Is Your Comment Relevant?

“This is a nice article. I have more to say on my blog!”

I’ve seen a lot of comments like that around the ‘Sphere lately. Naively I’ve clicked on links to see what more the commenter can contribute to the conversation. I think “Well, they have to have so much more to say and don’t want to clog up the comment area. Right?” That’s true in certain sectors of the blogosphere. For instance, on political blogs if someone were to leave a comment such as the one above they would leave have a long post in response to the one from which I’ve just come. However, in the e-marketing sector I’ve found that not to be the case.

My first run-in with the non-contributing comment was at John Chow’s blog. Believe it or not, there are parts of the blog world that have never heard of John Chow. Until recently I lived happily in one of those parts of the blogosphere. The day I found him he had written a review of a restaurant in Seattle. It was a scathing review that told of unappetizing food, mediocre service and an overpriced menu. The pictures of the food though would have you think otherwise. When I ventured into the comments area to see what others thought about this (I hoped to find something funny and to see if the author joined the conversation*). Imagine my surprise and irritation when I saw comment after comment of “Wow! That food looks delicious! You must have been in heaven!” (or variations thereof). HUH? It was quite obvious that these commenters did not read the post. I didn’t find out until later that there was a such thing as a “Do Follow” movement and that people were simply trying to get backlinks (more about that later).

I completely understand the “Do Follow” movement. The Internet, and weblogs specifically, was designed so that people could follow links to get relevant information. “Backrub” was designed to be a place where people could go to find those links. Weblogs, of course, were started as a way for people to chronicle their journey around the ‘Net. Nofollow discounts those roots, which I think is a shame. Of course, there’s a valid reason for nofollow, thanks to unscrupulous spammers, but we’ve come to a point where we shouldn’t need it anymore for comment spam. So, some folks have taken it upon themselves to say “NO MORE NOFOLLOW!”. I applaud that. They may be getting smacked by the almighty Google, but I’ve already mentioned that Google doesn’t control the web. A few brave souls continue with the movement, regardless of Google’s smackery. In my efforts to combat spam I use a plugin called “Comment Timeout“, which automatically closes my comments after a prescribed amount of time (following the last comment made). So, I don’t have to worry about spammers cluttering up my old posts with nonsense. That means, of course, that if someone happens upon an old post of mine and has the urge to comment they’re SOL. That’s too bad, but necessary. More necessary than nofollow, I think, and certainly more useful. I’m just old school enough to refuse to let comment spammers and/or Google determine what I put on my own site. I’m glad I’m not the only one.

It still annoys the hell out of me, though, to see certain commenters that are obviously just trying to get links back to their own spot. They haven’t read the post and are just copy&pasting the same old bull everyone they happen to land. I understand the importance of SEO and getting your site up in the ranks, but doing it in the comments wastes everyone’s time and a lot of space. There are people that read and participate at blogs for non-monetary reasons. I know this comes to a shock for some people, but it’s true. They like to interact with other people, to have a community, to stroke each other’s ego, whatever it is it isn’t necessarily related to money. So when those people, who could become loyal long-time readers and community participants, see these kinds of spammy comments stand they’re not likely to return. When I say “spammy”, please remember that I refer to the hit-and-run type comments that offer nothing of value to the conversation.

I think that you get more sustainable traffic and community if you participate in the conversation with comments that let the blog author know that you’ve actually read what they’ve written. Ask a question for clarification, relate a similar story, laugh, do what it takes to impart your understanding (or misunderstanding) of the written post. Don’t just drop a “Nice post” comment and run off. If that’s all you’ve got then it’s not worth the time and energy it takes to fill out the comment form. After a while other commenters become blind to the spammy comments anyway- if they return to the blog at all. Certainly those kind of comments don’t get the spammer any kind of sustainable traffic to their own site. I can’t imagine that’s how it works. Of course, I’m a little naive about things like this, sooo… Heh.

I started this post and let it sit for a couple of days. I was going to delete it because I felt that it was just too much of… well, whatever. But I’ve since changed my mind. Andy Beard has a post from a few days ago that touches a little on some of the things I’ve expressed here.

I would estimate that less than 2% of the comments I receive on a daily basis are people commenting purely for a search engine boost, and whilst I am a human so I can make a mistake, I would estimate that 90% of those comments don’t appear on the blog even if they sound vaguely on topic. Of the ones that do get on the blog, most have the link removed.

The same is true of deliberately self promotional comments of little value.

The best way to tell my readers you wrote about a subject, is to link to me with a trackback – I have seen up to 50 people leaving my site in the past following an early trackback with a good headline.[emphasis added]

I like to read Andy’s comments area (though I don’t comment) and have noticed a complete lack of spammy comments. Now I know why. Unlike some bloggers who almost seem like they don’t care what happens in their comment section (as long as the checks keep rolling in), Andy makes sure his comment area is user friendly and welcoming. I, as a visitor, really appreciate that. I don’t have to wade through nonsense to get to the conversation. That’s a valuable service to anyone who really wants to participate. Some folks could learn a lesson from that.

Someday I hope to have regular commenters here at my little blog and when that happens the comments like the ones to which I’ve referred here won’t stand a chance. Count on it.

* I won’t comment on a blog when the author doesn’t participate. Too me that’s just another example of bigger blogger snobbiness.