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I Came, I Saw, I Commented: Was It Worth It?

Posted By Darren Rowse 19th of September 2009 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments

A Guest post by Josh Hanagarne – World’s Strongest Librarian

Two quotes:

From Jane Austen: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a blogger in possession of a good domain must be in want of some worthwhile comments.”

The second is the undisputed, best comment I ever received. It didn’t even matter that it was spam: “So so good. Your grd information blog is so wondrous and impotent. So so good.”

Of course, my first thought was, I’m not wondrous!

But seriously, it’s great to get comments. Don’t forget, though…someone out there has to do the commenting. So why do they do it?

Is it worthwhile to leave comments on other blogs?

I was a reader, but not a commenter

I’d never tried commenting as a traffic-building strategy, mainly because I’m not smart or patient enough to strategize. My brother once checkmated me in four moves during an unfortunate chess game I should have turned down.

For the record, I read a ton of blogs. It’s just rare that I comment.

But then in a recent interview someone asked me my opinion on blog commenting as a traffic builder. I froze and sputtered and dodged the question because I didn’t have an answer.

I knew that I might get this question again, so I tried an experiment to find out for myself.

The Experiment

I spent one week leaving as many comments as possible.

Now, a common question is “how do I find blogs to comment on?” First and foremost: I believe that real peace of mind comes from staying out of conversations you aren’t ready for. Meaning, if your idea of masterful penmanship is doodling with a crayon in your mouth, you might look out of place trying to jump into a conversation with a bunch of bloggers discussing calligraphy.

So where did I find blogs to comment on?

I had a perfect audience to test with. Smart, literate, blog-savvy people.

You, in other words.

After my most recent Problogger post, “I Heard Blogging Was Dead. I’m Glad I Didn’t Listen,” I spent a week commenting on as many blogs as possible.

Here was the criterion for the authors whose blogs I commented on:

  • They had a blog (duh)
  • They commented on my Problogger post with a “real” comment
  • I could actually add something to the conversation. I only commented on blogs that I could engage with
  • The blogs were in English

I left over 30 comments on other blogs that week.

The Measurable Results

Now, I can’t prove with scientific certainty that the comments led to these results. A guest post on Problogger leads to spikes across the board, so it’s possible that comments were not the primary cause. But after I left the comments, the numbers went up again, far beyond the typical spikes following a Problogger guest post.

The numbers after commenting:

  • A 100% increase on RSS subscribers (160-320)
  • Over 40 newsletter subscriptions
  • A second traffic spike due to people returning to answer my comment on their own blogs

The Intangible Results

More important has been the goodwill and relationships generated by some simple, sincere comments. I was stunned at how many of responses I got that just said “thank you for the comment on my blog.”

The most rewarding thing has been that my comments led to me meeting some great people. I possibly never would have known them otherwise.

Real Relationships

Broken record time: my favorite part of blogging is meeting people. I reject the idea that you can’t form real and meaningful relationships online. Many of the people who commented on that Problogger post are now my friends.

Like me, like you (maybe it was you), they are real people with real ideas and emotions and our ability to interact is not diminished much by the fact that we may never meet in person.

There are people on the other side of the screen. They are more than links to click on. More than blog stats to crow about. More than usernames. More than traffic and numbers.

So – Is Commenting Worthwhile?

The answer is different for each blogger. In my case, the modest boost in my modest traffic has been worth it, because every little bit helps.

As we’ve been told again and again by the master bloggers:

  • Good, substantial, conversational comments are worthwhile.
  • Self-serving, spammy, falsely flattering comments are almost always going to be a dead end.

It would not be worth my time to leave this comment thirty times on thirty blogs:

Grt post. Love your blog. Love how good it looks. This came at the perfect time for me. I was just talking about this today on ToplessJoshHanagarneTellsAllSuperHot.com

I wouldn’t blame you for deleting that comment.

Bloggers, Not Blogs

Focus on interacting with bloggers as peers and friends, not interacting with blogs for profit and links.

I now comment because it’s proven to be a great way to meet people. And I will continue commenting because for me, relationships are the best part of life. The more the merrier, online or off.

