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10 Ways to Hurt Your Blog’s Brand by Commenting on Other Blogs

Comments-Blog-1Ask popular bloggers for 10 ways to build traffic to a new blog and I’ll guarantee that almost all of them will mention the importance of commenting on other blogs as part of their answer.

Much has been written about commenting as a strategy to build traffic (because used correctly it is a powerful tool) – but very little has been written on the dangers of it. Over the past few months I’ve noticed some bloggers using comments in increasingly aggressive ways to build their own readership – to the point where I think they are probably doing more harm to their own brand than they are doing good.

I should say that this topic has been one I’ve been a little hesitant to write about – partly because I see some of these tactics used here at ProBlogger. This is not a post written with any particular person (or people) in mind – however I put it out there for your consideration and feedback.

Two notes before I start:

  • I’m not going to include using automated comment spamming techniques – I’m assuming that people will have the brains to work out why this can hurt your brand
  • Some of these techniques will annoy some but not others. Some of them I personally don’t like but some are observations about what I’ve seen annoy others. A lot of this is about the perception that you give off to others. Whether you see them as annoying or not is important – but more important to your brand is what others think of the techniques.

1. Excessive use of Signatures – I ran a poll back in 2005 about whether ProBlogger readers thought that I should allow the practice of leaving a signature in comments (ie a link to your blog at the comment itself in addition to the link that you get as your name). The result at that time was that 56% of readers said the practice should be allowed. As a result I decided to allow them here at ProBlogger. However at the time I also suggested that I didn’t like them as did a significant number of other readers. I still don’t like the practice personally and particularly get turned off when people leave 2-3 (or more) links under their comment (note, I’m not talking about relevant links inside your comment that add to the conversation). While this might not turn off everyone – it’s worth noting that it does get some angry – and even if this is the minority it can hurt your brand.

2. Excessive Self Linking – The practice of leaving links inside posts is not something that bothers me too much – unless it gets excessive. A well placed link back to something you’ve written (or that someone else has written) previously can really add to a conversation – particularly if what you’ve written else where is too long or detailed for the comment thread itself. What does risk annoying others is when you include lots of links to yourself in every comment you make and/or when the links are irrelevant to the topic and/or when you just leave a link without saying anything else. Keep links relevant and in moderation and you’ll find people respond to them well.

3. One or Two word Comments – Some comment leavers seem to be have a ‘quantity over quality’ mentality where they think that the more comments they leave on as many posts as possible the better they’ll be (whether for SEO or direct click visitors). Newsflash – it’s not. One insightful, intriguing and intelligent comment that is relevant and helpful to readers can achieve far more than many two word comments that ultimately mean nothing. All you’ll achieve by leaving loads of useless comments is to annoy bloggers, get yourself listed on comment spam blacklists and to potentially hurt your blog’s reputation as a spammer.

4. Not Reading Posts Before Commenting - I’m sure most of us have been guilty of this from time to time. You see a post title that you want to react to, you read the first line or two and feel strongly moved to comment. You leave the comment without reading the full post and then realize that you’ve made an idiot of yourself by saying something stupid, wrong or poorly thought through. While you might be able to repair the mistake by leaving another comment – it’s hard to get a comment removed on blogs – your words remain for years to come to highlight your opinion. Take a moment before leaving comments to make sure you understand what’s being written about – this means reading the full post first – it can also mean reading what others have written too.

5. Flaming and Personal Attack – While blogging has always been a medium where people don’t mind a little vigorous debate – it’s also got a history of flaring up into personal attack and flaming from time to time. It’s easy to do – you read something that you strongly disagree with and write a comment in the heat of the moment. Your comment is misinterpreted and read by another emotional person who responds – things escalate and suddenly things get personal. No one really wins in these exchanges – in fact more often than not both people come out of it with slightly tattered egos and reputations. Get a reputation for repeated flaming and you can really hurt your credibility.

6.’Anonymous’ Flaming – From time to time I get ‘anonymous’ comments left on this blog which get a little personal or which critique me or my actions. While I try to take these in good spirit (critique is actually an opportunity to improve) I sometimes wish that the person leaving the comment would reveal who they are – not so that I could attack back but so that we could have a good constructive interaction via email. What I do find interesting however is that many ‘anonymous’ comment leaves don’t seem to realize that when they leave a comment their IP address is also included with the comment in the back end of the blog. If you’ve written a non anonymous comment previously under your real name it is very simple to connect the two together. So your attack, jibe or personal swipe might not be so anonymous after all – and this can only hurt your reputation.

