Rethinking My Comment Policy

Filed in Site News by Matt McGee on June 29, 2008


This blog has been a do-follow blog for many, many months. If you’re willing to take the time to leave a quality comment, I don’t mind sending you back a link that counts. I started do-following comments back in the days when you had to register and be logged-in to leave a comment here. You had to work to get that link.

You may have noticed that comments are now open; no registration required. I’m glad I made the switch — the amount of comments, page views, and interaction on this blog has gone up dramatically in the past six weeks. (That’s good news for advertisers.)

But there are downsides: Some people are leaving comments with their keyword as the name/link, and since these are usually first-time commenters, I have to assume they’re only commenting for the free link. I delete the ones that are low quality as fast as I can. But some actually add to the discussion, like this one from Missy, who commented with the name “Chicago Blog”. So that one can stay.

This isn’t a really severe problem at the moment, but I’m sure it’s going to get worse soon: After staying under the radar for six weeks of open, followed commenting, Small Business SEM has finally been included on one of those gaddawful “Do-Follow Blog” lists.

As I said up top … sigh.

If memory serves, there’s a WordPress plugin that will do-follow comments from frequent commenters, and no-follow links from new commenters. That might be a solution. I like it better than just no-following all comment links. Still, the whole thing is just ridiculous. Spammers suck.

Comments (26)

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  1. Burgo says:

    Hey Matt,
    Just a note… that plugin that you (might) be talking about in the last paragraph could be the Lucia’s LinkLove plugin… you can determine how many comments a reader would leave before the no-follow is dropped. I use it on my own blog actually 🙂

  2. xensen says:

    On my blogs I have posted a policy statement, one point of which is “No keywords in author names,” and I reserve the right to edit such user names. For example, if a user name is “Discount Printing” but the post is worth keeping, I would probably edit the name to “DP.” Comments have improved as a result.

  3. Eric Lander says:

    [so tempted to change my name to V1agr@…]

    As Burgo pointed out, Lucia’s LinkLove is a solid option. Just last week I reiterated my stance on DoFollowing everything, but I think the problem is that very few people read my blog. Still, I’ve found going back and babysitting comments to be an annoyance. I’m noticing it happen a lot on particularly older posts.

  4. Simply no-following all first-time commenters may not always send the “right signal”: some of them may actually be long-time readers / RSS-subscribers, not drive-by spammers!

    IMO, the “best” way to deal with comments is to moderate them all. If they are “worthy” of publication, they can get a (“real”) link; if not, they are deleted with extreme prejudice (i.e., just what Matt said).

    @Eric: The “preference” for older posts is probably because 1) spammers think these aren’t monitored anymore, and 2) these pages have “visible PageRank”… 🙁

  5. I know that I used an anchored link in the name field, but I thought that I would start an open discussion here about the purpose of the do-follow blog movement.

    If you are of the opinion that your readers should receive a link to their website or blog as a benefit for leaving a comment, then you should have no problem with them using an anchored link. If you don’t use a keyword focused name, the do-follow link becomes almost worthless. However, I do think that a good commenting policy should require the author of the comment to leave his/her name in the comment. This way your blog doesn’t feel impersonal.

    Another great option is the KeywordLuv plugin. This plugin allows comments to use the following for the name field – Fred @ Wachovia Mortgages Rates. The “Fred @” will not be included in the text link.

    These are just my thoughts. I hope that this comment has added value to your blog. I have checked the “notify me of followup comments” so that I can continue this conversation.


  6. David Mihm says:

    Fred, I completely disagree with this statement:

    “f you are of the opinion that your readers should receive a link to their website or blog as a benefit for leaving a comment, then you should have no problem with them using an anchored link. If you don’t use a keyword focused name, the do-follow link becomes almost worthless.”

    I think you’re missing the point of commenting on a blog in general. It’s to interact with a particular community and perhaps build a personal brand, or at the very least a personal relationship, with some of the authors and commenters whom you read frequently. It is not to try to rank your own website higher for your keywords.

    Creating a spammy, keyword-stuffed comment trail actually hurts the brand of you and your website within the community, and reflects poorly upon the website you’re commenting on. Think about if everyone did the same thing–a lesser-known blog than SBS might be in trouble if a Google engineer ever did a hand-check.

    Matt, I like Xensen’s solution.

  7. Christian says:

    Hey Matt,

    Our company blog is also included in this list. We’ve been ‘following’ comment links for some time now too… and just have been hit the last three or so weeks with comments. We think that if someone gives the time to write a constructive comment, then hey, why not throw a ‘followed’ link their way?

    The problem, at least to me, is when people start writing super-generalized comments and linking to a third tier page on their lighting supplies site or whatnot. When I see a URL other than a homepage or a /blog/ or whatever subdirectory or subdomain, that signals a yellow flag.