And for the record, I’m not a Jane Austen fan and will never quote her again.

Whatever you do, and whatever your reasons are–keep it fun or you won’t keep it.

Josh Hanagarne writes World’s Strongest Librarian, a blog to help you get stronger, get smarter, and live better… every day. For bonus articles, videos, and original music, please subscribe to the Stronger, Smarter, Better Newsletter. If you know someone with Tourette’s Syndrome, please let them know about the blog. They need to know that someone out there “gets it.”

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
Comments
  1. I agree with you Josh – I’ve made a ton of friends through blog comments. Sometimes it’s been on my sites and other times it’s been on theirs.

    I wouldn’t discredit an occasional email either, saying “Hey, Great Job” to the author. That kind of simple interaction can go a LONG way when your trying to break into a niche and meet new people.

  2. Broken record time for me … CommentLuv is a great way to encourage comments. CommenLuv allows the commenter to select one of their recent blog posts to link to. It’s a benefit to the commenter, and it allows me to quickly see what they write about. (I am not a paid endorser of CommentLuv, although I probably should be).

    Spam can be incredibly funny at times. One that I get repeatedly is “I do not agree. My experience shows the opposite.” (paraphrased). Once, I got this comment on a post that detailed a change in my schedule. Hmm, so the commenter’s experience showed that the sports column should not be on Tuesday? :)

    Commenting (and encouraging comments) can definitely introduce you to some interesting people. I comment on several blogs, but have formed actual friendships with a few folks.

    Wow – that’s a nice boost in RSS subscribers – I wish I could claim that sort of an increase! I do peruse the “referrer” information in my stats – this allows me to see where the traffic is coming from. A fair amount of it does come from comments on other blogs.

  3. Hello Problogger readers. I’m not sure why the second half of the post is underlined. Rest assured that it was not some post-modern performance piece that is making a statement. Or that I underlined the entire second half because every single word deserves the extra emphasis:)

  4. I never commented on any blog before, because I feel so lazy in commenting and I thought it is just a waste of time.
    But after reading your post, I will do it. :)

  5. I have left what I hope is valued as real comments on this blog a number of times, and it almost always generates some traffic to my blog. Now, since I write a Christian blog, I have to be careful only to comment on the posts that I think I can make a true input on. Still, it helps a great deal.

    There are a number of good Christian blogs that I do indeed enter into conversations on, with the author of the blog and with other readers. That system has helped a great deal, both in developing friendships and increasing traffic.

  6. Comments worth more and more for me.Few days back I started an experiment on comments and I received a lot with commenting on other blogs.In a month my blog reached on the heights.I broken the target of ranking on Alexa.You can’t imagine that my blog reached on 136000 from 1950000 in 30 days.All the result was due to commenting on other blogs.
    So commenting worth a lot but depend upon blogger to blogger.

  7. Ya, I have been commenting daily on Problogger, and has great result from commenting.

    Of course I do not just say thank you etc etc etc… Instead like what Josh stated, write something valuable and share my thoughts.

    And yes, if the blog post is relevant to any of your past post, instead of linking back to your home page, link it back to the post that has the most relevance.

    This way, you will be able to convert the readers to your follower or even subscribe to your RSS.

    I will take advise from Josh to comment on other related blogs and link it back to mine. 30 comments a week.

  8. GREAT post … !

    I firmly believe comments are the lifeblood of any post.

    I’ve personally made numerous connections inside and outside our blog via comments.

  9. I comment as much as possible, because at the end of the day, it’s my readers that I care most about. That modest boost in my traffic is a nice side effect, but real conversation is of the utmost importance. In order to stimulate comments at my blog, I decided recently to try the ‘nofollow’ free route. Currently evaluating how it’s working — so far comments are up a lot!

  10. I haven’t noticed any spikes in my traffic as a result of commenting. My traffic is slowly (linearly) increasing over time, and commenting may be changing the slope of that increase a little bit. Not sure yet, will know more in a few months. But the pros say leave good comments, so that’s what I’m doing, on faith.

