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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.
  1. Josh – Great post. Love your writing. Love your humor. This came at the perfect time for me. I was just talking about this today with my co-blogger Vic of Jane Austen Today.

    Thanks for sharing your experience with me. I am going to try this out and see what happens. I often get so wrapped up in writing and producing a blog, that I have little time to develop relationships online.

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

    And for the record, I am a Jane Austen fan and your quote brought me to this great post. Sorry to hear that she was just a quickie quote grabber for you. To date, I’ve never met a Librarian who would admit they didn’t like JA. I would love to be given the chance to change your mind.

    One cannot be always laughing at a man without now and then stumbling on something witty. P& P

    Cheers, Laurel Ann (who thinks Jane Austn is a hoot)

  2. Josh, thanks for the post. I have been one of those that read but rarely ever comment. I have been hesitant because of the fear of appearance of self-promotion.

    I had not seen it from the angle of relationship. That makes the whole commenting thing much more appealing to me. Thanks

  3. Relevant commenting is like great customer service for a blog. You know the blogger is out there, listening to your feedback and considering it- even if they disagree. I find a lot of value in commenting on blogs where I have something to say. I also appreciate it when the blogger takes the time to respond or acknowledge my comments. Commenting is definitely a great relationship builder.

  4. @ outsmarts – I agree completely. I’ve found that I build more relationships with bloggers I would like to meet or do business with.

    The biggest thing I’ve noticed with comments, like you mentioned, is the difference between insightful and pointless. It is nice to hear that your post is appreciated, but at the end of the day, that doesn’t tell me anything about the commenter. I would take 1 insightful comment over 5 “nice post” comments every time!

  5. Commenting without a doubt is the easiest, fastest and most accessible way to gain recognition for yourself and your site. Anyone can do it, it just takes the work of actually doing it.
    When I first started my site, I said I would do at least 5 comments a day, every day until i got at least 1,000 hits day. It took a few months and implementing other methods but I have to say just seeing those almost instant result gave me the drive to go on with it. Thanks Josh for your insightful post.

  6. Josh, thanks for the reminder. I used to do this faithfully, then got into reading and not commenting, just skipping to the next thing. I really think the traffic you get from comments winds up creating more personal connections since someone sought you out.

  7. Great piece, will be sure to share with others. It’s truly all about building community, so naturally more traffic will follow.
    And, I too love your scientific method here:)

  8. Well Here a bit of a rant i have on commenting.

    You have to be number 1 or your not going to see alot of traffic although dont deture that from adding a comment their is still some traffic at the end of the comment.

    You also need to add the best and most uniqe comment this way i look at it 80% of people will say nothing interesting and 20% of people will say somthing that is really intresting or will shock the reader. Who is going to get the most clicks on their links?

    Comment on High Traffic Blogs like Problogger. Commenting on blogs that are low traffic isnt worth it. Why comment on a blog that gets 1000 visitors a week your not going to get much out of it right? Just make sure you work hard to find top rankings blogs others one i like are Nicks traffic tricks.

    Dont Be Lazy. If you have to comment 100 times a day make them worth while. Remember you cant slack off by 1 comment or there will be no traffic coming from that comment.

    Last Make your comments like an essay dont comment 2 sentences like most people make your comment the one that takes a while to scroll down the page to see the next comment. If your not the first to comment then you will see traffic because there always that guys who writes a novel like me

    Keep this in mind and you will be getting more traffic


  9. I can say first hand that this strategy worked. You commented on my blog once. I would have never known your blog existed if you hadn’t. Now I visit your site frequently.

    Good Post!

  10. Comment, Comment, Commenting is a good way to increase your traffik, I just do it always.

  11. Josh, love this post. Apart from getting traffic, you make actual friends and that’s a part of blogging I love as well. If not for commenting or guest posting I would have never actually found your blog and got to know you. In fact now I read your blog almost daily and not only have subscribed to your RSS but was able to be given the opportunity to guest post. Commenting has given me the opportunity to make a lot of friends on a variety of blogs and the traffic boost was just the sugar-coating. I enjoy your blog, constantly read ProBlogger, and I’ve been able to grow my empire (as I mentioned in one of my guest posts on ProBlogger). The blogging community overall is a great community and commenting just makes it easier to interact and show that you’re a part of it all. Cheers!

