Some years ago was a guy named Matt Cutts who made a video about how leaving comments with your name and website in the name field hurts both parties—you and the blogger. ‘Twas important stuff, considering he said Google takes this tactic into account in ranking and deems them spam. But not a lot of bloggers knew who he was, and they still probably don’t. Hint: Today, he is the former head of the web spam team at Google.
So I took him seriously. A lot of people took him seriously. Five years later, the bad practice has become a trend, thanks to bad advice from newbie bloggers who mean well, but keep sharing bad advice. It’s a chain reaction. I don’t blame them, though. I’ve seen veteran bloggers do similar stuff, too, so it’s not just the newbie bloggers—it’s everyone.
Putting your name and your website name, or just your website name, does more harm than good. It hurts you.
You don’t even get a
In a WordPress update1, comment link content—from the comment text itself to the name field—was marked
nofollow. You can find and install plugins to remove this aspect, but why would you want to?
dofollow links tell search engines like Google to follow links to our sites, that should be a good thing, right?
But reader comments do not always come from quality websites—some are spammy, even if they have the best intentions. And we can’t control those websites. And sometimes, with some comments, we do need to link things. Backlinks aren’t nearly as big a deal as they once were, because search engine optimization (SEO) “experts”2 have milked them for all they’re worth and turned something that was once good into something worse.
Marking links in comments
nofollow levels the playing field. At first, I was a bit irked at it, but I like benefits. I am not one to manipulate comment sections for SEO purposes, but I rather favor more the idea of genuine backlinks people have given me over what I have myself made. I don’t leave comments for SEO juice—I leave them for the bloggers themselves. I feel giddy when someone says, “Oh, I found your blog because I always see you commenting on ____ and liked what you said, so thought I’d check you out!” It’s pretty amazing, like I’ve won a prize from a game I didn’t even know I was playing.
Comments aren’t for SEO, and even if they were, you can’t control comments on other people’s blogs.
In search engine optimization, spam is defined as SEO manipulation tactics used to increase search engine ranking.
So, in this case, the type of spam we’re talking is…
Forum-like signatures in comments
I don’t quite know how this started, but I surmise ’twas because the lot of us used Cutenews, which had but a name and email field. With the tick of a setting, the email field could double as a URL field, but it wasn’t a common fix. A lot of people installed it, changed the blog and commenting template parts, and called it a day—it was created to be a quick-and-easy setup, after all, so why spend more time on it?
But Google Webmasters advises against this—has for as long as I can remember—though the trend of it continues. Old blog tips posts are often shared without careful consideration—without the question of Should I skim over this and update it? It’s not always the bloggers’ faults, because you can’t control the sharing of older posts, so I’m not blaming them, but…whereas I once felt weird about updating old posts for relevancy purposes, I’ve seen too many ancient blog tip posts containing black hat SEO practices being shared on Pinterest recently.
New bloggers like to post tips about what they’ve learned in their first month/quarter/half year of blogging—but that’s not enough time to realize what you wish you’d known before you started. It’s just not. I don’t think every new blogger is like this, but from those types of posts I’ve seen, every single one references the bad practices I’m discussing in this post today—the ones Google has repeatedly told people are bad practices.
I’ll be the first person to tell you not to focus more on pleasing Google than on being accessible and readable, etc., but if you purposely do specific things in attempt to rank better with a particular search engine, and some of those are harmful to your ranking despite what someone else taught you, what is the point beyond wasting time?
Link your blog in the URL field.
Complications arise when commenting systems lack the URL field. Blogspot, for example, switched their user profiles to Google+, and the whole thing is a huge mess. (Stop trying to make Google+ happen; it’s not gonna happen.)
Disqus has a website field in the profile section, and clicking comment author avatars or names causes the mini profile to slide out. Unfortunately, Disqus doesn’t bring enough awareness to this feature, so both commenters and bloggers using the software do not know about it—hence leaving a forum-like signature after the comment. I don’t know the solution here. A blogger got pissed with me because they were like, “You commented my blog, but didn’t leave your URL, and I finally found it two weeks later because you commented someone else. Next time, follow my rules and leave your URL at the end of the comment!” So…the issue here is with Disqus…perhaps it’s something they can work on?? Maybe they should add a setting allowing Disqus users to display URLs?? I don’t know! This is why I despise relying on third parties and only comment on blogs using Disqus if I really like the blogger, or feel like I have something worth saying.
If there is no URL field, the blogger may have disallowed this feature on purpose. A lot of WordPress development blogs are like this. I don’t like it, because while I don’t think comments should be primarily for promotional purposes, I feel like they contribute largely to growing community and encouraging good karma all around—so, yeah, I feel a lil’ irked when I can’t add my URL in the same amount when I finish reading a post that makes me want to comment but there is no comment feature. In this case, you need to decide whether what your comment is about is valuable to the discussion on the blog and/or whether you’ve respect for the blogger. Don’t assume they want you to leave your URL.
Side note: Another common thing, to piggyback off the previous paragraph, is the displaying of a URL field in the comment form, but not linking to the blogger’s site in their published comment. In these instances, only the blogger can view the website, but rarely do they use it themselves.
