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Comment Spam or Branding?

February 14, 2006

There are a few ways to get your blog “discovered.” A common strategy is to find the blogs that you like that discuss topics in which you’re interested, leave comments, hope people click on your name and visit your site, like what they see – ultimately resulting in them linking to, and commenting on, your site. This is not rocket science.

As blogs gain popularity the way blogs are used is changing. In particular, strategic blog comments are changing. Now we see commenters that are:

  1. using their URL with their name (Comment by: David Hasselhoff – baywatchdude.com)
  2. using a key phrase with, or in place of, their name (Comment by: David Hasselhoff – swimwear consulting and strategy)
  3. using what amounts to a “signature” file at the end of their comments like they would sign an email (All the best, David Hasselhoff, www.baywatchdude.com, Swimwear consulting and strategy)

When I see these techniques, I’m actually less inclined to click on the link because it seems backwards to me – it’s as though their sole purpose for writing the comment was to get noticed rather than to contribute something of value to the discussion and getting noticed as a result.

Is it because we’re seeing more “marketers” as bloggers, than bloggers who also market? Is it an attempt at “branding” and taking a more active approach than just hoping people are going to click on your name? Is it just the evolution of the format? Am I just imagining this?

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29 Responses

Comment by Amit Karmakar — Feb 14 2006 @ 1:02 am

Stealing google juice, and then right back to increasing SEV and then getting better results and ranking and so the story goes… while I agree to what you say here there is a whole plethora of people who think comment spamming is the only way to reply blogs or they see that as being the most fit way of going about responding on the blogosphere, or maybe they dont know better… so I suppose there is 2 sides to the story! The other way of going about would be to administer every comment that got posted but that is so not web 2.0! Besides, time is a rare commodity for most these days! No easy solution to this one!! Or is there one?

Comment by Adam Bouskila — Feb 14 2006 @ 1:41 am

I totally agree, Derek. I’ve noticed this myself but I did not form it into a solid thought.

I think it’s more bloggers who try to market themselves. Why are we less inclined to click their name? I’m not sure. Perhaps, it’s because we think they’re being pushy about their branding. Branding techniques need to be transparent. Also, writing a comment that contributes to a discussion naturally makes us interested and we click through. Sometimes it’s omitting something that benefits us.

Comment by Jeff Croft - jeffcroft.com — Feb 14 2006 @ 2:01 am

I totally agree, Derek. It’s one thing to provide meaningful contribution to a discussion and hope you might get clicked on, but it’s quite another to spam a site with a simple “I agree” message.

Yeah, I completely agree.

Jeff Croft
jeffcroft.com
Web and Graphic Designer

(sorry, I couldn’t resist)

Comment by Derek Featherstone — Feb 14 2006 @ 2:09 am

@Jeff Croft – jeffcroft.com:

I knew I was opening the door here, but I figured it would take longer than three comments. Still, somehow I knew it would be you… :)

Comment by Sébastien — Feb 14 2006 @ 2:16 am

Yeah but then why even leave commenters the opportunity to leave their URL? I must admit I have sometimes left my URL in the (ridiculous) hope that people would discover my site.

But there’s a difference between a scammer and a regular geeky blogger. The former is out to make money. And they will probably have a more elaborate strategy than just trying to get noticed in comments.

Where it becomes annoying is when you get the feeling that someone is trying to make money off you, especially if it is with questionable methods, because they’re abusing your good reputation.

BTW do you have exemples of such comments on your or others blogs? That would be fun.

Comment by Phil Ringnalda — Feb 14 2006 @ 2:19 am

I *always* click the link when I see those.

Oh, wait, you’re not talking about the “mark spam” link, are you?

Maybe it’s just the circles I travel in, but I can’t imagine leaving one of those. The one exception I make is that I allow big businessy signatures stand when it’s someone from the business that my post is insulting. Other than that? I wouldn’t think twice, or even notice that there was any bread between the slices of spam, mostly, just delete them unread.

