Blog comments: quick link building win or spam-tastic black hat method you wouldn’t touch with a barge pole?
I wanted to find out what the general consensus was on this controversial topic within the SEO world, so I set out on something of a fact-finding mission to attempt to answer one question: does blog commenting work, and if so, can it be done in a white hat way? (Ok, I guess that’s two questions then.)
Let’s clarify what we mean by ‘blog commenting’
We’ve probably all left comments on blog posts we’ve enjoyed or where we’ve felt we had something to contribute. What we’re talking about here is the use of blog commenting purely for the purposes of gaining links – i.e. you wouldn’t have left a comment if you hadn’t been trying to build a link. That might mean an anonymous blog comment with an anchor text link in true old-school black hat style, or it could mean the more socially acceptable form of an actual contribution to a post but including a link back in the author profile, with your name as the anchor text. Or it could mean a comment linking to a resource on your site because it’s relevant to the post in question. Either way, the motivation behind the blog commenting I’m talking about is self-serving, making it ethically questionable in the eyes of many.
Are people still using blog comments in this day and age?
I ran a quick poll to gain a rough idea of what proportion of the SEO community actually use blog commenting as a link building tactic. Here are the results, based on 52 votes:
So, based on this sample size, that’s 65% of SEOs saying yes to some form of blog commenting being used for link building. Encouragingly, it looks as though most are doing so using their real identity, but that’s still 35% who don’t ‘do’ blog commenting (or at least, won’t own to it).
So does blog commenting actually help your rankings?
One could argue that if it didn’t work, people wouldn’t still be building links using this method. But then, plenty of people still use the obsolete meta keywords tag. Does blog commenting still work, or are the 65% who said they do it wasting their time?
The anecdotal evidence certainly supports the argument in favour of blog commenting for link building. One particularly enthusiastic commenter on the poll said:
“I, and many other people, have ranked pages using nothing but blog comment links.
There’s no opinion in if it works or not – the answer is yes. How *well* it works vs. other tactics, what types of terms it can work for, and if it’s worth the effort of doing manually are other questions entirely.
But, as a sweeping statement – anyone who claims it doesn’t work either… did it wrong, never tried for themselves, or didn’t do enough of it.” – Ian Howells
I also asked SEOptimise’s very own link building genius Marcus Taylor for his opinion, and he said:
“Blog commenting is something I’ve experimented with considerably over the years and have ranked sites competitively using just blog commenting as a strategy, so I can confidently say that it does work, although it’s certainly not the most effective link building strategy.”
Overcoming the obstacles
What are the main obstacles to blog commenting? Do the obstacles mean that it’s ultimately an ineffective link building method? Let’s take a look:
- Perhaps the main obstacle to blog commenting for link building is that many of the comments you make may be filtered out, either automatically by spam software such as Akismet, or manually by whoever approves the comments.
- You have to spend time finding blogs to comment on. If you’re putting any thought into blog commenting, you may be finding blogs which are relevant to your industry – thus providing links from relevant pages.
- You have to take the time to make an actual contribution if you want your comment to be approved. That really means actually reading the post, which can be time consuming.
So is it still worth it? Some surmise that blog comment links, even followed ones, may carry less weight with Google than regular links. However, as Rand Fishkin points out in this useful post on blog commenting, if you leave a helpful enough comment, the author of the post might even edit the original post to include your link in the post itself – and that’s a lot better than relying on comment-based links! The bottom line: a helpful response that suggests your link as an additional resource is likely to result in sufficient success to justify the extra time it takes to leave a worthwhile comment.
Blog commenting isn’t just about rankings
Those who scream “black hat” at the practice of blog commenting are perhaps forgetting that there are benefits other than rankings. For example, it’s certainly helpful in blogger outreach – if you’ve contributed useful points to someone’s blog posts in the past and they recognise your name as someone who knows what they’re talking about, you’re much more likely to be able to guest post for them. It’s also a reasonably effective way of engaging with relevant communities – i.e. your target market.
This is what my Twitter followers had to say about blog commenting…
“Not sure I use it for link building per se, but I do leave them for the engagement side. I encourage clients to engage in communities in that way – would I do it on their behalf? Not unless I really knew what I was saying inside out, as saying the wrong things is more damaging for the brand than any link gain may give.” – Peter Handley
“Although I don’t use commenting for link building directly, I do sometimes use it as an early stage of building a relationship with a blogger or particular author as part of outreach projects.” – Paul Rogers
Marcus Taylor added, “I think the greater benefit of commenting is to build relationships with the bloggers themselves. In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with blog commenting, providing you don’t do the whole spammy anchor text name thing and you do add value to the post. Steer clear of overdoing it or doing it on spammy/irrelevant sites solely for the links and you’ll be fine.”
So from what I’ve seen, the consensus seems to be: there’s still a place for blog commenting – but not the spammy black hat kind. Blog comments can build you valuable links both directly and indirectly, but maximum benefit comes from genuine engagement – communicate what you’re interested in and knowledgeable about, and the time it takes will more than repay itself.
Image by Kristina B on Flickr.