Taj MahalAbout a month and a half ago, I told myself that I needed to drive some damn traffic to my new blog. I knew from reading Problogger.net and conducting mini-trials of my own that habitually commenting on other people’s blogs generates traffic. Readers see your “value-added” comments, visit your site, and become avid followers. Fellow bloggers appreciate your meaningful contributions, become fans themselves, and promote your site. Backlinks accumulate and help improve your site’s Google ranking.

Though a highly effective SEO and marketing tactic, let’s face it: commenting can be a little tedious. For most people, myself included, it takes between 1.1 and 2.5 minutes to read and comprehend a 500-word post. And probably another 1 to 2 minutes to write a good comment.

Yes, I wanted more traffic. But the idea of spending anywhere between 2.1 and 4.5 minutes per comment didn’t exactly thrill me, especially when I factored in the volume of comments required to generate even relatively modest traffic.

Based on my limited experience, each comment written on a fresh post on a medium- to high-traffic blog translates into about 1 visitor. (Is this your experience as well?) So to generate 100 visits, I reasoned that I’d have to spend between 3.5 hours ([100 comments x 2.1 minutes per comment] / 60 minutes) and 7.5 hours ([100 comments x 4.5 minutes per comment] / 60 minutes) commenting.

Not seeing this as a particularly economical and productive use of my time, I gave some thought to my alternatives and naturally arrived at the idea of outsourcing my blog commenting to someone else. [1] So I decided to test it out.

In no time at all, I found an Indian SEO firm whose marketing slogan promised to take the tediousness out of my SEO work forever. That caught my attention. I found its prices attractive, too: $0.40 per comment. But what about quality? I didn’t expect pithy prose and stunning sentences for only $0.40 per comment, but at that “low-risk” cost, I figured I might as well go ahead and give the service a test run.

So I did. I placed an order accompanied by a few instructions such as name/email to use, my site URL to link to, and list of specific blogs to comment on. My farmed-out comments would be delivered within two weeks.

A month later, and no comments, I demanded a status update. I received a reply from the owner saying that he was very sorry for the delay, the employees were very busy with Indian festivals (not kidding), and he’d see to it that my order was completed within two days.

Two weeks later, and still no comments, I finally demanded a refund and announced to the owner that I looked forward to writing a review of his company’s service on my blog. My threat must have placed the festivities on temporary hiatus (I had no idea my wimpy blog could evoke such fear), because the next day I received a report containing a list of comments with links to the posts they appeared.

Let’s take a look at some of my favorite ones so you can get an idea of the horrid (and sometimes hilarious) results you’ll probably get if you try to outsource your blog commenting without first screening for quality:

  • “Improved Google with Firefox” (WebWorkerDaily.com): “I am a huge fan of Mozila Firefox since it was released. And this improved Google with Firefox is just like a dream come true. I just love it too much.” Love the enthusiasm! But probably would have tempered it a bit myself in public.
  • “We Create Because It’s Fun” (LifeDev.net): “Writing as well as verbal communication are my two beloved ways to be imaginative. The exquisiteness of creating a speech along with delivering it to an approachable crowd gets me thrilled.” I understand what he’s trying to say, I just wouldn’t have worded it that way.
  • “What Does Personal Freedom Mean to You?” (Steve-Olson.com): “A personal freedom means everything to me. One cannot even laugh without it. It is something makes you feel you.” I tried to come up with a comment on this one, but just drew a blank.
  • “Are You A Visual, Auditory Or Sensory Goal Setter?” (PersistenceUnlimited.com): “Well I have thought of these lots of time, but I never did anything for it. But after reading this post it was really very inspirational.” If you read this post, you’ll notice that it’s not meant to be inspirational. Puzzled, the author asked: “[H]ow was it inspirational? Did you do something different? The reason I ask is because I was asking a question and wasn’t really trying to inspire.”
  • “How to Chill Out” (CrankingWidgets.com): “Who in this world would not like to chill? Even the monkey who are known to dance and irritate everyone 24×7 also like to chill..” A monkey clich√© or analogy was inevitable.
  • “Blogging is Dead!” (MakeItGreat.typepad.com): “Yes it is very true that blogging is dead. Good blogs are very difficult to found. You can get some good blogs on tweeter.” It’s great to know that you actually agree with the idea I’m doing all this for nothing. I guess I should pursue another communication medium now, huh? Great way to encourage people to visit my blog by telling everyone that you agree blogging is dead.

Despite the god-awful quality, the comments have generated some traffic. But, as my experiment shows, that hardly justifies the ultimate price you pay for borderline spam: devalued social capital.

So what lessons can we draw from my experiment?

  1. Quality is king. Your comments might be the first impression you and your blog make on a visitor. You better be damn sure whoever is writing them for you commands the English language and can formulate cogent, articulate, relevant thoughts. Otherwise blog administrators might flag your comments as spam — and you don’t want that. [2]
  2. Pre-screen quality of the comments. Ask for samples. But since they’ll probably be canned, try to set up simulated tests. Make the company or individual read a couple of posts within your niche and supply comments directly to you for quality inspection. Don’t make the mistake I did of letting someone comment directly on a blog entry (unless it’s yours) even if it is a “test.” Not even one.
  3. Maintain control over quality until it’s safe to let go. If and when you do find a quality commenter (preferably someone who is a fellow blogger and is passionate about your niche), you might want to consider reviewing, editing, and approving all comments before they’re posted. [3] You should definitely do this if you’re using a ghost commenter and want to preserve your distinctive tone and style, key elements of your personal brand. You can also use the vetting process as an opportunity to share feedback with your comment-crafter so he can learn from and adjust to your writing mannerisms as well as your propaganda. Perhaps his mockery becomes so good that you can safely cut yourself out of the middle at some point. [4]

Don’t let the scary results of my experiment deter you from outsourcing your blog commenting. While some blogging purists condemn this tactic on the grounds that it violates the integrity of their art form, there’s nothing wrong with farming out your comments as long as they make legitimate contributions. Fact is: outsourcing your blog comments is a smart use of your time.

N.B.: I plan to publish a template to help you jump start and optimize your comment outsourcing. It’ll be posted here in a few weeks.

Image credit: olgagomenyuk / Fotolia

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References/notes:
- [1] My alternatives: (1) read-and-comprehend approach; (2) skimming approach (quickly skim for points that I’m intimately familiar with and write comments just on those); (3) outsource; and (4) combination thereof. I actually chose (4). Some blogs I’ll continue to comment on myself. See footnote [4].
- [2] Your IP could end up getting blocked. As OptiNiche.com explains: “If the comments, with your blog…link, constantly get flagged as spam due to low quality, soon your legitimate comments will be, too.”
- [3] There is a potential downside to acting as the comment gatekeeper. Typically, the sooner you can get a comment up on a newly-published post, the more visibility it’ll receive. Inserting an extra step in the commenting process — your approval — means that you won’t be able to get comments up as quickly.
- [4] If building relationships with specific bloggers is a key component of your blog development strategy, then you should consider authoring comments yourself (exception: your personality sucks). Last time I checked, relationship-building requires you to showcase your personality — and you can’t entirely outsource that. You can still have someone else write comments for you on other blogs — just not on the ones you consider strategic.

Suggested reading:
- OptiNiche.com: “Buy Blog Comments
- NetBusinessBlog.com: “Unique Outsourcing Tip: Use Quality Writers as Blog Commenters
- Lifehack.org: “Be a Comment Rockstar: 10 Terrific Tips!
- Caroline-Middlebrook.com: “Do You Have A Blog Commenting Strategy?

Suggested tools:
- To keep track of your comments, check out Backtype.com.