For the past five or so years, we've organized teams to support an author's efforts to increase the SEO of his or her website. We've done this a number of ways, but the biggest and most powerful was -- and is -- blog commenting.
When we first launched teams to offer blog commenting, most people didn't have a clue how powerful this type of marketing was. Most Internet people did and have been doing it ever since. Now it's become more mainstream, and everyone seems to want to jump on the blog commenting bandwagon. But let me caution you, because there's a right way and a very wrong way to do this. I'll explain both.
Creating a Blog Commenting Plan
The first step in blog commenting is creating a plan and, of course, knowing who you'll be engaging with. Here are a few ways you can get started:
Deciding who to follow: Who will become part of your online networking tribe? These are the people influential to your industry. They might be competitors to you, or spokespeople. They might also be authorities in one way or another. Whoever they are and whatever they offer, it should somehow dial into what you are promoting. I recommend that you make a list of the top 5-10 names. Don't go overboard for now. I'm sure there are more people you could engage with but to start, I want you to focus just on a few. You can grow the rest of your list from there.
Once you have your list, you'll want to start following their blogs and also find out where they are appearing. This might mean commenting off of their website, I'll explain in a minute why that's important. First, let's look at how you can organize this information:
RSS feeds: This is the quickest and simplest way to get started. Subscribe to their RSS feeds and keep all of these in your online reader, or Google iPage. That way you can spend a few minutes in the morning going through your blog posts to see which ones you want to comment on.
Twitter: This is another great way to find content to blog on. Follow your favorites on Twitter and follow the links to their blogs. This will often give you great insights into the biggest and most popular posts on their website. Don't forget to comment on their Twitter posts too!
Google Alerts: Another great system for finding good content to comment on. Plug in the names of the folks you're following. Also, enter their blog URLs too! Often bloggers will reference a blog post and not the name of the person blogging. Having this link as one of your Alerts will allow you to follow each and every mention of this blogger. So, why do you want to blog off their site? Anytime a blogger is featured on a website, it's likely that site is one you'll want to follow too. Or, at some point you may also want to blog comment on that site as well. It's a great way to network with folks who might one day interview you or feature your book!
Tips for a Great SEO Plan
Frequency: I generally recommend you try to comment on 3-5 blogs a week. I also recommend you spend no more than 30 minutes a day ferreting through blogs and posting, anything more becomes a time-drain that will prevent you from keeping up this work.
Engagement: Remember that each comment is no different than a post you would write for your own blog. You'd never consider writing "great post!" on your site and leave it at that, right? You should consider writing short but thoughtful posts for your blog comments. Offer additional insight, another perspective, or a link to where the reader can get more information. Don't be salesy, that's the first way you'll get blasted.
Quality over Quantity: As per the above note: make it count. Don't worry about the amount of posts you do, but spend the time considering the quality of the comment itself. You'll find much better engagement and response when you do.
Where's the Juice: The SEO juice from this strategy will be apparent in the incoming links that now direct to your site. Each time you post a comment it will ask you for your URL (if you're already registered on a particular site, the login will remember your URL and post it in each comment). While not all blogs allow follow links, there's a lot of debate on no-follow blogs and whether they are still good for SEO. What is "no follow"? No follow is a term used in the SEO world to describe sites that can block your outbound link (the link to your site), using a No Follow Tag. See here for more on no follow.
The No Follow essentially tells Google not to consider your link when ranking for algorithm. Even though you may get referral traffic, Google will act as if you aren't even on the site. Meaning, you may get traffic from the link, but no "link juice" per se. This deters a lot of SEO people, but my take is this: If a link from a high-traffic site will get you traffic, why not post there? We still see a significant amount of traffic from links posted on No Follow sites. Also, keep in mind that search engines pay a lot of attention to social sites like Twitter and Facebook which are both No Follows.
The point being, a strong SEO plan should include blog commenting. Not just for the SEO benefits, but for the engagement and connections blog commenting brings with it. Consistent, high quality posts will not only bring you great traffic, but also fantastic connections as well.