The other day, I posted a guest article to my blog about why small businesses need to take control over their online presence, because if they don't someone else will. It was written by Malcolm Shepperd from Gill Media, a smart guy who knows his stuff.
Shortly after the article was published, I received three comments from the same person. The first one said, "Does any mailer out there track the opens when they deploy". Not only does the sentence lack punctuation, it is irrelevant to the article. I clicked the person's name to go check out their website and I saw a press announcement about how they just launched an email marketing tool. If that wasn't enough, she posted the question twice and then left a third comment that said "Great Post. Very Informative" with a link to her website in the text of comment.
Malcolm's whole post was about protecting your online reputation from other people who might try to sully your company's reputation online. I didn't think I'd have to advise people to avoid being idiots in order to protect their own brand online.
So, I called and her and told her that link building by leaving comments is not that effective and that I'd send her an email with a link to article about why leaving comments does not usually support search engine optimization if a site uses no-follow. I asked her to stop doing it on my website. She said, "no problem". I told her I'd be happy to talk to her if she wanted to talk about proper ways to build links for her company and her clients. Yes, her company provides internet marketing services, believe it or not.
I also told her that leaving comments is a good idea. But, they shouldn't be covert attempts at promoting her own business; that they should add to the conversation with an insightful question or comment that is relevant to the article; and that she shouldn't include URLs in the body of the text. Here's good advice:
Why not worry about No Follows? Because ALL humans ignore No Follow. If you participate in a blog comment discussion and link to your site, chances are readers of that blog will follow the link ... building to your site's traffic. The more popular the blog, the more traffic you can build.
But do not place a signature link in the comment body itself except for critical circumstances. Linking to your own site in the comment body is not only spammy in nature, but can also get your name, site, email and IP flagged by 'social' blog spam software like SpamKarma, and get your comments automatically deleted from dozens of blogs which use the application.
Using blatant Anchor Text instead of a handle or name in the Name field of blog comments can have the same result, so don't do it!
The conversation reminded me of all of the comments we had on the HubSpot blog about link building, leaving comments and SEO. We got a pretty good chuckle out of that comment thread, where many of our commenters refused to believe that leaving comments on blogs that employ no follow didn't help their search rankings.
There was one very valid point that several commenters made, though, and it's best summed up by an article on Search Engine Journal:
I've always been an advocate for active blog commenting playing an important role in the online marketing mix for a massive amount of reasons, even beyond SEO.
By taking the time to comment on blogs, even one or two comments per day can lead to extremely positive results such as reputation building, expert positioning...
While SEO Consultants will debate whether No Follow links from blog comments help out with SEO or not, marketers should leave comments on other blogs as a way to generate direct traffic and to network and meet people with common interests.