Commenting on blogs used to be a link building strategy. Busy people would spend days finding blogs, pasting in comments with a link, and hoping it would build the authority of their website.
It worked for a little while, but that SEO technique has gone down the same route as link wheels and doorway pages.
But commenting on blogs still has a place in the life of an online marketer, content creator, and SEO. Because of the comments on my blog, I get extra search traffic. The people who leave comments get more exposure and online validity.
In this article, I want to explain 11 ways that you can claim back blog commenting as an online marketing best practice. Blog commenting still works, but you need to know how to do it correctly.
Why should you comment on other people’s blogs?
Commenting on blogs takes time and effort. Why would you do it?
There’s a whole laundry list of reasons why you should comment on blogs. Let me share just a few of them:
- It builds your exposure to relevant audiences.
- It enhances your personal brand.
- It gets you on the radar of influential people.
- It demonstrates that you are engaged in your niche.
- It showcases your awareness of industry trends.
- It helps to generate ideas.
- It builds an online community.
- It allows you to demonstrate your writing ability.
- It generates referral traffic to your website.
- It gives you the opportunity to add value.
I recommend it especially for people who are in the beginning stages of building their personal brand.
Rand Fishkin of Moz calls commenting “second-order marketing.” In other words, it’s a method of creating additional content, and therefore producing a better content marketing impact.
You can’t use blog commenting as a marketing method for a particular business. Blog commenters are people, not business entities. If you are a marketer who is promoting a certain company, it is of course appropriate for you to promote your company. However, all that promotion is filtered through your personal brand.
Blog commenting is ideal for building your personal brand. Your business will receive some benefit, but that’s not the primary goal of commenting.
Why should you be cautious about blog commenting?
I opened this article with a few lines about the spammy link-building technique of blog commenting.
I want to emphasize this point. Blog commenting as a link-building strategy doesn’t work in the same way it used to.
Here’s what Matt Cutts said about it.
Even though the video was made in 2013, the idea still holds true:
If your primary link building strategy is to leave comments all over the web, to the degree that you have a huge fraction of your link portfolio in comments, and no real people linking to you, then at some point that can be considered a link scheme. At a very high level we reserve the right to take action on any sort of deceptive or manipulative link schemes that we consider to be distorting our rankings.
Here are the reasons why I advise against using blog commenting as a link scheme.
- It doesn’t work. Plain and simple. It used to work, but its value is long gone.
- It makes you look stupid. People who spin comments and paste them indiscriminately into blogs can be recognized for what they are. You don’t want to be that guy.
- Your site could be penalized. Google is swift to take action against those who violate their clearly-stated guidelines. This is too big of a risk to take.
So, what are some of the best techniques for achieving a true ROI from blog comments?
1. Don’t focus on creating a link. Focus on adding value to the conversation.
If the goal of your comment is to build a link, then you’ve started off on the wrong foot. Your goal in posting a comment should be to participate with value in the conversation.
Besides, many blogs use commenting systems that do not allow any links, or automatically nofollow all links.
The following comment thread by Disqus adds a nofollow tag to the link.
If you try to create value within the conversation, then you will earn respect and recognition. Try to build a link, and you’ll do the opposite.
2. Don’t simply ask questions.
Many blog commenters ask a lot of questions. They tend to focus almost exclusively on asking follow up questions or unrelated questions.
I have no problem with people asking questions. It’s a good idea, especially if you’re genuinely looking for some help and insight. It’s also an appropriate way to build your engagement with the community of commenters.
There is a point at which, asking questions comes across as distracting. Some blogs get hundreds of comments, and it’s difficult to successfully address each one.
I try to answer a lot of questions on my blog, but it’s tough to keep up with it.
3. Answer other commenter’s questions.
I’ve discovered that helping others for free is one of the best marketing moves ever. You get to give value and improve someone’s life, and it doesn’t cost them anything.
Answering questions in a blog comment thread is one way of doing this.
Here’s an example from my blog.