  11. one of the most useful ,informative and realistic post ihave ever read , a eye opener that comments are for people and not just meant to showoff in blog. thanks for a nice post.

  12. Mod/Darren: Please delete previous comment example URL for different post. Thanks!

    I haven’t noticed any spikes in my traffic as a result of commenting. My traffic is slowly (linearly) increasing over time, and commenting may be changing the slope of that increase a little bit. Not sure yet, will know more in a few months. But the pros say leave good comments, so that’s what I’m doing, on faith.

  13. I remember the first comment on my blog from someone I didn’t know…I was so excited. Someone was reading my blog and they had something to say!

    I still don’t get very many comments, but I have grown to understand the value of commenting on others. For me, it has led to getting to know some other bloggers, and yes, I noticed when you leave a comment people often comment back at you. That is always cool, to connect with people. It reminds me why I blog in the first place.

    Another thing is email comments, I get a few of these with personal stories, and no one else sees them, but they are very special. So now once in a while if I feel led, I will email a comment to someone instead of leaving it on their blog. I don’t think it does anything for their numbers, but it is nice :)

  14. The most rewarding thing has been that my comments led to me meeting some great people. I possibly never would have known them otherwise.

    You are correct in pretty much all aspects. Since I started commenting on blogs, I have met many people who are now my “friends”. I mean, we help each other out (because we are in the same niche) and we like to talk because we are already interested in the same thing.

    So it’s easy to find a blog to comment on. You can try for back links, but in reality the real traffic will come from making your own mark and meeting/chatting other bloggers..

    PS now that this is your second guest post on PB, I guess I will go check out your blog

    :~)

  15. I regularly read blogs, and most often comment. I love people and love to communicate with them. I notice that some people comment to the world instead of the blogger. I take a much more personal tone. There is a great new blog that I read regularly, it is by a young man that is starting his college life. I love to see how much he is growing and all of his new insight to life. It is a wonderful way to encourage him. But oddly, when his parents comment on his blog they do not talk to him, they make a general editorial like comment about the subject matter he passionately speaks about.

    I don’t guess there is a right or wrong way to comment, but I take commenting much more personal, and truly enjoy all the comments my blog gets. I have met many people on line through blogs that I probably will never meet in person. It is a wonderful way to open your small world, from the comfort of sitting on your bed at home typing on your laptop.

    For me, blogging is all about the sharing of thoughts, ideas and information. I love to learn so almost any blog intrigues me. I also enjoy hearing different points of view; I like to know how people think that I don’t normally spend time with and blogs are a great way to do that.

    The only thing that turns me off in blogs and comments is when someone’s underlining purpose is to sell themselves or a book, program, etc. I don’t want to enter a bait and switch situation. It is nice to have an exchange of ideas, thoughts and feelings without having to pay a price. It is kinda like getting to go hang out at the city gate or a coffee shop and spend time with people who like to think.

    Thank you for your interesting, thoughtful insights on why people comment on blogs.

  16. I rarely comment, as I have problems with coming up with something worthwhile to add to post. I enjoy reading posts, but rarely feel inclined to comment. I’m not sure about making friends aspect, as I have a static website, so they cannot comment back. But I suppose it’s a good way to stay in touch with people or topics. I’ll try commenting more and see if I can observe any effects. Btw, congratulations, you managed to convince an avid lurker to leave a comment.

  17. As a commentator on social media and marketing, I did make commenting on blogs a part of my daily ritual when I launched my blog 9 months ago. While this seemed to generate comments on my own blog, it didn’t appear to interest many to subscribe.

    Eventually, I cut down my comments to one day a week. Now I make comments maybe once a month.

    And guess what? Both comments and subscribership have fallen even though my analytics reveal visits have risen steadily.

    I guess it depends on what is important to you. In general, I just want to get my message out. But sometimes, like today, I really am looking for feedback.

  18. Thanks for the advice. I too have avoided commenting.

  19. @Jim Gaudet: Hate to be a diva, my friend, but this is my fourth PB post. I’m still a nobody, but I’m now a four-time nobody:)

  20. I agree that leaving great comments are worthwhile but only if it adds something extra. Most people only care about getting traffic to their website through the backlink. Makes me think about how I’d feel if someone came to my site and left a spam comment. How would you feel? Great comments leave great first impressions.

