SEO strategists have had an on-off relationship with blog commenting for years. It’s become a hot topic recently, with Matt Cutts being forced to come out with Google’s ‘official’ stance on the matter. But as with much of what Google say, we must analyse the issue from Google’s perspective, look at what actually takes place, and draw our own conclusions based on the findings, plus our own intuition.
Taking Matt’s words into account, coupled with the fact that most blogs offer only ‘nofollow’ links anyway, the tactic seems a waste of time. Not quite so.
The Issue of ‘Nofollow’
Sure, a nofollow link won’t earn you any link juice. But that could actually work to your advantage. The findings of Search Metrics’ Ranking Factors 2013 Study showed a high correlation between nofollow links and high rankings.
When you think about it, it’s not surprising why this could be. A site owner that willingly spends his time commenting on blogs, sharing knowledge, questioning and expanding upon points of an article whilst being fully aware there’s no link-benefit from it, is very much playing to Google’s ethos.
Is it entirely unreasonable to suggest that Google do factor in nofollows, in ways we are not yet privy to; or is this merely a correlation that indicates that a sound all-round marketing strategy is conducive to increasing SERP positions through usage metrics and social shares? Either way, blog commenting certainly still has its place.
Back-links shouldn’t even be considered when commenting. In fact, if you do come across a blog which offers ‘follow’ links from its comments, you might be best to avoid it. It’s likely that less-savvy SEOs will be flocking to it and recording lots of worthless comments just for that link.
This correlation, although a very good reason to maintain a blog commenting strategy, is not without its pitfalls. There are some important points to consider when choosing a blog to comment on.
The Essentials: Choosing Sites
As with so many areas in digital, these familiar quality-control factors are ever-important: Relevancy and quality.
Not any blog will do. You must choose posts which directly relate to your site, your industry, and your particular field of expertise.
I’m not talking about Page Rank or domain authority here. Normal link metrics need not apply since you’re not chasing link juice. But, does the blog produce highly regarded and popular articles on a regular basis? Do the articles attract many other comments? Is there an active community on the site which will take your comments a step further and induce a discussion? Are articles actively shared on social media? These are what constitute ‘quality’ for a blog.
The Essentials II: How to Represent Yourself
When you leave a comment, you also leave a signature. The obvious faux-pas is to use a keyword-rich signature. If it even makes it past the moderator, it will likely do you more harm than good. Instead:
- Use your own name. In light of what Matt Cutts is now saying, anything else is just not worth it. Other commenters are more likely to interact with a person than a brand name anyway
- Do include a link. This is legitimate. The blog owner or other users may well want to follow your own blog. Make the link appropriate to the site, though, as well as your comment. Use your social media handle or profile, your blog, or your website’s homepage; whichever you think the blog owner would be most interested in checking out
- Always aim to add value to the post
- Keep the generic ‘great article!’ posts to yourself. If you think it’s great, say why
- Pose open-ended questions to keep the conversation going
- Feel free to include a link to your site, or any other site, if it adds value. You may well have written a similar piece some months ago that offers a relevant opinion. This falls well within the boundaries of an acceptable blog comment
Moments of Triumph: The Benefits
- Increased online visibility for you and your site
Posting insightful comments on a variety of blogs substantially increases your visibility. Since you’ll be declaring yourself as the owner of a site or publicly associating yourself with a brand; that too will get a boost.
- Meaningful connections
Starting or joining conversations on a blog post can lead to meaningful interactions; an excellent opportunity for finding useful and insightful contacts in your field. Your initial interactions could also be the stepping stone to building mutually beneficial relationships with industry experts.
- Promote yourself as a niche expert
Sharing your knowledge through blog commenting can attract followers. Your comments will reflect your expertise and experience. Consequently, people will perceive you as an authority on the subject.
- Generate guest blogging opportunities
Valuable ideas and opinions open more doors. When you’re regarded as an expert, you increase the chances of receiving requests to contribute as a guest blogger.
Scenarios Leading to Failure
Blog commenting can and will lead you to grief if:
- It is the only SEO tactic you’re using
The shifting tides of search have necessitated the addition of more ranking factors. As an SEO specialist or webmaster, you stand a better chance of doing well on the SERPs if you don’t risk everything on one approach.
- The content and links used are completely irrelevant or without value
This is self-explanatory. You should never use automated comments because they run a greater risk of being irrelevant, and also tend to form a pattern, resulting in a slap from Google.
Let’s go back to Mr. Cutts’s thoughts on blog commenting. In the video, he clarified that this tactic is acceptable, if you use your real name. Proper attribution is a big deal because it shows that you want to make a genuine contribution.
I said earlier that for blog comments to work, you have to commit. The entire process can be time consuming, despite the lower word-count of 50-100 words compared to articles. It can also take some time before you get results. Apart from espousing the virtues of patience and perseverance, remember to:
1. Be sincere and transparent
2. Only participate if it’s a thread you’re genuinely interested in
Incorporating blog commenting into an online marketing campaign is your judgement call, asnot everything that was discussed could be relevant to your brand.
However, if you think this tactic is worth a try, remember that:
1. You are your comments
Everything you say on all those different blogs will easily be attributed to you. And what happens on the web stays on the web. If you happen to publish a negative remark or a baseless conclusion, it could easily come back to haunt you.
The “Post/Publish” button can be lethal so use it with caution. Review what you’ve written before submitting.
2. Comment platforms are not created equal
There is a multitude of comment platforms out there. But not all of them promote ‘ease of use’. Some blogs have an immediately visible comments section. Others are more complicated. You’ll have to locate the elusive icon and log in (assuming you already have an account) before you can put in your two pennies’ worth. Check out this article to have an idea of what’s out there.
Finally, blog commenting works best when you just let it flow. Find blogs that reflect your industry and then let your interest guide you. Don’t feel compelled to comment on every article written about your niche. Remember, this should not be the only digital marketing tactic you’re using. Used in conjunction with others, the age-old blog comment can still have a place.