I hope you find my writing and business tips and observations useful. My business and blog are dedicated to helping businesses communicate clearly and reach their potential. Read, subscribe to my newsletter, enjoy!Tash

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Honesty in your blog comments

Once you start blogging you will start getting comments. Unfortunately, a large proportion of them will probably be spam, but the real comments are great.

What about the real but not-so-great comments you may get?

As I wrote a few years ago (back in December 2007 to be precise – old content that still rings true!), I think you have five choices about how to act on negative comments.

Spam and outright abuse I think should be deleted and forgotten.

Comments that just disagree with you or  realistic or even constructive  criticisms are a different story.

Keeping negative comments in your blog seems honest to me – you’re not censoring and are being transparent.

It may be confronting to leave negative comments live, but it gives you a chance to be human and show that you are open to feedback – especially if you show that you have learnt from it.

Have you ever left negative comments in your blog? What response have you got from doing so?

Would you use negative comments to stir a controversy or a discussion?

An interesting campaign by comments

Like most bloggers, I get spam comments – boring and annoying but that’s the way it is. Luckily, I have plugins so don’t often see all the spam that comes in.

Occasionally I do glance through what has been filtered as spam to check things are on track. Recently, a found a number of comments in the spam filter that were a bit different.

Using comments to get a message spreadannouncing through blog comments

Leaving comments in a blog can of course be one way to share your message, and attract traffic back to your site to really explain what is important to you.

But this is the first time I have seen someone set up bulk comments (and I assume it was automated so probably has been sent to many blogs) in order to make their point of view heard.

This isn’t a commercial message, either (although their site could be monetised of course) so it really stood out to me.

Imagine if do-it-in-a-dress, World Vision, Kiva, Greenpeace or any other charity or community group used this tactic – see why I thought this was unusual?

Sharing negative messages

The comments I noticed were criticisms of a writing site

The commenter’s name was even entered as derogative terms against that service so they were definitely keen to ruin the company’s name.

I didn’t click on the link provided as I have no desire to read a diatribe against another service, plus I don’t trust links in spammy comments!

Personally, I have not looked at the named site but I have heard of it. I know some people have found it useful for finding writing projects while the details I have heard concern me and others (the pay rate is apparently ridiculously low so clients can’t assume they  are getting quality results and it is not respecting the writers’ time and effort).

I don’t like what I know about that service and similar ones but I have never heard they are dishonest about the pay rates so each to their own.

I agree that the uninformed may be influenced by such sites to work for well under reasonable pay rates because they don’t know any different. It is fair to let new writer’s understand the industry.

It isn’t right to spam the internet with claims of scam and fraud about another company.

So what’s the middle ground?

How can you share a warning with people without crossing legal boundaries and without damaging your own reputation?

Replying to blog comments

Speech bubbles are part of conversationBlogging is part of social media and is about communication. The only way it can become a conversation, however, is to encourage comments about the posts in the blog.

Comments are sometimes just as acknowledgement that you are reading the post but often people leave comments that enhance what was written in the post – the conversation and comments can sometimes teach  and entertain as much as the post itself.

So here are some basic guidelines to replying to comments:

  1.  in your own blog, a key to encouraging more comments is to reply to every comment you get. It can be a short ‘hello’ or thank you’ but it shows you appreciate comments and the people behind them
  2. always be respectful and polite in comments – you don’t have to agree every time but respect the fact that others have a different opinion to you
  3. before replying to a post, read through the existing comments – apart from the fact you may learn something, this gives you the opportunity to discuss the issues with others and to not just repeat a comment made by someone else.
    If here are a LOT of existing comments that you don’t read, acknowledge that to show you have noted that and may be repeating what someone else has said.
  4. When replying to another commenter, make it clear that is who you are talking to – threaded comments make this easy but otherwise use the person’s name
  5. it isn’t always possible, but try to make your comment interesting and useful – give a personal example or opinion about the topic, answer a question asked in the post or give some additional, relevant information. This expands the conversation, builds your credibility and makes it less likely your comment will be considered spam
  6. if you  write guest blog posts, treat it like your own blog – aim to reply to every person who comments on your post. You have written the post as the expert so need to be available to answer questions; blogs are about people and community so it comes across as arrogant to not reply to people discussing your ideas. From a business perspective, doing guest posts is about building relationships and expertise, so not answering comments is loosing an opportunity.
  7. never make a comment an ad for your own business/services/products. It just annoys people and makes it likely your comment will be deleted as spam. Give tips and advice, mention you have expertise and link to your site but remember that  this is someone’s blog, not your personal ad directory, and that people don’t read blogs and comments for ads.

From comments you’ve seen and blogs you admire, are there any other guidelines to add to my list?

Saving moderating time

Part of running a community-centric blog is moderating the comments. I mentioned that it is a time consuming task when I gave the reasons for moderating so today I’m sharing some ideas for saving time when moderating comments on your blog.

