Can User Generated Comments Cause A Google Penalty

Apr 22, 2013 • 9:21 am | comments (16) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

user commentsThere is this theory going around by "giveaway bloggers" that non-spammy comments can cause a Google penalty. You can read about it over here and over here - where you can see that an SEO told this site that they are penalized in Google because of the bad comments they have.

The SEO linked to Google's guidelines on user generated content and proof.

We've covered the topic often here including:

So what is the real deal? Should you institute a policy like these "giveaway bloggers" did to remove any comment that is less than three words? Um, yea! I get tons of comments here and anyone who leaves a three word or less comment, 99% of the time, it is not adding any value. Those, "thank you for posting" comments are always about getting a link back to their sites. I do my best to delete those not because of Google, because they waste your time as a reader on my site.

Bottom line: If someone comes into your house and starts messing it up, would you let them stay? Depending on the quality of your home, your threshold for that will change. If people are messing up your blog, aren't you going to clean it up and kick them out?

Giveaway blogs, go ahead and take offense, are the lower quality homes. They are probably more likely to attract people who are less quality because of the nature of "giveaway." Why in the world would you want to read comments from others saying, "good post" or "thanks for posting?" If you let those types of comments on your site in mass, then it shows the type of blog you have.

Don't let outside people mess up your home - it isn't nice to those who live inside your home.

(Note: I expect a ton of "thank you" comments now, which I will spend most of the day removing).

There is such a thing of content spam, spam is spam, if you do not protect your site from spam (not just link spam), then Google will think your site is spam.

Update: I've asked Google's John Mueller about this and he said, generally the length of comments would have no barring on if a page would have a manual or algorithmic penalty. I'll post the video of this as soon as it is published.

Here is the video, my question starts at 28 minutes and 55 seconds into the video:

Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.

Previous story: Samuru: A Search Engine Designed By An SEO



04/22/2013 01:52 pm

Thanking you for this post that is great. My first time in reading your site. I will return many time to learn of SEO

Barry Schwartz

04/22/2013 01:55 pm

LOL, you are funny.


04/22/2013 01:56 pm

Thank you for posting =) Just kidding! But seriously, I know exactly how you feel about these types of comments. In fact your blog is one of the few I come to besides the likes of SEOmoz that don't have those sorts of off-putting comments. Each comment generally adds a decent amount of value and interest so I do thank you for your efforts keeping it clean (as much as I may disagree with your views sometimes!). On topic, my site is fully user generated content (it's a forum and a wiki), so I would be very disappointed (and angry) if Google was to one day turn around and issue a penalty. It would be virtually impossible for me to go through and remove what they would consider spam when there are over 300,000 posts on the forum and thousands of pages on the wiki.

joshua levenson

04/22/2013 02:02 pm

Odin Lives!


04/22/2013 02:30 pm

If you provide people with good content they will provide you with good comments. I personally like short comments, they give you a very concise opinion and I don't feel comments like "funny!!!", "hilarious!", "best ever!!!!" will have negative impact regardless of how spammy they look as long as there's a positive context. There is a threshold where I do start deleting comments if there isn't anything intelligent in between. I've had some comments from completely immature users on pages for over 6 years and those pages rank very well regardless of the comments.


04/22/2013 02:32 pm


Wendy Piersall

04/22/2013 02:34 pm

The reason they get 3 word comments is because a comment - ANY comment - will enter the user for the giveaway. So they aren't intended to be 'real' comments anyway. They are the easiest way for a blogger to track contest entries. I'm not a fan of running contests, but some pretty successful and well-regarded bloggers do this (Pioneer Woman). You can judge, but I don't think this is spam, and I honestly don't think Google does, either. My hunch is that comments, especially if nofollowed, aren't the problem here. Many contest bloggers also give an entry for a link back to their site, or for adding the contest blog's button to the users' blog sidebar. That is probably considered a 'compensated link' in Google's view, and if there really is a penalty, that's the source. Another theory - that contest blogs probably get a lot of links from other blogs that sell text links. My mission used to be to educate the community about how to use nofollow for text links, but sadly, I think they just didn't care enough about it to do anything about it. And now it might be biting them in the rear. (You may or may not know I wrote Mom Blogging for Dummies, so I know just a little bit about how this community rolls). :)

Barry Schwartz

04/22/2013 02:39 pm

I've updated the post with a comment from Google directly and will post a video shortly.

Soni Sharma

04/23/2013 04:36 am

There are so many guidelines in Google webmaster. Though I haven't read all as webmaster but 3 things i know that are Important 1. Quality 2. Quality 3. Quality

Rahul Trivedi

04/23/2013 07:30 am

What i believe is the blog comment has been counting as a spam in eye of Google in now days. I can't get actually their guideline for blog comments as well as for forum posting.


04/23/2013 07:52 am

Great post once again Barry ;) But seriously I think that Google has become very clever with UG comments which shows just how far they are going with any type of UGC. If it's short and provides no value, then out you go.. But if you provide a comment or whatever piece of content that is worthy to anybody else reading your blog, then you are good to go. I find myself many times reading comments for posts on this blog, as I see it as an expansion on what the topic covered which obviously makes it worthwhile coming back for more ;)

Gareth Marshall

04/23/2013 08:18 am

Cheers for this Barry. We're currently going over a couple of the sites we work on. The one which we're putting a lot more time and effort into, particularly with the blogs, getting far less spammy comments than the one that is currently in need of some decent work.

Soni Sharma

04/23/2013 09:21 am

I hope Google will remove comments content from indexing and ranking factor in future. As some SEO's started spamming comments content in blogs and news websites.


04/25/2013 04:05 am

Hello! This is Leslie from the Giveaway Blog, which I don't consider to be a low quality site by the way. :) I want to thank you for following up with the comment spam issue. Between one Reader's daily "I'd love to win this prize" comments and the many "thank you" comments my site had a huge amount of short 2 or three word comments . In addition, "Comments may qualify as spam because there is a high number of short comments that artificially increase the percentage of keywords on a webpage." I had 172 instances of the keyword “XXX” and “XXX” on one of my pages, which was interpreted as spam by Google’s bots. So I do believe my Reader comments can be misinterpreted as spam, unfortunately. Leslie from Leslie Loves Veggies

NextWave Creative

04/30/2013 08:30 am

I hope Google can improve the comment content, instead. If Google removes all comment contents including relating contents, that would be a bit over or too much.

Spook SEO

02/10/2014 07:13 pm

I would very much like it if the comments on my blogs are actually worthy and can expand the idea of my content. Seeing a lot of three-word comments can actually be irritating. Therefore automatically removing them can actually be helpful.

blog comments powered by Disqus