is), but because there are options that have greater benefit for everyone.)

        Thanks for the follow up comment. I’m gonna subscribe to your feed now. 🙂

        (P.S. Not to be nit-picky… but another uber-peeve I have that 3rd party Comment Systems fix: My previous comment now has a Text-link-ad in it. As the writer of the comment it bothers me to see my comment converted to an advertisement. Because things like Disqus are not loaded into the page content during the initial request to the server they are not “converted” by those text-link-ad plug-ins. hehehe. I am not going to come out of this unscathed, am I. I’m gonna go down in the annals of douglasskarr.com as a troll/complainer. lol. )

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          Just to be safe – that’s a Kontera ad, not a Text Link Ad. 🙂 Kontera is ‘search engine safe’. Text Link Ads are black hat.

          I never thought of keeping the comments off-bounds for the Kontera ads, but I like that idea. I’ll do that here in a minute!

          Thanks Matt!

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