7. Always Being First To Comment - This is one of those tricky ones that doesn’t really annoy me personally and which can actually be a good tactic on some levels – but which can get a little excessive and become annoying for some. I’ve done heatmap tracking on comment sections of posts before and it is true that the earlier that you comment on a post the more chance that people will come to visit your blog. As a result – I’ve seen numerous people compete on popular blogs to be the first to leave a comment. While this can generate some traffic – the problem is that if you do it on every post and if in your rush to be first you write junky, quick and irrelevant comments you will begin to annoy both the bloggers who you are commenting on the posts of as well as their readers. Balance is the key if you want to be first – and quality comments count for a lot.

8. Dominating Comment Threads – A couple of years ago I had a blog which had a particular reader who commented multiple times on every post that I wrote. I’m not sure why they did this but while the comments were on topic, relevant and quite often helpful – they were also overwhelming in their quantity. In any given week this person would comment on my blog 50 to 100 times by responding to everything I wrote and most of the comments that other readers wrote. It got to a point where they were more active on my blog than I was and that other readers began to complain that they felt they were being drowned out. I ended up talking to the comment leaver about it and they scaled things down to a more reasonable level. Lots of comments are great – but when comment threads are dominated by any one person the feeling of community and dialogue can be lost and the person dominating the conversation can be seen in a negative light.

9. Keyword Stuffed Names - This is another one that people will have differing opinions on – but it is annoying for some and therefore could be considered as slightly risky. The reason that people leave comments under names that are not their own name but which are other ‘keywords’ are numerous. For some it is an SEO strategy (although it is worth noting that the majority of blogs these days use no-follow tags which stop Google Juice being passed on), for others it’s about communication what your blog is about, for others its about anonymity and for others it’s probably more of a branding decision. I get all of this and as a result it doesn’t worry me that much – however I do know some bloggers and blog readers who can’t stand it and who consider it to look spammy. While I don’t hold such strong views I would say that by not using your real name you could actually be hurting your own personal brand because there’s something about a real person’s name that is… well…. it’s personal. I would much rather chat to someone who has a name like James, Sara or Rahul than someone called ‘Million Dollar Get Rich Quick’ or ‘Free Debt Advice’.

10. Not adding value to the Comments – This is related to other points in this list but is worth saying. Every comment that you leave has the potential to either add value or take value from that other person’s blog. Add value to the conversations that are happening in the wider blogging community and you’ll build yourself a reputation as a wise, insightful and knowledgeable authority figure. Conversely – every comment that you leave that is obviously self serving, that illustrates that you’ve not read the post or that tears down others says something about who you are also and can give you a different kind of reputation.

OK – so there’s 10 ways that you can potentially hurt your brand by the way that you leave comments on others blogs. As I mentioned above – some of these are more black and white in my mind than others (some, like ‘being first’ or commenting a lot can start out as good but tip over into being bad if you get excessive – however all are worth considering.

You may decide to continue to do all or some of the above for good reason – but do so knowing that there is cost and potential for being misunderstood or perceived as doing something that perhaps you’re not intending to do.

Remember – everything you do or say in a public forum like another person’s blog comments have the ability to positively or negatively impact you and your blog’s brand. Not only that – the things you say and do in these spaces are permanent (at least until a person retires and deletes their blog). As a result commenting on blogs should not only be seen as an opportunity – but also as a practice that can be risky if you do it in the wrong way.

Have Your Say

Now it’s time for you to have your say. By no means am I an expert on any of this – so I’m keen to get your input:

  • What practices would you add to the above list?
  • Which would you remove from it (or modify)?
  • What advice would you give bloggers when it comes to commenting on others blogs?
  • As a blogger – do you police any of these types of things? Do you have a comment policy of any kind?

AdSense Add ‘Allowed Sites’ Feature

AdSense have added a new ‘Allowed Sites’ feature to the back end of their system for publishers to use.

You can find it by logging into your AdSense account – clicking the ‘AdSense Setup’ link and then the ‘Allowed Sites’ link.

Allowed-Sites
Publishers get the choice to allow ads on any page or only selected ones. If they choose to only allow it on certain sites AdSense say the following:

“If you put your ad code on a page not on this list, ads will still show, but impressions and clicks will not be recorded.”

What’s the feature for? There’s no official announcement or word on why it’s been introduced at this point.

From what I can tell it’s a protective measure for publishers concerned that their AdSense ad code might be used on sites that they don’t authorize that could get their account into trouble. I wasn’t sure that this was a big issue – but I guess we’ll hear more about their reason to add the feature at some point soon.