In no particular order, here are my tips:

  1. ensure you have a spam filter on your blog so the really obvious spam is off your list to moderate
  2. consider outsourcing the comment moderation. However, make sure you still look often so you can reply to any comments or have your support person tell you if there is a comment waiting for your reply
  3. set up some rules so certain people’s comments are automatically accepted – they see their comment instantly and you save a little time. You may do this for a select group or perhaps for everyone who has had a comment accepted in the past
  4. have a procedure that includes rules for your blog as this will save you time in deciding if a comment is acceptable. For example, they must have a real name not a tagline as their username, use a real URL not a shortened URL and can only include a link if genuinely adding to the conversation.
Do you have any other tips for saving time with your comments?

Judging spam comments

Having just deleted another batch of spam from my blog, I thought I’d share how obvious some of it is – and how you can avoid your comments being filtered out as spam.

  1. Flattery is common “this is the best blog”, “you write so well man” and “you must be an expert on this” are some recent examples in my spam folder. Genuine compliments are a good strategy, fake flattery is likely to get your comment deleted quickly
  2. Sounding impressed but never giving any specifics is also a common spam technique so they can use the same message in many blog posts. “I’ve been searching for this information” and “I was just discussing this topic the other day with my cousin” have been in my comments innumerable times; a genuine message would be specific and relevant, such as “I needed to know about clear communications” or “Some friends and I were just discussing keywords
  3. there is a discrepancy between the name, email address and URL usually means it is spam. If your name is Mary why wouldn’t your email address be mary@ or m.smith@? However, if the domain of email and URL disagree, I refuse to click on the link or accept the comment. So to get comments accepted, be honest and transparent.
  4. multiple links will be picked up by spam filters, but even the inclusion of one link in a comment makes me wary unless I know the person commenting. I look carefully at any comment with a link and decide if it looks safe enough to try the link myself – I certainly won’t accept a link without checking its content. Sometimes I will accept the comment but disable the link first, and I don’t think I’ve ever added a link in a comment I’ve left elsewhere unless they have the ‘latest blog post’ facility provided.
  5. really poor English is often a give away, too – and the ones that are obviously nonsense made up of part sentences should need no explanation. Poor writing of course is not 100% proof of spam so I do read these comments to assess if they are genuine or not. My tip is to make your comments read well to avoid being thought spam and to give your comment more credibility and weight.
Do you have any other tips for spotting spam comments for what they are?

Negative spam comments – why?

I get a lot of spam comments coming into this blog – I take it as a compliment that they see my blog as worthy of their effort to get included in it. Generally, the spam gets filtered and deleted automatically, but occasionally I look through the comments.

Most of the spam is along the lines of “Thanks for great information” – presumably on the assumption that I will be flattered and approve it 🙂 Sometimes, it is a question like “who made your blog look so good?” Either way, the links and names not matching emails help give away the true nature of such comments.

Tonight, however, I just read a spam comment that was highly critical of my blog*. I just don’t understand their thought processes – who is going to be sucked in to approving spam that attacks them? Obviously someone who has a lot of spare time if they can send out comments with no chance of being approved to earn them links!

Am I missing something? Have you come across similar pointless comments in your blog?

At least the next comment I read was honest “I am desperate for back links so am putting comments in your blog.” I didn’t approve it either, but they had more chance of success!

*Apart from the obvious link and name clues, I know it was spam rather than a genuine complaint because it accused me of whining in that post, yet the post was a pair of definitions in my Monday Meanings section!

“anti-spam” spam!

I write this post partly to warn people but also out of amusement!

Like any public blog, I get people adding spam comments occasionally. Most of it is caught by Akismet so it doesn’t bother me but I received some interesting ones today that I thought I’d share.

The comment was:

Hi nice post, i read your blog from time to time but i was wondering something. I also run a blog on a similar topic, but i get 1,000’s of spam comments and emails every day does that happen to you.. Any ideas to stop it? I currently have commenting disabled but i want to turn it back on.. Thanks!

Sounds nice enough doesn’t it? Which is why I want to warn people not to fall for it as it is not a genuine request for help.

There are two main reasons I know it is spam…

  1. The email address was nonsense – just random letters typed either side of @ symbol. Someone seriously asking for help would give their contact details
  2. I got the exact same message (punctuation, spelling, everything) on a different post and from a different person with a different fake email address but the same IP address and the same URL to be added to their comment.

It amused me because it is appearing to hate what it is – very circular! And that the spammer has no idea of how silly it is to post it twice under different names in the same blog.

So if you get the same request, please delete the comment and don’t click on their links.



When commenting…

If you leave a comment in a blog, you presumably want to contribute and have your comment included on the blog site. So make sure this is going to happen by getting it right.

Recently, I have received a few comments and pings that aren’t spam but have faulty links so I have not approved the comments.

In one example, the same person gave two comments and had a URL starting with http://http://www so the link obviously didn’t work. The lesson here is to check whether you need to add http:// or not when completing a form – don’t assume every blog/website owner will take the time to fix this error.

Another example if a link that takes a very long time to open and then goes to a page that doesn’t display well or completely. The credibility of the site, and therefore the comment, is reduced. In my case, it meant I couldn’t see how they had linked to me so I wasn’t comfortable accepting the link in my comments.

The result? Your comment is not approved or is only approved once the link is deleted.