With the release of WordPress 2.7 paged comments became a built-in feature. By default, they are enabled on both new installs and upgrades. Where it may be good for usability, it may not be good for SEO.
From a usability standpoint, paged comments are good for posts that get a lot of comments. By default, WordPress cuts them off at 50 comments per page. Users then don’t have to wait for over 100, or even 1,000, comments to load. Yes I have seen posts with over 1,000 comments. The time it takes for a page with lots of comments to load can be much longer than the user is willing to wait. Breaking them into pages speeds up page loading time and makes the site more user-friendly.
From an SEO standpoint, paged comments can hinder the post. With paged comments, each page has a separate URL and the post itself is duplicated across each page. This can cause duplicate content issues and visitors could be entering your site on comment page 3 of a post. Ideally, they’d all enter on the main post page.
A blog owner could block comment pages from search engines, but the content being created by the comments on page two+ will then not be used to help drive traffic to the post. Comments are actually a great way to get users to create additional content for a blog and we don’t want to lose that.
So what’s the best solution? My recommendation would be setup paged comments and put 100 comments per page. This way, you’d first need a lot of comments on an individual post before comment pages start to appear. Once you do have over 100 comments, then the focus should be more on usability as it’s pretty obvious that the post is popular. There may still be a few SEO implications, but by this time, your users are more important.
If you still want to have paged comments, and are concerned that the SEO implications are too big to ignore, then check out Pressed Words’ SEO for Paged Comments plugin. I haven’t tried it myself, but it claims to put post teasers on all of the comment pages and only show the full post on the main post URL. This seems like a logical solution.
There are a lot of usability vs SEO discussions out there. Each should be taken on a case-by-case basis and the real solution is up to the site owner. In the case of paged comments, putting 100 comments per page, and then creating paged comments, is the best solution as usability wins out in this scenario in my opinion.
Do you use paged comments on your blog? Have you seen any issues? Benefits?