  12. Great post. I would be interested in seeing some actual numbers though. If you use google analytics or a similar analytics package, you would be able to see how many people clicked through on each of your comments, and also see if (for example) most of the traffic was coming from one or two sites, or if each of the blogs drove equal amounts of traffic.

  13. I do comment quite a bit on other blogs, and I’ve noticed traffic coming from from those sites. But, only one blogger has reciprocated with a comment on my blog. The other day I recieved a thank you email from one of the blogs I commented, it surprised me, and I thought that was a wonderful gesture that I surely will adopt. I understand that if your blog recieves a substantial amount of comments it might not be possible, but for someone just starting out in the world of blogging I think it can make a difference.

  14. Solid advice Josh, particularly stating to focus on bloggers and not blogs. I’ve been guilty of focusing on blogs in the past but I’ve learned that business is about making relationships with PEOPLE, not with THINGS.

  15. Great post, Josh. Glad that I came, I saw, and I commented. Time well spent.

  16. I’d agree that commenting on other people’s blogs is a vital part of growing your own blog. It’s a way to get yourself know and build relationships with other bloggers. If someone never comments on blogs, it’s going to be very difficult for them to ask to do guest posts or referral links etc for instance.

    Plus it’s just downright fun to engage with other people!

  17. Commenting has definitely been a big part of my blog traffic strategy although I should definitely do it more. Thanks for the motivation. :)

  18. Thanks for good motivation there.I do leave a comment to show my appreciation

  19. I’m new to blogging, but I’m very interested in blogging well. Not just delivering good writing on my own blog, but enjoying the community of bloggers on the web. I can spend a lot of time reading, but I have to be engaged by the article to want to comment. I do try and comment everyday, sometimes though it feels forced and I don’t want to force my comments, so I accept it and search for more good reads…then I find something like this! I have found a lot of doo dad blogs that are just a lot of smoke, no fire. I’m looking for content, and I hope that people will find content with my work. Thanks for writing, I’ll keep reading!

  20. Thank you, Josh, for writing this. You are such a talent. That’s why I read your blog all the time! You have such a positive outlook on life – I hope it continues to rub off on me!

  21. I really enjoyed this post. I’ve found commenting on other blogs to be one of the most helpful things I can do for my fledgling blog, as well as incredibly fun. I’ve built relationships with a number of prominent bloggers and authors in my field (parenting), and had several invite me to guest post for them.

    As you say, the key is to stick with what you love. I comment on the blogs I read, that are interesting enough to keep me reading right through the comments because I want more.

    I’ve been thinking recently about how to get juicy conversations going in the comments on my own blog. I’d love to have more people talking to each other, and following up on comments. Like the proverbial town square. I’m thinking of using Disqus for comments to help nudge that along. Do you have other suggestions?

  22. Commenting on relevant blogs as a way of showing another blog’s audience how much they know how interesting they are. So this new audience will click on the link back to their blog. This is another method of driving traffic to your site and entices people to write really well thought out comments.

  23. Thanks for good motivation there.I do leave a comment to show my appreciation

  24. Thank you for this article. I am a new blogger and have often found that sincere comments lead to a return comment or visit. I find this also to be true with “following” or google friend. Thanks again for the work here.

  25. I’ve tried commenting on other blogs in the past and occassionally the owners will reply on their sites.

    For some reason though they very rarely reciprocate by commenting on my blog.

    Is that typical or do I just need to persevere and build better relationships before it becomes a two-way street?

  26. Once a repo is built the commenting process becomes two way, I think. Commenting is a sure way of gaining friends as well as some good suggestions.

  27. I was just like you in my early months of blogging, I was just a reader but after a while, I’ve learned a lot.. now I started seeing results at the same time having fun.

  28. In this single post you’ve managed to allay many of my comment-leaving fears. I’ve recently been trying this myself by commenting on other pet-related blogs (mine is a blog for pet-lovers) and I’ve definitely wondered whether the effort is worth the time.

    Many of the blogs I comment on are ones that receive a lot of comments already. Did you happen to notice any difference in increased traffic from high-comment blogs versus ones where your comment will remain at the top of the comments section?

    @Kosmo- I guess I have to try CommentLuv! :-)

  29. I read more blogs than I comment on, but I do comment when the blogger writes something that moves me, or asks a question in the blog that I want to answer. And I agree, that moment when I realize someone who isn’t related to me is reading and subscribing is very cool. Yes, commenting on other blogs does bring me referred traffic, which is great, but commenting elsewhere and comments on my own blogs also add new dimensions to my blogs. Comments give me new ideas.

