Comment Spam vs. Comment Links: What’s the Difference?

Spam vs Comments

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.

Comment Spam

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.

Comment spam sucks

Comment Spam in the Wild

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
  • Useless
  • Often irrelevant

In other words, the type of comment spam we all know and love to bitch about.

Comment Links

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:

 

Comment Links in the Wild

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!

Conclusion

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?

About Gabriella Sannino

International SEO consultant is my title...but who cares about those? What I love is, writing about marketing, social, SEO, relevance, ruffling feathers and starting revolutions. What you read on this blog, will hopefully inspire you to continue the conversation. When I'm not multitasking around Level343 I sneak away and go sailing. I'm crazy about pistachios, and of course Nutella.

Comments

  1. I think that from a publisher’s point of view, comments add value and fresh content to their blogs. In return for the effort taken to write a comment and participate, the commenter can have a link back to their website, which might drive a couple of clicks, and might help with the site’s SEO. It’s just give and take.

    Comment links add value, comment spam does not.

    And yes – there’s a case to say that all SEO is aimed at ‘manipulating’ the search results, but that’s the same as criticising PR by saying it’s aimed at ‘manipulating’ the media. It’s about getting your company out there as much as you can – it’s just marketing.

    The difference between white hat and black hat, is white hat attempts to do it in a way that benefits the community, black hat does it as dirtily as it likes.

  2. Hello Carl, I absolutely agree with you. But, lets take into consideration that not EVERYONE is into SEO. Some people have no clue what black hat versus white hat actually means. The point we make at level343 is that
    • YES, it’s okay to link to other people in your articles.
    • YES, it’s okay to give your readers links to other content not on your site.
    • YES, it’s okay to talk about other people if they say something that interested you.
    • YES, it’s okay to share your own material with other people on another blog.
    • YES, it’s okay to communicate.
    It’s not always done with ill intent. At the end of the day we write these posts not only for our own geeky pleasures but for our readers and potential clients to better understand the difference.

  3. Problem with comments is that – many have developed automated softwares and just run them accross the web — all may not just be for SEO purpose – but just to attract blog owners to visit their sites.
    With almost all blogs using rel=nofollow these days – I don’t think comments of any sort would give any linksjuice – hence no relation with SERPs.

    But yes – if a comment is made after reading a particular posts and the commentator leaves a related link – then there is going to be connection amongst its valued readers.

  4. Terry Van Horne says:

    Interesting take on this subject. The problem with black and white in SEO is that often it can be somewhere in between. SEO is not one size fits all. Every situation is unique. When you loose touch with that… you’ve stopped learning. I see that in a lot of the experienced SEO’s they are also stuck in this “if you don’t do what I do then…” mentality that interferes with innovation.

  5. Thanks for weighing in on the issue, John – in re: blogs using no-follow automatically, it kind of irritates me to tell you the truth. lol – I hate having to use a plugin to give us the choice between no following a comment link or following one. But then, I also know a lot of people enjoy the automation; me, I don’t mind spending a little extra time doing things manually if it gives us more control.

  6. Awww, Terry – You came to our lil’ ole’ blog and commented. I heart you. “Every situation is unique. When you loose touch with that… you’ve stopped learning.” I could not have said it better myself. Optimizers, newbie and veteran, need to remember flexibility. SEO isn’t a cookie cutter solution.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  7. I actually agree with the fact that a link, in and of itself, doesn’t a spam comment make. On the other hand, I wouldn’t be overestimating if I said 99% of the comments I see are spam, and when you’re going through a comment que and see a link in the body of the comment, I’m already in “delete” mode. You’re going to have to write an awesome comment for me to not delete it… you’d better give my readers something I missed in my article.

    And Carl is right – SEO is “manipulating”, but they key is to manipulate it in a way that both the users and search engines win – your pages you want at the top should be higher quality then the competitors.

    I think the American public is still in their “SEO is evil” mindset from the highly-publicized JC Penny fiasco: Cheaters Prosper and Then Are Penalized.

