Comments are not ads

by Shannon Paul on November 12, 2008

your-ad-here

Last weekend’s Podcamp Michigan was the first real experience I had giving a presentation about social media at an event like that, so I am very grateful to Mark Ijlal for the invitation and all the work he put into organizing Michigan’s first-ever Podcamp.

In my last post I gave a brief overview of my presentation and shared my slide deck, but some of the questions that came after my presentation were very interesting and not quite what I had anticipated.

The first question from someone in attendance was whether I thought it was a good practice to include an extra link at the bottom of a comment that leads back to the commenter’s site/blog/whatever.

My answer is no, and although I think I made it clear that I definitely don’t think this is a good practice, what I didn’t do so well is explain why I don’t think it’s a good practice. Thanks to Ken Burbary for helping to clarify this in our offline discussion.

Leaving comments on other peoples’ blogs should not simply be a way to get clicks to your site.

Other people do not write blog posts to give you a free spot to place an advertisement. Most write them to generate and/or participate in discussions – at least I do. Sometimes they have the added side benefit of arousing interest from the blogger and/or other readers, but that should never be a primary motivator for leaving a comment here or anywhere else.

I believe commenting is a great way to build relationships online. However, I want to be very clear that I mean frequent, repeated commenting as in regular participation on a variety of blogs. This is not a one shot deal to see how many clicks you can get by throwing in your two cents. If it is, you’re short-changing yourself.

Relationships take time to build and they are NOT measured in clicks. I may not always respond to comments here, but I often link back to people who comment here and I make an effort to comment on their posts. The simple fact that they participate with me here is a gentle reminder for me to check back into their work.

I also make it a point to post links on Twitter, FriendFeed and other social networks like Facebook and StumbleUpon to promote other peoples’ work. A new favorite place to post links is BusinessWeek’s Business Exchange. Mixx also seems to have a very active community as well.

I hope my participation and promotion of your content means more than a few extra clicks that you might get if you spam my blog with your advertisement-disguised-as-a-comment comment.

That said, I know there are a lot of new people trying their best to engage and I really do give everyone the benefit of the doubt (as do most people), but please know that there is a better way; it just takes time. Don’t ask me to click on your junk the first time we meet.

So, am I wrong? Is there ever a time when it’s okay to post your link at the bottom of a comment? When is this sort of thing appropriate? If not, how can we help people see that promoting others is the best way to promote ourselves?

Photo Credit: The Eggplant

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{ 43 comments }

November 12, 2008 Eric

Love the whole click on my junk thread!

November 12, 2008 Andrea Hill

Wow, look, my name is a link! If you’re interested in my comment, you can click on it.

I rarely leave an additional link within a comment, but I have done it before. That link may be to something I’ve written, or to something someone else has given. For me, that’s the litmus test. Am I adding value by leaving the link, or am I solely doing it for self-promotion?

I am still amazed by all the spam comments that are out there, since most comment links are “no-follow”, and I don’t know many people who click on the blatant spam about enhancing certain body parts.

November 12, 2008 Ari Adler

I agree with Andrea. Leaving a link in your comment depends on whether or not it adds value.

There are times when I comment and know of something relevant to the conversation that I’d like to add, but don’t want to use my time or the comment space to type it all up again. So, I just include a link and say something like, “I recently blogged about this” or “For more on this, you could check out a blog post I wrote.” That way, it’s clear that there’s more available if people are interested in digging a little deeper.

There also are times when I include links to other people’s blogs, not just my own.

I see both as adding value to the comment, not turning it into an advertisement.

November 12, 2008 Joel Libava

Hi,
I have no problem commenting and linking back to my blog or site. As long as I am not a competitor of yours. If a competitor of mine does it, I have no problem deleting it. If theu do it twice, I call them out on every network I can…
Joel Libava

November 12, 2008 Rick Liebling

Found this post via a Twitter link from Ken Burbary and it struck a cord because I have previously written a blog post of my own, postulating that blog comments are the new business card.