    Do comments help you make friends? They can. My best ‘comment’ experience so far has been having a comment I’d made on Kairol Rosenthal’s ‘Everything Changes’ blog quoted by Tara Parker-Pope in her New York Times ‘Well’ blog on 10 Sept 09. Parker-Pope quoted Kairol’s blog, and included my comment in her discussion of how readers had reacted. Kairol emailed me, then visited my blog, and it’s been a big personal validation that what I’m writing about is meaningful to more than just me.

    One problem with commenting on others’ blogs — some blogging platforms and some sites make it very tough to comment. Typepad and Blogger can be a PITA to comment on. I’m have to have a pretty compelling reason to comment on a blog or site that requires me to register or login first. I’m already registered on NPR and DogStarDaily, so I can comment on those blogs — but in an effort to simplify some parts of my life, I’m trying not to register at new sites right now. If a commentor has to register and/or log in, type in a web ID, AND do an anti-spam image capture just to log a comment, that comment probably won’t happen. Having to do all of those things is several extra steps, it slows the flow of conversation unnecessarily and it’s just annoying. Moderate comments, have a spam filter, put up a ‘no anonymous comments’ post of your own. Enough with registering to comment on the site!

  30. I really enjoyed your blog today! The main comments I get on my photoblog are from my friends. The main intent of the blog is to update my friends on what I am doing in South Asia. I would suspect if there are people who enjoy photos of South Asia they would also enjoy the blog! Thanks for all your tips.
    Have a great day.

  31. Hey Josh – as always, good to see you around the web. When I started blogging, I subscribed to every blog that interested me. Mostly for the content, for learning about blogging, but also to leave comments as I got started – since it was one of the first ways to get oneself out there and get more readers than just my mom and dad. During the year, as I learn more and seem to have less time, I have a short list of blogs that I subscribe to – some because the content is interesting and others are authors with which I’ve built meaningful – yes, online – relationships and always take time to leave a thoughtful comment. (as you said, I don’t reject those relationships either).

    Always love hearing your thoughts – and see you over on WSL.

    – Laura

  32. My own blog attracts a few comments, for which I’m greatful! Had been wondering if there was a way of increasing interest in the site, look like I need to stop being a reader & become a commented more often :0)

    Thanks for the inspiration – I’d actually clicked away from this post (back to Twitter, where I’d spotted a link) before I realised “hey! I should leave a comment :0)

    Thanks again.

  33. I actually did my own little test several months ago. I kept track of every blog I commented on. I found a site that listed blogs with content similar to my own. I spent a couple of hours clicking the links on that list. If I found an interesting post or a blog I liked, I commented. Within 24 hours I was astounded at the amount of new followers/subscribers I had and comments left on my own blog! Over half of the blogs I’d kept track of, replied or visited. I don’t comment unless I truly have an opinion, I like the post, or the blog as a whole. I have met some truly amazing people just by leaving a comment. I know several bloggers that have gotten so “big” they don’t comment anymore. I think they’re going to be sorry for not taking a bit of time here and there and seeking out like minded blogs and commenting. OR replying to the comments left on their blog. There’s something about the “hey thanks for coming by” (I’ve acknowledged you) that can go a long way.

  34. It’s so true. Commenting is like carrying on a conversation – it’s the only way to build relationships. Sure I can walk around and look at people – but that isn’t going to help form any friendships – at least not REAL friendships. We can all admire each other but if we don’t talk, we don’t get to know each other. Commenting is talking in cyberspace.

  35. I totally agree with Josh here. There’s no negative points in commenting. Commenting can lead to debates and debates can certainly lead to fame . Even if you don’t get fame, you get to meet a lot of people. At the end of the day you are enjoying yourself.
    Isnt that the most important thing in life?

  36. Hey Josh,

    “great post, you should check out my blog!!!!” Those are the comments that drive me absolutely bonkers. I won’t even approve them, because I know that the person who sent it is just fishing for traffic.

    When leaving comments, take the time to only contribute something positive, and do it for the right reasons. Just worry about giving, giving, giving. If you get something back, that’s great. If not, you still made the blog world a better place.


