‘Comment like crazy!’ is one of the first lessons that most budding bloggers are taught by the pros in the business. Needless to say their protegees religiously follow this advice only to see that the commenting strategy is not really dramatically improving their blogosphere presence nor does it increase inbound traffic in most cases.
Blog commenting is basically a good (1) networking, (2) Search Engine Optimization and (3) traffic increasing strategy for both short term and long term. However, there are associated risks about the same and if not done carefully, sensibly and ethically this can backfire on you. The following are the points one needs to keep in mind before writing a comment on a blog post.
Beware of the context and relevancy
One of the tips that the Pros keep mentioning is about the context. This definitely has a big role to play in the overall relevancy of the blog post content (with respect to the comment) as well as the target URL the commenter uses. A bad and irrelevant comment can reduce the effectiveness of a good blog post as in the eyes of the Search Engines it’s only an HTML page with lots of text and hyper links. Basically, the links (neighbourhood) and the context (content) quality may be at risk when bad comments appear on a blog post.
Two lessons here:
(1) Link to a blog that deals with a similar niche
(2) The comment text itself should be in relation to the post topic
Anchor texts and SEO
Some of you must have read my blog post on the Link Diagnosis tool. One of the things that it shows in the backlinks list is the anchor text used in link building (e.g. comments). You will be surprised to see how badly some of your backlinks are built in terms of anchor text and the URL it is pointing to. If you use the wrong keywords to link to your homepage, your commenting based link building strategy may not have any impact at all. A good alternative could be to link to your about page using your name itself (Or link individual posts using relevant keywords in comments on relevant posts)
The lesson here: Use your name as much as possible and link to the about page (May be tricky when you have multiple blogs)
Care about the Link Strength
I read somewhere that link strength of a source page refers to a ratio of its page rank and the number of outbound links. If this is the case, when you comment on a blog post that already has several hundred outbound links (organic links as well as comment links), basically you are not gaining much in terms of link strength. You may instead pick on good relevant blog posts on mid-size blogs to comment on.
The lesson: Pick relevant posts to comment on instead of picking the popular blogger or blog post.
In continuation with the point above, some bloggers paginate their comments and hence commenting on posts that may receive several hundred comments may not help. Many times, you will realize that your comment is sitting on the second or third page only after the comment moderation takes place.
Lesson: Be among the first few to comment or pick stabilized older posts to make relevant comments.
The ‘DoFollow’ mania
Though the ‘nofollow’ relation property of a link is so much a Google thing, I personally believe that in the long term view of things one should give more importance to relevant comments than comments that allow no-nofollow outbound links. Of course, for the time being, rel=nofollow has a BIG say!
Lesson: Think long term and don’t be too dependent on Google alone.
Do not spam
Irrelevant comments, over-usage of keywords and offensive language can attract ban. It is not a great thing that a blogger/commenter – in his/her infancy – gets banned by a bunch of well established bloggers. Firstly it will affect the short term commenting strategy and in the long term you never know how these spam databases (e.g. akismet) will be used in the future for any ranking or verification purposes. What if they decide to share it with search engines such as Google and blog directory/aggregation services such as Technorati?
Lesson: Slow and steady wins the race (well, almost all the time)
Continuing from the last point, in Blogosphere, commenting also means networking where you establish a relationship with a group of people (not just the blogger) who have interest in similar topics. Hence your comments should reflect the sense of being part of the community and not go wayward. Also, since even comments are being aggregated these days (by tools such as Backtype), what you say on the blogosphere are more visible and heard than ever before!
Lesson: Watch your mouth!
Quality v/s Quantity
More than the quantity of comments, one needs to pay attention to the quality, relevancy (and on a selfish note link relevancy, keywords and strength). Blabbering around in a network of 100s of blogs doesn’t necessarily get you what you want.
Lesson: Don’t oversell
Risk v/s Reward
Finally, those who comment like crazy purely for the SEO purpose should also understand the risks involved (some of the things mentioned above) and the benefits that it brings in. One of the facts about link building (comment based or otherwise) is that you cannot immediately measure the effectiveness of your link building campaign – of course, short term visits from those links can be measured but ‘how much of it contributes to your traffic’ is not something that can be deduced easily. So it pays to lead a low-risk commenting/link building campaign than an aggressive one.
Lesson: Beware of the unknown
Comments are still comments
In the not-so-distant past, blog comments used to have 100% relevancy and bloggers had a well-knit community around them. While communities still exist (on blog as well as off blog, socially networked or otherwise), the relevancy of comments is reducing day by day – thanks to the SEO hype. Before you comment on a blog post next time, just ask yourself whether you are adding any value to the discussion or not. At the end, comments are still comments about the topic under discussion and the other derivatives such as SEO may be just a short-term phenomena.