Why We Turned Off Comments on the USA.gov Blog

May 29, 2014
Green and white Share button on a keyboard

On Friday, we made a big change over on the USA.gov blog—we turned off the ability for people to comment on our posts.

Now before you all start looking at me like I have five heads and wondering what Koolaid I’m drinking, let me explain our reasoning.

We’ve had comments on blog.usa.gov since it launched in March of 2011, and our previous blog—GovGab—always had commenting too.

I mean, commenting was one of the things that made a blog different from a regular old website right? It allowed your users to interact with you and gave them a forum to have a discussion with each other on your platform.

But the way we consume and interact with content online has drastically changed since the early days of blogging.

Now if someone has an opinion or a comment about your content, they tweet it or comment on your Facebook page.

Think about it. When was the last time you left a valuable comment on a blog that moved forward a discussion? It’s probably been a while.

But let’s assume you posted a comment recently and maybe even a few people reacted and commented back. That’s great, but the discussion is trapped on that one blogger’s platform and limited to a very small audience.

Now think about how you share content on social media and can instantly spur discussion and debate with a much wider and broader audience. That conversation can keep going after you’ve left it. It’s not tied to one specific website that may have a few dedicated readers. It’s open to the world (or at least the social world).

As a result of this major change in how we communicate and interact with content, we noticed a disturbing trend in the USA.gov blog comments over the last year.

Gone were the comments that added insight, expanded on a topic or shared a new idea. Instead they were replaced by spam—thinly veiled as “real comments”—in a misguided attempt for those users to gain SEO value from the USA.gov site.

We were wasting valuable time on a daily basis shifting through the spam, looking for any possible real comments in with the rubbish. After a few months of finding none, we decided we’d had enough.

The decision to turn off comments isn’t making it harder for people to engage with us. We welcome our users to share their feedback with us on Twitter, Facebook or Google+. If social media isn’t their thing, we also let our users email us directly.

We’re here, ready to listen and respond on several different platforms—blog comments are just no longer one of those options.Jessica Milcetich is a Social Media and Digital Strategist for USA.gov at the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA).