Web Design and Development
The CommentLuv WordPress plugin is popular with new or low-traffic blogs because it greatly increases traffic and interactivity with readers.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the plugin, CommentLuv rewards "your readers by automatically placing a link to their last blog post at the end of their comment." The effect of this is that visitors to your blog are more likely to leave a comment. In turn, those visitors that do comment are able to get traffic on their own blogs.
When we first installed CommentLuv back in January 2009, we noticed an immediate spike in comments and concluded that CommentLuv was exactly what our blog had been missing. However, in the last 18 months, we’ve been having some doubts.
While there were several factors that we considered, here are our top 4 reasons for removing CommentLuv from our website.
As any website owner knows, the Google search and ranking algorithms change on a daily basis. Consequently, search engine optimization (SEO) is always changing and what was good for SEO yesterday, might not be good today. One of these things is the nofollow relationship attribute for links.
In the past, any link that was designated as nofollow by the relationship attribute, truly was a nofollow link. What this meant what that Google would share any of your pagerank or "link juice"1 with the site to which you linked. However, this has now changed. Instead, linking to other websites via a nofollow link DOES dilute the value of the follow links on the page. As a result, this negatively impacts your own internal links and how much rank is passed within your website.
Given that Google alone accounts for 75% of our traffic, we’d like to keep it happy and maintain the overall rankings of our website’s pages in search engines.
The best thing about CommentLuv is that you get an almost immediate increase in comments on your blog. But that can also be a bad thing. After installing CommentLuv, we noticed a dramatic increase in the amount of Spam and Junk comments, which resulted in significantly more time spent moderating.
When you become a CommentLuv user, your site becomes a very desirable place for people to leave comments because CommentLuv blogs better enable visitors to market their own products or affiliate websites. What we noticed was an increase in irrelevant comments. Basically, people were leaving comments without having read the post to which they were replying, all to get a couple of links to their websites in return.
Last year, Google announced that it uses web page speed as a key metric in determining a page’s value.2 On short article with few comments, CommentLuv would not greatly contribute to the overall web page’s size. However, on those posts with many comments, CommentLuv does have an noticeable impact.
CommentLuv also increases page rendering time as its functions need to process each comment before display.
The way CommentLuv works is that it adds additional code into the comment_content column in WordPress’ comments table. So blogs with a lot of CommentLuv comments have a bulkier table. For most blogs, this is not a problem. However, as comments increase, you might find that your tables are reaching the limits of your current hosting. For those of you on shared web hosting, this might be an issue if your host limits how large your databases are allowed to grow.
When we removed CommentLuv from our database, we noticed a ~18% decrease in the size of our comments table.
The first step to removing CommentLuv was to uninstall it and delete the files. After uninstalling CommentLuv, we noticed that existing posts still kept their CommentLuv links. In fact, the only effect that the uninstallation had on existing comments was to remove the CommentLuv heart icon that had appeared next to links.3 Obviously, another solution was necessary given our desire to remove unnecessary nofollow links.
To remove the CommentLuv links from existing comments, we performed the following database query.
UPDATE wp_comments SET comment_content = replace(comment_content, comment_content, SUBSTRING_INDEX(comment_content, '.-=', 1));
If you take a look at how CommentLuv comments are stored in the database, you will notice that the text of the comment is followed by the CommentLuv link, and the CommentLuv link is enclosed by three symbols as shown in the sample comment below.
Great Development Blog. I loved reading it. .-= Shirley@Velvet Blues´s last blog .. <a href="http://www.velvetblues.com/web-development-blog/php- mysql-gui-lightweight-phpmyadmin-alternatives/" rel="nofollow"> PHP/MySQL GUIs: Lightweight phpMyAdmin Alternatives updated Fri Aug 5 2011 10-57 pm CST</a> =-.
The MySQL query above simply finds the CommentLuv portion of the comment, strips it out, and saves only the part that we want to keep.
In other older versions, a different delimiter was used. So your query might look something like the following.
UPDATE wp_comments SET comment_content = replace(comment_content, comment_content, SUBSTRING_INDEX(comment_content, '<abbr><em>', 1));
Removing CommentLuv was not a decision that we took lightly. We looked at statistics, analyzed our databases, and assessed the quality of comments that we had received from visitors that took advantage of the plugin. What we noticed is that only about 35% of users took advantage of it. And of that 35%, about 40% of those appeared to be leaving comments for the sole reason of gaining a link to their own websites. So, while it is expected that we will receive fewer comments, this move should also help reduce comment spam.
Many other blogs — mostly because of SEO concerns — have decided to remove CommentLuv and other similar plugins from their websites. Additionally, other big tech blogs such as TechCrunch have removed on-site comments altogether. While we don’t plan on making such a drastic move, it is understandable why such a decision would be made. By moving comments to another platform, such as Facebook or Disqus, you increase the potential to generate traffic from your comments by leveraging the power of social networks. Additionally, off-site comments can reduce the time and costs associated with moderating comments or handling large databases. And of course, off-site comments create even smaller, lightweight pages for Google and other search engines to index.