Comment by Jules — Feb 14 2006 @ 11:34 am

I was thinking something along the same lines after the Four Things meme passed by: might this be a strategy of increasing a person’s SEV? Why are these started? Because the links within them are exempt from the rel="nofollow" attribute/value normally applied to links in the comments, Four Things and other memes could very well increase the SEV of participant’s Web sites and blogs.

Comment by Kevin from Canada — Feb 14 2006 @ 1:47 pm

As someone relatively new to this whole blogging thing, is search engine ranking really that important? The way I find out about interesting blogs is via links on the regular blogs I visit (those added by the blogger himself) or from particularly insightful comments posted by other visitors to those sites. Perhaps my circle of interest is small compared to others who read blogs, and therefore I am an anomaly (wouldn’t surprise me!) However, I am no more inclined to follow a link in a comment that adds little to the topic of discussion than I am clicking on obnoxious banner ads or even paid ads that search engines serve up.

BTW Derek, baywatchdude.com is available for registration…

Comment by Sonja Duijvesteijn — Feb 14 2006 @ 4:13 pm

Yes it is.

If I look at the stats for my blog (which is only 2 months old), it shows that 40 of the unique 160 visitors for this month came through a search engine. As I don’t have a loyal fanbase (yet) that refers everyone to my blog I should eventually get most of my visitors from search engines. I mean, there’ll be only like 20 regular readers from my own social network, and to make it worth my time it’d be nice if at least 500 people visit my blog (and after that, 1000, then 2000, then 5000, then 1.000.000) (;

If you blog about your personal life, so more like a journal, search engines are hardly important to you, as what you write, is mostly only interesting to the people in your surrounding. However when writing about something more general like ‘the web’ might be interesting to more people than just your fanbase.

According to research at least 70% of the time people send online they are searching for information. So, when you don’t get in search engines, you’ll miss 70% of your visitors. (Of course, that’s a gross generalization, but you get the idea.)

On the topic of comment spam however I’m a bit biased. I must admit, I’ve looked at some sites, and placed a comment with one of the reasons being that my url would be clickable to people. However, I’ve always (all 3 times or so) strived to write a good comment anyway.

Then I found out about the rel=’nofollow’.. (;
So I’m still commenting on blogs, but not with the intention of ‘uri spamming’

Comment by Andrew K — Feb 14 2006 @ 8:16 pm

I took a stand against those type of comments early last year when I added this notice above my comment form:

Note: Use of ‘keywords’ in the name field will be considered spam and will be edited without notification.

That seems to have worked well (combined with my complete lack of posting anything worth reading!). While I do still suffer from spam floods like anyone else, I haven’t had any problems with offending real commenters — which is what led to that notice being added in the first place.

Vi@gra cheap!!! Buy it all! (it had to happen Derek, I’m sorry :D)

Comment by Cam — Feb 14 2006 @ 10:38 pm

There’s no way on earth I’d click on a link from a comment like that and when I see them I generally skip reading them.

If you’re going to comment, there’s no need for it — your title isn’t going to impress anyone. At the very least you’ll look like an idiot poseur.

Comment by Edward Clarke — Feb 15 2006 @ 4:03 am

If you’re going to comment, there’s no need for it – your title isn’t going to impress anyone. At the very least you’ll look like an idiot poseur.

Not even with a domain like yours?

Comment by Julian Schrader — Feb 15 2006 @ 9:25 am

I don’t see a behaviour like that often on the blogs I visit/read regularly. Sometimes of course, but it happens rarely – not to sayy “once in a blue moon”.

Comment by Ben Buchanan — Feb 17 2006 @ 2:51 am

At least it’s reasonably obvious when someone’s purely out to get clicks – I would hope people recognise “me too” posts, whatever the format :) rel="nofollow" is countering the SEO benefits anyway (for a lot of sites).

I think it’s fair to hope that contributing to discussion will bring readers to your site; but you should never leave a comment you wouldn’t have made anyway.