So, now if I post a link here to my post on this subject I’ll be doing exactly what Shannon says I shouldn’t do. But this seems like a relevant take on a related issue. So, at the risk of earning Shannon’s scorn:

http://eyecube.wordpress.com/2008/09/15/blog-comments-the-new-business-card/

November 12, 2008 shannonpaul

@Eric – I really like it, too. But, I guess that’s obvious. :)

@Andrea, Ari and @Joel – I’m not really talking about adding links to other relevant posts or background information that people might find helpful, I’m talking about putting an extra explicit link at the bottom of the post linking back to their site/content. People often do this as a means of advertising or baiting people to visit their own work/site.

I don’t think this is WRONG, but I do think it is INEFFECTIVE at fostering relationships on the social web. There’s a difference. I think people are better off letting their relationships mature organically rather than trying to nudge people into clicking on their stuff.

November 12, 2008 Brandon Chesnutt

This is a great topic. I think certain people have the perception that simply posting a comment gives them the right to treat it like a billboard for their blog/website (like Andrea said – “Hey, look at me and my opinion and the things I posted on my site!) While their comments are most likely innocent at heart, it’s like they need a link “safety net” with a direct call to action to come back to their site in order to feel like they actually contributed to the discussion.

I’ll admit: I do leave links in my comments now and then. However, I try not to link to my content. I link to others who I feel have made some great insights on a similar topic. “This is a great post. I think so-and-so had a great point of view too.”

After all, isn’t the big picture goal of the whole engagement and relationship building process to generate interesting and genuine content that pulls readers back to your site/blog without posting a giant “click here” sign?

Personally, I like being titillated by comments and drawn to the possibility of learning more about an individual’s point of view. What I don’t like are comments from people who simply link drop in an effort to push me toward their content.

off topic – I watched your presentation because I missed Podcamp. Great job :)

November 12, 2008 shannonpaul

@Rick I won’t scorn you, but I don’t know if that’s the best way to try build a positive relationship with me. Perhaps sending me an email with the link telling me why you think your post was relevant might have been a more tactful approach, but we’ll see. I might have updated my post with information linking back to you. I might have thanked you for pointing out a flaw in my logic. I might have bookmarked it, tweeted it and sent it to the best people in my own network, but we’ll never know. FYI: my email address is on the sidebar of my blog.

November 12, 2008 Rick

Shannon,

Totally fair and valid points. On some level I guess allowing comments on your site opens the dialogue. Sometimes that dialogue takes the form of a comment or a critique or applause. Sometimes it seems ok to say ‘hey I had a different take on a similar subject, check it out if you like.’ No one is obligated to click on a link in a comment, but if they are so inclined, they can.

I will say this, I agree that building a relationship over time is certainly going to produce a bigger win for all involved over time. I’ll be adding your site to my blogroll and will look to check in occasionally to add to your conversations, and promote them when I can.

November 12, 2008 shannonpaul

@Brandon You’re very kind to say that about my presentation. :) I think there are varying degrees of blatant self promotion that can occur. Like I said before, it’s not that it’s wrong, I just think there are more effective ways to build your network. I love learning more about people that way, too. I often click on comments to find out more about someone or just because I’m reminded to check in with them again.

November 12, 2008 shannonpaul

@Rick I’ll look forward to that. I get the logic behind leaving behind a link when you think the post better summarizes your position, but I just think it’s better manners to reiterate your position without dropping the link.

For example, let’s say I were a book author, and you and we were having a conversation. If the conversation led in a direction that I had already written, I wouldn’t hand you the book and advise you to look at page 63 for my answer. I would reiterate my position for the current setting.

November 12, 2008 David Benjamin

To your point, I remember when I started answering questions on LinkedIn, almost always including my companies website. When I realized that I was not answering questions for the right reason, i.e, sharing my knowledge and expertise on the given subject, I stopped adding my website.

I enjoy sharing feedback and don’t need a ‘plug’ everytime I do so. The more we help each other, the more we all are helped!

November 12, 2008 Amber Naslund

As you well know, I’m not a junk-clicker, nor do I encourage others to pimp their clickable junk. :)

On rare occasions, I’ve found link dropping in comments to be relevant. That said, it’s usually been a third party link, as in the commenter links out to something that’s not theirs to illustrate a point or to further the discussion.

If it’s linking back to your own junk, I’m with you. Give me the synopsis in the comments. If it’s too much effort to type up your point again instead of just linking to your post, it’s not a point worth making. And no matter how delicately you try to make it inclusive of the conversation at hand, it’s most often going to come off as self promotion.

Besides, karma is a bitch.

