Blogging is at least as much about building your network of relationships as it is about producing great content. Of course quality content is a necessity – without it no amount of marketing will get you very far. But it’s not sufficient by itself, not when there are literally hundreds or thousands of other blogs competing for the same audience as you.
Now, one of the most common techniques for gaining exposure and building traffic is commenting on other blogs. Nothing new there – you’ve probably heard the same advice plenty of times already. But today I’d like to examine this in a little more detail, to maximise the benefits to you and your blog.
Think relationships, not traffic
When I comment on someone’s blog, I try to have in mind the goal of building a relationship with the other blogger, not merely using them to get a link. You might think that sounds very noble of me, and perhaps it is, but my reasoning is that in the long run I’m likely to benefit far more in terms of backlinks, traffic, and comments on my own blog if I spend some time getting to know the guy or gal on the other end. This is as opposed to randomly commenting here and there, but staying essentially anonymous in the process.
Think about some of the blogs you read regularly – I’ll bet you have some idea of who the blogger is behind the posts you read. As you follow a blog it’s almost inevitable that you build up a mental picture of the author, as they reveal personal tidbits here and there. Whether you like it or not, blogging is a personal medium. If you want to become the next Darren Rowse, Yaro Starak or John Chow, you need to become known.
So here’s how I do it:
- When I land on a likely-looking blog, I like to spend a bit of time reading a couple of posts, the About page etc, to get a feel for the site.
- Then I’ll leave a comment or two or three if I feel I can add something.
- With some sites I’ll leave it there, but if I feel there’s potential for taking it further, I then subscribe to the blog’s feed.
- I’ll make a point of revisiting the site a few days later, and see if there’s anything new. If so, I may leave another comment or two.
- By this stage, I should have gotten the other blogger’s attention. Chances are they will have checked out my site and left a comment or two in return. If they have, the next step might be to try and link up to one of their posts (when the right opportunity presents itself); if not, I probably won’t push it any further.
- I like to try and hook up with them via other social channels too – StumbleUpon, Delicious, MyBlogLog, etc. This really helps to cement the relationship.
- And so on. It doesn’t always work out, but when it does I’ve added another site to my network! Like any relationship it takes a bit of work to maintain, but this is how I build my blog empire (Ok, no empire yet, but you get the picture).
9 Tips for strategic commenting
- Leave only comments of the highest quality, or you might get noticed for the wrong reason!
- Be personal. Reach out to the person behind the blog. Use their name if possible.
- Be sincere. There’s an old saying that goes “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”; most of the time I think that’s good advice, but sometimes I feel the urge to hurl after reading one sycophantic comment after another, don’t you? It’s possible to politely disagree with someone too – just don’t do it to deliberately stir up a fight, and try not to alienate the recipient.
- Get yourself an avatar. More and more sites these days are using them (those little pictures next to people’s comments) – including this one, and they help to reinforce the personal aspect of networking.
- Comment within your niche. For SEO purposes, it’s best to have links coming from other sites in the same niche as yours, so concentrate your networking efforts there too. Plus you’ll probably have more in common with the other blogger.
- Target blogs you respect. Just like you probably wouldn’t hang out with someone you despise, try to link up with blogs / bloggers you can respect.
- Stick within your peer group. You have a far better chance of forging links with blogs at a similar level of authority to your own; getting noticed by an A-lister will be much more difficult because everyone’s trying to hit them up for something. Ask yourself: what’s in it for the other party? Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t try for those that are a little further along than you.
- Target other bloggers who’re actively reaching out themselves. Blog carnivals, forums and social sites are good places to look.
- Don’t hit and run. Build relationships, not just links.
That’s it in a nutshell. Do you agree or disagree with anything I’ve said? Or have I left something out? Feel free to add your 2c worth in the comments below.