  8. Hi, Eric – Thanks for the comments…

    99% of the comments I see are spam

    Maybe, but that’s what things like Askimet are for – to weed out most of that spammy crap. Then all you have to do, as a thoughtful, considerate, community-building site owner, is moderate the few that get through. ;)

    I think the American public is still in their “SEO is evil” mindset from the highly-publicized JC Penny fiasco.

    The JC Penny fiasco is really just one more addition, rather than the cause of “SEO is evil”. SEO has been evil since “manipulation”, with all it’s negative connotations, was tied to it. You look around on line at how many people call it “gaming the system” – BEFORE JC Penny came along and showed how it was done (among other places: Overstock, Huffington Post, etc).

    Thanks again for commenting!
    PS. Love this article: How Google is Restructuring English

  9. Glad to hear you liked my article.

    Yes, without Askimet, comment moderation would be a full-time job, even on a small hobby blog.

    You’re right that JC Penny was just an addition to the heap of bad publicity given to SEO, but I’ve talked to several people that have said “You’re an SEO? Isn’t that what JC Penny got in trouble for?” For some reason, that seemed to get more publicity than all the other blatant manipulation. Probably because consumers realized the billions of dollars JCP made from it (and even after the penalty was all said and done, it was still profitable for them).

    In fact, most large brands do a little black-hat linkbuilding, and it ends up helping them. http://www.ericwagner.org/do-ceos-get-speeding-tickets/

    As long as the majority of the SEO done for established brands is white-hat, Google is unlikely to penalize them.

  10. Comments and links are like anything else in SEO, they can be used for good or ill. Comments that forward the conversation and demonstrate your expertise and experience can help to establish your place in the field and increase your visibility and recognition. Link-dropping needs to be handled with care for many of the reasons listed in these comments: people just don’t like links littering up their blogs.

  11. This is a subject near and dear to my heart and I may have written more posts on it than most any other blogger around (that I know of anyway). There is definitely NO CONSENSUS across the blogosphere on what comments are spam and which are not. I know that because I did a Twtpoll Spam or Not Spam post where you can read the results.
    Would you believe some bloggers flag as spam any comment they don’t like while others will flag any comment that links to a business and some even flag as spammers any comment from anyone they don’t know. (THAT is why Akismet can NEVER work unless they implement a fundamental change in how it flags spam – see my recent post on Crowdsourcing for more details on that or the many, many posts I’ve done about Akismet deleting our comments and being rude to our commentators.)
    I wrote a post about believing in the Google Fairy for those who buy the silly notion that if you do nothing to build links your blog or site will somehow still be found.
    Personally I love CommentLuv for the reasons I explain in my post about how it grows businesses and blogs and that post explains my suggestions on how bloggers and businesses can mutually benefit from developing relationships through commenting.

  12. I wish you would have linked your article…here at Level343 we love this sort of discussion especially when you have links!! :) But that’s okay Gail I will go and hunt your link and add it in here ;) Twtpoll Spam or Not Spam You know I was going to use that CommentLuv after our nightmare experience with Disqus… not sure what happened. lolol. Thanks Gail I’m glad to see someone I respect and who is one of the hottest communicators on my Twitter time line pop into this side of the track and give us an opinion.

  13. Doc Sheldon says:

    Not much I can add to what the others have already said so well, Gabriella. Blog commenting isn’t about linkbuilding, it’s about relationship building. Some folks can’t see that, and sadly, some don’t respect that. Nothing new that there are those out there that will abuse a good thing, though… it happens in every industry. 

    Should all surgeons be condemned as butchers, because of the irresponsible practices of a few back-alley abortionists?

  14. I think a link to your own blog post or web page is fine provided it appends a synopsis of what that external content covers or concludes, as that allows some judgement of it’s usefulness and relevance before clicking through to it. But too often I see authors simply writing something like “I covered this in my own blog just recently, read it HERE”. That tells me nothing, and I can just a likely click through to content that adds nothing, so I generally don’t. SEOs spamming SEO blogs – what are they thinking?

