Friday, January 4, 2008

Don't Be a Comment Whore: Attract Traffic, Not Annoyance

I recently got an email from someone who had seen one of my other blogs. He sent me a note saying he had just started his own blog, and he had been advised to get the word out by posting comments on other sites ("a tactic affectionately known as 'comment whoring,'" he said). He said he didn't leave a comment on my blog because the topics were so dissimilar, but he was sending me an email to let me know about it anyway in case my interests included designer baby wipes.

This was timely for me, because I'd recently made the decision to delete a couple of comments here that struck me like they might be spam. I wasn't a hundred percent sure, but I didn't want anything up here that might make my readers think that I allow spam, so I deleted them.

I'm not against people posting comments on my blog to attract traffic to their own sites. Leaving comments on other blogs is a great way to introduce yourself to a community of bloggers and readers who share your interests. Here are a few tips for the people whose posts I deleted on how to make sure it doesn't happen again--and for anyone else considering comment whoring. There's a better way.

Don't write like a total cretin. I'm not saying you have to sound like a genius in every comment. But don't write so badly nobody understands you, either. One of the comments I deleted was barely intelligible, with lots of abbreviations like "ur" for "your" (that's my least favorite of all those Instant Message abbreviations. Ur is a city in Iraq, people. It doesn't even sound like the word "your.")

If you're just commenting for the sake of commenting, a few typos and non-perfect grammar won't get you deleted. But if you're really, really bad, the administrator might mistake your comment for spam. And if you want to attract traffic back to your own site, the last thing you want is to sound like a moron to everyone else on the blog. Nobody likes to read bad writing, and nobody will want to check out your blog after seeing a badly-written comment.

Avoid those "nice post" one-liners. Some administrators delete these, but I often let those comments slide in my blog and give the commenters the benefit of the doubt. But if you want to attract traffic and attention to your own blog, you're going to have to do better. Consider each comment you make to be a tiny "teaser" for the type of writing you do on your blog. Write something interesting and thoughtful that adds to the discussion. Most readers will ignore a link from a "nice post" comment, especially if this is a highly-trafficked blog with a lot of commenters. But if you write something interesting, entertaining or thoughtful, you'll definitely make people want to read more.

Be selective about the blogs you comment on. I'm not saying that people who aren't business writers shouldn't comment on this blog. I don't care if you blog on stock markets or Santa Claus, or if you don't blog at all. If you have something to say in response to one of my posts, feel free to say it.

But if you're trying to get the word out about your own blog, focus your efforts on blogs that cover the same or similar topics. There's a ready-made audience of readers on those blogs, and they're likely to be interested in your writing. Plus, if the blogger likes your site, she might write a post about you, link to you in her blogroll, or write a response post to something you've recently said. The more attention you get from other bloggers, the more quickly your audience will grow.

Plugging your product? Be careful. In general, it's usually best to avoid salesy writing and specific sales pitches when commenting for traffic. The idea is to sound like just another commenter, although smarter or more interesting than the usual. You do not want the administrator or the audience to think you have an outside agenda for posting there.

However, there are times when it's more permissible than others. If someone wrote a post in response to something I've written or on the same subject recently, I'm happy for them to link to it in the comments section for the post I wrote. It's better if you write a paragraph about the issue, not just throw up the link.

When I wrote a bunch of posts on Elance recently, somebody from oDesk, another online bidding site, left a few promotional comments. I considered deleting them, but decided that some of my readers might be interested in oDesk, so I decided to leave them up. If you're going to do this, do it only on posts that discuss something extremely relevant to that product. Try to keep your tone casual, write a thoughtful comment on the topic, and throw the link in at the end as an aside. You want people to think you're commenting there after work or on a lunch break--not trying to sell something.

Leaving comments isn't just about getting your link up in as many places as possible. It's also about introducing yourself to a community. Make sure you pick the right community, put your best foot forward, and avoid being promotional. Think quality rather than quantity, and grow your audience over time--and you're sure to see success.

11 comments:

Lillie Ammann said...

One of my pet peeves is people who use keywords instead of their real name. I've been compiling a list of 2007 commenters to write a thank-you post, and I noticed how many people use "Philadelphia Lawyer," "SEO King," "Visit Alaska," etc. instead of their names. These are all made up, by the way, but are similar to many I've seen. Like you, I delete comments that are pure advertising, but I have quite a few that comments that contribute to the conversation but are attributed to a keyword rather than a person.

Jennifer said...

I usually leave those up if the person is making the effort to leave worthwhile comments. I think that using keywords instead of a name is a bit obvious, but at least they're making a contribution in exchange.

