Thoughts on Blog Comment Etiquette

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on March 17, 2010 in Blogging
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Today I'd like to talk about blog comment etiquette -- some dos and don'ts I guess you could say when it comes to commenting on others' blogs. This issue comes to mind periodically regarding over-linking, but I never considered it worth its own post. Lately though, I've been seeing more commenters on various blogs of mine getting flagged as spam by default, so maybe it's time to visit the issue.

When I say "etiquette," I'm not talking about being sweet as pie to everyone when you comment. I couldn't care less if commenters have strong words as long as they're not entirely on the attack. By all means disagree or even fight when it's called for. But blog comment etiquette isn't just about being nice. It's about respecting the platform and what amounts to the "virtual home" of another blogger. With that in mind, here are a few dos and don'ts when it comes to commenting on blogs -- at least when commenting on mine.

  1. Keep the linking to a minimum. -- The biggest reason I see people get flagged for spam when they're trying to comment is that they're putting too many links in their comment. WordPress, for example (or maybe specifially Akismet -- I can't remember), has a default setting of any more than two links being flagged as spam. If a blogger gets a lot of spam (*raises hand*) they might not always even sort through all of it comment by comment. You might just find your comments deleted. Try to stick to linking policies that are pretty widely accepted in the blogosphere -- that includes not littering your comments with links.
  2. Don't add manual link signatures. -- Adding links to the end of your comments is not a good thing. It's spammy. In fact, it's what many spammers quite blatantly do. Blog comments already come with a built-in place for your link (if and when the blog owner chooses to allow it). It's your username. Blog comments are not designed for you to stuff your anchor text links in. They're designed for conversation. If the links are solely self-promotional, they're not appropriate for the body of the comment. Keep it to your name. If they don't add something relevant within the context of your comment, they're also inappropriate. Save your signature links for forums and email where they belong, or only include them if you know for a fact that the blog owner is okay with it. I occasionally let it slide if someone actually adds value to the discussion, but it's still somewhat annoying (and readers occasionally point it out to me too, so I'm not the only one who's bothered by it).
  3. On that note, add value! -- Don't post useless drivel like "I agree," or "great post." No one cares. You might be trying to kiss the blogger's ass for some inexplicable reason, but don't. A) You look silly when you do. B) You force people interested in the real conversation to scroll through a bunch of crap to get back to business. And C) if you really want to show appreciation for a post, the blogger would quite possibly rather that you contribute than simply flatter. That's not to say that some people don't have a constant need for validation and a constant craving for the oohs and ahhs. Plenty do -- just not this blogger.
  4. Sign comments with your real name or a very recognizable handle. -- There is rarely a good excuse to comment on a blog anonymously. If you aren't willing to take credit for your words, you should probably just keep your virtual mouth shut since you clearly don't value your point that much. Stuffing the author field with a keyword phrase? That's just asking to have comments deleted or banned as spam. If you must include your site name, do it in addition to your real name.

Clearly not everyone will agree with me here. That's fine. The important thing to remember is that it doesn't matter what you personally consider appropriate and inappropriate blog comment etiquette. What matters is how the blog owners of the blogs you comment on feel about it. Don't assume that because Blogger A loves the warm and fuzzy "Oh my god, you're so great!" crap that Blogger B is going to be okay with it. Just because one person is cool with you linking all over the place, don't take it as a license to do it everywhere you go. Get to know the bloggers you follow as well as their usual community members and get a feel for the blog comment culture of that site before jumping in with any assumptions. Just my $.02.

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. She began writing for clients in 1999 and started her first blog in 2004.

She owns 3 Beat Media - a publishing and client services company which operates All Indie Writers as well as several other websites and blogs including The Busy Author's Guide and BizAmmo. Jenn comes from a background in online PR and social media consulting, having owned a small PR firm for several years before choosing to pursue a full-time writing and publishing career.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names in the areas of children's fiction, mysteries, and horror fiction. Jenn is an active member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and currently serves as the organization's Assistant Coordinator of Promotions and Social Media.


