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To follow or nofollow? Blog commenting as a link-building strategy

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[2014 Addendum – Things have changed since this was written in 2010. Google has come down on blog commenting so if there is any SEO value at all, it’s probably slim. But the advice here is still good. Do as I do and comment in other’s blogs to bring value to what they offer. You’ll build great SUPPORTIVE relationships that way. And you’ll get traffic and business if your comments are smart. I just got 2 new clients last week alone as a result, and one is on the other side of the blog.]

By far the number one thing you can do to increase your position in Google is to get inbound links. There are many ways to do this which I will cover in other blog posts here, but today I want to talk about blog commenting.

Scroll down to the bottom of this blog post and you’ll see a comment box. Not all blogs have these, but most do because most bloggers enjoy getting comments from their readers. Kat’s Meow is a new blog, so there are no comments here yet to see, but if you look at other blogs that have history, chances are you’ll see lots of comments. Notice too that quite often included with those comments is the author’s name and along with that a link to their website. Nice easy way to get a link to your site, isn’t it?

Comment spam and the nofollow attribute

The problem with blog commenting is that years ago spammers quickly seized on this feature to build links to their spammy sites. And even not-so-nasty-spammers, people who just want a few good, quality links to their sites, started abusing the system as well. Ever seen a string of comments that say nothing more than things like, “Well done,” or “Great post,” or “Learned a lot”? Chances are those are from people who are commenting just to get links and nothing more.

Needless to say bloggers hated this because their comment fields became cluttered with garbage, and Google hated it too because it was interfering with its ability to return the most relevant results for search queries. As a result, Google came up with a solution – the “nofollow” attribute.

What is the “nofollow” attribute?

Essentially what this is is code that is inserted into every outbound link in your blog and comments. It instructs Google NOT to follow that link when it’s robot comes looking for content. If Google didn’t follow it, the hope was that spammers would stop leaving those nasty, spammy comments.

Of course it didn’t keep spammers out because a link is a link is a link and if Google didn’t follow the link, chances are someone else might. So nowadays, to keep spammers out, most blogs require your comment be moderated and then approved before it will be made public.

But the nofollow attribute remains. It is actually built into blog software like WordPress by default, but it can be turned off and some bloggers do. (I’ll tell you how to do that in subsequent blog, so be sure to sign up for my Feed so you don’t miss that.) This is good news because it means if you leave good, quality comments, you MIGHT be rewarded with that ever-precious inbound link we are all clamoring to get.

Notice I said, “MIGHT.” I explain why later.

So, where do we find blogs without nofollow ?

There’s no such thing as a dofollow tag, so what we’re looking for here are those blogs who have turned OFF the nofollow attribute. Search engines that help you find those follows.

  1. Premier DoFollow Blogs Search Engine
    Here’s a great search engine to find blogs that “dofollow.” Type in your keyword or keyword phrase to find blogs on your topics.
  2. DoFollow Search
    Another blog search for “dofollow.”
  3. D-List
    List of blogs that follow.

And here’s my favorite way to find “dofollow” links, with the SEO Toolbar for Firefox. With this toolbar, you’ll be able to identify whether of not the website or blog you are reading uses nofollow or not.

Now that you know how to find blogs that follow, I want you advise you to be careful because…

Google has a nose for garbage.

If you spent a day rummaging around in the garbage and sat on your couch, what do you think your couch would smell like after you left?

Just look at Rover sniffing that seat and you know you brought the stench back with you. Google has a nose for garbage too, so caution is in order. Not all inbound links are good links, and many of the blogs that come up via the search engines posted above quite possibly may be spammers. If you’re wise, you won’t leave any reason for Google to think you are associated with them by leaving a post there. Otherwise you may end up stinking if you do.

Natural and relevant linking smells good to Google

Just remember what Google is after and you should be fine. Natural and relevant links are what you want. So look for blogs that are on topics relevant to your own, or that have information that adds value to yours – and vice versa. That’s where  you should want to leave comments.

 

Think of blog commenting like building a relationship. Just as you’d be selective building business or friend relationships, you should be selective in your linking strategy because you’re creating perceived relationships between your site and theirs.

The Golden Rule of commenting

Yes, you’re looking to build your inbound links, but don’t put link-building as your ultimate goal at the expense of everything else. Don’t sacrifice your own credibility by leaving comments just for the sake of commenting and getting a link. Those spammy comments are obvious. By all means, read the blogs and leave quality comments that not only add value to the blog post but also add value to you and your reputation.

Treat other blogs the way you want yours to be treated.

That’s the Golden Rule. Do that and you might very well be earning yourself some good Karma in the way of quality Link Juice, higher Page Rank, and more readership.

But notice that I said “might” again.

Why blog commenting may or may not have little value

Unfortunately spammers are rampant on the internet leaving ridiculous comments in every blog, article, web page and forum they can find, and then when they can’t find them, they even go to the trouble of creating blogs, articles, websites and forums to leave them in.

Since Google is all about returning relevant results for search queries, they filter out the riff raff. Sometimes that means they throw the baby out with the bath water, in which case, even with a “do follow” link, Google may give it very little, if any, value.

Better to build the blog

So, be reasonable. By far the best way to build inbound links to your site is to create great content on your site. That’s where I recommend putting most of your efforts. But blog commenting can help and even if it doesn’t land you link juice, at least you’re out there gaining visibility and establishing authority for yourself and your website.

AND, even if Google doesn’t follow the link, people do.

You never know. One visit from one person clicking on your link may result in a far more valuable inbound link from their site, and then another and another and another as others compound off the one. So one way or another, blog commenting can be effective as a link-building strategy.

Notice that I said, “can.”

Nofollow Manifesto

Now here’s my manifesto on the nofollow attribute and why it needs to go away

  1. nofollow does not prevent comment spam.
  2. nofollow breaks relationship between websites.
  3. nofollow does not give earned reward for informative or otherwise great comments.
  4. nofollow does not give earned reward for great resources used in the blog itself.
  5. And most importantly, nofollow breaks the web. Isn’t this supposed to be an INTERnet?

Leaky Link Juice?

If you’re one of those who believe that nofollow links are best for your blog, and that linking out is spilling out your own Link Juice, you’ll want to sign up for the RSS Feed. I’m preparing a killer post on that subject. You won’t want to miss it!

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Oh yes, and comment below!

Kat

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Kat

Kathy (aka Kat) is one of the internet's original Digital Divas and freely shares her expertise in the fields of web design, SEO, Local SEO, social media marketing, content development, PPC, and conversion optimization to help businesses succeed online. Sadly, she's allergic to cats.

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