November 12, 2008 Brettspeak

Adding a link takes me way from the conversation, or the dialogue-of-text on the page in front of me.

From a stupid users point of view – me – its like being at a party, having a great chat with someone when the voyeur to my left decides he needs to cut in, to tell us how great he is, and oh yes here is my website to boot. He’s rudely interrupted.

Now, if instead he would have waltz into the conversation, asked a few questions, listened and worked on building interest or *trust* we could enter into a true dialogue and not a monologue. Adding your link, feels like a monologue.

Now there are some who feel as if their monologue is a dialogue, like on the msnbc show – Morning Joe or Hardball – where the object of conversation seems to be – who can talk louder than the other; which always strikes me as self promoting, like a link taking me out of the dialogue-of-text on the page at hand.

In the end, I guess it’s about – what’s the person’s intention plunking the link into a comment, is it for good or evil?

November 12, 2008 Sonny Gill

Absolutely right, Shannon.

The only type of promotion that you’re allowed on a comment is the website link you include on the form. Other than that, provide value to the post and the conversation going on in the comments. If there’s related commentary from your site that you want to discuss, invite the blogger to visit in a non-abrasive way, just don’t push your blog link on them.

November 12, 2008 thatdamnredhead

I’m totally with Shannon on this, but I almost commented the same thing as Ari before I read his.

I recently read a blog post that coincidentally fell in line with something I had written the week before, so at the risk of being “that guy,” I said something like, “Oddly enough, I wrote something along the same vein last week” and linked it. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, but if your sole purpose is to get traffic to your blog by leaving your junk in someone else’s trunk, you’re going to get rear-ended.

November 12, 2008 leoschmidt08

I think the reason people want to leave links in the comments is because it seems like an easy and quick fix. People are told that Google likes incoming links to their website so they just go out and try to add links wherever they can. Whether through ignorance or blatant disregard, they bypass the community aspect of the social web, which is more important.

I think it is also something tangible that people can hold on to, especially early on in a blog’s life; when there is no community surrounding that individual and their efforts.

To answer your question, I think the only possible time a link in a comment is appropriate is when it directly answers a question or issue within the article itself. And I would only think it is a good idea in only a few cases, not all the time.

The thing I love most about comments is that over time it really does establish a community that allows conversation to take place.

Thanks for the post!

November 12, 2008 Eric Brown

Hi Shannan,
Great post and I really enjoy your writing. Lots of comments going here, which is great. As opposed to attempting to establish “rules” (then that requires comment policing) links or no links in this example, I believe that at the end of the day (I say that a lot) that only the comments and or the posts that add VALUE to the audience will be acknowledged. Jabbers, be it self promoting comments or posts themselves will fall away, unread and unacknowledged into “who cares land”. Only great content in great posts and comments will be remembered, and then, with those, true connections and friends will be made.

November 13, 2008 Tina Tate

Good morning Shannon!
Very interesting subject… to attach or not to attach! I feel it is the way of today, to attach as a way of letting others know what you have in mind or have to offer. It is the reader’s choice, if they want to pursue and click the link, and as we say in our house, ‘chase bunnies’ on their own time. HUGS! :)

November 13, 2008 Brian Mills

Shannon,

I am totally with you on this one. Have I used links in comments before? Sure. When I have I make sure it is relevant to the original blog or a response to another comment. For instance if I had seen another blog similar to this one that you had not referenced, I might have created a link to it. Like you said, make sure that it adds value and you’re not just putting a link there to say “Hey come look at me, because I want to be as popular as Shannon.”

November 13, 2008 Hubert Sawyers III

I concur with Brettspeak, so much so that his response was the only one that made me click his profile link and see who he is or what he does.

If people want to play a game of numbers, then I hope they are okay with The Dip that will happen when folks realize they really aren’t that into you. I would think it would be most practical to want to garner an earnest following, not a manipulated one.

Case in point, I was going about promoting my website the wrong way. I can admit that I have lost subscribers to my feed, but I’m okay with it. I would much rather have readers that want to keep up with what we are doing than folks that just happened to come across based on a link I dropped somewhere. In the meantime, my personal blog that I never promote is doing its best numbers yet!

