Recently, on the “Bloggers Helping Bloggers” group on LinkedIn, a member started the discussion “Do You Reciprocate Comments? Why Not?” It turned out to be one of the most active discussions that we have had and it certainly elicited a lot of comments. I was impressed by how passionate some bloggers are about reciprocating every comment. From a strategic point of view, is there value to commenting on a blog simply because the blogger left a comment for you?
Commenting On Blogs – the 3 Stages We Go Through
When I stepped back and thought about how my strategy for commenting has progressed since I first started blogging, I realized that I can identify three different “stages” in what I believe is a cycle of sorts:
Stage #1: Building Awareness
As a new blogger, I was struggling to draw attention to my blog. It can almost be painful waiting for those first few comments. I remember desperately wanting comments – any comments. Even spam looked a little more reasonable back then. If someone left a comment for me, I made sure that I went to their blog and left a comment for them.
My objectives in my early stages of blogging were to:
- Drive traffic to my website. My target reader then was everyone. (I was using the “throw the spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks” approach.)
- Get other people to spread the word by talking about my posts and sharing them on social media websites.
My initial tactics:
- Install the CommentLuv WordPress plugin to entice new readers to my blog by rewarding them with “do-follow” links when they left a comment on my blog.
- Reply to all comments to foster discussions and create an environment that encourages sharing.
Stage #2: Building Your Online Presence
In stage two, through Google Analytics, it became clear to me that the best use of my time was to concentrate on commenting on blogs mainly in my niche. That’s where my potential readers are.
As I started gaining traffic, my objectives changed to:
- Drive targeted traffic to my blog. I had been getting website visitors who were looking for a “do-follow” link to their blog rather than visitors who were truly interested in my content.
- Build top of mind awareness in my niche.
My tactics evolved to:
- Comment on blogs that my target clients read. (If their readers found my comments valuable, they visited my blog and many became regular readers. This tactic works exceptionally well when I leave comments on CommentLuv sites that link to one of my posts that relates directly to the content of the post that I’m commenting on.)
- Build relationships with bloggers who are already established in my niche by commenting on their blogs and sharing their articles on multiple social media sites. (Check out my Stalking the Popular Kids post for more on this strategy.)
Stage # 3: Focusing on Strategies that Work
When I first started driving traffic to my blog, I spent a lot of time commenting on other blogs but when I looked at my analytics, I was getting very little traffic from most of those blogs. While commenting on blogs helps my community building efforts, it’s time for me to look into other alternatives such as guest blogging to increase my exposure even more. (Check out Danny Iny’s interview on Kristin Hines’ blog to see why this strategy may help drive more traffic than commenting.)
Objectives based on results:
- Spend my time on strategies that work for me.
- Track what I’m doing and be open to new ideas.
Tactics based on strategy:
- Pay attention to where my current clients have found me and spend more of my time there.
- Pay attention to current trends and changes while being open to establishing a presence on social media sites such as Google+ while at the same time not staying with the status quo simply because it’s comfortable.
What is the best use of your time? If you’re a food blogger and someone leaves a comment for you with a link to their blog about archery, does it make sense to hop over there, read their post and leave a comment? What do you think? Do you reciprocate all comments? Do you see yourself in any of the “stages” that I believe my blog has gone through? As always, your thoughts and ideas are welcome.