Effective immediately, I'm instituting a new comment policy for this blog. Before I explain it to you (it's really simple as there are only three rules), let me give you the reason why.
I'm seeing a growing number of comment spam lately. Not the usual, software-driven kind — Akismet and Disqus do a wonderful job to keep those at bay. But the ones that look, on the surface, as legitimate comments.
Legitimate, they are not.
They are faux comments masking as real ones for the express purpose of siphoning traffic. Called “friendly comment spam,” they are typically simple, often just a sentence or two, and most of them are generic, irrelevant, and complimentary in nature.
Believe me, I love praise like most people. But just saying “nice blog” (or “nice article,” “nice post,” “good job,” “love this post,” etc) does not constitute a comment. They are not contributing anything to the conversation, or anything of value to my readers.
I talked about this on Twitter and on Facebook, and while most people agreed with me, some were opposed. One person said that many of these commentators are aspiring copywriters and that I should be grateful for such a problem.
My guess is, what this person is saying is that I should care about my fans, allow these comments, and give them the credit by letting them siphon some of my “traffic juice.”
But they don't understand.
Let me put aside the whole “I owe it to them” issue for now, because that's a whole other topic — one I have very strong opinions about. And if you've been following me for some time, you know exactly what I mean. For now, let's stick with the spam issue.
Sure, praise from an aspiring copywriter makes sense. Or a veteran one. Or a marketer, entrepreneur, or just a loyal reader. I'm OK with those. After all, the comment makes sense and I do want to give back to my fans, as this person implied.
But don't patronize me.
The fact is, I often get these curt comments that contain just a few words, along with links to real estate opportunities, SEO services, casinos, MLM offers, and even porn sites.
Er, thanks. But no thanks.
Now, you may think like the commenter above who said, “So what?” But I have over 50 blogs in a variety of niches. And when some of these comments are posted on multiple blogs, and they are exactly the same, word for word, from the same commenter…
… I get a bad taste in my mouth.
The worst part is, there are some services out there where you can outsource this, where you're able to hire people to do this for you en masse. Not some automated software or robot, but real, actual people masquerading as you.
(The worst come from foreign electronic sweatshops. “You mean, I can get a ton of comments on other blogs for only five cents per comment? Oooooh, sign me up!”)
This mindset was rampant — I'm sure it still is — in the days when I use to own and run a discussion forum for copywriters. I remember having to delete posts and ban a ton of these fake forum spammers every single day.
A few gurus would teach their students about signing up on multiple discussion forums, add a link in their signature file, and just post away — without care or concern about the topic of discussion, let alone the forum's audience or etiquette rules.
I'm confident some of these gurus are saying the same thing about blogs.
Either way, these fake friendly comments are a scourge.
As Larry Winget replied to my comment on Facebook:
“I delete every person who does that to me. They have NO interest in what you have to say but are only promoting their agenda to YOUR fan base and friends. Dump 'em!”
Granted, I don't mind people — or people who hire people — who legitimately look for worthwhile, highly trafficked blogs in one's niche, and post a relevant comment whose purpose is more or less to gain search engine juice, backlinks, and traffic.
I love my commenters, my readers, and my fans, and I certainly want them to join in on the conversation and get exposure for their own sites, too.
(By the way, the whole issue of “follow” versus “nofollow” on external links is a touchy one, particularly lately with the whole pagerank sculpting debate. But that's another topic altogether, and a different post for another day.)
However, there's a difference between real and fake comments.
A real comment contributes to the conversation. If they are complimentary or congratulatory, they genuinely appear as thanking me for the post. Either that or they have commented on other posts in the past, and have shown to be genuine.
What do I mean by “they genuinely appear as thanking me?”
When someone posts “nice article,” it's usually followed by an extra sentence or two about what they pulled from or liked about the article. Those types of comments, although they can be questionable at times, are, in general, acceptable.
Now, praise is one thing. But there's the opposite, too. In other words, faultfinders and naysayers who only bitch, whine, criticize, and create fake controversy, oftentimes for the sake of stirring the pot and drumming up traffic as a result.
Even those who don't care about the traffic but criticize without contributing anything of substance in return are just as bad as the fake compliments.
I don't mind people who oppose me. I'm a fan of healthy, productive, and mature debate between adults. I don't mind being challenged on my opinions and I always listen to what others have to say. That's the beauty of having comments!
But there's a difference between a critique and a criticism.
Between being critical and being a critic.
The former express what they dislike, and expand on it by offering something we — my readers and I — can chew on. They perhaps offer a suggestion or two on how to make things better, if not at least an opinion as to why, exactly, they disagree with me.
The latter, on the other hand, are firebrands and faultfinders. Braggarts and bullies. Hecklers and hatemongers. They even occasionally resort to namecalling.
Now, simply telling me you don't agree with me means absolutely nothing, and it means much less when your comment includes spiteful, unfounded, or egregious commentary.
Lately, I've seen a rash of blogs who avoid the issue altogether by turning off comments. In these cases, the only way you can comment on an article is by posting one on your own blog and tracking back to it, or talking about it on some social network.
I won't do this. I think it's rather aggressive, and I prefer to control the comments by allowing them on my blog. I love my fans and readers, and I also want to hear what you have to say. In fact, some of the best ideas actually came from my blog's comments.
It's all about social media, interaction, and community.
So instead, I've decided to implement a new comment policy on this blog starting immediately. I will be posting it on its own page in the future, but for now you can read them below. It's simple, really. There are only three rules…
- First and foremost, the number one rule is respect. If your comment contains meaningless content, off-topic content, abusive language, personal attacks, spam, or illegal activities, it will be promptly deleted. Bullies, spammers, and faultfinders need not reply. Stay on topic. And think twice before you post.
- Show your appreciation through action, not words. If you really do appreciate my content, I prefer you show your appreciation by sharing the link (such as on Twitter, Facebook, or any other social site), sending me a tip (see link at the end of this post, after my “about the author” section), or offering something valuable for my readers. Even better, post on your own blog and trackback to this website or post.
- Critiques, debates, and challenges are welcome. If, on the other hand, you dislike something I said, the same rules apply. Share with us why you dislike my blog post, why you disagree with me, and what you believe is a better alternative. Your voice will not only be heard but also carry far more weight if you do it this way.
I look forward to your comments. Keep in mind, though, all comments are moderated and will be reviewed before approval, usually within 24 hours. Comments may be edited (to make them compliant with the above rules) or deleted, at my discretion, without notice.
I'm not perfect. So the occasional comment that fails to abide by any of these rules may unintentionally slip through the cracks. If you catch one, remember that you can also flag and report comments, too. I will review them as soon as I can.
Bottom line, be relevant, be genuine, and be nice.
Michel Fortin is a senior marketing specialist, renowned copywriter, and digital marketing expert. For the better part of 30 years, he's produced countless successful marketing communications and profitable campaigns that generated in excess of $300 million in sales. He's broken many industry sales records, including being instrumental behind the first ever “million-dollar day” online marketing campaign in 2004. He's worked with thousands of businesses and entrepreneurs around the world in a wide variety of industries on building their businesses, improving their marketing, and increasing their profits. He's a published author and often speaks at industry events. To connect with him, visit his LinkedIn profile where he is most active.