November 13, 2008 Scott Hepburn

Thanks for posting this, Shannon. I’m amazed at the audacity (or is it naivete?) of people who include a link to their blog in the body of their comments. It’s especially egregious when you’re doing this on a blog written by someone with whom you haven’t built rapport.

When someone tries it on my blog, I delete the link from the comment, but leave the link associated with their name.

Still want to promote your content? Build relationships. It’s fair game to send a private email to a blogger you have a rapport with to see if they’re interested in linking to your content. Just remember — you have to build the relationship FIRST, and don’t abuse the relationship.

November 13, 2008 mark

I’m going to chime in with the ‘should add value’ crowd and take a slightly contrary opinion to the mainstream.

Comments *can* build relationships, but that’s not really the point, imo. Comments build *engagement*, which can lead to relationships.

In a free and open culture, I don’t think the blog owner should be directing what types of comments are appropriate or not. You have the RIGHT to do so, of course.

But let’s put it this way–if you write a blog and you allow comments, you’re putting content out on the internet for the entire world to see and saying “tell me what you think.”

Nobody asked you to write the blog, nobody told you what you could say or what you should write about. It’s your random contribution to the world.

People can find you, read you…or not. You’re making your contribution and people can do with it what they will.

When someone comments, you can read it, disagree with, delete it….do with it what you will.

But if you have a real-world party, do you tell your guests–”this is the only thing we can talk about tonight, and this is how I expect the conversation to flow?”

Of course not.

If someone is always interrupting the conversation, passing out business cards, doing an Amway presentation or is totally inappropriate, well, that person is probably going to be asked to leave (deleted) and won’t be invited again (banned).

But that doesn’t mean that his/her contribution might not be valuable to *somebody* at the party, whether it is on-topic or not, self-promoting or not.

Same thing with spam. You don’t have to allow it if you don’t want, but I think that having some type of guideline “to allow links or not” is counter to the raison d’etre of the net in the first place–to encourage random connections.

I would have linked to my blog post on this topic…except I haven’t written one. So you get a lengthy comment reply instead. :-)

November 13, 2008 Tinu Abayomi-Paul

I have to go with the “my house, my rules” theory. While it’s true, as Mark says, that no one asked me to write the blog [post], etc. However, no one asked movie theaters to build them, yet you still can’t run in and yell fire, that’s a crime.

Just because you own a house in free and open society doesn’t mean it’s okay for any random person to come along, pull down their pants, and take a dump next to your driveway. Those of us with the restraint to spare a beating to someone taking a crap in full view of your neighbors/kids would certainly call the police.

Of course, those are extreme examples, but are easy to understand. Even with a free and open society, assuming commenters are from that same society, there’s a difference between free and open and anarchy. People who create blogs, and allow comments on their blog posts are making a conscious choice to bring organization into a place that could have been chaotic. Otherwise, why not build an OpenWiki?

Being a part of the larger blogosphere means obeying the rules of conduct in that machine — that is, if you truly intend to get anywhere. If you’re happy with mediocre results, then do the mediocre thing. If you want SUPER results, get with the program. *This* is where the freedom part comes in.

Because wanting to be a rule-breaker and fly by the seat of your pants is cool and all. Until you get to the borders where the signs ahead say “Approaching the real world.” In this democratic dialogue of the Blogopshere, we’ve decided as a collective that certain things are unwanted. That includes spam.

Having said all of that, I believe there are exceptions to the rule of leaving a link in a comment, though I’ve never used this exception myself.

If you’ve built a relationship with the community in question, and you wrote something directly relevant to that conversation, leaving a *direct* link to that, if the owner doesn’t take trackback, is fine.

Or if the blog owner asks for links, obviously that is fine too.

The question, at the end of the day is if you want to maximize your benefit within the community. If you don’t, hey, do whatever you want and consider yourself forewarned. If you do, listen to people who’ve been there and done that. Not just Shannon, but lots of people.

(PS @ Shannon – I usually don’t leave a link at all my first go-around at commenting. Because in real life, I’d greet someone before I shoved a business card in their hand. ;-D)

November 13, 2008 mark

I totally agree with the ‘my blog, my rules’ notion. As I say, you’re the owner, you’ve got the right to do whatever you want to do. It’s your house.

So absolutely, the blog owner has the right to delete any comments s/he feels is inappropriate. (and in practice, this is often necessary)

So then, I think it’s a matter of clearly stating the rules so I know how to behave in your house. Everyone has different standards, so how am I supposed to know that x person LOVES links, and y person doesn’t?

