Imagine you’re at a cocktail party, and you spot someone you’d love to talk to. This person is a future collaborator, client, employer, mentor or friend. You want to leave a good impression on them.
So what’s your next move? Do you:
A) Walk up to them, throw your business card in their face, and walk away?
B) Walk up to them, say, “Hi, you’re an interesting person,” throw your business card in their face, and walk away?
C) Wait for them to look away before slipping your business card into their pants pocket or purse?
D) Pick the right moment to approach them, politely introduce yourself, and participate meaningfully and respectfully in any public discussion they’re currently having?
If you chose ‘D,’ congratulations. But now think about your interactions with people online. Do you behave with similar courtesy and thoughtfulness?
One way people promote their website or blog is by leaving comments on other people’s blogs. When done well, this can be an effective way to connect with other people who may be interested in you and in your work. When done poorly, the commenter looks like a spambot, impersonal and interested purely in self-promotion.
You don’t want to look like a spambot, writing irrelevant comments accompanied by a link back to your site. Your comment will usually get deleted or ignored; it may get stuck in the spam filter, along with comments promoting testosterone supplements in Chinese, and remain beyond the notice of the people you’re trying to reach. You’ll also make a bad impression. People won’t have any desire to follow the links you leave.
When you comment on blogs, how can you attract positive attention and avoid looking spammy?
- Don’t forget that you’re a person communicating with other people. Sound like a human being. Talk to the blogger as if he or she is a human being. Blog comments are meant to be part of a dialogue between you, the blogger, and other commenters. Make some kind of meaningful contribution. Pretend you’re at a party or another social gathering; and in a way, you are, only it’s online. If the connection with a particular individual is worth it to you, visit their blog more than once and participate in the comments community. Sometimes that’s the only way to prove that you’re a real person (as opposed to a drive-by spammer) and get the blogger and other commenters to check out your own site.
- Don’t just drop a link. First off, some bloggers explicitly ask that commenters not leave self-promoting links in their comments. Other times, it just doesn’t feel right. You could always link back to your site or to your online profile through your username/handle (comment systems typically let you do this). If you’re determined to drop a link in the comment itself, make it a part of the text using the proper HTML formatting (if you don’t know how to format links in HTML, here is a quick tutorial). Linking to product pages will usually come across as too spammy; you could instead link to the landing site of your blog or webpage, or maybe to some specific post or article you’ve written that’s related to the blog post you’re currently commenting on.
- Show that you’ve read the blog post. You may think you’re paying bloggers a compliment when you reply to their post with “Nice post!” or “Cool info!” (after which you drop a link to your site and vanish…) but such comments don’t generate interest. Why would anyone follow a link back to your blog if you sound boring, generic, and uninvolved? Again, pretend you’re talking to someone in-person. Share useful advice, relevant information or an amusing anecdote. If you agree with the gist of the blog post, explain why; add your own points to the discussion. If you feel like taking a bit of a risk, you could even disagree with the blogger, though always do so courteously and thoughtfully.
When you comment on blogs, at minimum be human and relevant. Make a good impression (always doublecheck the spelling and grammar in your post). Take an interest in the people you’re interacting with. You’ll be much more likely to attract interest in your own website than if you drop a link and disappear.