  15. Dave, I hear you but, you cannot deny this is one of the best ways to invite the conversation to continue. Our readers, and followers are important and we use blogs as part of community building. Sure, there are going to be douche bags (not always SEO’s mind you. I’d like to think true SEO professionals wouldn’t do that) that will drop irrelevant links in a comment but, guess what? We actually take the time and read the links. We encourage our readers to do the same. That’s why it’s important in my professional opinion to really monitor and manage blogs. Yes, we use Askimet to pick up spam and granted some blogs take time because of high comment volume. They are time consuming, no doubt but, they are one of the best tools we’ve found to implement influence, brand, and a well rounded communication strategy while building on higher traffic for a campaign.

  16. When reading comments in a blog post, its obvious when the person leaving the comment is spamming… for the most part knowing their true intention as to why they are commenting weather it’s for link juice or community is not as clear-cut. Maybe during confessional it will come out. JK

    Keyword stuffing in an article with anchor text used for every other word is just as offensive or more so to me. At least the blog owner has the ability not publish the post.

    Adore Realty

  17. Maybe during confessional it will come out

    lol.. perhaps, perhaps.. but then, we’ll never hear about it so we’re still left to guess.

    Thanks for the comment – and the dash of humor. :)

  18. Gabriella-

    Indeed this is a double-edged sword. Those with the leading motivator of getting a link may be more obvious than those who truly wish to engage. As you astutely suggested here, you can do both. Provide a meaningful comment, and include a link to an expanded resource on your topic, no?

    Thanks for putting this together, and inviting a discussion on the topic.

    -Travis

  19. For those using wordpress, Akismet is a great tool to help prevent spam. I installed it last month and haven’t got a false positive yet.

  20. Hey Ryan, I wish I could say the same… we still insist on reading each one of our comments before letting them through. You see one of the requirements, is you have to use a name in order to post on our blog not a business name. Something Akismet won’t do. But, with that said, no doubt it does pick up a lot of spam. :)

  21. Web design rochdale says:

    Now Google refer only those pages and comments which are relevant to the subject and consist high quality. If our comments does meaningless and low quality then Google doesn’t indexed. For further instruction we have to refer Google panda and Google algorithms.

  22. Thank you a lot for sharing this with all people you actually understand what you’re talking approximately! Bookmarked. Please additionally talk over with my web site =). We could have a link alternate contract between us

  23. Linda Battle says:

    Dave, I hear you but, you cannot deny this is one of the best ways to invite the conversation to continue. When reading comments in a blog post, its obvious when the person leaving the comment is spamming… for the most part knowing their true intention as to why they are commenting weather it’s for link juice or community is not as clear-cut. As long as the majority of the SEO done for established brands is white-hat, Google is unlikely to penalize them.

  24. Gilbert, I like your blog…I’m gonna ask one of our German translators to take a look. ;) Enjoy your holidays & stay warm.

  25. My brother recommended I would possibly like this website. He was entirely right. This submit actually made my day. You cann’t consider just how so much time I had spent for this information! Thank you!

  26. Juliet Mcdaniel says:

    But yes – if a comment is made after reading a particular posts and the commentator leaves a related link – then there is going to be connection amongst its valued readers. I know that because I did a Twtpoll Spam or Not Spam post where you can read the results. Thank you a lot for sharing this with all people you actually understand what you’re talking approximately! The JC Penny fiasco is really just one more addition, rather than the cause of “SEO is evil”.

