DIY SEO: Step 6 – Commenting

This is the eighth post in our DIY SEO for WordPress series.

Commenting is one of the easiest ways to drive traffic to your site. Assuming you’ve got great content waiting for your visitors when they get there, it’s also a great way to initiate conversations and build community in your target market. You can use commenting to get the attention of and build relationships with other bloggers which might turn into JV partnerships down the road. And of course, allowing comments on your own blog gives your visitors, customers and referrals a way to connect with you and give you feedback about your content, products and services.

Commenting to Get Traffic

Now that your site is all optimized and loaded with great content, one of the fastest ways you can get traffic to it is to comment at other blogs. When you comment, you’re typically asked for your name, your email address and your website URL. Guess what?! That website URL is a link back to your site! People who read your comments on other blogs (particularly if they’re good comments that add to the value of the post, not just the ‘hey – nice post’ kind of comments) will click through on that link you left behind and BAM! They’ve just become a visitor to your site!

(See why we talked about the importance of site navigation, last time? When you get a visitor to your site, you want to make it easy for them to stick around and see what else you’ve got!)

Commenting Elsewhere Creates Backlinks

Links on other sites that point to your site are called backlinks, and they are part of the algorithm Google and the other search engines use to determine your site’s popularity or ‘authority’. The more backlinks you have, and the better sites they come from, the more page rank you earn, and the higher up in the search result listings your site appears. (Backlinks are an off-page factor, meaning they’re not something you can create or adjust at your site. They’re off your site – on other sites.)

How cool is it then, that this is one off-page factor you can actually influence?! Way cool, my friend, because it also gives you something productive to do to promote your new site and get traffic to it.

We Interrupt This Broadcast for a Rant about Blogger Blogs

As you may know, Blogger (blogspot.com) is owned by Google. A few months back, Google had a brain fart of magnanimous proportions: They started requiring you to log in to your Blogger account to be able to leave a comment at a Blogger (blogspot.com) blog. That put a SCREECHING HALT to my commenting at many Blogger blogs.

I’m sorry, folks, if I’m going to take time out of my busy, busy day to come read your posts, you damn well better be asking me for my name, email address, and website URL in the process. Otherwise, I’m out. Gone. I don’t want to log in to my Blogger account and leave my comment, because then you’ll be taken to my Blogger account INSTEAD of my site when you click on the link left behind with my comment. Can we say COUNTERPRODUCTIVE to using commenting as a strategy for gaining exposure and building traffic for my site?

The same goes for LiveJournal, or anywhere else that I have to have an account for that blogging platform. Not happenin’, folks. I’ve got enough passwords to remember.

Now, Google has since seen the light and put back the option of allowing commenters to leave their name and URL, but apparently a lot of the owners of the blogs I used to comment at haven’t noticed and switched their commenting options back. Too bad, too, because I’ll bet they’ve lost a fair amount of commenting activity.

Ok, rant over.

Encourage Comments At Your Own Site

Nothing beats the sense that you’re blogging in a vacuum better than getting comments on your posts. In the beginning, you can feel like no one is reading your site and it can be downright discouraging. Yes, you can email your friends and ask them to come and leave a comment (and I encourage you to do that if your site is brand new. Exposure is exposure…) but you want to go out of your way to encourage your visitors to leave comments, too.

Plugins That Encourage Commenting

In addition to being a DoFollow blogger, I use three other plugins to encourage commenting: WP Ajax Edit Comments, CommentLuv, and Subscribe to Comments.

WP Ajax Edit Comments allows visitors to fix any typos in the comments they leave. Awhile back, I left a comment at Barbara Swafford’s blog on her post Should You Edit Your Reader’s Comments? and promptly made a typo I couldn’t fix myself. Ugh. So, I left a second comment correcting myself and letting her know about this plugin, and now she’s using it, too, and I can comment at her blog all I like without appearing to be a doofus. Love that plugin. I use it here so no one (including me!) has to leave behind typos.

Comment Luv is another comment-encouraging plugin because it goes and grabs the commenter’s last post and puts a link to it at the end of their comment. Andy Bailey has gone to town on adding features to this baby, and I highly recommend it.

Subscribe to Comments allows your visitors to subscribe to the comment thread of the post so they’ll get an email when I or anyone else responds to the comment they left. Handy, eh?

Write to Encourage Comments

Hands down the best way to encourage comments is to ask for them! Ask questions in your post. Add a poll. Be just a bit controversial. Stick your neck out. Trust me, someone will kindly come along to chop your head off, but that would be a case of mission accomplished, right? You got a comment.

Write quality content that helps people solve a problem, makes them laugh, or makes them think.

Maybe You Don’t Want Comments, After All

Depending on the type of blog you have, you may elect to take comments off your blog altogether, as Naomi did. She’s living, breathing proof that you can make a living online without comments on your blog. She’s made 6-figures with her business this year already, so who am I to argue with her? But she’s quick to acknowledge that commenting is a great traffic building strategy, but draws this distinction:

Commenting on other people?s blogs is a very good strategy for getting people to your site. Meticulously commenting on the same blogs, day after day, because it makes you feel all fuzzy inside is not the same thing.
– Naomi Dunford, IttyBiz.com

Commenting is a traffic building strategy where strategy = planned, has a point, isn’t just a way to waste the day away feeling busy.

Avoiding Comment Burnout

I have the following rules about commenting that I follow religiously:

  1. When commenting at others’ blogs, if I don’t have anything remotely useful to say, I keep quiet.
  2. Some comments left at my blog don’t require a response from me. When they do, I respond if I can also follow rule #1.
  3. When someone links to me, I go check them out. Then I follow rule #1.

One of the hazards of using commenting as a traffic building strategy is tricking yourself into thinking that you have to comment back to everyone who comments on your stuff. It’s fine to do that in the beginning when you’re calling your best friend or business coach to celebrate every comment left, but one day, hopefully, sooner than later, you’re going to find yourself drowning in comments and unable to keep up.

I have over 200 blogs in my reader, and no, I don’t comment on all of them. If I tried, I would do nothing but comment all day long. Besides, just because I CAN say something, doesn’t mean I NEED to say something. The Earth will not stop spinning on its axis if I keep quiet. People WILL live to see another day, even without my two cents thrown into the pot.

Keeping an eye out for being useful in my commenting keeps me from burning out, even when I’m on a purposeful commenting ramp-up mission to boost traffic or gain exposure. Remember – commenting is a strategy.

Unless you’re at Aunt Edna’s blog or your sister’s MySpace. Then commenting is simply commenting.

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