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Categories: Bad reviews. Tags:

Advanced comment systems are bad for SEO: IntenseDebate, Sezwho and Disqus

November 7, 2008 23 Comments

<Update June 2009>Things have moved on since I wrote this. Google does now index some javascript URLs. Andy Beard recently recommended Disqus. And IntenseDebate addressed some of the issues.</update>

Bored with the out-of-the-box functionality of blog commenting, increasing numbers of bloggers seem to be turning to advanced commenting systems like Disqus, Sezwho and IntenseDebate - offering threaded comments, cross-site reputation scores and so on.

However, if you install these on your blog, you are likely to be hiding your comments from google - not  great from an SEO point of view - and providing a service that's inaccessible to those with javascript off.

(Also, for wordpress users, wordpress 2.7 is about to introduce threaded comments).

Google ignores javascript

Google doesn't bother to run javascript when it indexes a page. And the problem with these commenting systems is that they use javascript to do their fancy functionality - but also the basic stuff like actually showing the comments.

Update 7 Nov: IntenseDebate say they are rolling out a version that works with JS off - see post below.

Follow the test links below with javascript off (in your preferences in firefox / safari on a mac, probably in tools on a PC) to see what I mean...

You can prove that google isn't indexing the comments for disqus and intensedebate by searching for the name of the person with the first comment on the page - when you do, you get no hits. (EG this search returns a results for the disqus page, not the simpable one).

Disqus with javascript off: 4/10

Where the comments should be, you see a link that says 'View this discussion thread'. This takes you to a page on the disqus site with the comments on your blog.

This is better than nothing, as there's at least a link back to your page. But it means google thinks the content in the comments belong to disqus, not you.

Page used to test this: http://simpable.com/code/disqus/ and http://www.sexywidget.com/my_weblog/2008/08/disqus-updates.html

Sezwho with javascript off 6/10

You lose the functionality (couldn't they have provided a static link to the info?), but at least the comments are visible.

Page used to test this: http://www.webbiestuffs.com/2008/07/how-i-solved-sezwho-problem.html and http://andybeard.eu/2008/03/mybloglog-social-activity-time-line-disappoints.html

IntenseDebate with javascript off: 0 / 10 (moving to ?/10)

You see a link that says 'leave a response' but nothing happens when you click it. Comments invisible to google, therefore, and also a fairly poor implementation - surely they could have made something useful happen when you click it.

Page used to test this: http://www.ultimatenoob.com/?p=425

Update 7 Nov See Jon's post below about a new version that's non-javascript friendly. However, the number of posts shown with javascript on, for instance, his latest post on is 9. With it off, you see 4. And I found this post by the designer of IntenseDebate. You can also see some posts with javascript off. HOWEVER the number of posts with JS on is 37. With JS off it is 15. The new version is only in beta but maybe some more testing needed?!?

Update 11 Jan 2009: New post on IntenseDebate and comment count.

Typepad Connect: 0/10 so far

Update: 23 Nov Thanks to the tip below, I checked out Typepad Connect on this blog and this blog too, chosen at random. With javascript off, no comments are shown. Instead a link appears saying 'View the entire comment thread'.

Clicking this makes the page reload - but no comments appear. This seems another example of poor coding of the non-javascript version. Still, they're only in beta so still time to fix it ...

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23 Comments »

  • [...] got me thinking about this was a post “Advanced comment systems are bad for SEO: IntenseDebate, Sezwho and Disqus”. The author is correct that rendering comments via JavaScript lessens the chance they will show [...]

  • Jon says:

    While it's true that our 1.x WP plugin was not much use without JavaScript, we've recently started rolling out a new version that has full comment functionality when JS is disabled. It not only outputs the comment section for SEO, but you can even leave a comment which will then sync back to IntenseDebate and appear in the JS enabled version as well.

    You can see what I mean on my personal blog here: http://jonefox.com/blog

    Currently we're invite-only, but the plugin is available to anyone with an invite. We hope to open it back up to everyone shortly.

    • Alex Popescu says:

      Jon, I have checked your blog and indeed it does work when JS is disabled. But this is just because you've pre-generated the page to include that content, so for somebody not using the wp plugin the solution will not work. To make it work, you'd need to fetch that content on the server side and include it on the page, which would mean that you actually don't need the javascript anymore.

      cheers,

      ./alex

      • I think that's the idea - when javascript is off you can still see the posts. (Although see my reply lower down (higher up if javascript off...) about the post numbers not matching, which is why I haven't updated the 0/10 score on this page yet).

        When javascript is on, you get the benefits of Intense Debate. Of course, one of the key benefits of Intense Debate - threaded comments - is now available in wordpress 2.7 (and you can see it working on this page with javascript on). Maybe that's why Auttomatic, the company behind WordPress, has bought IntenseDebate.

        You can see IntenseDebate's explanation of this here.

        It's shame that the IntenseDebate homepage doesn't work properly when javascript is off - nothing happens when you click 'Click to show more features'! And the example box is empty ...

        • Alex Popescu says:

          Malcolm, unfortunately I have to disagree with you and here is why:

          The noscript part is generated server side. This means that:
          1. if you are not using the IntenseDebate server side plugin, there is no way you can fetch that content
          2. if Javascript is working on the target browser, it basically means that you have performed more work than needed on server side and that you have consumed more bandwith and increased the page size

          For JS based solutions, the only option is the one offered by Disqus and JS-Kit: provide a link to a hosted page that contains the comment thread.
          IntenseDebate solution is useful for those using the plugin provided by IntenseDebate on the server side, but will be of no use for others.

          cheers,

          ./alex

          • Hey Alex. I agree there's some unnecessary work going on! But who do you mean by 'you' in your reply?