    Our stance is that we’ll still follow comment links… but we’re heavily moderating comments. Sometimes we edit out the URL (in extreme cases); other times we don’t approve the comment.

    Matt – I’ve also found that some people who do leave these ‘spammy’ comments come back for seconds or thirds & link to another deep-level product / service page. So in that case, the plugin you’re thinking about using may not work the way you want it to.

    Anyway, good luck!

  8. Andy Beard says:

    I have to doubt the quality of the list as they managed to miss me out 😉

    I have never been a fan of these lists either but have managed to convert some people using them into valuable members of my blog community.

    Anchor text is starting to annoy me as well, but the most annoying is SEOs linkbuilding for clients with or without anchor text.

    If you click a link, it should go to something about the person leaving the comment.

  9. Fred says:


    I understand your point. But by that philosophy, why implement do follow comments at all. If you are making your blog a do follow blog, then why not allow your readers to get anchored links?

  10. David Mihm says:

    Fred, here is my take on nofollow.

    Nofollow was invented simply as a spam-deterrent. Keyword stuffing, even if it comes in advance of a useful comment, is a form of spam.

    Let’s think about what would happen if the search engine algorithms didn’t rely on links at all. Would people still stuff keywords in their links? No. They would sign their comment with their names or their company names, or if they wanted to remain anonymous, simply ‘anonymous.’

    Again, links should be a secondary benefit of commenting on a blog, IMHO.

    I certainly enjoy the discussion though!

  11. I wholeheartedly agree with Andy and David –“signing” your comments with a bunch of keywords is a form of spam…

    If you get linkswithout nofollow, that means, IMO, that the site owners appreciated your comments/contributions to the conversation, and are willing to “vouch” for your site in some limited sense (i.e., they don’t think it is pure spam or garbage).

    They do *not* necessarily feel that your site should rank highly for the keyword(s) that you have cleverly selected! 😉

  12. Congrats/condolences on being included on a Do Follow list. (grin)

    Most people tend to act in their own self interests. It’s the old WIFM rearing its ugly head. As a result, most people who comment on blogs are doing so in an effort to build traffic/links to their site. Even when no-follow attributes are left in place, very few blogs have comments without leaving a “bread crumb trail” of a link of some sort which leads back to the commenter’s own website.

    Human nature being what it is, I’m with the others on this one. Announce your policy and let the chips fall where they may. It’s your sandbox after all. If the people leaving comments want a sip of your Google juice, then they’ll play by your rules. If not, they can find another sandbox with rules more to their liking.

  13. Mike Gates says:

    Hi Matt,

    I understand your frustration, but I have to agree with others who have commented here. If you are not willing to let people who comment use their preferred link text, I think you should turn dofollow off.

    I use KeywordLuv because it allows those who comment to use their selected keywords, and it makes the link text more personal – Mike at Chosen Keywords

    But, if you require people to use their personal name and no keywords, just make it clear and visitors can then choose to comment or not.

    It’s also the responsibility of those who post blog comments, to leave quality and relevant comments.

    I have posted dofollow comment rules on my blog, and if people don’t follow them, I remove their comments. But, I still allow keyword text in links.


  14. Chicago Blog says:

    I am a subscriber to your blog, along with David’s, i think you two guys are the go-to guys for local search SEM.

    I had been reading your submission on Sphinn and Twitter, i just never got around to subscribing to your RSS feeds, till last week.

    Leaving keyword name based comments is a tricky area, i get them too on my blogs. If the comment shows me that the commenter read my post, and doesnt leave a one word or one sentence comment, i allow it.

    If the comment simply says, “great post” or “thanxs”, etc. I dont delete it, but i do go in and edit the keyword based name. That’s how i do it. But come to think of it, i too had dofollow on my main blog, but removed it, because i read somewhere, that it (generally) sucks away PR juice from ones blog.

    Which i guess means, that the comments left on my main blog, dont get PR juice at all. So it probably doesnt matter whether someone leaves a keyword based name, or not. Right?

    I’m not an expert in SEO matters, so i cannot comment too much on it. I would classify myself as versed and well read on the topic, but not an expert.

    To be honest, i did not know your blog was a dofollow blog. It really is a tricky situation, as far as when is it considered best practice to leave a keyword based name, and when it isnt. Maybe not at all. I dont know.

    I guess it is still up in the air. I will use my name (Missy) from now on, on your blog. (not including this post, as it will create reference for others)


  15. Missy says:

    I wanted to add that the day i left that comment on your blog, i probably spent like over an hour on your blog.

    I do like it, and appreciate your work.

  16. Burgo says:

    @ Eric Lander:
    Just regarding your comment about it being a hassle to go back and baby-sit old posts and their comments…

    Although I haven’t tried it myself, I know that there IS a “comment timeout” plugin for WP, which allows you to close off comments automatically on your posts, after a certain time period. Check out although that’s the only one I’ve come across.