Naming your website the name field (or anywhere in the comment)
In his video, Cutts said this:
“The sorts of things that I would start to worry about is it’s better to often leave your name so someone knows who they are dealing with, rather than ‘cheap study tutorials’ or ‘fake driver’s license’, or whatever the name of your business is. Often, that will get a chillier reception than if you show up with your name.”
He suggested to use your real name, or your alias/a nickname—something more realistic than the name of your company or blog. Some bloggers mayn’t care what you use, but the general rule is to use your real name. There is no
dofollow link on your blog comment links (usually), so all you’re doing is adding a keyword to the post on which you’re commenting. At first glance, it may only hurt the site you’re doing it on, but when you do it repeatedly over time, it comes off as spammy and is called keyword stuffing.
Spam is irrelevant and repetitive content delivered in mass—the same thing, over and over, and not necessarily relevant to discussions at hand.
Building brand awareness—in this case, it’s the name of your blog—happens not in leaving your blog name everywhere. I’m much less likely to care to comment someone’s blog if I see they’ve went and done “Jane @ Janepedia”, because
- I don’t want that crap on my blog, and
- it looks and feels too pretentious to me.
You don’t need to leave “Your Name @ Website” to build awareness. You want to know how to build genuine, non-spammy awareness through comments? How to get blog traffic because of your comments?
Here’s the secret:
- Be genuine.
That’s it! You literally JUST have to be genuine in your comment-leaving routine. Don’t do it because you see it as a primary promotion effort. Comments do not deliver immediate action, but will help build your credibility and trust over time if you continue to visit the same blogs and leave comments valuable to the blogger/discussion. Someone will see your name again and again. Once they notice you, you’re halfway there.
The primary purpose of comments is not to provide a place for readers to promote themselves, but to take part in the discussion at hand. They build community and encourage community effort. They encourage the blogger, though sometimes they also teach and/or challenge the blogger. If you’re leaving comments solely to bring traffic to your blog, you’re doing it for all the wrong reasons.
Side note: I once searched “comments Liz 6birds.net”3 because I was trying to find a specific site I’d forgotten. Search results listed many websites I’d commented on—and my comment content contained my name in the name field and URL in the URL field, and nothing else. Thus, I believe Google is still reading these links in some way or another, even if they’re
nofollow(especially since they do pay some attention to sites using
General commenting practices worth following
Feel free to add to these (or any other part of this post):
- Be genuine and respectful. I consider being respectful (of the blogger) to complement genuineness, but I’m saying it anyway. Everything after this is accessory—it relies on genuineness.
- Consider the comment policy of individual bloggers. They exist! They’re very real. Used to, we had comment rules within the comment form, but then bloggers evolved and didn’t completely need them anymore, because the lot of us understood each other.
The general rule is to leave your real name and only mention the name of your blog if it is relevant to the conversation at hand. If you have something to say that may come across as promotional, send the author of the post an email.
- Include your site name/URL cautiously. If you find difficulty breaking this habit, remind yourself it harms you and the third-party blogger. Blogging is a community effort. Instead of competing to the death, we work together—and if all we’re doing is harming each other, we’re harming the blog community and tainting the practice itself—all the while digging our own grave.
At the start of this post, I blamed bloggers themselves for creating the bad commenting practices which do not positively aid SEO or promotional efforts. I’m taking that back and putting it on commenting software providers that started the problem and made us all get creative to figure out how to let people know how to contact us—the ones that only allow a name and comment message field, included.
Companies like Blogspot (Google) and Disqus make their products work best for them and plaster their brands all over the place, but do not help build community beyond the blogs for which their software is used—not in terms of continuing discussion personally. There is inadequate reader-to-blogger needs in the software which lack a proper, noticeable field for communication. Not every comment section needs a URL field, but these two contenders do not make it easy for even blog veterans to figure out how to be like, “Oh, by the way, this is my blog!” in a non-spammy manner.
Blogspot could stop the Google+ profile BS and finally start using a comment section that isn’t so 2000-and-late. Disqus could bring more awareness to users—especially those who use the commenting software—about their profile section and the fields, and how to navigate to them from comment sections.
The only other option I know of is to try avoiding these services. Squarespace is a new trendy software service that’s been doing this up in their comments sections. If you’re a blogger who uses a commenting software that does not provide the proper noticeable fields for such commenting luxuries, send them feedback before/after you switch (if you do)—because it’s not you, it’s the platform.
Something that isn’t a platform, but created entitlement within the blogging community regarding comments, is the now-defunct software CommentLuv. It wasn’t a commenting platform, but rather a way for bloggers to plug their latest blog post. CommentLuv was trendy, then became premium, and was later abandoned. I call it entitlement, because it created the idea that leaving a comment meant you should have a right to leave your blog URL…which, again, is not the case of comments…but definitely be able to link-up your latest blog post. The latter becomes tedious when that link doesn’t work and there is no easy way to remove it, so it sits…
Image courtesy of Pexels because I have nothing better ATM.