If you’ve ever read a post, book or eBook, or listened to a webinar or conference session on the topic of ‘finding readers for your blog’ you’ll have heard the advice:
‘Leave comments on other blogs‘
It was the first piece of advice I remember reading about building readership (from memory a 2002 book by Rebecca Blood was the first blog tips that I ever read) and it’s advice I’ve heard (and given) hundreds of times, since.
In fact this advice is Day 20 in our 31 Days to Build a Better Blog workbook.
1. Building your own profile – leaving a comment gets you seen. Leaving a good comment can make people pay attention.
2. Showcasing your expertise – sharing what you know or the experiences that you have can help build your credibility.
3. Getting to know other bloggers – leaving a comment can often be a great way to get on the radar of another blogger.
4. Driving traffic to your blog – as a result of your engagement, you will often get people checking out your blog.
5. Idea generation – often, when you engage in conversation in other blogs comments, you get ideas for your own blog posts.
6. Staying sharp – I find that reading and commenting on other blogs is a good daily discipline to help me keep abreast of what is happening in my industry and keep my brain engaged on the topics I write about. It’s also great writing practice!
7. Opportunities May Follow – just last week someone left a comment on my photography blog that I thought was so insightful that I asked them to write a guest post. In fact, now I think of it, one of our most successful eBook authors on dPS first made himself known to me through a great comment on the blog. You never know where a great comment might lead!
The problem with leaving comments on other blogs, as a technique to grow traffic, is that while it can have many benefits it can also end up hurting your blog’s brand and reputation – if you don’t do it the right way.
This post is an attempt to give you some advice on how to leave comments effectively and what to avoid.
Over the last 10 years I’ve seen a real spectrum of approaches to leaving comments on blogs. I suspect that most of us sit somewhere along this spectrum.
We’ve all see them – they leave comments on your post that are completely irrelevant and stuffed full of keyword rich links in an attempt to rank for those words in Google. Many times these are auto-generated spam systems that simply get caught in your spam filters and never work anyway.
There’s no real debate around the legitimacy of these comments – they are spam and any blogger in their right mind mark them as such.
A little further along the spectrum we see commenters who usually at least go to the effort of manually leaving their comments and who sometimes even go to the effort of keeping comments slightly on topic…. (sometimes).
However, their comments are pretty obviously only about trying to get a link to help their search rankings or to get a few clicks back to their site.
This group use a variety of tell tale strategies that show what they’re really on about.
For one, they usually don’t leave comments with a personal name but their name is something like ‘Best Dog Biscuits’ or ‘Hawaii Accommodation’.
They also rarely say anything that builds on the conversation but leave empty ‘great post’ comments. Alternatively, sometimes this group will do something controversial to try to get some attention (attacking the writer or other comments) in the hope of people wanting to check them out.
They also will often leave links in their comments that have no relevance to the post.
In short – this group are impersonal, irrelevant, add no value and self promotional.
Sometimes these comments get through spam filters but most bloggers will delete them if they are spotted. It’s doubtful that the comments have any real benefit to the commenter as most blogs have nofollow links in comments which kill any search ranking benefits and nobody in their right mind will click their links as they’re so obviously spammy.
Next on the spectrum for me is a commenter who is doing it right.
They have obviously read the post and have something of value to contribute. Their comments may not always be long or in-depth but they add to the conversation with something that is thoughtful and relevant.
This group might share a story, give an example, put another point of view, answer a question or do something else that provides value to the blogger and their readership.
This commenter is all about delivering value but in doing so builds their profile and credibility. They are after a win/win exchange where the blogger/readers get value from their comment but they also might get some traffic and kudos from the exchange.
The best of these commenters in my experience tend to use a personal name (and where possible use a personal avatar). They tend to leave less comments than the above groups but the comments are more effective.
Note: on avatars, it can be worth registering for a Gravatar account as this is often used for avatars on many blogs.
At the other end of the spectrum are a rare bunch of commenters who are all about delivering value but for one reason or another don’t promote themselves.
There’s nothing wrong with this – but I have come across a few bloggers of late who are either so shy or so scared of being seen as a spammer that they don’t ever leave a link back to their own blog.
