Removing comments from blog posts and other pages on a website could negatively impact search rankings, according to Google’s SEO expert John Mueller.
During a recent Google Search Central SEO hangout, Mueller responded to a question asking about blog comments and whether they are a ranking factor.
Perhaps surprisingly, he revealed that comments are actually used quite a lot by Google as they can provide context and additional information about a particular topic.
This means that any webmasters who remove comments from a site when updating pages may inadvertently be making it more difficult for themselves to remain visible in search engine results.
Mueller stopped short of explicitly stating whether comments should be removed or not, as individual site owners need to decide what’s best for their own objectives.
However, he did advise them to be careful and possibly look at the sorts of keywords and queries that are driving traffic to webpages.
Armed with this knowledge, webmasters can then estimate whether deleting comments would have any impact.
Mueller noted that Google is able to differentiate between the main body of an article or blog and the comments beneath it.
This means that sometimes comments can provide additional value, while at other times they do not.
Mueller added: “But ultimately if people are finding your pages based on the comments there then, if you delete those comments, then obviously we wouldn’t be able to find your pages based on that.”
Mueller concluded by reminding brands that because Google does take note of comments, there is always the possibility that deleting them can lead to changes to search rankings.
While comments are not a direct signal, it appears that providing a platform for user-generated content can make blogs more relevant and deliver information that is useful to a searcher on Google.