  21. If the blog (or thread – whichever it may be) is good, I feel compelled to comment. This happened before I was ever a blogger of my own. Oddly enough, this is the first blog I’ve read on your site. I saw John Chow on TV somewhere and looked him up. From there, I found ShoeMoney, Bob Jones, and now you. So far, these are the 3 blogs referred to me by John Chow. I hope to read more from you.

  22. Great post. The most amusing thing to me is that comment that you loved that you mentioned at the very beginning.
    “…Your grd information blog is so wondrous and impotent.”

    Maybe they really meant to write impotent and not important? Truly snarky and ironic, but hitting a possible truth? Another way to say this: Blowing smoke dude, but beautiful smoke:)

  23. I tried a little test with your commentors. I clicked on several of there links to check out there blog. Angela Mills was the only real person to person blog that had commented. Everyone else, forgive me if I missed someone, was trying to make money and do it in a catchy way with their blog. I see nothing wrong with making money doing what you love, but most are so gimmicky. There are no points to comment on when someone is just trying to reel me in!

  24. I do not comment on others blogs very often as my first tries did not result in building any kind of relationship with bloggers. But reading your post means that I should try again, maybe find more specific blogs to comment on, I’ll think about it and thanks for letting us know :)

  25. Really interesting post. I know that I probably don’t comment quite as often as I should on all posts, but I can say I’ve developed relationships with people based on comments I make on their sites.

    The “Scary Mommy” blog (http://www.scarymommy.com) is one good example of a place I decided to comment because the blogger absolutely connects with her readers…and I can definitely see some people coming to check out my blog though the content is unrelated.

    Another great blogger is Edward Boches at Creativity Unbound (http://edwardboches.com). He’s commented on my blog a couple of times now and I’ve done the same for him.

    Though I don’t know either of these two people personally, I feel a connection because we’ve exchanged opinions and helped provide feedback to topics on each blog that were relevant to us. I enjoy the community having a blog creates, and I find comments particularly useful in shaping future content.

    You’ve inspired me…maybe I’ll give commenting more often a shot; never know what kind of response I’ll get.

    Thanks!

  26. Commenting is definitely a great way to build one’s network (especially if commentluv is enabled!). I’m astounded at how many people I’ve virtually met online due to me commenting at their blogs and them commenting at mine.

  27. Cool–I’ve never heard of anyone approaching this so scientifically. I do get visits from links left in comments, so I think there’s something to it. Not to mention the whole SEO benefit thing.

  28. I love comments. I love leaving them (I’m probably too opinionated for my own good) and I especially love getting them on my own blog.

    I don’t know what it’s like for a huge blog like Problogger, but getting comments is a huge rush for me. I definitely notice every single person that leaves a comment – and I especially notice people who leave repeat comments or who follow up and start a conversation.

    Great way to make an awesome impression on a fellow blogger.

  29. Commenting for the sake of building links, traffic, subscribers, fame or any other blogging goals that we are trying to achieve (as these goals are different for each blogger) is a waste of time and energy.

    I read a few blogs on different topics from film to TV to music to blogging (e.g. Problogger) to living well but much like you, I rarely leave a comment on many of the posts. I mostly comment on posts that prompt me to respond and the posts of my blogging friends but then that’s it. Now that twitter has become popular, I send out many of my feedback or responses that way or I just don’t comment at all.

    I have found that in my experience with commenting and blogging, the best traffic and other positive results come from leaving good comments on posts that I can relate to or at least have a strong opinion about the topic covered in the post.

    There is no reason to leave a comment unless it has some kind of substance or can be helpful to the blogger OR other commenters on a particular post.

  30. Ha, call me a dork but I didn’t know about the traffic spikes that can come from commenting.

    I love blogging because I love conversation and meeting people. On one of my favorite design sites, I just had a private email conversation with her about our passions. It was totally awesome and fulfilling.

