PostHeaderIcon Comment Marketing as an Inbound Tactic – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Take those black and grey hat comment marketing tactics and throw them away once and for all. In this week's Whiteboard Friday, we will be covering some wonderful white hat techniques that you can start using today. These tactics will help you spread your name to the far reaches of the internet, gain the affection of the web's most powerful influencers, and build up strong relationships that can bring you long-lasting returns.

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Video Transcription

Howdy, SEOmoz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week I wanted to tackle the topic of comment marketing. A lot of people in the internet marketing world and the inbound marketing world use comments as a form of marketing, and classically, at least in sort of the SEO world, it’s been a little bit of a grey hat/black hat tactic.

Now, there’s obviously like the true black hat stuff, which is essentially comment spamming and it’s just automated stuff that goes through, leave comments in the hopes that some of them get approved and some of them pass some link value and maybe some of them are not no-followed or maybe the no- follows carry some weight or get scraped or picked up. Xrumer blasts, like all these kinds of things, right, that find open ports on the Web and leave these strings of comments. That would be like the black hat stuff.

Then there’s the grey hat, which is essentially, you know, it’s a real person commenting, but they’re not adding much value and their entire goal is just to get a link and they’re not doing a whole lot.

There’s the rarely observed but highly valuable form, in fact, most valuable form in my opinion, which is the true white hat kinds of comment marketing, and that’s what I want to talk about today.

Comment marketing is this idea that I want to participate in the Web’s communities to earn the trust and respect of other people and the awareness. This is a blog post, right? Here’s some content. You can add comments down at the bottom. This happens all over the Web. There are literally tens of millions of blogs where this could be valuable, depending on your niche, and contributing here and earning the recognition of readers can earn you all sorts of returns. Let me talk through some of these.

So comments work well because commenters and readers, the people who are here, people in this world, right, this guy here, that guy there, they tend to be influencers. They tend to be the people who have larger Twitter followings, have lots of fans on Facebook, have lots of people reading their RSS, have the ability to link to you, have the ability to spread your message, speak at conferences and events, influence other people. They are valuable connectors, and it’s a great reason to be in front of them. It’s not just the people here, though. It’s also this guy, the person who wrote the post. We’re trying to get in front of them. When we earn the attention and awareness of the blogger, we can often build a relationship there, build some trust and likability, build a system whereby we can earn things like, oh, we can earn a guest post. We can earn the community’s reciprocity, inspire reciprocity, meaning that if we contribute here, we’re likely to get some of these people and maybe this person contributing on our site to our blog to our marketing efforts, those kinds of things. So it does all these great things.

The goals of comment marketing, when it’s done right, need to be build awareness, meaning people recognize you when you’re commenting, they recognize what organization you’re with. You build trust, meaning, "Hey, you know what? I know that Rand guy. He’s commented on lots of sites. I’ve seen him around. I’m familiar with him." Build likability, the goal here being when I see him, I think, oh, I will positively interpret that message because in the past I have had a previous good experience when this person has left comments. Whenever I see their avatar, whenever I see their username commenting, I think positively about them. That’s a great thing to build up over time, and it does lead to all of the great things that you need to be doing in an SEO campaign and a social media marketing campaign and a content marketing campaign. It will help all of those channels succeed better.

You are not, not trying to build links. No, not directly anyway. Eventually, over time, one of the goals is hopefully to get some links, maybe to get a blogger to mention you, point over to your stuff, not to build profiles, which, essentially, is just a form of link spam or of reputation management where you’re building all these profiles across different sites, and not to comment without adding value. "Great post. Nice work. Thanks for writing this." Okay, well, thank you maybe, maybe 1 out of 10 comments can be that because you just feel like, man, that was a really great post and I want to tell this person. That’s genuine and fantastic, fine. But if you’re just doing that across hundreds or even dozens of blogs, what are you doing? Why are you there? If you’re not participating without adding value, then the opposite of what you want is going to happen. You are going to build awareness, but you are going to screw yourself on trust and likability. This completely defeats the purpose, and you will have to rebuild your persona on the Internet. A terrible, terrible idea.

I do have some pro tips when we’re doing this, to help you accomplish all these goals. The first one is, since we’re trying to build awareness and recognition, please, for goodness sake, I see this mistake all the time, use the same avatar and username everywhere you go. Seriously. I can’t tell you how many people have, "Oh yeah, my Disqus profile looks a little bit different than my Twitter, which looks a little different than my Facebook, which looks different from the one that I use to comment on blogs. If you want, you can do one of the things that I do, which is I have kind of one image that I always use for my personal stuff. So I have a personal Facebook or I have my Foursquare, and that’s personal. It’s private. I don’t share it with everybody. Then I have my public persona, and I use that same avatar all the time.

If you can, if at all possible, use a real human being face, hopefully your actual face or your social media, community manager’s face. Get close up. Eyes, smile, those kinds of things create the sort of stuff you’re looking for: trust, likability, familiarity, awareness. It creates that branding. Use a background, that is hopefully colorful, that helps the person to stand out, that’s a good color match. Professional photography can actually be helpful. I know it looks like it doesn’t because the image is this big. Who cares about professional photography at this size? You’d be shocked. You’d be shocked at how much it really actually helps.