A significant value of the internet, as originally conceived, is the hyperlink. That every discussion/argument/research does not have to be restated, but can have a simple reference via a link.

So my leaving a link to my website, is the fastest way of saying “this is who I am” that provides additional support to the comment I made. If you check the website out, you get a more complete picture of the commenter that might put his/her comments into a better context.

Which mirrors the real-life experience of being able to see me, notice the types of clothes I’m wearing, my facial expressions, body language, etc. It’s additional information that adds value to the conversation.

Again, I think the real discussion centers around what is the real point of having people comment on a blog?

Is it to seek approval for something you wrote, an affirmation that people are reading, to stimulate discussion? (ie: engagement)

Is it to flush out new information on a topic? (ie: research)

Is it to establish a relationship with new people? (ie: marketing)

The original question was “is it a good practice to include an extra link at the bottom of a comment that leads back to the commenter’s site/blog/whatever”?

Rather than trying to establish some type of standard ‘net etiquette, I think the answer is “it depends on the blog.”

Clearly, Shannon prefers you don’t leave links unless she’s gotten to know you. Others would see those links as a way to GET to know you.

(and btw, Shannon–great topic for discussion. Thanks!)

November 14, 2008 Ari Herzog

Commenting to a response above, Shannon, on Nov. 12 at 3:38, you wrote, “I think people are better off letting their relationships mature organically rather than trying to nudge people into clicking on their stuff.”

Let’s step back and compare a “blog” to a micro-blog, i.e. Twitter.

If someone you follow (so their tweets appear in your stream) includes a link to X, do you click every link? Or do you click those links that are of value?

If you’re having a tweetfest debate with someone and a third person interjects with a link to what he or she thinks is a valuable site, do you necessarily click it? What if you don’t but a fourth person monitoring your tweetfest does?

I wonder how many people reading this page clicked Rick Liebling’s in-text link. Maybe you didn’t, maybe you did; but if others did and they found it useful, wouldn’t the link be useful?

To summarize, I agree with you in concept, Shannon, but at a time when many blogs are syndicated and linked and shared around the web, isn’t subliminal advertising a good thing if done right?

After all, with new blog writers and readers joining the community every day, how many people know enough to click a commenter’s name, search the person’s blog, and find the correct blog post from two years ago the commenter referred to?

November 14, 2008 Emily Williams

Hi Shannon, I’m new here and really enjoyed this post – I agree with what you and a lot of others have said. If someone’s tech savvy enough to be reading comments on a blog, they probably know they can click on your name for more info about you. It’s very tempting to throw links to your site out there, sometimes I wish I could plaster the internet with links to Needish because I really think we’re cool, but I also know that it’s not ok, and I’m annoyed when I see others doing that.

Obviously a comment to a specific piece of information that will add to the discussion – either from someone else or a post that you yourself wrote – is different from a general link to your blog. If you want to go really specific though, I prefer to send the blogger an e-mail. That way I’m giving him or her the option to include what I have to say without just hijacking the conversation.

November 14, 2008 Ari Herzog

As an aside, Shannon, would you be willing to install the “Subscribe to Comments” Wordpress plugin, so I can read subsequent comments?

You can access it at http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/subscribe-to-comments/

Thanks!

November 14, 2008 Allan Sabo

Shannon,

Found your blog post via @markcollier on twitter. You post grinds my gears… but let me shed some background for you.

I have been actively practicing & perfecting marketing on the internet – the real legit kind, since 1993. I’ve been party to over 10 dot.com startups, (one was an incubator that launched 40 ventures in 6 years).

I had much success (IPO’s etc), and you probably never heard of me – I don’t consider myself a “spammer” (or a vain media hound – whom many have never “done” anything, other than TALK!).

I am a doer, a task master, a mover, a shaker, a git-er-done go-to-man. I’ve done this as a classically trained marketer, not a tech nerd, geek dweeb.

I’ve been building online communities long before we started calling them “social networks, I’m a visionary for the potential of these tools and what they mean for business purposes.

SIDEBAR: why did my background matter – Context (I’ll get back to this in a second).

