I know I’ve written a lot about comment pods, ‘like-for-like,’ and other attempts to manipulate your engagement on your blog or Instagram, but today I wanted to write a bit about comment pods specifically, and why I think they have the potential to do more harm than good.

For the benefit of those of you who are mercifully unaware of what I think of as The Dark Side of the blogosphere/social media, comment pods are when a group of bloggers get together and agreed to all comment on each other’s blog posts/Instagram photos, purely in order to boost the comment count on each post/photo. The people who do this kind of thing genuinely think it will help their blogs: here are three ways I think it could hurt it, instead…

3 ways comment pods are hurting your blog rather than helping it01. High bounce rate

Bounce rate is one of the metrics many people ignore when looking at their site’s analytics, but “bounce rate” refers to how quickly someone leaves your site after landing on it, so it’s actually pretty important. Ideally, unless you have a specific action you want your visitors to perform (i.e. all you want is for them to buy a product, or sign up for your newsletter, say, after which you don’t really care how long they stick around), you want readers to arrive on a specific post, read it, and then maybe click around the site a bit, before leaving. That’s why most blog templates these days come with “related posts” widgets, and why blog homepages are designed  to show readers the maximum amount of content: the goal is to keep you on the site for as long as possible, the helpless prisoner of a blog that just won’t let you quit. Or something like that, anyway.

If your visitors are arriving at your site via a comment pod, however, they’re probably not going to stick around for longer than it takes to skim-read your post, type out a generic response, and then bounce. Which doesn’t look good for your analytics, and is a bit of a red flag in terms of how engaging your content is, don’t you think?

(And, I mean, yes, sure, you might get a few visitors who land on your blog purely to fulfil their obligation to the comment pod, but who take a look, and think, “Wow, I love this blog so much, I’m going to sped the rest of the night reading the archive, as if it was a book!,” but those visitors will be the exception, rather than the rule. And even if a pod member does like the look of your blog, when they know they have another 30 sites to visit, and comments to leave, they’re probably not going to to stick around, even if they wanted to…)

02. Unrealistic expectations

Most people who use comment pods justify it by saying it’s the only way to get brands to notice them. Well, no one’s going to say, “Actually, I just really want to look much more popular than I am!” are they? Honestly, I have my doubts about how much importance brands place on comments these days, but let’s just say for the sake of argument that some of them are taken in by your cunning ruse, and they decide to book you for a campaign, on the strength of your loyal fan base, who comment on every single post to say how much they “Love this!” That’s not going to work out all that well for you, is it? Because brands don’t collaborate with bloggers in order to make themselves LOOK popular: they do it because they actually want to BE popular – and popularity, in brand terms, means selling products. They probably won’t sell many products to the members of a comment pod, who aren’t actually interested in the blog they’re pretending to love, so … that’s going to be a bit embarrassing, isn’t it? (Quite apart from the embarrassment you should already feel at knowing you’ve essentially tricked someone into paying you for something you can’t actually deliver, that is…)

Bottom line: it’s better to BE popular than to just LOOK like you’re popular. Probably more satisfying, too, I would imagine.

(Also, if you’re working with an agency, they will often require access to your analytics, in order to verify that you really are doing as well as you say you are. And that’s when things like that dodgy bounce rate will start to come into play…)

Hope and love03.  Opportunity cost

I’ve read a few Facebook threads now in which people have discussed their experiences with comment pods honestly, and one of the things that came up time and time again was the sheer time-suck it is, and how people felt that they were missing out on the rest of their feed (in the case of Instagram), because all of their time was spent fulfilling the obligations of the “pod”. I’ve never used comment pods, but a few years ago, I did make a resolution to start leaving comments on X number of blogs per day (I think it was 10), because I’d read that it would boost traffic to my own site. First of all, it didn’t actually make a difference to my blog’s traffic, but second of all, wow, was it time-consuming. I should say here that I was only commenting on the blogs I read anyway, and I was taking the time to read them first, so I wasn’t leaving generic, “Love this!” comments, but it still made me feel a bit fake, in a way, and I gave it up after about two days, because I honestly didn’t have time for anything else while I was trying to stick to this dumb rule.

What I learned from that experience was that there were other, better things I could be spending my time on than forcing myself to leave comments on people’s blogs, purely for the sake of it. Now, I’ll be the first to admit here that I suck at commenting: I feel bad when people don’t comment on my blog, but I don’t make the effort to do it on other blogs, either, so I really have no moral ground to stand on there. While it’s a great thing to support other bloggers, though, and to comment on the posts you genuinely enjoyed, it’s kind of an awful thing to feel like you HAVE to do it – and it must be even worse when, rather than it being a self-imposed “rule”, as mine was, it’s actually a rule that will get you called out by name on a Facebook group with thousands of members (Yes, I’ve seen this happen) because you “owe” someone a comment which you haven’t delivered yet.

TL: DR There are tons and tons of things you could be doing to grow your blog, which don’t revolve around either vanity, or attempting to dupe people into thinking you’re more popular than you are – I wrote about five of those things here, but here are plenty of others, too: and most of them will provide more than just a short-term ego boost, into the bargain.