I’ve noticed one odd result of leaving comments though – back when I launched my site, my name was only present in the copyright notice… yet the site started ranking highly enough to see my name in search terms (referrer logs). I was puzzled until I realised search bots were picking up my name from blog comments! Certainly not part of an SEO plan, it hadn’t even occurred to me to search for my own name. But hey, what the hell ;)

Comment by Edward Clarke — Feb 20 2006 @ 10:30 am

Is it because we’re seeing more “marketers” as bloggers, than bloggers who also market? Is it an attempt at “branding” and taking a more active approach than just hoping people are going to click on your name?

But what is blogging? In it’s basic form, isn’t it just awareness? which is marketing/branding etc. Why else would a blogger blog? I write about search engine promotion and commercial angles for web standards and technology. It helps me reach markets/clients interested in my area of expertise and also invites questions and comments based on my work. All good stuff!

Clicking on a spammy link in a thread is surely a decision for the visitor and manipulating the link to dissuade a visitor is surely insulting their intelligence. As for nofollow, does it really work over conventional means of preventing spam? I feel blogs offer some of the finest content on the web and all nofollow does is devalue that content while handing the power back to the junk. OK, so one comment in ten is a casino but it’s hardly a days works deleting it instead of approving it.

Unfortunately SEO and SEM are tarnished with a nasty brush even though it’s fundamental, even before design. If it’s not the usual casino, adult, tabs type spam, I’d see it as a compliment. There only trying to piggyback on your popularity. Does it actually devalue the thread if the response is related?

Comment by Sonja Duijvesteijn — Feb 22 2006 @ 10:44 am

Just an observation.. but according to my logfiles 4 people came from this site visiting mine.

Now the question is, what does this mean? I did not make a comment here to get visitors, but I got them anyway. So good citizenship (making real comments) would get you new visitors?

I don’t know what conclusion to make from this, but it is interesting at the least.

Comment by Nathan Smith — Feb 24 2006 @ 2:35 am

I’d say that it can be shady, but the level of that varies based on what is added to the conversation. If someone just says “Cool!” and then leaves an ad for their site, then I think it’s pretty lame. On the other hand, if someone were to write a well thought-out response to a blog entry, or even proposed a question that got everyone thinking and discussing things further, then in that case it would almost be a disservice not to leave a URL if you had one. I know that when I see well written comments, with thoughtfulness, good capitalization, grammar and punctuation, I am highly more likely to want to see where this person is coming from.

Comment by Edward Clarke — Feb 24 2006 @ 9:11 am

I know that when I see well written comments, with thoughtfulness, good capitalization, grammar and punctuation, I am highly more likely to want to see where this person is coming from.

Precisely. We are at a site to discuss a hot topic. A post is made and a perspective given [such as this post]. This invites people to this site, which is marketing on behalf of Mr ChocBox [author]. That’s exactly what articles and blogs are all about. I have to admit to visiting sites from posters as we all crave knowledge and Sonja’s visits may well have been from me.

Signing off with Edward Clarke – Cheap v1@gra and L0ve tabs shouldn’t devalue the response and infact probably better describes the resource behind the link which gives us a better idea when deciding to click or not.

I don’t have a problem with it personally but:

Yeah great!
WinXP@$32
Tabs@$13
Email 1 million people for $30

just isn’t going to get listed.

However, whats wrong with:

Lots of blah…
TN38 – Internet Marketing and Consultancy

?

Comment by Alex — Mar 06 2006 @ 9:50 pm

I’m getting more and more of this.

However, whats wrong with:

Lots of blah…
TN38 – Internet Marketing and Consultancy

Because if you let it stand, it’s an open invitation to any halfwit with a casino affliate program to bid you a warm welcome, congratulate you on your fine site and wish you much success in the future.

I just tend look at the value contributed. Even a linkless ‘I really like your site’ is likely to get canned if I’m moderating. Often those kind of comments are only made to build up ‘snowball effect’ so later spam posts go through unhindered.

