Last week Scott Stratten, better known to many on Twitter as @unmarketing, wrote a post called “The Five Words That Kill Your Blog”. If you haven’t read it, you should. It’s likely the worst advice you could follow if you own, write, and care for a blog.
I’ve read Scott’s blog before, and more times often than not, he does drop good nuggets of information. However, this post was reckless. Anyone with Scott’s amplification and reach should have known better than to publish something like this without adding counter-arguments or notes of caution.
The Root of the Problem
I’m of the mindset that one can specialize in one or two disciplines in search marketing, but will have to relatively adept, that is having amateur understanding of all things related to the field. For example, I specialize heavily in SEO, Analytics, and Search Strategy. It’s where I live, it’s what I do day in and day out.
It’s not that I don’t know about social media, how to apply it, or where to use it; it simply comes down to the fact I don’t swim in it all day. So, when a self-confessed “Speaker/Jedi for Social Media” becomes so myopically focused on “open conversation” without consideration unscrupulous SEOs will take advantage of that, it’s short-sighted and dangerous.
Reason for Comment Moderation
Perhaps Mr. Stratten read this study from Pew Internet as well, which may have prompted such ludicrous advice to leave your blog comments wide open: Content Creation: Sharing, remixing, blogging, and more.
- 4% increase in adults 30 or Older who blog (From 2007 to 2009)
- 6% increase of adults 30 or older posted a blog comment
How I evaluate Scott’s reasoning through this data. With more adults creating blogs, there’s more noise in the blogosphere (as if there wasn’t enough already); therefore, getting more comments to your blog might be a more difficult task as there are more options to choose from, so why stifle it indeed? Then take into account that more adults are commenting on blogs than ever before, and there is a real opportunity to create that desired “conversation”. Makes sense.
His points about Askimet and Disqus are well taken, they do a decent job of filtering out obvious spam. But not all of it. And the moment you open up the door, even just a little, you’re playing with fire. Spammers, the good ones, do a fantastic job creating comments that get through defenses and sound like an actual comment.
How an SEO Sees Open Blog Comments
Lunch. No more, no less. Links matter in search Scott, and if you’re encouraging blogs with good content, hell even blogs with bad content, to open their doors you’re asking for a world of trouble. I don’t participate in spamming blogs, even if a link is a link. But many SEOs do.
And, Scott, they’re relentless in their “pursuit” of links. They spam-bomb the holy hell out of an open blog. So much so, that it will force the owner to turn moderation on. That’s how it works. I wish I could tell you that we live in the utopia you seem to think is achievable through conversation, but we don’t. Even one of our own commented on your blog attempting to give fair warning, Steve Plunkett.
Linking out to bad neighborhoods, yes even through blog comments, is not a sound practice and will definitely end up hurting your searchability in the future. So, even if 1 out of every 10 spam comments gets through, that adds up to spam-peddling blog. But wait, there’s more. Pretty soon, you’ll be a haven for all tasty pharmaceutical links, porn links, and probably some gambling links too.
And, yes, they’re nofollow links, so you’re not passing juice. But don’t think that The Big 3 don’t take notice of these things. The engines will have neutralized you and your blog before you can cause too much damage to the SERPs, and all the conversation in the world won’t save your blog’s findability. It’ll be a search engine pariah, never to be heard from again.
Spam Kills Conversations
A big metaphor:Spammers are usually not the first ones to arrive to the party. They like to be late to the party, just after the cool kids have gone home for the night. They are the kids that no one invited, but they knew about the party and slink in through side-entrance. They arrive with their own six-pack of shitty beer, plop down on the couch, and put their feet up on the table.
And, when they open their mouth, everyone gets up to leave. Spam kills your blog conversations. Nothing says that you don’t care about your blog more than spam comments tucked in between people who were invited to the party, or those that came in late, and collected at the bottom, after the conversation is done.
Moderation is a Must
I’m sorry, but this is an instance where social media marketers/gurus get it wrong. Not moderating the comments on your blog is search suicide, in my opinion. You can take your chances and not moderate, and maybe you’ll get lucky for a while, but they will find you. And when they do, you’re blog is going to feel like it got hit by a freight train. There are several successful blogs that moderate their comments:
It doesn’t stop the conversation on these blogs. There are plenty of conversations going on, and meaningful ones at that, without all the spam worries. Do yourself a favor, do your blog a favor, and moderate your comments.