Guidelines that govern appropriate behavior exist for just about everything we do, from table manners to writing thank-you notes, and guess what? Written replies, a.k.a “comments,” left for the authors of articles published in the blogosphere, are no exception. I’ve shared a few industry-standard guidelines below, but first, let’s review why commenting is a good thing.
Leaving thoughtful comments on your colleagues’ posts is a great way to:
- Collaborate with and support fellow bloggers
- Draw cross-over traffic from similar blogs
- Enhance SEO via your website’s link in the comment system [NOT in the body of your comment]
- Understand the type of posts and topics popular on sister websites
- Find partner bloggers to trade guest posts with
Blogs that publish on similar topics/subjects will draw the same type of readers you want to attract to yours, and it’s no secret that frequenting your sister sites can help your popularity. But hopefully, that’s not the only reason you’re hanging out with your friends. As Duolit’s Shannon O’Neill said in a recent post on my blog called Book Promotions That Work, a comment agenda that says Marsha! Marsha! Marsha! will turn off readers and turn away potential supporters.
You might be a blog hog if you hijack someone else’s blog and use your comment to toot your own horn, discuss your accomplishments ad infinitum without being asked, hog the thread, dominate the conversation vs. join it, or take it upon yourself to jump in and reply to every question or comment other visitors make. Here are a few general rules to help you play nice:
Duh! Pretend you’re having tea in the blog host’s parlor. Support and encourage them, defer to and thank them, and be generous to the author/host and their visitors. Millions of blogs clamor for attention, and because of intense competition, it’s hard work to draw readers to a blog. Keep that front of mind when you’re commenting. You’re on the blog host’s turf due to their hard work. It’s their show, not yours.
Don’t take over!
Do not use another blog as your visiting-expert forum UNLESS you are a guest poster or you’ve been invited or encouraged to do so. Per Deborah Ng in her post, Online Community Comment Etiquette, “avoid making every comment a testimony as to how awesome you are.” You might re-think your remarks about all the traffic your blog gets and/or the dozens of blogs you’ve started and/or worked on. You might just be a blog hog if you expound like Bing Bang Theory’s Dr. Sheldon Cooper.
Be sincere and engaged. Post comments that are useful and relevant without being arrogant or better-than. Be polite and respectful, even if you disagree with what the host and/or other commenters have to say. Per Ng, “Practice respectful disagreement, not personal attacks.” Wisecrackeritis is completely acceptable on your beloved friends’ blogs, but keep in mind it may not translate well when people don’t know you.
Stay on topic.
Bloggers always welcome comments and additional information that enhances the subject of the post. Out of respect, read the post completely before you reply, and try to stay on topic. If you or another commenter starts a thread that leads in another direction, defer to the host before adding to and/or encouraging the off-topic conversation. Let the blog’s host decide where it goes. If the off-topic thread garners interest, contact the host privately and offer to write a guest post on the subject.
Tailor your comment length to the type of post.
Obviously, when the host has invited discussion about the merits and drawbacks of a product, service or issue, you’re free to write as much as you see fit. Still, in general, try to be as succinct and concise as possible. Avoid writing your own personal blog post as a reply. Examine your motives. You might be a blog hog if your comments consistently approach 500 words and they sound suspiciously like a visiting expert’s take on what the host had to say.
It’s best to read the thread of previous comments before posting your own. That way you can be sure your reply will add value vs. repeating what has already been said (this does not apply to thanking the host!).
Don’t include links unless invited.
This guideline differs from blog to blog, but many websites prefer that commenters do not post links within a comment unless they’ve been directly invited to by the host. Why? Bloggers work hard to draw and retain readers, and links take readers away from the blog.
If you believe the info you have to offer is important, find a way to direct readers to an article without including the actual link. Adding an unsolicited link in the comment portion on someone else’s blog is often considered a form of spam, especially when presented like this: “wow, what a good post, now read mine on the subject. [LINK] (Can you say “Marsha! Marsha! Marsha!?)
Your blog, your rules. If you’re a blog host and you disagree with the no-links-position, check out the plugin commentluv – it will actually allow commenters to place a link to their last blog post in their comment.
Your comments are your brand.
Commenting on other blogs is a method of branding yourself, and our personalities come across loud and clear via the written word. Happy, intelligent, compassionate, generous, upbeat, and supportive is a great way to go. People aren’t dumb. If your Number One priority for commenting on other blogs is simply a means to attract traffic to your own, your agenda will be clear.
I know some bloggers disagree with these points – and that is, of course, perfectly fine. When visiting another blog, invest time and get a good idea what the host encourages and prefers before you break the rules.
Okay readers, it’s your turn. Do you agree or disagree? What have you seen commenters do that makes you crazy?
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