Lets be clear, I understand your post to mean adding an EXTRA link, typically like that common in email known as a “signature”. I am not reading your post to be opposed to “value-add” links that are relevant and enhance the overall dialogue.

I agree, social media as a whole is about building relationships in a “grand” sense. I also agree with some of your commentors above “my house – my rules”. I think to try to force your idea of appropriate etiquette is a waste of time. (but its within your “rights” to do so.)

Further, I agree with @RickLiebling that blog comments are the new business card, (and no, its not an AD!) Here is the basis of my opinion.

Context.

The link on my name should like to either my business or my bio (which nowadays may not always be in the same place for most of us.)

However, I see it completely appropriate to have a tactful signature at the end of my comment to offer further context about me the poster. Perhaps it’s the link to my bio, or my business, or another business.

Why?

Well, what is one of the first things you ask of someone when meeting them?

- “What do you do”

Thus, a well done signature should answer this question (and may include a gratuitous link).

I believe bloggers who like to heavily moderate against signatures are greedy motha’s. They fail to realize the entire web is built on the LINKS and CONTEXT. They want to hold a conversation captive on their little domain, they look at commenters as “beneath” them, not equals.

For the sight visual distraction a signature creates, it offer modest context about WHO is speaking without having to chase that info down (clicking on links)

SIDEBAR: You see, the web is built for 2 audiences. SE spiders and people. as much as we say build for people, the spider must also be fed. A link is the way to do it (but a user does not need to click it). If a blog has nofollow = greed. Why? They want to hoard their SE values to them selves and not share with the SE’s about info. Thus, Signatures were “needed” as they often userp the nofollow. Then, a moderator must make a hard decision, allow an awesome value added comment to post, or withold it from the convo – often a great test to see where the real heart of the blogger is.

I’ve sat biting my tongue long enough as I see people debating comment signatures, how to use twitter, etc. and I hate to see where this is going.

Thank God for choice, I ardently urge bloggers to allow signatures (with a link) and to moderate comments to delete unrrelevant comments. (and not to use nofollow)

I so wish I had more time to write about this, but I have another empire to build. (I would share it, but you’ll probably moderate / edit it out anyway) . :(

Sorry to everyone else wondering what that might be – look my name up on Twitter, you might find out that way.

Alla…. shoot, sigs for me are force of habit. ;)

@Shannon, (maybe we should have a recorded phone discussion and make it a podcast?)

November 14, 2008 mack collier

A couple of comments:

First, I’m not sure I get Allan’s point about being ‘greedy’ if a blogger doesn’t allow a link/signature. There’s a link in your name, and if I like your comment, I will probably click your name to check out your blog/site. So when you add ANOTHER link to your site at the end of the comment, then it can become irritating.

Now I think it also depends on the level of previous interactions we’ve had. If Amber or Shannon leave a comment on my blog, and add ‘BTW Mack I wrote about this same thing last week, here’s my take’ and they add a link, I’m perfectly ok with that. But if Tom, who I have never interacted with, comes and does the same thing on three straight posts of mine, the odds of them getting moderated go through the roof.

And I also think the context of the comment matters. If someone writes a 5-paragraph comment and adds a link at the end, personally I will probably be ok with it. But if the comment is, “Great post, love your site!!!” and then a link, I will likely delete it cause the commenter obviously left the comment simply to get a link to their site.

But something else, notice how more than one commenter says ‘Hey I came here after seeing a tweet on Twitter’? Social media works best as an INdirect promotional tool. The more value you contribute to the larger community, the more the larger community will put the spotlight on you. People are going to Twitter and promoting Shannon’s post because she is NOT going to other blogs linking to it in every comment.

With self-promotion in social media circles, less is ALWAYS more.

November 14, 2008 Jim Connolly

Hello Shannon,

First of all, GREAT post!

I think you can tell a great deal about a person, from how they comment on other people’s blogs.

Usually, when someone comments on my blog (with links to their own content), the comment itself is seldom worth reading. Their comment is often just an excuse to get a link.

Also, if I follow their link, I usually find that their blog’s exactly what you would expect from someone who doesn’t ‘get it.’

Thanks for a great article and making such a valuable point!!

November 14, 2008 Allan Sabo

@mackcallier

You wrote:

First, I’m not sure I get Allan’s point about being ‘greedy’ if a blogger doesn’t allow a link/signature. There’s a link in your name, and if I like your comment, I will probably click your name to check out your blog/site. So when you add ANOTHER link to your site at the end of the comment, then it can become irritating.