  27. Thank you Juliet :-)

  28. I have a pretty busy website,, but I am very upset about amount of link comments on it–I receive in excess of three hundred responses a day, but so many are link comments that are repeated again and again and again; I view them as spam. I feel that if a visitor wants to comment on my blog post, he or she ought to leave me a rational, substantive comment that contributes to the conversation; but to merely leave me the same old, stale comment day after day after day is flat out insulting and inappropriate, and I treat such links as pam. If a visitor wishes to comment through a link, the comment must meet the criterion of logical reasoning and substantive contribution to the conversation. I spend hours preparing my articles: I do not want to link to any and everyone because our mission may not be the same. I do not think that it is ethical to just link to a busy website so that you can increase your ranking when you know that you do not put in the same amount of work that that particular webmaster is putting into his website. All websites are not compatible, and therefore, should not be linked to each other. And even if you decide to link to a different website from yours; if you do not plan to contribute to that website’s conversation, it is really really wrong to fill up that webmaster’s page with your nonsense. I mark all those links as spam: If you cannot contribute to my website, simply don’t visit it. Websites are educational laboratories; they should only be accessed by people who are serious abut finding information and commenting significantly on it.

  29. Moulton, I couldn’t agree with you more. :-) Enjoy your week, and thanks for reminding me there are people out there that do care…

  30. It’s hard to find your blog in google. I found it on 18 spot, you should build quality backlinks , it will help you
    to increase traffic. I know how to help you, just type in google – k2 seo tricks

  31. Thanks Michel, we are in the process of working on our link building.

Trackbacks

  1. RT @seocopy: Comment Spam vs. Comment Links: What’s the Difference? http://ht.ly/4ixr6 Now, let’s open up this conversation. What about you?

  2. IMnewz.com » Comment Spam vs. Comment Links: What’s the Difference? says:

    [...] Comment Spam vs. Comment Links: What’s the Difference? [...]

  3. Comment Spam vs. Comment Links: What’s the Difference? http://ht.ly/4ixr6 via @SEOcopy (good reminders!)

  4. Comment Spam vs. Comment Links: What’s the Difference? http://ht.ly/4ixr6 Now, let’s open up this conversation. What about you? via @SEOcopy

  5. Jason Hall says:

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  6. Comment Spam vs. Comment Links: What’s the Difference? http://ow.ly/4nSEu Now, let’s open up this conversation. What about you? via @SEOcopy

  7. RT @mpdotcom: Comment Spam vs. Comment Links: What’s the Difference? http://ow.ly/4nSEu Now, let’s open up this conversation. What about …

  8. SuperPost Sunday - Weekly Roundup #24 says:

    [...] Comment Spam vs. Comment Links: What’s the Difference? – by Gabriella Sannino, level343.com [...]

  9. [...] we posted Comment Spam vs. Comment Links: What’s the Difference? and received some great comments based on our readers’ opinions. Ironically, one commenter proved [...]

  10. Comment Spam vs. Comment Links: What’s the Difference? http://bit.ly/geikwI

  11. petiar says:

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  12. prisca says:

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  13. Continuing the Conversation: Comment Spam vs. Comment Links says:

    [...] we posted Comment Spam vs. Comment Links: What’s the Difference? and received some great comments based on our readers’ opinions. Ironically, one commenter proved [...]

  14. http://is.gd/I4YlAM – Nice – Comment Spam vs. Comment Links: What's the Difference?

  15. Comment Spam vs. Comment Links: What’s the Difference? http://ow.ly/4piG0 #SEO

  16. RT @Diana_Sch: Comment Spam vs. Comment Links: What’s the Difference? http://ow.ly/4piG0 #SEO

  17. Oded Farkash says:

    How clear is the line crossing between commenting and spamming? http://bit.ly/hpw7jq

  18. Comment Spam vs. Comment Links: What’s the Difference? http://ht.ly/6kwvd | People still have no clue…seriously

  19. Fabio Pessoa says:

    Comment Spam vs. Comment Links: What’s the Difference? http://ht.ly/6kwvd | People still have no clue…seriously

  20. Comment Spam vs. Comment Links: What’s the Difference? http://ht.ly/6kwvd | People still have no clue…seriously

  21. [...] everything with your heart in it and as tight as you can get it.3) Our Most Controversial Post(s):Comment Spam vs. Comment Links – What’s the Difference?Continuing the Conversation – Comment Spam vs. Comment Links Which one is it?Why?Although we’ve [...]

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