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Most SEO professionals have very definite ideas about the Internet. For example, many believe SEO is essential for any website to succeed – whether the business is limited to delivering three blocks or thirty makes no difference.
Some say the optimization techniques they use are the only techniques out there that work. Some will act with disdain if you even mention something outside of their “belief” system; SEO isn’t just an industry, it’s a religion.
Don’t believe me? Ask an SEO professional:
- If optimization is manipulating search (blasphemy)
- The difference between white hat, gray hat and black hat SEO (moral, average, immoral)
- How often you should check your SEO campaign (ritual)
The problem is devout SEOs only seem to see things in black and white…
Recently, the topic of comment spam came up – one of those “black and white” things. Out of curiosity, we looked at the information available online about the difference between comment spam and linking in the comments. Amazingly, no one really addresses links in the comments as anything other than spam. Although we may be called heretics, we’d like to take this opportunity to forward a different version of the story.
Now, it’s easy to say, “There’s a fine line between comment spam and comment links.” However, once you sit and really think about it, the line isn’t so fine. The line is quite clearly defined, in fact.
This is from our own blog comment queue as an example of the truly crappy comment spam – all links with no attempt at all to look like a comment. However, Danny Sullivan wrote an article last year entitled Some Advice For Free Essay Writing Services – Write Better Comment Spam with several fantastic examples of comment spam in the wild.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is comment spam…
“… very weird comments appearing on your blog. The comments usually don’t make sense and they link to bizzare domain names. These comments are probably spam left by people (or automated spam bots) in an attempt to increase the target domains visibility on the search engines.” [WPDude, the WordPress Coach]
“It is done by automatically posting random comments or promoting commercial services to blogs, wikis, guestbooks, or other publicly accessible online discussion boards.” [Wikipedia: Spam in blogs]
“Comment spam is the term used to describe comments that people write as comments on blogs and forums that provide no content or comment of any value and are posted simply to provide links back to other sites.” [InsiderTactics: What is Comment Spam]
“Comment Spam refers to useless comments (or trackbacks, or pingbacks) to posts on a blog. These are often irrelevant to the context value of the post.” [Wordpress.org: An Introduction to Blogging]
“…many of whom use scripts or other software to generate and post spam. If you’ve ever received a comment that looked like an advertisement or a random link to an unrelated site, then you’ve encountered comment spam.” [Google Webmaster Central]
So, from the above sampling (and you can be sure most descriptions of comment spam are similar), you start to see common denominators:
- Usually don’t make sense
- Random and/or unrelated
- Provide no value
- Often irrelevant
In other words, the type of comment spam we all know and love to bitch about.
Now, the problem with links in the comments is that they’ve been so abused “commenting” has become a curse word in SEO. Through the years, this practice (as an SEO technique) has been beaten into the dirt. Therefore, many ethical optimizers now say, “If a link is in a comment, that comment is spam.”
SEOs, webmasters – pretty much anybody who comes in touch with SEO -, seem to have forgotten about people. If you use the word link for example, you must automatically mean link building for link juice to help raise the ranking of your website through this SEO tactic.
However, comment links are very different from comment spam, in that they:
- Are used to continue a conversation
- Make sense to the context of the article
- Provide value to others
- Are useful
- Are relevant
- Are on topic
Example, again from our own blog:
Other, non-SEO related meanings for the word link:
- the means of connection between things linked in series
- a fastener that serves to join or connect
- connection: the state of being connected
- associate: make a logical or causal connection
- connect: connect, fasten, or put together two or more pieces
A link is used to make a connection.
Your friend wrote an article about home repair; he mentions plumbing and a particularly touchy problem he’s having with the toilet flange. This reminds you of the time you had the same problem (or a similar one). You wrote a blog after that, describing your experience and how you solved the issue.
You post a comment in your friend’s blog “Hey, I know exactly what you’re going through. Solved this issue about 4 months ago – wrote a blog about to help others; it might help you. [link]”
Your friend would follow the link, read the blog and either a) return to their blog to reply to your comment or b) post a comment on your article page. Others visiting your friend’s blog would do the same – if they chose to comment.
They might write articles or otherwise mention your blog post about how to fix a toilet flange. They might find out they like your blog and bookmark it for future reading. They might even remember something they read or wrote and post that link in your friend’s (or your) blog, thus continuing the conversation and building a stronger community.
Now, here’s the question: why did you post that link? Did you post that link because you were greatly concerned with your SEO campaign and wanted to gain better ranking by posting your article? Or… did you post that link because you had something to share?
Ooo, ooo – Maybe, because the original article made a connection for you, or, a logical association!
As human beings it’s logical to want to share. When you read an article that moves you in some way (with humor, with anger, with sorrow), occasionally you are compelled to comment. Some of us are compelled to comment a lot, like the members of the Level343 team.
If, by the time you finish reading this piece, you’re still not sure about the difference between comment spam and comment links are, ask yourself this question: Did I come to the article to post a comment and build links?
If that’s the reason for you being on an article, you’re in danger of committing the SEO sin of comment spam. However, if you’re at an article to read it, are moved to comment, have written or read a piece that you want to share with others, and so post the link with your comment, this is not spam. This is communicating, engaging and building a community.
Hmm… Why is it that much of SEO keeps coming back to intent?
Now, let’s open up this conversation. What about you? Do you think, as some people (including SEO professionals) do, that links in a comment automatically make it comment spam? Is there ever a legitimate reason to share your own links on another’s site?