Chitika Launch Facebook Application

Chitika have developed a Facebook Application called iBought that allows facebook users to show off their latest purchases to friends on Facebook for their friends to then rate.

Probably of more interest to ProBlogger readers is the $1 per download referral program that Chitika are willing to pay you for getting your friends to download iBought. $1 isn’t a lot – but if you have a few hundred friends it could be a worthwhile earner.

The first 10,000 downloads of the application get the referral fee – so if you’re going to do it you’ll need to do it fairly quickly as it could go viral pretty quickly.

Note: This post contains affiliate links

The ProBlogger Logo Design Process

Problogger-Logo-DesignMike Rohde from MakaluMedia is the designer of ProBlogger’s newly designed logo and today has posted about the process that he went through in coming up with it – from initial sketches to final design (and everything in between).

Between Mike’s write up of the process and Ben’s on the design of ProBlogger you should get a pretty decent insight into the process that we went through.

I’d be interested to hear any more feedback on the logo (and the design) now that you’ve had a couple of weeks to sit with it.

We still have a few more tweaks to go with the design – but phase 1 is pretty much in place (we’re going to move the job board to the new design this week hopefully and will be adding a print version also). So if you have any more constructive feedback please feel free to give it in comments below.

What is Your Blog’s Mission Statement?

Today your task in the 31 Day Project is to articulate a ‘Mission Statement’ for your blog.

I won’t rehash all of my reasoning for having a Mission Statement and tips for writing one because I’ve previously written about Mission Statements as part of my previous series on Strategic Blogging (head back for a read as part of your task today).

However I will say that knowing why you’re blogging is really important because it will give you direction as well as a framework to review whether you’re being successful.

So what’s your blog’s Mission Statement? Why does your blog exist?



Feel free to share your answer in comments below.

Famous in 31 Days – An Interview with John Gerard

Famous-In-31-Days-1Over the last few days I’ve been following the quest of John Gerard who is video blogging his journey across the US at his site Famous in 31 Days.

As the name suggests, John’s goals are simple – to become famous…. in 31 days.

He’s traveling across America and aims to end his journey by being featured on Jay Leno’s show. Only problem is that Jay’s never heard of him and neither had too many others before he started his journey.

Having said that – John managed to get himself some media attention in the days leading up to the start of his journey and at least in his home town got a little of the fame he’s after – but now he’s in New York and the real challenge starts.

Why am I interested in John’s journey?

To be honest, at first I arrived at his site and left again in a few seconds. But about half an hour later I realized that while John’s methods are different – that his goal is actually pretty similar to that of many bloggers that I bump into – fame (or at least getting noticed in the clutter of this crazy space we interact in).

So I went back to his site for a second look and began to watch some of his videos. Of course I then became hooked. He’s pretty funny and the reactions that he gets out of people are too.

He also had videos that kind of resonated with me called ‘Oprah Moments’. In the first one he talks about the feeling he has when someone offers to help him by giving him a free meal and in the second one he talks about being an anonymous face trying to get noticed in New York (the feelings I suspect will be familiar to many bloggers).

What John’s doing fascinates me on numerous levels. I think his journey is one that will be entertaining, enlightening and worth watching – whether he becomes famous or not (he’s making a film about the process which I’d love to see someday).

So I decided to shoot John an email and ask him if he could do a quick interview (and hopefully to help him spread the word a little). John kindly agreed and here it is:

Interview with John Gerard:

Can you briefly tell us what you’re doing and why you’re doing it with the Famous in 31 Days project that you’re doing?

I’m conducting an unusual social experiment. I’m trying to see if it’s possible for a person to become famous in 31 days, for really doing very little. I’m doing this for several reasons:

1) If it is possible, I think it’s a fascinating social commentary.
2) I was unfulfilled at work and I asked myself ‘If I could do anything, what would I do?’ And this was it.
3) I’m really intrigued by fame. What it is. Why people crave it. And what it would feel like to experience it.
4) To unsuccessfully try and fill the giant gaping hole inside of me through mass approval.

How’s it going so far?
That depends on the moment you ask me. (I occasionally experience mood swings ;) I think it’s going pretty well. I need more exposure though. People seem to enjoy the story once they hear it. It’s just trying to share it with as many people as possible.

How are you using the Web to assist you in your goals?
My website is key! www.famousin31days.com. Everything drives to the site. Promotional T-shirts, Businesscards, Car Advertising… All of it drives to the site. The internet is a critical component in achieving success today. It is a must have. Also, blog sites like this one… And content sites like Dailymotion.com, Youtube, Myspace… etc.