Don’t be afraid. A lot of people that think that, oh, if I’m doing comment marketing, if I’m trying to engage to build positive things, then the last thing I want to do is disagree with the blogger or disagree with another commenter. Actually, no. I would say that that’s a highly valuable tactic. When you disagree or you have critiques or you have additions or you say, you think to yourself, boy, you know, this part of it I really liked and I think it’s highly accurate, but this piece I’m not so sure about and here’s why. As long as you’re doing it respectfully and positively, you’re actually going to be earning much more value and creating much more of a conversation and a community and a reason for everyone to be participating on the blog than if you’re simply agreeing every time and saying that you like it. Then you just fall away into the noise. But if you bring up salient points, you’re going to have a much better time. I even recommend, and I do this myself sometimes, if there’s something that you truly disagree with strongly, you can comment about it, go back and forth on the comment thread. If you’re still having questions about that, go write a blog post about why you disagree. Make sure to stay positive. Stay highly respectful. But oftentimes, the person will update their blog post or write a new blog post saying, "Hey, I wrote about this last week. This person who’s a frequent commenter in our community mentioned it here." Now you’ve got a link. You’ve got some of their traffic. You’ve helped to drag some of their community over to your community and built more awareness and trust and likability. Fantastic. Excellent, excellent work. That’s precisely what you’re trying to do.

When sharing a URL, so let’s say you’ve got something in the comments and you go, oh man, this person, they wrote about this. Some people are asking about this topic, and I have something that I wrote specifically about that a little while back, or I have a tool or I really want to share this thing. First off, if it’s paid, if it’s something that you have to pay for, don’t share it. Don’t mention it. If it’s free, however, and anyone can consume it, rather than putting in the URL that makes it a live link, which can look a little spammy, look like you’re trying to get that link, what you can do, and I think this is a great tactic is to say, particularly if you’re not sure of the rules, "Hey, I’m not sure what the rules are here. I wrote something about this. I think it would be worth sharing and of interest to your community. Here’s the URL," and then cut it off, so that essentially instead of http:// whatever, you’ve just got The reason you do that is because it will appear as text, and then you can say, "Editor/blogger, if you want to make this a live link, that’s great, or feel free to remove it if this is not appropriate." Then, essentially you’re caveating the link that you’ve dropped and saying, "Hey, I’m trying to do this in a very respectful way and I think this is of interest." If you do it in that way, and you do it with something that is high quality and relevant and useful, you’ll probably get a lot of nice traffic. You won’t be able to see the referring source, because a lot of people will just copy and paste the URL, but you will see that traffic. You will see people referencing it. Then you can follow up in the comment thread underneath where you’ve left that.

Number four, I should put this as number one. Target the right blogs and communities. So there are blogs where it pays to contribute. So usually in most industries there’s somewhere between 5 and 50 blogs that really matter, that are very important, and you should start building profiles there, but you shouldn’t ignore sort of the long tail of, oh, they only get a few dozen to a few hundred readers. You should be contributing on those blogs as well. In fact, those people are very likely to be the ones who will start linking to you, start sharing, because they’re also more up-and- comers than they are sort of big industry leaders, and for that reason it can often be a lot easier to earn that trust and awareness and likability. If you’re the person who comments on three out of five posts on a blog that usually only gets five or six comments, they’re going to love you. They’re going to appreciate you so much. You are making their day, and that’s a great thing. You actually want to be that big fish in the small pond.

Make sure, though, that the communities are targeting the right kinds of people. So what you are not looking for is customers. I am not asking you to go find the people who are going to buy your stuff. What I want you to find is these people over here who are influencers of potential customers. So it’s not the person who, oh, well this is male between 25 and 35, and I’m selling boots to outdoorsmen and so this is my customer. But you are thinking, hey, who are the people who write about outdooring? Who are the people that go on travel adventures? Who are the people that are on television or in media or on the Web who are talking about these things? Those are the folks that I really want to reach. So this is not about directly encouraging customers to come to you and buy. This is about influencing the influencers who will then get your message down to customers. This is why comment marketing works, in fact. So get the right blogs and communities. If you’re looking for a good tool, I actually do recommend Google’s Blog Reader, because if you go to Google Blog Reader, you can do searches for your keywords for your topics and then you can sort things or see things by the number of RSS readers, which is actually probably the best way to gauge the authority or the influence of a particular blog.

Number five. This is obvious. Don’t pimp your products, the things you’re selling. Pimp your content. Pimp the stuff that you’ve written on your blog. Get inspired from the stuff that people are writing to write other great things and to put those things together. If someone says, "Oh, I really wish there was a resource for what kind of trails go with what kind of boots," and you think to yourself, I can do that, do it. Go do it, and then email the blogger and say, "Hey, you remember how you said that you wish that there was this? I made that. Would you share it for me? Would you help me get the word out? Do you have any critiques?" Bing.

Number six. This one is kind of sad and sucky because I take a lot of pride in our industry and in what we do, but it’s true. If you use the word SEO or Social Media Marketer in your profile, you’re not going to be viewed positively. So I might recommend saying, "I’m the Director of Marketing" or "I run a community" or "I’m involved with outreach and building." Outreach maybe is not such a good word. Try and find good language that describes what you do accurately, but doesn’t necessarily use buzzwords that are going to piss people off. People on blog comments and in these kinds of communities are very, very sensitive, and they’ve been burned by so many people who do the grey hat and black hat kinds of comment marketing that it sort of burned these words as untrustworthy in their eyes. So I’d recommend biasing away from those.

All right, everyone, I’m looking forward to some fantastic comments here, maybe even some suggestions, some disagreements, these kinds of things. I will see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday.

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