Should You Drive Traffic by Commenting on Other People’s Blogs?

By Tessa Wegert January 22nd, 2015

Google “blog traffic” and you’ll get thousands of links to formulas, tactics, and strategies designed to drum up visits to your site. It’s not hard to understand why—boosting blog traffic is a priority for virtually every brand, blogger, and full-fledged media company. And now, one blogger may have found another method to help take your blog traffic to the next level.

Late last year, Neil Patel, founder of marketing consultancy Quick Sprout and co-founder of analytics companies KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg, conducted an experiment based on a straightforward theory: that commenting on other people’s blogs can increase the flow of traffic to your own.

To test his hunch he left 249 comments on various third-party blogs during the month of October. Patel found that if he commented on a blog post within an hour of it being published, thereby ensuring that his remark appeared near the top of the comments section, the effort drove thousands of visits to his site. Furthermore, when he commented on his own posts—articles he wrote as a guest contributor to such sites as Forbes.com and HubSpot—he could actually generate leads.

All told, Patel’s test resulted in 3,973 blog visitors and six consulting leads. One of them, he says, precipitated a corporate speaking engagement worth $25,000.

Patel took two decidedly different approaches to his informal experiment. Comments that he categorizes as “basic,” such as a word or two of praise for the blog post in question, generated an average of 3.2 visitors per comment. He left very few of these—just 25 in all. Instead, he focused on fleshing out his responses to create comments that were 4 to 17 sentences.

With every comment Patel left he included the URL for his consulting site. Though they took a few extra minutes to produce, his 224 thoughtful comments drove 3,891 visitors to that site—an average of 17.3 visitors per comment.

A secondary finding from the experiment was that commenting on larger, more mainstream blogs like the Huffington Post didn’t yield as many conversions.

Still, Patel believes that his technique can work for both B2B and B2C brands. “You just have to leave very valuable comments,” he says, noting the importance of selecting blogs specific to your business and area of expertise. “Don’t focus on building a brand. Focus on helping people through comments.”

At the root of Patel’s comment strategy is the idea that blogs have evolved from online journals to public conversations. One of the original forms of social media, blogging has been around since the early 1990s. Online comments followed in 1998 when Open Diary, widely considered to be both the world’s first blogging community and one of the first social networking sites, launched with reader comments.

For many modern brands, blogging remains the keystone of their content marketing strategy: 80 percent of B2B marketers still invest in blogs. Apart from demonstrating thought leadership and industry expertise, blog posts can go a long way towards humanizing brands.

The question remains, however, on whether brands have any business commenting on the blogs of others. Anti-spam service Akismet, which helps brands filter comment spam from their blogs, reportedly tackles 7.5 million incidents of spam per hour. Patel says that because comments like his were “good comments on relevant sites” that included nofollow links, he wasn’t at risk of being penalized for spamming by search engines like Google. But could comments made by marketers read as spam to the customers brands are hoping to engross?

“It depends on what they’re commenting on,” says Maria Lopez-Knowles, chief marketing officer with California-based Pulpo Media, a digital marketing agency specializing in the Hispanic market. Lopez-Knowles believes that the quality of the comments is paramount to success. “If [the subject] is something a brand is considered an expert in, such as food, and they’re commenting on improving a recipe … it might not be too intrusive. But I think a fine line needs to be walked.” She adds that the comments need to feel organic. Sticking to topics about which a brand is a known authority can help them evade a backlash.

Sean O’Neal, president of social media buying agency Adaptly, warns of the dangers associated with throwaway comments. “If the marketing has no connection to the underlying content, contributes nothing to the conversation that is taking place, and disrupts the natural flow of an authentic discussion, then it’s not likely to reflect well on the brand.”

When a marketer comments on another’s blog as a way to promote their own products, the stakes are even higher. “Great marketing is relevant. It’s contextual. It adds value,” O’Neal says. “And while ‘blog marketing’ might be an easy way to get some free media, reputable marketers will be weary of the risks around negative reader response.”

The takeaway from Patel’s blog traffic game plan is that blogging alone isn’t enough. If a brand hopes to woo audiences and ingratiate itself with potential customers, it must go a step beyond posting to show audiences it’s ready and willing to engage. Brands, after all, employ interesting people who are experts in their field.

They might as well show it.

Image by Brian Jackson
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