A few years ago, the comment fields on blogs often resembled a land mine field of spam. For every genuine comment, there were at least 3 more hawking diet pills or gambling web sites. It is an effective SEO tactic to leave comments on the blogs of people with digital influence, but not for the reason you might think. For starters, these links just aren’t worth that much. Not all links are created equal, and one generated by commenting on a blog post will have much less benefit than if one of your pages is cited by a big-name blog. The value comes from audience engagement that builds relationships – most bloggers love comments, and it’s a great way to get noticed and develop relationships that increase your authority and digital influence. We’ll review several things every business blogger needs to know about online comments and SEO:

1. Comments can Build an Audience

If you’ve just started blogging for business, or you’ve been blogging for a time and have yet to gain any serious traction, commenting on other blogs should be high on your priority list. Don’t just say “great article” or ask them to check out a specific piece of blog content on your own website – no one will react well to blatant self-promotion or thin commentary. Say something intelligent, engage in dialogue and come back to do it again the next day. According to Mike Collins of SEO Site Checkup, their audience will take notice if you’re consistently adding value to the dialogue.

2. There’s a Potential for Bad SEO

Spammers are attracted to blog comments like flies to honey. You can lose credibility in the eyes of Google or other major search engines if you’re not careful. Ste Kerwer recommends you install a Captcha-style verification program, turn off hyperlinks in your comments or even block your comments from being indexed by search entirely to avoid negative SEO.

3. Responding to Comments is Crucial

Sure, responding to comments takes time, and if there’s anything small business-owners have in common, it’s a shortage of free time. But it’s just not optional – D.J. of the popular blog Thoughts From Paris recently confessed that he’s historically been inconsistent about responding to comments on his content, but he made a public commitment to respond to every single one. Kerwer highlights 5 reasons that responding to online comments and SEO are a critical mix:

  • Comments Result in More Comments – Are readers going to feel more comfortable jumping into a vibrant discussion with dozens of comments or just a few? Making a point of responding quickly can encourage open dialogue.
  • Comments Add Value – Many readers may share personal experiences in the comments, or they could also add data or research which adds value to your content.
  • There’s More Search Material from Online Comments and SEO – If you don’t block search engines from crawling your comments, it’s more, fresh material that will be indexed by search engines.
  • Comments Increase Authority – Even if you’re still working to build your digital influence, having active comments on your blog content will make you seem you like you really know what you’re talking about to web site visitors.
  • Comments Increase Subscribers – If you develop the reputation of having engaging dialogue on your website, it will increase the chances or readers subscribing to your RSS feed or returning.

Online comments and SEO are a natural match, but it’s not about gaming Google. It’s about increasing the value of your high quality original content by engaging your audience. Generating the social shares and inbound links from websites and bloggers with digital influence requires developing an audience and connections, and actively engaging with readers in your comments is a powerful way to get started. Do you leave comments? Do read blog comments? Have you found them to be a good way to build relationships or increase your digital influence?