18 Comments
  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this! I haven’t been in any of these commenting pods, but I feel a bit relieved to read that you have the same approach to this whole “comment thing” than I do. Sometimes I feel really bad about not commenting back, or commenting on other blogs, since I have read that it should boost your overall performance and so on. But with that fact, ‘commenting’ looses its true sense: saying something, because YOU WANT to say something, and not that you think it would be best and benefit, IF you say something.

    x Gitta // http://www.gittawitzel.com

  2. See, I don’t think that they’re all that bad. I wouldn’t be part of them, but that’s primarily a time restraint thing, and the fact that I wouldn’t want my instagram to be filled with accounts I don’t actually enjoy as it would make looking through my feed a chore! But I think it’s a pretty good way of encouraging people, especially beginners, as it’s not nice when you spend ages working on things and feel like you’re getting no acknowledgement for them.

    Nicola // pink-confetti.co.uk

    1. For me, knowing that the comments weren’t actually genuine, and that people were only leaving them because they had to, would negate any sense of achievement I got from them: I’d rather only have a few comments, but know they were real!

  3. I’m endlessly surprised by the people that take part in them. They’re often the same ones who hate buying followers but surely it’s in the same ilk, you’re still inflating ‘popularity’. It’s all just so ridiculous. The way I approached IG changed hugely after I did Sara from me & orla’s free course. I still don’t have 1000s of followers but my engagement is very high and that’s because I actually enjoy using it and talking to people who like the same things as me. I’d love to have more time to grow my following but that’s just not doable atm so I’ll be patient and actually just enjoy using the platform. xxx

    1. Yeah, to me it’s not that much different from buying followers – you’re not paying cash for them, but you are paying with your time, which isn’t really much better!

  4. I totally agree with what you’ve said and I’ve never joined one because I would rather comment on blog posts and Insta photos etc that I truly like and enjoy commenting on without it feeling like a chore x

    LuxeStyle

  5. I’ve been chatting to a friend about this recently who is VERY into comment pods, think instead of debating with her next time I’ll just direct her to your post!

    Hannah x

  6. I agree that comment pods are a lot of work but they can be helpful; I think it’s wrong to assume that the comments given aren’t real. If a blog post you’ve written or have read is relatable it will illicit a sincere comment. Also the comment pods can introduce bloggers to new blogs and create new friendships. It’s not all bad.

  7. This comment (and other) pods are all Greek to me. I can´t imagine commenting on 50 other blogs that I´m not interested in only because I have to when I could spend this time working on my own content and my blog. Or commenting on blogs that are my favorites and whose reading I really enjoy (yours, btw :))
    http://www.adinajustina.blogspot.ch

  8. The whole comment pod things seems so futile. I’d not heard of them before but given the amount of data that comes through from analytics- even the most basic analytics on any platform would highlight this particular scam.

    On a side note, your point on commenting also set me thinking- it’s not all that often that I comment on a post unless it’s something lengthy I want to throw into the mix (like this comment…) but I do often tweet someone or comment on a facebook post of an image or link if I’ve enjoyed something and want to let them know it or if I want to share that post/link/image. I find many blogs & comment platforms are not geared up for mobile commenting, so often it’s just easier to use other social media streams to communicate.

  9. I’m obviously really naive because I had no idea this was a thing people did. But now things are starting to make sense…Like when I’ve come across blogs that are no more than a month old and every single post has 70+ comments and the content itself isn’t riveting stuff that would generate such a response. Yes commenting has died down significantly in the last few years but who cares? To me one or two genuine comments are better than twenty forced ones from people who obviously aren’t interested in the content and are probably resenting looking at the blogs they’ve agreed to comment on. I wish there were more hours in a day to comment on all of the blogs I love to read so I do my best to comment from time to time and appreciate those that do on my blog. The thought of asking someone to comment “love this” makes me cringe…

  10. I won’t comment on comment pods as such but I think we are worrying a little too much about bounce rates. Blogs by definition will have a higher bounce rate and its not such a bad thing. Even loyal readers come to your site and probably just read one post – the latest one. This is because they have already read the others. Most (sensible) PRs understand that the blog sector has a higher bounce rate as a whole and its normal.

  11. Here is a genuine comment. Your blog has had a positive effect on my life; thank you. Just this past 2 weeks I went out to the ballet, a newly opened brewery (great hibiscus beer!), a restaurant that helps teens, and saw a movie – at a theater instead of at home. My life has shrunk after an act of unprovoked cruelty that took place about a year ago, so I am especially grateful.

  12. Ah! Number one reminds me of the day when I was spending a whole afternoon, after stumbling on your blog – and instead of doing something productive such as correcting and scoring my students’ test- I was like “I’m gonna finish reading this post about how this blogger spilled things on her skirt. This is the last. Then work.” It was not just one last post that I read for the day, though. It was followed by ‘the other’ posts. Oh how much I love the stories about those people! XD
    Anyway, after reading your posts about buying followers, like-for-like and such, I get more aware of instagram accounts leaving random comments and such. Just yesterday, an online shop followed me and requested me to follow back but their account is locked. I think they do this to boost followers which I find quite annoying.

  13. A very insightful post and I can so relate to it – #3 opportunity cost we wasted on comment pods are so true. during the past two weeks I have removed myself from two blog commenting groups because I found out I have left too many comments that do not have soul in them and i was just like a machine when I doing the comment thread. I also been called not being supportive after leaving a honest opinion. I then realize what is the purpose of comment pods anyway? If it helps to increase your score or boost your engagement, then it would be better off spending my time to work on my content and engage with those I really want to engaging, instead of have to commenting and engaging. Also want to mention, it feels greater to receive even one comment from readers say they like your blog (really like) than dozens of comments from comment pods that does not mean anything.

  14. I completely agree with all three ways. I found blog comment pods to be very time-consuming and tiring. I also didn’t see any growth from them so I stopped participating in them. That’s also why I haven’t jumped into the world of Instagram pods.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.