Soumil went to the effort of looking up the blog, providing advice, and giving tactical strategies on how to improve.
This is an example of careful, thorough, and gracious blog commenting. We could use more of that.
4. Engage with the commenters, not just the author.
It’s important to me to respond to blog comments. It’s courteous, increases sales, improves social sharing, and allows me to control the kind of traffic my blog receives.
Still, commenting takes time. Lots of time. I’ve responded to more than 50,000 comments, and believe me, I feel the time crunch. It’s possible for me to spend up to an hour a day responding to blog comments. I can’t write lengthy responses to every comment.
That’s why I appreciate it when the comment thread interacts with itself. Rather than directing questions and comments at me as the author, commenters are interacting with one another.
Some people understand this, and their comments prove it.
5. Optimize your commenting profile.
If you’re going to get active by commenting on blogs, make sure you take some time to optimize your profile on all the major comment platforms.
I recommend making the following features consistent and professional:
- Your name. Use your real name.
- Your photo. Use a standard headshot.
- Your website. Keep it consistent, and drive users to your most important website.
- Your social profiles. Link to any social profiles that the commenting profile allows.
If you don’t optimize your profile, your comments will end up being ignored or devalued. The lack of a coherent name or photo makes you look less professional.
Here are a few of the major commenting platforms where you should optimize your profile.
- intenseDebate (by Automattic)
- Facebook Comments
- Google+ comments (on Blogger blogs)
You probably already have a Google+ and Facebook profile, but you should also build out your profile on any other blog commenting system that requires you to login in order to post comments.
Specific industries and niches prefer specific a CMS platform and/or commenting system. Once you get the feel for your particular industry, you’ll be better able to optimize your commenting profile.
An optimized profile on Disqus will prove that you have quality, experience, and influence. Since Buffer author Kevan Lee uses Disqus, his profile is highly optimized.
Clicking on his name in a comment thread brings up his profile:
The better your profile, the better your reputation.
6. Be the first to leave a comment.
The best way to get more visibility on blog comments is to be the first one to leave a comment. You have to be careful not to be annoying with this, though. Being first just to be first is useless.
7. Don’t comment unless you’ve read the blog for a while.
Leaving a comment without being familiar with the blog is a mistake. What if you make a point or ask a question that another article already addressed? Instead of looking intelligent, you’ll look uninformed.
If you’re a new blog reader, make sure that you look over the previous five or six articles to get a sense of what the authors are saying.
8. Read all the comments before you leave your own.
Another mistake is to leave a comment without reading other comments. It’s like butting in on a group conversation, and trying to sound intelligent even though you don’t know what the group has been discussing.
Skim the comments before your leave your own
9. Say something specific.
Many comment threads descend into vapid compliments and insipid remarks. Instead of being a generalist, get specific with your comments. If people are reading comments (and they do), yours will not stand out if you say something like this:
Instead, discuss something specific to the article.
Here’s a great point of advice — a comment on a Moz blog.
10. Post about your comment.
If you make a comment on a blog — especially a really good comment — feel free to mention it to others. After all, you probably put a lot of work into that comment.
Rand Fishkin provides an example — tweeting his comment. It’s a win-win. The post gets more attention from your social circle, and you get some recognition for your smart comment.
11. Create a link in the comment only if it’s natural and appropriate.
Last, let’s talk about links in comments.
Should you? Shouldn’t you?
Of course you should. If it’s natural, appropriate, and it adds value, then by all means put your link in.
You don’t need to add a link to every comment. As with anything, you don’t want to overdo it with self-promotion. Links in comments isn’t about link building. It’s about building value for those who read the comments. Let that be your focus.
Blog commenting is alive and well. And yes, you should do it.
Commenting is an under-utilized tactic in content marketing. We’re awash in a sea of content, and we feel like there’s too much content to consume, let alone comment on.
Don’t let this keep you from commenting on blogs. Pick a few — just three or four — follow them consistently, and comment regularly. You’ll feel the improvement in your personal brand.
What is your experience with blog commenting? Has it helped you?