Blog and Forum Comments: Unethical Means of Building Links?

Blog and Forum Comments: Unethical Means of Building Links?

Summary: There's a hot topic going on with SEO right now where the nature of building links via blog comments is concerned. What do you think: Ethical or unethical? Weigh in your thoughts here!

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TOPICS: Browser
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Since the inception of my SEO column here on ZDNet, I have become somewhat of a target for people to fixate their angry SEO (Search Engine Optimization) woes upon (mostly via email). I don't mind, though, since I understand why so many people are up in arms over SEO. All it does is remind me of why I'm here and continue to ignite my fervor to dispel and discern bad SEO practices.

Recently, I have noticed an increasing number of people who feel that blog and forum commenting is unethical. Unethical? This issue has me thinking that perhaps a shift needs to happen with this particular facet of link-building. After all, I do agree that it's exponentially easier to act on the spammy side of blog comment link-building than otherwise (which means that it's also exponentially easier to interpret all blog comment link-building endeavors as spammy ones). I'm truly interested to know what the general perception of the practice is and I hope to turn this into an industry-wide discussion, so please participate and weigh in your opinions via the comments section!

When I personally recommend blog and forum commenting, I don't mean to go out there, find a ton of blogs and leave random comments like, "I found this on Google and what can I say outside of great post!" and then proceed to leave your keyword as your name and link to an interior page. No. That is absolute spam and if that's the only process you know as an SEO or as a Webmaster who has to deal with that garbage, then just know that any -- nay -- every decent SEO condemns that method of blog and forum commenting. You need to put more into it than that.

So, just how does one go about commenting on forums and blogs in an "ethical manner?" Is it possible to actually provide value to forums and blogs through your comments? I think so. The way I think of it is this: If I seek out your blog with the intention of building a link, the consideration and thanks I'm going to give you is a well thought-out comment that directly relates to your post. The goal is to simultaneously gain a link while providing content to help that person's page rank higher for the topic of the post. I mean, if you require me to give you my email address to leave you a comment and you also give me a user name and Web site box to fill in, then I'm going to make sure to use those to link to my site. That doesn't mean I'm going to use a keyword for my name and link to an interior page -- especially since "nofollow" comment sections are ridiculously common these days and most spam filters won't accept a comment that links to anything other than a home page (url shortners that 301, *cough, cough*). Now, with that said, if you can do it in a manner that doesn't trespass on the boundaries of what someone might consider spammy, then by all means, use your exact keyword, but there aren't too many ways to do that in a non-spammy manner.

While it's undeniable that using exact keyword terms for anchor text is where most of the immediate SEO value lies in this method of link-building, if you take a bit more time to gauge the strength of a blog and attempt to find out how likely your comment is to be seen by others, your SEO benefit may very well happen via alternate means. Thus, I suggest an alternate goal to building links with blog comments: Eyeballs. The goal should simply be to attract eyeballs and get people to at least visit your site because of your comment. After all, the end result of SEO should be leads/conversions (whatever those may be for you); not rankings or traffic. So, why not use blog and forum commenting as a means to attract leads and not simply to pull rank? There certainly are many more ways to build links than through blog/forum comments, so I still see SEO value in creating relevant and targeted content for that person's page and make your comment equally as much of a contribution as it is a link to your site. There isn't much wiggle room, but there are definitely ways to give back to those you stand to gain from. It may take a bit more research and effort on your end, but it can be done.

What are your thoughts? Do you think building links via blog comments is completely unethical? Do you have an ethical means of building links via blog comments that you would like to contribute? I'd love to hear from you!

Topic: Browser

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37 comments
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  • Blog commenting - good

    I'll resist the temptation to just pop in a few keywords and a link to my website.... ;o)

    I've found blog commenting to be a great way of networking and contributing to discussions re marketing & SEO.

    I love it when people comment on my site with constructive feedback, questions, even disagreements or challenges.

