Sep 23, 2013

Evergreen content & Network Effect of Google+ Comments

Alternate title: "we've switched to the Google+ Commenting System for the Confluent Forms site on Blogger, and here's why."

Our recent post on a website's content life cycle got us thinking about our posts that pop up now and again, and especially the Zombie post example by +Stephan Hovnanian. We noticed how we needed to find a way to make more of our posts "come alive again" beyond us continually sharing them. Then it struck us: this is exactly what the G+ commenting system can do for us.

Let us explain.

In a normal commenting system the comments are threaded and reside in the page/website. People come to the page, leave a comment, and maybe come back if there was a response to their comment. Maybe they come back even more, but that's doubtful.

Here's where the G+ comments differ.

Yes, Google+ Comments require the commenter have a Google+ account and yes, that can potentially drive away comments. That's a net-loss that you can't ignore (right now at least). But the big thing is this: when someone leaves a new comment the default behavior is a share to Google+. Their comment on your article is a share on their stream that they commented on your blog post, the message they posted, and a link to your post. It's a SHARE. To their whole network stream. That could be 50 people or 5 million people.

Let that sink in a moment.

Now lets talk about +1s. For each new top level comment left through the commenting system, not only are you getting a share to the commenter's network, but that share counts as a +1, which they can also +1, which you can also +1 (which counts towards your total), in addition to them being able to also +1 your post (if you're counting that's +4). No joke. Then, any time someone +1s that poster's share of a link/comment to your blog post, each of those +1s count towards your article's +1 count.

Each new comment, instead of just being yet another flat comment not contributing to the success of your blog post, is now a quick electric bolt, potentially jump-starting your blog post's social media dissemination yet again.

(Learn more about how +1s affect search)

So then you need to decide: potential huge Google+ network bonus, or comments open and accessible to all for flat comments? Google+ Commenting, and using Google+ and Blogger together, has the ability to turn each blog post that you write into a Zombie post, the post that keeps resurfacing each and every time that someone leaves a Google+ comment on it.

Zombie statistics for a blog post: blue is total page views, green is
search traffic, and orange is Google+ shares.
Notice the correlation between G+ shares and peaks?


Caveats

Yes, there are definitely some trade-offs to using Google+ Comments as your commenting platform. The two big ones: no anonymous comments and commenting requires a Google+ account. Before making this decision we took a look at our numbers:

  • Exactly 2% of all of the comments ever made on our blog (and weren't spam) were anonymous.
  • We've received approximately 100x more comments stemming from our posts on Google+ then we had in our traditional blog comments
  • 66% of all traffic to our site over the last 3 months originated from a (not provided) Google search or a Google+ referral.
With these numbers in mind the potential value-add of the Google+ Commenting System easily outweighed the potential negatives.

Keep in mind also that we're talking about Google+ Commenting for Blogger, not for any other platform such as the various hacks that brought Google+ Commenting to Wordpress. This new commenting system for Blogger was developed as a 1st party integration; the hack that brought Google+ Comments to Wordpress does not include the notifications and management that are part of the Blogger package. Think of this as another advantage for Blogger over other blog platforms.