Melissa said...

Commenting is actually one of my favorite aspects of blogging. I sort of light up when I'm reading a post that inspires me enough to leave a comment, and I light up like a Christmas tree when my posts receive thoughtful and intelligent comments.

Melissa Donovan
Writing Forward

Yuwanda Black said...

Jennifer,

This topic is one I really hadn't considered before -- excellent coverage of it.

Like you, I get a lot of spam comments on my blog. A lot of it is -- from what I can deduce -- left by blogging automation software, which is becoming more and more popular.

To all who use blog posting as a form of advertising, take the time to actually read the post of the blog you're commenting on. Most times I can tell when someone has not read -- or just skimmed -- a post I wrote.

As Jennifer pointed out, "Leaving comments isn't just about getting your link up in as many places as possible. It's also about introducing yourself to a community."

Marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. You don't want to destroy your reputation before you even get your business off the ground by employing shoddy marketing tactics.

Just my 2 cents ...

FYI, Jennifer, love the phrase "comment whore." I'm gonna have to write an article on that -- it's just too juicy to ignore!

Sincerely,
Yuwanda Black, Publisher
http://www.InkwellEditorial.com
http://www.InkwellEditorial.blogspot.com
http://www.SEO-Article-Writer.com
http://www.SEO-Articles-for-Sale.com
http://www.money-making-videos.blogspot.com

Susan said...

Nice post, Jennifer!

Just kidding... I actually do have something to add. I wanted to echo the importance of commenting on RELEVANT blogs. The travel blogs that I write for work get a million spam messages about viagra and credit cards, but when someone leaves a comment that is borderline spammy, but at least travel-related, I usually leave it up.

On a humorous note, I once got an email from a publicist at a well known publishing house (trust me, you've heard of this company) who opened the email with "since you write a blog that is targeted to new or expectant Moms..." I stopped reading and forwarded to a couple of friends with that line highlighted. We all got a good laugh out of it, but I didn't plug whatever book she was promoting. If she's ever read my blog, she knows that I am most certainly not a new or expectant mom nor are most of my readers!

Jim Smoot said...

This is one area I struggled with a little bit when I first got started. Some advice blog recommends you should comment on X number of blogs every day, so you feel like you have to say something even if you don't have much that adds to the conversation.

As I got a little more comfortable with blogging I find that not only is it easier to comment intelligently, but I don't feel the need to chime in when I have nothing to say.

Jennifer said...

@Melissa: Me too!

@Yuwanda: When I saw the phrase "comment whore" I thought I really had to write something about the topic. I totally agree with you--some types of marketing do more damage than good.

@Susan: That's hilarious. That's happened to me a couple of times with people thinking my blog is targeted to college students and stay-at-home moms, but never from a big-name publishing house.

@Jim: I sometimes go out and "market" my blogs by leaving comments, and I've found it's rarely a good idea to make a comment when I don't have anything to say. Not only is it not too effective, but it's no fun when commenting is a struggle.

Lori said...

I have to agree, Jennifer. I remember seeing one blog owner face this (and she still does) constantly. People were practically begging for attention. It was sickening and childish. Carry on a conversation and you're bound to attract positive attention along with making new friends.

Matt said...

I like this thoughtful post. Honestly, I don't hear enough voices like this with regards to being a comment whore.

In my experience, its pretty one dimensional and over simplified, "go post comments linking to your blog!" and that's about it.

In a blog I had in the past, I would get frustrated when I would see people who were obviously comment whoring, until I decided I was going to start doing a better job of promoting my blog. Lots of online advice seemed to almost promote the spamming of blogs and social networking sites like Digg.

Patricia Robb said...

I am new to blogging and unfortunately I've made a lot of these mistakes, but I am learning. Sometimes however I do leave a comment 'nice post' or 'thanks for this' because I want to encourage the writer. Perhaps there were no comments on the topic and it really was a good post and I appreciated what they had to say.
I am finding the blogging world is a real community and leaving comments is a way to get to know the neighbours and introduce yourself. When some neighbours knock on your door you rush to answer and are interested in what they have to say. When other neighbours knock, you hide in your room and pretend you are not home.
Thanks for these comment etiquette tips.

Patricia
http://secretaryhelpline.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

After reading your piece and those posted by others concerning which posts you leave up and which you delete, I was wondering about a different kind of 'spam'.

Would you leave up social, do-gooder, save-the-world kind of spam? For example:
http://www.change.org/petitions/support-an-end-to-the-gendercide-in-the-dr-congo

Just wondering, and hoping that you do and your readers will as well.