What are you learning about the web and how to use it? I’m learning how valuable it is… And how there really is a special knack to utilizing it well.

A lot of ProBlogger’s readers would like the publicity that you’re starting to get for their blogs – how are you getting it?
You have to do something unique and creative that will capture people’s imaginations. If it’s ordinary, you can’t stand out.

I noticed in one of your videos that you were having some strange feelings about people offering to give you things – how’s that going for you now?
I made a conscious decision to gratefully embrace every gift that someone offers. I met a really nice New York couple at The State Fair. They didn’t look rich, but the man opened his wallet and gave me his last nine dollars. I was overcome with his generosity. It’s still hard to accept and I’m trying to work through it.

Have you thought about using a blog with comments on your website to help you tell the story during the 31 days?
I’m so busy driving, producing videos, and trying to do media relations that I don’t have time to blog. I’m trying to vlog though, whenever an emotional moment presents itself.

Why did you go with the style of website that you’re using?
My kickass web designer, LeFrenchie.com designed it for me. I’ve definitely had a lot of input as to what feeling and flavor I want to create, and he’s made it happen. Not without a few speedbumps along the way though.

What have you learned so far in your journey?
That I need to overcome fear almost every step of the way and learn to trust deeply in the process of life. Often easier said than done!

Follow John’s Journey at Famous in 31 Days

72 More Blog Tips from the Blogging Community

Building-A-Better-Blog-2It’s time for another set of Blog Tips from you the ProBlogger Reader Community. Today there’s 72 great tips (bringing us to a total of 528… yes you’ve submitted over 500 blog tips with still a few days to go!

To be included in the last batch you need to get your tips in by the end of the month by following the steps outlined in the introduction to the 31 Day Project (please follow the rules carefully).

Here’s the latest batch of reader blog tips. Enjoy!

Bloglines Release New Beta Version

Today Bloglines have launched a new beta version of their feed reader for users to test.

It’s a fair departure from the classic view that many of us have become accustomed to with a lot of ajax driven features, a new start page (allowing you to drag and drop in your favorite few feeds to follow – pictured below), new views (including ‘quick view, three pane view and full view) as well as drag and drop feed management.

I’ve been playing around with it this afternoon and have found it to be quite slow but feature wise a step in the right direction for Bloglines. They say that there will be numerous other features released into the future – but even the improvements that they’ve made so far are pretty good.

Here’s the start page:

Bloglines-Startpage-1

While what I’ve seen so far isn’t enough to get me switching back from Google Reader I’m really happy to see the improvements and hope that this will give Google a little nudge along in their own Reader development.

Do You Use American English, British English or do you Swing like the Canadians?

Spelling-AmericanHere’s a question that I get asked a lot – particularly by non US bloggers who find themselves writing primarily for US audiences:

“I am English so of course spell words such as ‘colour’ the English way. However, I also know that my largest audience is likely to come from America.

My question is this – would I be better off using English or American spelling on my site? My first instinct is to ‘be myself’ and use English spelling, but I was wondering if I would be better off from an SEO and audience point of view using American spelling.” Submitted by Pete

This is a problem that I face constantly in my own blogging. I find that no matter which I go with I tend to get ‘corrected’ by readers. If I use the Australian spelling I find US readers tell me that I’m wrong, but if I use the US spelling I get picked up by Aussies, the English and readers from other countries.

Colour is just one example:

In Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the UK it’s spelt ‘colour’. In the US it’s color and in Canada it’s both (they tend to swing quite a bit over there).

Another common one that I get picked up on are any words with ‘ise’ or ‘ize’ at the end. Recognise or Recognize? Analyse or Analyze?

Center or Centre, Gray or Grey, Catalogue or Catalog, Defence or Defense, Aluminum or Aluminium? The list goes on….

And of course the most confusing one:

  • it’s fulfil in ‘English’ and fulfill in ‘American’
  • but – fulfilling in ‘English’ and fulfiling in ‘American’
  • and to further confuse it – it’s fulfilment in ‘English’ and fulfillment in ‘American’

My spell checker doesn’t know what to do with this post!

What spelling do I use?

To be perfectly honest I don’t have a policy on it. If anything I probably take the Canadian route and swing back and forth (after-all I’m a cofounder of a Canadian company and pay income tax over there – so I figure I’m entitled to).

What spelling do you use?

I’d be interested to hear how different bloggers approach this and want to open it up as a reader question. Which spelling do you use? The spelling of your own country, your readers or some combination of both?