    Don’t see people as cash cows because they are so much more than a pawn in a get wealthy plan. You’ll lose and thew will hurt.

    Thanks for the post!

  31. Josh, your posts have been very helpful to me. Keep up the guest posting!

    As far as commenting goes, some of my most devoted readers have come from times I’ve left comments on blogs. On the other side of the coin, I’ve discovered blogs based on comments left on my posts, and I follow them pretty faithfully. So…you’re right on.

  32. You know…I feel weird commenting on this post considering the topic. It’s almost like I’ve “seen the light”. Well, not really…I think I knew to some degree that commenting on posts would help to improve return to my own blog, but I sorta thought it was a coincidence. See, I have never been good at commenting regularly. I go in waves…one week 6 or 7 comments scattered about. Next week, nothing. I’ll be honest, I never really tried to track to see if there was a correlation thinking it would be minimal at best.

    It just so happens this past week, I left several comments. So I loaded up Google Analytics to see where my traffic sources were from. And sure enough…I got at least a handful from blogs that I posted on – and not all of those blogs had any relation to my blog’s topic. So I learned two things:
    1) People are reading my comments. I figure that no more than 20% (and that’s probably generous) of the people who read my comments are following my link. So More people see comments than I thought.
    2) 20/20 hindsight – I have several interests, it’s fair to assume that many people do as well. I posted on a blog about running, and got a handful of visits from that (to my photography blog). So it’s fair to say that a portion of the people who read my post saw that I ran a photography site, and followed through. Just so happens that these people have two interests in common with me. Can’t believe I never thought of that.

    So I guess I need to be more diligent about letting myself be heard. I’m opinionated, so I always have something to say…but I’ve reserved my thoughts thinking it wouldn’t matter. Guess it really does.

    Thanks for the post (and thanks for making me revisit the concept).

  33. You just made me realize that I need to get out of the closed environment of reading great blog posts from within Google Reader and take the time to comment. Thank you.

    Whenever I do comment, it usually leads to a fruitful relationship. I also don’t like bloggers who leave comments on their posts “orphaned”, with no response at all from the blogger. So the converse or reciprocal principle I adhere to is respecting and responding to comments on my blog.

  34. There’s a common thread in the blog posts I am reading today and that is relationships. Commenting on blogs is a great way to drive traffic but its value in terms of connecting you with influential people in your industry and the resulting relationships can be even more valuable.

    If time is of the essence, being highly focused on the comments you make is important. Not only should they add value, be relevant and consistent, your comments should also be focused on blogs from people you would like to meet or companies you would like to do business with; sites that get a lot of traffic/comments; as well as existing partners and customers.

  35. @Josh Hanagarne : Nice, I have to admit I don’t get to read all the posts at PB, must have been a Title I wasn’t interested in :)

  36. I too am a reader and not a commenter, but reading this has inspired me to take your challenge and comment on as many blogs as I can this week. Good advice.

  37. I have commented on a few blogs (probably 5 or less) and while I am not 100% sure how to interpret Google Analytics, it does appear that visits to my blog spike each time I leave a comment. (If only we could have technology without the technology! lol!)

  38. I just wanted to say I absolutely love the Jane Austen reference at the start of this post … and for the record, I *AM* a Jane Austen fan, and will quote her ever and anon.

    ;-)

  39. I think another thing to point out here as well was the process of testing that you did to figure this out. That’s actually one of the best things I have learned from your post on this. If you want to try a new “traffic building” strategy for your blog, do some serious testing first. Track exactly what it is you did and what specific results you get in return.

  40. So your impotency is now known by everyone. Ha!
    Building links is the big reason many people comment, I must admit.

  41. I realized this a few months ago, and have been leaving more and more comments. I also have been increasing forum interaction on a few sites I love.

    With my blog having low traffic, any comment that comes though is just great. Unless it’s spam, then it’s just annoying. But something as simple as a thank you goes a long way to keeping my blog and writing alive. Just knowing that someone took the time to read something I took the time the write about is a huge boost.

  42. spam spam spam spam…..

    Just kidding!