  17. Matt McGee says:

    What a great discussion – thank you all for chiming in. I’m going to see how things play out in the coming days/weeks with this blog being included on that do-follow list. I assume it’ll now be included on many other similar lists, too. If that happens, and the comment issues get unmanageable, I’ll take action.

    Eric’s point about old posts being targeted is interesting. Anyone leaving a comment on my SEO Success Pyramid post gets a link from a PR4 page. And if this blog ever jumps to PR6, that post will probably jump to PR5. A couple of the recent comments there have been sketchy. But … on the other hand, my old post about Merchant Circle (see ) gets a lot of Google traffic and quality comments from small business owners. So I don’t want to turn off commenting on old posts.

    @Marcel – moderating all comments is not an option for me. If that were in place right now, this conversation you all had would never have happened because I wasn’t able to keep much of an eye on the blog today. The fact that 2-3 of you were able to comment immediately and without moderation encouraged the entire discussion. I don’t want to stop that.

    Fred, on a purely SEO basis, your statement — “If you don’t use a keyword focused name, the do-follow link becomes almost worthless.” — is incorrect. All followed links from reputable, quality sites have value. Would you turn down a link from the CNN home page simply because it didn’t have the right anchor text for your site? Granted, this isn’t CNN, but I do believe it’s trusted and somewhat authoritative in the eyes of the search engines.

    @Chicago Blog (Missy) – thanks for the kind words. I would certainly add Mike Blumenthal, Andrew Shotland, and a few others as “must read” local search marketers. 🙂 To answer your question — yes, if your comment links are all no-followed, it doesn’t make what the anchor text says. Google says they ignore those links altogether. Yahoo will use the link itself for discovery of new pages, but won’t pass “link juice” from the no-followed link.

    Thanks again, everyone, for the super discussion … keyworded anchor text and all. 😉

  18. I was unaware of the follow policy here Matt. I do like the idea of opening things up to invite more discussion (and views for your advertisers).

    Congrats on the new job!

  19. Utah SEO says:

    Hey thanks for the “Utah SEO” link, lol.

    Comments add user-generated content. Just got to be good about weeding out the crappy comments that have no additive value. People will get the picture.

    IMHO, who cares if people get the anchor text they want if they’re adding to the discussion and coming back frequently in some cases?

  20. Here’s another perspective on keywords in the name. When I comment, I usually do so with a combination of my name and a brief description of what I do.

    I think there is value in using both a name and a keyword in the Name field.

    When I read blog comments I like seeing the person’s name and knowing that a real person is behind it. Yet I don’t like seeing just a name. I often am curious about that person’s background and I don’t want to click on every link to see their site.

    To me, a combination of name and brief description answers that. Personally, I don’t even use a keyword that I’m actively trying to rank for. But it summarizes concisely what I do.

    Frankly, I don’t like seeing just a business name or a keyword substituted for a name. But I think there is value for other readers in letting them know a little more about where your comment is coming from.

    Maybe I’m alone in feeling this way, but that’s the way I see it.

  21. Yossarian says:

    Yeah I personally don’t mind the name+keyword approach as long as it is short.

    I agree with the likes of Utah in the sense that as long as their is a discussion going on then it is good, but I just think it looks spammy when you only have keywords, and it makes replying to the person feel weird. I want to call someone by their name not their keyword!

    Mmm thinking about that I might change my name to Search Engine Optimisation.

  22. Sphunn.

    Using Dofollow is an excellent way of attracting traffic, but largely the wrong kind! As soon as your blog propogates around the dofollow community you will see the quality of the traffic on your site decrease.

    I think someone should create a guide on how to manage the degradation of your traffic when changing to a dofollow policy.

    Great site!!

  23. Josh says:

    I am still making people register to comment on my blog but am considering changing that policy. The amount of dribble comments that were being submitted made that a good policy….however, I don’t get nearly the number of comments that I used to. Maybe I should re-think my policy and follow your lead. It makes a good deal of sense.

  24. Matt McGee says:

    Josh, opening up comments is one of the best things I’ve ever done on this blog. But I only did it because I’m in a position where I’m around more and able to monitor the junk more closely than I could before. Lord knows there’s plenty of junk coming through with the comment door wide open, but there’s also a lot more valuable conversations. I’ll take that trade any day….

  25. Josh says:

    Matt, You’re right. I shut it down before I was able to make the move to running my business full-time. Now, there really isn’t a reason for me to not do it — other than being a little bit lazy 🙂

  26. Jason says:

    I run a blog myself and am trying to get people to comment with constructive things to add to the “conversation”, and for the most part I get really good responses and delete all the “drive by spammers” and there are alot of them. This is a good policy and it does help you.