For years, link building has been a cornerstone of SEO. Webmasters have used links in blogrolls, anchor text, forum signatures, user profiles and comments (just to name a few). Linking strategies have ranged from building links naturally to buying links. While links to readers’ websites are tagged no-follow by default in WordPress, bloggers who use the CommentLuv plugin have the option of easily enabling the do-follow attribute on links left with comments. With all the attention that Google has been giving to “unnatural” links recently, what should we do? Should we contact webmasters and ask them to remove links to our site? Should we make all of the CommentLuv links on our site no-follow? Let’s take a look at this topic in this week’s #FridayFinds.
Will Linking Ever Be the Same?
This week, I came upon the excellent article The War On Links written by Jenny Halasz for SearchEngineLand.com. Jenny starts out her article by reminiscing on the days when blogrolls and webrings were popular. (Blogrolls are relatively uncommon today but were widely used years ago. The most common use was to display a list of blogs that you endorsed in a sidebar on your blog. Often, those links were reciprocated by bloggers. A webring was a way of interlinking related websites. The first web ring script was developed in May 1995 by Sage Weil.)
One of the main problems with links today is that they’re being scrutinized by Google and potentially the U.S. Copyright office who recently proposed an addition to the copyright law that would include protecting copyright holders from “unauthorized versions of their work from hyperlinks”.
Jenny uses one of her own tweets as an example of how easy it is for attribution to be given to someone who has shared content rather than the person who is responsible for creating the content. From there, Jenny proceeds to discuss how businesses no longer benefit from links on sites like Yelp since they are now no-follow. Jenny also raises the issue that the search engines also:
“. . . scrape the data that Yelp provides about that particular business so that when you do a search, you don’t even have to click through the link to get the company phone number, prices and ratings… which, by the way, Yelp offers up for free through schema because it helps their Google positioning.”
Trust me, Jenny offers more insight than I could possibly do justice to by summarizing it here. I really recommend reading her article yourself.
Can Allowing Do-Follow Enabled CommentLuv Backlinks Hurt You?
Those of you who comment here know that I’m a big proponent of the CommentLuv premium plugin for WordPress. (Yes, that’s my affiliate link just in case you’re interested in buying a license to the premium version.) I’ve maintained all along that CommentLuv attracts spam. It’s not an insurmountable problem though.
Committed bloggers who are using this plugin as part of their strategy to build relationships with other bloggers can tweak the plugin settings (especially in the premium version) and diligently monitor their comment links. It takes time and it’s not a one-time issue either. The older your blog is, the greater the chances are that some of the links that were once good are now broken or link to spammy sites.
The biggest benefit to me to using CommentLuv is that it helps to foster a sense of community here. My commenting strategy now (more on this in a moment) is to focus on building relationships and adding value here on my blog. In the early days of my blog, I reciprocated every comment that was left for me. (Meaning, if you left a comment for me, I’d visit your blog and leave one for you.) I no longer have the time to do this. What I still do is reply to every comment that is left for me.
To me, it is worth it to closely monitor the links left in the comments and I do enable the do-follow tag for anyone who has left ten approved comments. It’s work. Will I ever change it? I won’t say never but at this point, if I were to be whacked by Google with a manual web spam action due to unnatural links, I may very well throw in the towel and either make them all no-follow or remove the plugin.
One important thing to keep in mind is that the no-follow tag does not guarantee that the Google bots won’t crawl your site. Google looks at it as a suggestion. So, once you’re on their radar screen, will simply tagging the questionable links be enough? I honestly don’t know. (If anyone can shed more light on this, please feel free to share your thoughts below in the comments.)
Can Leaving a Link to Your Site on a CommentLuv Do-Follow Site Hurt You?
Could leaving a link to your website on a CommentLuv do-follow enabled blog potentially hurt you? Yes. If Google decides it’s an unnatural connection, it could. Do we really want our fear of being penalized by Google to dictate what blogs we read and what sites we leave links on?
Personally, I don’t believe we should. I do use caution though. I’m not about to leave a backlink to my site on an AdSense riddled article. Then again, those sites don’t interest me. Will I leave a backlink to my site on a site that’s completely unrelated to my niche? Absolutely. I don’t do it for any potential SEO value. Actually, there’s more of a risk of it working against me than any chances of it having any benefit. Whenever I leave a backlink to my site, it’s with the intention that the article will be valuable to either the blogger and/or their readers.
To read more about my commenting strategy and to read what others have to say about it, (over 166 comments as of this moment), please check out my guest post What Is Your Blog Commenting Strategy? on AdrienneSmith.com.
Should Bloggers Close Down Their Comments?
On another note, (as I’m sure most of you know), CopyBlogger closed down comments on their blog in March. Sonia Simone, their Chief Content Officer, blogged about it. There was speculation in the blogging community that there may have been a hidden agenda behind the decision. (Perhaps it was related to the recent actions by the Google webspam team?)
In her original post, Sonia stated these facts:
- In a little over 8 years, Copyblogger published more than 130,000 comments.
- That 130,000 comments represented only about 4% of the actual number of comments left on the site.
- Therefore, approximately 96% of the comments left on Copyblogger were spam.
In this Lede podcast, Sonia shares her view of the decision to end comments on CopyBlogger. In summary:
- The compelling reason for closing comments was the vast amount of time that was spent moderating comments.
- The conversation in the comments got skewed due to people using CopyBlogger for self-promotion.
- CopyBlogger made the decision to move the conversation to social media sites. (For example, Sonia advocates joining the conversation on Google+.)
Over To You:
What are your thoughts? Have you had to deal with a manual web spam action or know someone who has? Do you use CommentLuv or leave backlinks on do-follow enabled blogs? We’d love to hear from you.