    I agree with the comment-traffic building strategy 100%. It all comes down to the more you contribute and expose yourself to people, the more good honest traffic you will get in return.

    We could all pay money to get traffic to our blogs, but organic traffic is best because it is done through natural means. Because you have built a name for yourself and people have come to trust you.

    Great post, I loved it!

  43. I’ve been waiting for a post like this.

    I just started commenting on other blogs. Actually, the only two blogs I comment on are ProBlogger and Copyblogging. I thought I could get a decent increase in traffic from these two sites because they have a big readership. In fact, other than tweeting my posts, this is the only marketing I do for my blog.

    But your experience is making me think that maybe its a good idea for me to do what you did. Take a week and comment to as many blogs as I can get my hands on. As you can see I don’t have writer’s block, so it wouldn’t be anything harder than clicking through to a few people’s sites, signing up and leaving a comment.

    Its not really about building links, either. Like you said the real key is getting people to want to come to your blog to see the new content daily, either because they like your writing style or whatever. That type of organic traffic or, “popularity” can be as powerful as ranking #1 in Google.

    Well, maybe not, but if you’re in a crowded niche then its the second best thing.

    Currently, the only site I update regularly is a site on internet marketing. Because I’m new, I use it to track my progress in terms of traffic, earnings, stuff I learn, etc. In fact, because of this post I’m going to do a 30 day experiment where I comment to 10 different blogs per day and track the results. And fortunately for me, I haven’t written any guest posts on ProBlogger to color the results. Thanks for the idea!

    http://www.vipinternetmarketing.com

  44. Hey Josh,

    I too read a lot of blog, but find it hard to comment on it. It also adds up to the additional work of following those comments. I actually never looked at the traffic booster. (Honestly, the true commenting on some interesting post takes more time that one thinks, or at least I take more time.)
    I may try a week experiment like yours and see its effects.

  45. Commenting on blogs has helped the traffic for my blog. I comment to be apart of the blog and leave my sincere imput. I bought Darren’s book and found that it is really helpful for bloggers who are just starting out. That is the reason why I come here to try and join the conversation. Thanks for all the useful information.

  46. Participating in the discussion on other blogs is a great way to get noticed within your niche. After all, these bloggers are the people you want to encourage to link to you articles. I can’t think of a better way to get a blogger’s attention than to leave a few great comments on his blog.

  47. Thank you for pointing out the obvious: that there is a real, living, breathing person on the other side of the screen, one who is hopefully soaking up what you write. The obvious has to be mentioned sometimes.

    I was told by a person whom I consider a great blogger and friend that a blogger should write for that ONE person – the one who is completely receptive to your blog. The person you write for can even be fictional, but I prefer to think of real human beings. This has helped my writing and my commenting…and hopefully both will improve!

  48. Josh, I think this is a great point. I have found a great deal of readers by commenting on others’ blogs. In fact, last month, I had 150 uniqe visitors come from one other food blog after I left a comment on a particular recipe. That’s a lot of new people coming from just 1 comment!
    More importantly, though, I don’t comment because I want to find new visitors; I comment only when I can add to the conversation. It irritates me to no end when I see people leaving self-seving comments such as “Great recipe – you should check out mine at . . . . ” If I see a substantive comment, I normally check out their blog.
    I also echo Kosmo’s comment and love the use of CommentLuv. In fact, Darren, I’m kind of surprised that you don’t use it on this site. It really is a great way to get people interested and involved in other readers’ blogs.

  49. While leaving and receiving comments is great, I don’t actually see it as a big traffic draw. I get most of my traffic from search engines. I comment because I feel like I have something to add to the conversation, or I simply want to connect to the writer because their words resonated with me.

    I think that the niche audience you’re reaching has more to do with it than just about anything.

  50. I was one of the bloggers who recieved a comment from you, and it’s one of my favorite comments of all time. I felt like I’d been visited by someone famous {or a 4-time nobody:-) }

    I’ve never noticed a traffic spike from comments, but I do notice that sometimes the number of comments on my blog goes up as a result of me commenting on other blogs. Isn’t that why you visited me – because I left a comment for you? See, it works!

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