I do partly understand the ‘shy’ thing but my advice to this group would be to know that if you deliver value that most bloggers wouldn’t mind you leaving a link back to your blog – or they wouldn’t have a field in their comments section for you to share a link.
One blogger who I came across lately said that he never leaves links because he heard it can get him in trouble with Google.
I do know that Google look for unnatural links (so those in the first two spammers categories above should watch out) but that they don’t have a problem with genuine comments. In fact, Matt Cutts (from Google) made this video on that topic last week.
Several years ago here on ProBlogger I suggested 11 tips for getting the comments that you leave on other blogs to stand out.
I think most of the tips I gave are still relevant today:Be the Early Bird – earlier commenters will have their comments seen more than later commenters. However, being first on every single post can be a bit annoying.Share an Example – built upon the blog post with an example that illustrates what the blogger is saying.Add a Point – if there’s a point the blogger has missed, politely suggest it.Disagree – you may not want to do this on every comment you leave but courteously disagreeing and then adding constructive reasons why can make a good impression.Write with conviction, passion and personality – these things stand out and show you care about your comment.Use Humour – this can grab attention of those scanning through comments.Ask a Question – I’ve long noticed that those who ask good questions often become the centre of conversations in comments.Formatting Comments – be careful with this. Some commenting systems allow you to bold or italicise comments. But don’t go over the top here as it could looks spammy. Comments systems like Disqus allow you to add images – this can also work to draw attention to your comment.Helpful Links – if you’re going to add a link make sure it is of high relevancy and valueComment Length – Are all the comments on a post long? Leave a short one – it’ll stand out. Are all the other comments short? Leave a long one – again, it’ll stand out.Lists/Break it down – think carefully about how your comment will look. Will it be just one big block of text? If so – consider breaking it into shorter paragraphs or even a list type format
One additional tip that I’ve used a number of times: when you leave a comment that you think adds a lot of value to a blog post – share a link to that post with your own social networks.
This shows the blogger that you’re not only willing to engage but promote their blog (which creates a great impression). It also has the side benefit of providing your followers with something useful to read (both the blog post and your comment) and shows them that you’re engaging beyond your blog which can only enhance your brand.
You can also take this a step further by blogging about the post you commented on. I’ve only done this on a few occasions and only when I think the blog post and the comment thread are of high value – but it can have a big impact.
Oh – and one more tip, regular commenting on the same blog can be worthwhile. A one great one off comment can have an impact – but this impact grows exponentially over time. Just don’t become an over contributor and dominate the blog (see below).
Also written several years ago is a post I wrote about how you can actually hurt your brand by commenting on other blogs. In it I listed 10 things to avoid (this did cause a little debate on a couple of them so there are different opinions):Excessive use of Signatures – this practice was more common several years ago but it involves leaving a link to your blog IN your comment in addition to in the link field that bloggers allow you to link to your blog in.Excessive Self Linking – only leave links that are relevant and not in every post you write.One or Two word Comments – it’s ok to show some appreciation and say ‘great post’ – but more useful to the blogger is for you to tell them WHY you think it’s a great post. Add some value.Not Reading Posts Before Commenting – this is pretty self explanatory. I would also advise reading through other comments already left!Flaming and Personal Attack – not good form. If you disagree, be constructive.’Anonymous’ Flaming – if you have something to say, put your name to it.Always Being First To Comment – I’ve seen a few people do this over the years and they’ve ended up annoying the blogger and other commenters. It’s not good manners to always be the one to say something… conversation is also about giving others room to speak.Dominating Comment Threads – similar to #7, listen, allow others to contribute and let your comments bounce off them a little.Keyword Stuffed Names – I know this one causes some debate but my personal preference is to know the name of a person that I’m speaking to rather than refer to them as their Business Name.Not adding value to the Comments – Ultimately this one is what it is all about. If you’re adding value, you’ll get value back. If you add no value, you could be hurting your brand.
One last thing to avoid – don’t comment just for the sake of commenting.
While leaving comments does have many benefits I think that most people get into trouble with commenting when they are just going through the motions of leaving comments as a ‘strategy’ rather than leaving comments because they genuinely want to engage.
I’d love to get your input on this topic.
What commenting practices have you used or seen others use that either are effective or annoying?
I’m looking forward to some good comments on this post!