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3 Comments

  1. Jessie Haynes March 17, 2010 Reply

    Some excellent points, Jenn. I’ve not written a comment policy for one of my blogs yet, but you’ve given me some good things to keep in mind.

    I tend to use the name field to write both Jessie Haynes / JHaynesWriter as one because I’m representing my business name. I thought to just put JHaynesWriter was a wee spammy after I saw it once. I guess I could also write Jessie Haynes, JHaynesWriter but the comma looks strange to me and maybe this why my husband is the editor and not me!

    I’ve noticed that plenty of self-promotional links have appeared on AFW and I wondered how long until a blog post came. :) Ahh, Jenn, lemme kiss your ass about how much I love you speaking your mind.

  2. Jenn Mattern March 17, 2010 Reply

    Wolf — Keep in mind that I never said not to link at all. I said to keep it to a minimum, because more than 2 links will commonly get you flagged as spam. I also specifically said “If they don’t add something relevant within the context of your comment, they’re also inappropriate,” implying if they are relevant within the context they might indeed be appropriate. So I think I have your linking concerns covered already in the post. ;)

    As for the search concerns, chances are slim to none that your comments on someone else’s blog are going to rank higher for your name than your own site or profiles you setup intentionally to rank well. Why? Because rankings depend quite largely on links. Your comments link TO your profiles or sites, meaning on a do-follow blog your comments with your own name actually give link juice to the site you’re linking to — not the other way around. In fact, using your real name in comments and linking to the site you want to rank is a good tactic for improving your own site or profile’s rankings for your name.

    Keep the audience in mind too. We’re talking about professional freelancers. Freelancing is a type of work where personal branding is often essential, not optional. Not including your full name is counterproductive (unless you sell your services under a handle people already recognize, in which case that’s basically the equivalent of a business name, and I’d argue that’s relevant enough). It’s when people shove keyword phrases in there to try to boost their rankings that they’re beyond spammy (like if I were to go around signing all comments “freelance writing” to try to rank better for the phrase — ewww).

    On this blog, I have a very specific policy on handles. I’m fine with them unless the commenter goes on the attack. If they want to insult me or bash someone else’s comment, I don’t tolerate anonymity. I don’t post anonymously, so if someone wants to get in a pissing match with me on my blog they’d better grow a set and fess up to their identity. Otherwise the comments simply won’t go live. I don’t like cowards or trolls. If they’re just adding to a conversation, like you are here, and they’re not obviously spamming some keyword phrase, then I don’t mind handles one bit.

  3. Wolf Shadow March 17, 2010 Reply

    Just throwing in my random thought on this (ultimately, it is your blog) or another way of viewing some of these policies.

    • Linking (i.e. the person replying puts a link to their article) – I think there are good reasons that people do this sometimes. Sometimes I will see a blog post that may not offer much content (e.g. 2 vague ways to advertise your services), but another person may respond with a link to their own post on their own website that lists 20 or more very well thought out ways to advertise your services. In cases like that, I am glad the other person posted. This may change over time because I notice this is happening more and more, but I view it as helpful. If you were having a conversation with a few people, and the first person had a response but someone else had a really helpful response, wouldn’t that be appropriate?

    • Manual link signatures. Thank you for saying that! There is something about the freelance writing community that goes crazy with this (along with trying to sell you everything under the sun. Want this book? This class? This cookie? Just in case, here is a link to me). I wish not only blogs but forums would prevent this. This leads me to…

    • Real name. In these highly googleable days, I would much rather have someone google my name and up pops my linkedin profile, a link to my business, and things that I wrote. I don’t want my random thoughts from blogs appearing, though. Plus (leading back to the signature), I get soooo tired of the “me, me, me, here is a link to me and my name”. So for me, I like to comment if it interesting and stay anonymous. There are a few forums, too, that I get the most benefit from reading the ones with lots of anonymous name posters. They have the same name, so I know who they are. But there is sometimes less self promotion. For me, it is just nice to step away from that sometimes. The entire world is becoming an advertisement.

    Anywho, I’m just saying there may be reasons for not having a few of these as policies.

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