            Imagine I had Intense Debate set up here, as the owner of this wordpress blog. If a reader had javascript on, (s)he would be able to see all the comments using the IntenseDebate functionality. The reader doesn't need the plugin - the comments are all fetched by the javascript. There will have been some unnecessary generation of the [noscript] section.

            If the reader had javascript off, (EG Anna, one of the commenters here), they would be able to see all the comments using the standard wordpress functionality.

            Isn't this all a good thing? Any other solution - EG the first version of IntenseDebate - left some people (including google and those with JS off) unable to view comments.

            This is a 5-deep comment, the limit I have set. So if yu reply, you may need to start a new comment thread rather than reply to this one ...

          • Alex Popescu says:

            I have posted a comparison of Disqus vs IntenseDebate vs JS-Kit vs SezWho, but not only in terms of SEO: http://themindstorms.wordpress.com/2009/01/11/commenting-services-face-to-face-disqus-vs-intensedebate-vs-js-kit-vs-sezwho/

            ./alex

  • Jitendra says:

    Hey Malcom,

    Jitendra from SezWho here.

    Which functionality do you think people lose with SezWho.

    We think you get the best of both world with SezWho...positive SEO (links coming from our site) and dynamic presentation of information which means you lose no SEO.

    Thanks, Jitendra

  • Jon: see update above.

    Jitendra: With javascript on, the information pops up in an overlay when you hover over the SezWho 'check me out'. As you know!

    With javascript off, nothing is there. Surely you could still show the 'check me out' link but have it as a link to a different page or whatever with the info on. This is what Disqus do when JS is off.

    To sum up - JS om, full functionality. JS off, functionality invisible.

  • Jitenda says:

    Malcolm,

    Good point...Let me investigate what we can do here.

    thanks for the mention.

    -jitendra

  • [...] following some discussion in the comments on a story here, in a third post Coles tackled third party commenting systems such as Disqus, IntenseDebate and Sezwho: [...]

  • Anna says:

    As someone who uses Firefox with NoScript - thank you for this post.

  • jimmy says:

    So it will be same verdict for Typepad Connect.

  • Jimmy - it would seem so. Have added update - thanks for the tip.

  • Nice post. Comments on blogs are very important because it is basically free content and shows google that your site has fresh content.

  • Steve says:

    Yes, comments are very important I think so, because I have landed in web sites coming from google and the content was in the comments. So I think that comments can be useful to get more page visitors.

  • I had the same criticism about IntenseDebate at first, but I soon realised that it actually feeds the comments back to WordPress and WordPress still prints the comments on the pages (inside a noscript tag) so that users with JavaScript turned of (and indexers) still see the comments and can also follow the links in them, which is great for SEO if you ask me ^^
    I couldn't find any downside after this, so I kept ID :-)

    • Christian - IntenseDebate do seem to have implemented a fix in line with Jon's comments above. The noscript solution didn't happen when i first wrote this. However, i still observe differences in IntenseDebate's post count between the javascript on and JS off verstions of the page, so I haven't updated this post again yet.

  • Alex Popescu says:

    [quote]But who do you mean by ‘you’ in your reply?[/quote]

    Sorry for not been clear. In my comments, 'you' meant the host (blog or site).

    [quote]Imagine I had Intense Debate set up here, as the owner of this wordpress blog.[/quote]

    That's correct, but as I've pointed out in my comment: this is the only way it will work: if the host can use the IntenseDebate plugin. For all others, meaning those that are integrating IntenseDebate through the JS widget, this will not work.

    [quote]Isn’t this all a good thing? Any other solution - EG the first version of IntenseDebate - left some people (including google and those with JS off) unable to view comments.[/quote]

    It is a good thing, for host using the IntenseDebate plugin. If my blog/site doesn't support the IntenseDebate plugin, you'll be integrating IntenseDebate by using the JS-based widget and for this case SEO will be 0.

    The alternative is what Disqus and JS-Kit offer: if browser JS is disabled, instead of the comment thread you can provide a link to a page hosted on Disqus/JS-Kit side that displays all the thread. When the search engine hits your page it will follow this link and index the comment thread (that page is pure HTML). The only part missing (but it can still be accomplished) is to associate the Disqus/JS-Kit hosted page with your domain.

    cheers,

    ./alex

    This is a 5-deep comment, the limit I have set. So if yu reply, you may need to start a new comment thread rather than reply to this one …

  • Popac says:

    First of all, nice post and comments i read here.
    Second, I want to know what you mean about IntenseDebate and SEO...Google 4 example.

    Do I will have any benefits from installing this plug-in in my WordPress blog or not ?

    Not want to have situation that visitors write comments on my website and this work simple go to other website (SEO points).

    IntenseDebate is good SEO for my web or not ?

  • instructions on craps says:

    hi, actually i want to become a search engine optimizer(Seo). One of my friend is working as a team leader in a leading seo firm
    and he says that one of the most important thing about this field is that it offers exceptional growth and a promising career.
    Is my decision to join this arena would going to benefit me ?

    • Well, you probably need to do some more training/research. Spamming my blog with a link to instructionsoncraps.com using "instructions on craps" as a keyword on a completely irrelevant page wouldn't help even if I hadn't deleted the URL. Try concentrating on getting links from relevant pages ...

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