If the comment has value, but a linked sig file, I’ll hand edit to disable it ‘linkiness’.

Comment by R350s — Mar 07 2006 @ 5:39 am

Yes, many people left the URL while they give a comment, let’s say this is such as give thank’s from blog ower because they give the comment to the blog.

By get a lot of comments from visitor, the blog will be life and the blog will be rich of informations.

Just my2cent

Comment by eric — Mar 13 2006 @ 2:12 am

Did irony just strike? I can’t tell.

I’m against outright advertising in general. When it’s particularly intrusive, like blatant comment click-seeking, I tend to ignore the comment. And that similar-in-concept Godawful IntelliTXT double-green-underline ‘contextual’ bs? I either disable javascript or never come back.

Comment by Osman — Mar 26 2006 @ 3:40 am

I don’t think that blog publicity will be achieved only through this comment posting media. I am posting to thousands of blogs there. Not withstanding the incoming links strategies, we need to think out of the box to automate links popularity through other means. I think link exchange is dead too in such levels.

There’s a glimpse to certain criteria to attract more traffic as stated at the link above.

Comment by Christian Becher — Mar 27 2006 @ 4:51 pm

“A common strategy is to find the blogs that you like that discuss topics in which you’re interested, leave comments, hope people click on your name and visit your site…” i did it ;-)!

Comment by rck — Apr 29 2006 @ 7:09 am

Well, in some way, all kind of linking to web sites is a form of advertising, don’t you think? Personally, I’d never click on those phentamine / viagra links that seem to pester some forums / blogs. But a whitty comment now and then makes me interested.

As a writer before me stated: Comments make a blog alive. And links make those comments sometimes even more interesting.

Comment by Si — May 04 2006 @ 7:37 pm

Bit late for this, but I’ve only just found you (from Lifehacker). I believe that Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard (or maybe Tom Peters but I digress) said something like “if you want to make money, you can.. but if you make quality, you’ll make more money”. Keep it honest and it reflects on you.

Comment by Steve — May 11 2006 @ 5:04 pm

I would think the content of the comment means more than whether or not they’ve linked to themselves. If the comment is additive to the discussion who cares what the links are.

It would also appear to be more symantically correct to use appropriate keywords. For instance, I’m commenting as “Steve” – because that’s my name – but the link actually goes to My Personal Finance Blog (which is the title and the subject). Users seeing my name linked are going to have no idea what the link goes to.

Comment by Zach Blume — Jun 28 2006 @ 2:41 pm

Hmm, well I think the difference between branding and comment spamming is really the difference between content and spam itself, no? I mean, if I had just said in this comment: “I totally agree with what your saying. Visit my website” then I would be spamming. Comments are just that, comments, but they should still be contributing to the discussion thats going on…

It’s an academic distinction, anyway. Good comments are looked and out and get attention, spammy and uninteresting comments get ignored or even deleted. It’s moderation by the masses. w00t. Sounds like web1.0.. I mean, the one that simply worked.

Comment by Andrey Smagin — Jul 14 2006 @ 2:16 pm

I agree with Edward Clarke. Blogging is a way to communicate and get feedback. Some people are getting a lot of feedback and some are not. So what, that starting blogger tryies to attract more people to his site? If they are worthy – they will be read. If not, links are not going to make them more popular. That’s so web 2.0.

If somebody leaves a comment that contributes to the topic and puts a link and the only reason he commented was a link, I don’t think it’s a problem. He contributed and got something he wanted for himself – sounds fair to me. Different story when it’s just regular useless spam.

Comment by Tommy Bender — Feb 20 2007 @ 11:02 am

Just an observation.. but according to my logfiles 4 people came from this site visiting mine.

Now the question is, what does this mean? I did not make a comment here to get visitors, but I got them anyway. So good citizenship (making real comments) would get you new visitors?

I don’t know what conclusion to make from this, but it is interesting at the least.