As I mentioned in my lengthy comment, many of us have MORE than 1 link. I tend to prefer to link my name to my bio, which is often a nofollow – this is where the “greed” comment applies.

Additionally, I then prefer to include a tactful signature, which is made up of my name, title, short byline and a link to my business. (my bio is NOT my business).

This practice of structuring a comment with a signature facilitates the following:

1) My name linked to my online bio (for me it is linkedin) If blog is no-follow, no link luv lost.

2) My signature, offers readers a “who am I” context (without having to follow a link) and for search engine spiders, associates my comment with my business web site.

Disclaimer: I advocate blogs that DO NOT use nofollow, and urge a “heavy handed” moderation policy (that allows for signatures with a link) given the comment has some meat to it and is not purely puffery lacking substance.

Tip: If you comment on someone else’s blog
a) respect the “house” rules
b) make comments that are significant
c) include a tactful signature – force the moderator to censor your contribution

More often than not, your valuable and meaningful comment will be published to add value to the overall conversation.

Allan Sabo, CEO
FastForward Marketing Braintrust
The Marketing Advisory Board Service for Small Business
http://www.ffphx.com/as

November 14, 2008 Jason Baer

I have to take Allan’s side on this.

Why do we have email sig files when we already know who the person is? To get additional info about that person. I believe the same is not only permissible in blog comments, but helps give the comment the appropriate context.

Link dropping your own blog posts or whatever is pretty sketchy unless uber-relevant to the orig post, but Allan’s sig above doesn’t offend me in the slightest, and I’d encourage it on my own blog.

Killer debate. Amazing how passionate folks are about this particular nuance of online community.

As an aside, I’m also really enjoying Comment Luv plug-in on my blog, which automatically links up the person’s OWN most recent blog post. Good stuff.

November 14, 2008 Allan Sabo

Heres a thought:

Why would my comment signature be considered as lean, sleak and well within reason within a forum but draw such glares in the blogosphere?

I’ve been at this before blogs were born (and I get-it as a person who has built large online communities).

Afterall, a blog is just a prettier forum.

My hypothesis: Forums are typically “managed” and are more a product of the community itself,
However. the blog is more a reflection of the blog owner – often bearing that individuals name. They feel some type of “ownership entitlement” and to them, their blog is not a production of a community. Thus, those annoyed by a signature such as mine lean more toward a self-serving, vain, arrogant, greedy, isolationist perspective.

Those of you who run your own blogs – remember your readers are not below you – they are your community and are often smarter than you, enlist them encourage them and reward them for their participation, (and allowing graceful signatures) its the “right” thing to do.

Allan
@mediamanx on twitter

November 16, 2008 shannonpaul

I really do wish I had time to respond to every comment here. I’m also surprised by the level of discourse here. However, I’m glad I wrote this post because I think it sparked a really great discussion — and I have everyone that participated here to thank!

@Allan and others – I regret that so many people have interpreted this post as my trying to lay down commenting “rules”. That was never my intention.

My intention was, and still is, to help people become more effective at building relationships in the social web. That’s all. I’m sharing what works for me and what I observe to be ineffective.

@Allan – the one thing you mentioned that I never considered was the evolution of the “signature” from forums. I see your point, but now that comments on blogs include an embedded link — unlike forums or email for that matter, wouldn’t it make sense to drop the signature for this setting — especially if you knew that it was being misinterpreted?

By the way, I have never edited someone else’s comment. I really do welcome all kinds of participation. I even leave the advertisements-disguised-as-comments comments. Everyone is welcome to be themselves here — and that includes me.

We are all on the same level and I appreciate everyone’s input far more than I could ever sum up in a comment.

November 16, 2008 Jim Canterucci

Great discussion here. Thanks.

We’re all looking for “rules of thumb” online. Since everyone comes from a different perspective – thank goodness, this is really difficult.

So, perhaps the best answer really is, it depends. The tie breaker can simply be based on intention. Rather than evaluate if links in comments are good or bad, or other ‘sort of’ self-promotional techniques are good or bad, maybe we should just use intention as the guide.