    I'll be interested to see what others think but for me, commenting is part of the strategy. Thanks, Lucy
    LucyThornton
    • RE: Blog and Forum Comments: Unethical Means of Building Links?

      @LucyThornton

      hahaha, thanks for resisting the urge. ;)

      I agree with you. I mean, I've certainly gone through my days of spammy blog commenting. Definitely guilty there, but once you start doing it for clients, that's when my perspective on the whole thing experienced a major shift.

      I'm happy to read your feedback. Please get others involved if you know anyone who would like to contribute their opinion to this discussion as well! I really do hope this debate takes traction.

      Thanks for your comment!

      -Stephen
      StephenChapman
      • RE: Blog and Forum Comments: Unethical Means of Building Links?

        We still utilize this process in our SEO efforts,but it is certainly <a href="http://www.customwritinghelp.co.uk/researchpaper.php">researchpaper</a> not the only method we use.Commenting on posts is a valid SEO strategy. <a href="http://www.customwritinghelp.co.uk/dissertation.php">custom dissertation</a> What is unethical and self-serving is simply spamming posts by placing your link without adding to the dialogue at all.
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      • RE: Blog and Forum Comments: Unethical Means of Building Links?

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  • RE: Blog and Forum Comments: Unethical Means of Building Links?

    I do believe if you have taken the time to comment on a post in a way that significantly adds to the discussion or provides the reader with further information, it is not unethical to post a backlink to your site.
    We still utilize this process in our SEO efforts,but it is certainly not the only method we use.Commenting on posts is a valid SEO strategy. What is unethical and self-serving is simply spamming posts by placing your link without adding to the dialogue at all.
    Brian
    www.mbconsultingnj.com
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  • Good way of putting it.

    The whole point of letting others comment is to get feedback and encourage "intelligent" conversation.

    Personally, I've removed the ability of my blog to display links to robots or online. This is in addition to the requirement to register.

    The final straw was the spammer who bad mouthed my blog! (And yes, I know it was a spammer ... he posted his nasty comments on a simple "sorry no post today" post as well as duplicating the comment on other posts.).

    Now I'll only allow an inline link and that only if there is a valid comment attached.
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  • Bad Apples

    It's always the bad apples that ruin the bunch. There are a good deal of practices that as a whole get a bad wrap but individually some are actually effective AND white hat. My rule of thumb is always 1. does it add something useful to the page? 2. will the user benefit from it being there. If what you post is purely self-serving, think twice and revisit your ethics handbook. Great article, all I can say is WOW! ;-)
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  • RE: Blog and Forum Comments: Unethical Means of Building Links?

    Though I really shouldn't speak, since I accepted a job in my early programming days for developing an app which facilitated this, what I find highly unethical, is supplying fake or, worse, multiple identities, on another site in order to build up hype for a product (or yet even worse, contribute with bogus political hype or negativity, as is so transparently common on sites like Yahoo).

    It's one thing if you are providing factual information about your product, and identifying yourself with full disclosure (e.g., "I work for...") in the context of a relevant contribution (e.g., "We produce a product which might address this need..."). But if you distort the truth by posing as a regular user ("You should see this cool product!"), that is certainly unethical. It's like going into someone's home, and violating certain unspoken rules (and unspoken rules, despite being unspoken are not helplessly subjective--linguists recognize their validity such as Paul Grice's interesting maxims of discourse). I think it's especially despicable when the site is not commercially oriented, or public-service oriented and people come in to take advantage of it.

    This is a great topic by the way--love to see articles considering ethical dimensions...
    brettz9
  • RE: Blog and Forum Comments: Unethical Means of Building Links?

    It's such a time sucker having to continually check and disapprove comments and sort through all the crap. I can't stand when people leave comments like "great post" with a link to their online pharmacy or manhood enhancer. As always, provide suitable comments that adds to the discussion and sometimes but not always add your anchor text.

    This is an interesting discussion...
    Regards,
    Andrew Murphy
    investorm