  37. I am so happy I became an RSS subscriber of your blog. Your posts are always spot on about topics that I’ve been wondering about. I think the issue that I have is that I love writing posts, I love sharing them.. but the more involved process of creating and maintaining relationships with other bloggers is so time consuming – especially when your blog is something you work on after your 9-5. But this post gives good reasoning to break out the list of blogs I enjoy and make it a daily activity to interact with the content I love so much. Thanks!

  38. Thanks for this post, Josh. I read a lot of blogs on my by Blackberry with Free Range reader (recommended!!), but to leave comments I need to open the browser and then the text is awfully small. I still have not gotten acustomed to carryreading glasses always as I don’t need them for most reading,but will try to always bring them from now on.What better time to send off occassional short comments as when killing time somewhere with the BB?
    I will try to be more active this way. I am a good sharer and a good reader, but as you I have not really gotten very active in commenting.


    PS: Second time in week I’ve heard of Tourette’s syndrome, which was unknown to me before. I looked it up. Here is the wikipedia page:

  39. Just for the record, Josh…the email provided in the last post was not correct…Nobody sees it anyway, but wanted to clarify this just in case.
    As others say, a “great post” is not totally useless, especially if it comes from someone who regularily comments more extensively. It is sort of a confirmation your regular reader has seen your post..


  40. I don’t know, but for me, leaving comments has not shown an increase in others commenting on my blog. I comment, comment, comment, and I very rarely get comments back… It is so frustrating because I really take the time to leave thoughtful and engaging comments. From my experience, this strategy for building traffic has not worked for me…

  41. I didn’t mean to discount the pleasure I get out of receiving “great post” comments. Everyone likes compliments. I’m certainly no exception. All I meant was that if you make a goal to leave 10 comments a night or whatever–I haven’t had as much luck leaving 10 “good post” comments as far as a traffic builder.

  42. I might be the a-typical blogger here, but I almost enjoy commenting to others’ blogs more than I like blogging itself!

    I enjoy finding new/fledgling blogs and leaving comments to help support new bloggers. There’s nothing worse, when you’re first starting out, than having post after post publish without comments.

    I value the connection to others more than just about anything else in regards to blogging.

    Great post, Josh!

  43. I have been trying to leave comments on several blogs a week. Sometimes I get more visitors. I keep at it. Thank you for the post.

  44. I too think that comments are wonderful. The human connection is wonderful. It’s fun to make connections.

  45. I comment on your blog for only one reason: You have the most subscribers out of all the other blogs I comment on. Just kidding! Well just kidding about the only reason part. I enjoy problogger.net posts because they have substance, I will keep commenting.


  46. Kathy Andrew says: 09/20/2009 at 8:09 am

    I never comment. Do not have a blog.
    But everytime I read your newsletter I read something useful for life as well as for blogging. I am a school librarian and am deciding whether to fight all the beaurocratic gumph to get a blog started for the kids. You are so positive and so cheerful that I just might.

  47. I comment on blogs because as a blogger I know how much I appreciate the feedback people give me. Since the majority of my blog posts get fed into Facebook as notes I often have more comments there than on my actual blog.

    As far as a traffic strategy goes I tend to comment more often when I have just written a great post. This is partly due to actually feeling more sociable and partly because I know that the trail I leave will bring a steady stream of visitors long into the future.

  48. If you are just commenting for traffic don’t lose sight of the quality of conversation, people pick up on it quick. Commenting is definitely worth the time invested. I must admit that we focus on blogs with the highest Alexa ratings in each category we work in. Can be as simple as Googling for them.

    Another great post!

  49. I have actually measure the results of strategic commenting and published the results in the blog post attached to this comment. My strategy is to comment and then to share the posts on my favorite Social Networking sites after my comment is visible. I imagine if Josh had done that he would have seen an even greater increase.

    One thing I do know is he chose an excellent list of blogs to use: those who comment here. If you want to test either of these strategies yourself I highly recommend you do the same. Select the blogs from either DoFollow or CommentLuv lists (see Recently Popular post in my blog for those) or from commentators on a popular blog like this one.

    You already know those who comment here are active so they are far more likely to return the favor and comment in your blog too!

  50. I comment on a lot of blogs, sometimes it helps drive traffic sometimes it doesn’t. Even if doesn’t it is still worthwhile to read the blogs.

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