I don’t think Shannon is trying to say if you leave a link in comments it’s bad. But, some simplify it that much and become judgmental and “call out” which reduces the discource.

How about if we say, it seems like dropping that link in was too promotional, I’ll discount it and move on. Or, that link was really helpful to me…

Then, if more people use the, what is my intention?, test and get that self-promotional instead of value doesn’t work, the rules will likely work themselves out.

I have no other junk to click on this subject. ;)

November 17, 2008 Roger Burnett

Could the answer be generational? I don’t perceive that there is an easy way to study the demographics of all of commenters here and gather statistics to determine if there is a correlation, but I have a sneaking suspicion that there would be, and it would follow a fault line of age to some degree….just a thought. I tend to agree with Alan, but I believe there is some ground between “shameless self promoter” and “well-intended business person looking to add this new world to his/her means of doing business”. If we’re as smart as we think we are, it shouldn’t be too difficult to tell one from the other. Nonetheless, Shannon, you are building a great forum for those of us trying to understand the rules of participation so as to not come off as “that guy”….I shudder at the thought of being perceived that way, and to have it happen without even trying would be horrifying….

November 24, 2008 rosh03

I’m a little late to the party, but being the person that asked the question at podcamp, I thought I would chime in.

I first stated that of course saying “great blog” and then leaving a link is rude and spam.

But, my thought was if I was adding to the conversation with relevant content – adding a “signature” link under my name would , in my opinion, be acceptable. Especially if your blog or web site was related to the conversation. Links are what hold the web together.

I did a little test. I placed just my name in the top link only and on other posts I added the signature link under my name. The link under my name was always clicked 20 to 1, if not better. And based on analytics the link followers where interested and loyal. Why because, again, the link was relevant.

My thought, people are reading from the top down and are a little lazy. If they find what you are saying of interest they are more apt to click on the link under your name rather than go back to the top of the page.

With all that said, I know I’m often in the minority on this topic (but happily surprised by some of the comments). I do encourage this practice on my blogs.

Shannon offers some excellent points as to why not to place your link on a blog. And I think we need to distinguish between a 25,000+ subscriber news, technical or industry blog verses a more personal blog.

I have no remorse placing a link on a maga-blog. But, if I want to build relationships with fellow bloggers “advertising” might better be left to google adwords.

All the best,

Rosh

December 11, 2008 fuzzytek

I grew so tired of comments on Myspace that are ads that I have been reporting them as spam. People that visit my profiles and blogs know that I’ve always got something going on and most of the ‘conversation’ is kept on point.

Rarely do I find myself wandering through dialog. I believe long discourses don’t bring in readers so can be placed out of the way for reference. I strongly believe in the elevator pitch method of delivery. You’ve got maybe a minute or two, because people SURF the web and rarely read it.

December 19, 2008 bugsy

content, content, content. provide as much relevant (and comical) content in a comment as possible. since i don’t have any relevant content to share, or a worthwhile website, i will make an attempt at comedy. just kidding.

it’s simple. on any wordpress blogs there are 4 points of entry: name, email, website, comments. i highly advise to use each accordingly to anyone commenting. i’m not going to put my email in the name, and my name in the website, and my website in the email. THOSE are your signature on a blog’s comment system. it is unnecessary to add it again at the bottom.

If someone wants to comment on my blog and leave a link, sure, go for it. No loss to me and some gain for you. Happy to be of service.

But my belief is that this all comes down to personal branding. I would advice against someone who is going to be “that guy” who makes a plug at any given chance. The days of door-to-door salesman is a dying cause.

Professional bloggers seem to agree that blogging is about a conversation. And in conversations (or at a lecture) you don’t end a question or statement with your web URL.

December 23, 2008 Todd Smith

I agree. It is rarely appropriate to leave a link in a comment.

I do use the CommentLuv plugin on my blog, which automatically finds the commentator’s latest blog post and makes a link. I think of it as a thank you for commenting, but in the light of this post, I’m reconsidering. What do you think of CommentLuv?

July 14, 2010 Peteris Kelle

Shannon Paul, thank you very much for this great post!
I didn’t know that there is such thing as “Comment Marketing” until I read your post. Commenting is so obvious but it seems that if you can do it right then you can get what you want.

Thanks again!
Peteris Kelle

September 22, 2011 Martin

What a frankly fun writing

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