Written By: Timothy Fish Published: 1/28/2008
Recently, Richard Mabry wrote an article concerning blog etiquette. Some of the examples of bad blog etiquette that he gave were people firing comments back and forth on someone else’s blog, blatant advertising through comments and long, complex comments. He also mentioned situations in which comments are fired back and forth between the blog owner and a person making comments. Richard and I haven’t discussed this enough for me to know how far we are from complete agreement, but I have the impression that my opinion on the subject is somewhat different than his. For that reason, I would like to cover some of these issues in more detail.
At what point does a dialog become protracted? That is something that leaves plenty of room for interpretation. One of the things that comments allow is for readers to provide feedback, ask questions, answer questions, as well as other things. At times, a blog post will spark a discussion between one person and either the blog owner or someone else. At times, several comments may be fired back and forth, but at what point is it in poor taste. Should all such dialogs be avoided? None of them? Only the lengthy ones?
I like a good discussion, as long as the people involved keep their claws in. Some of these dialogs become nothing more than a fight, but people discuss in a spirit of friendship and seek to understand the other side of the issue rather than simply prove the other side wrong, it can be entertaining and benefit a blog by encouraging people to return. It also increases the amount of new material and search engines will be more likely to revisit the site as well.
Dialogs, whether protracted or otherwise, should remain near the topic that the blog owner has defined. Comments that are near the topic help encourage the target audience to visit the blog. When comments get too far from the topic, the target audience may get bored with the blog.
Blatant Advertising could mean several things. The most blatant advertising is when someone visits a site and leaves a comment like, “Buy my product and all the women will love you.” People who do that are jerks and the best I can tell is that they really don’t care what other people think.
Stepping away from that, another form of blatant advertising is for someone to visit the blog of someone who is selling a similar product, such as a book, and say something like, “I also wrote a book. I think your readers might like it.” This isn’t quite as bad, since it is quite possibly true that the audience of one author might enjoy a book written by another author. Richard has suggested that people who use comments for blatant advertising maybe should be paying blog owners for the space. At this level of blatancy, this may be true, but blog owners do receive a small amount of benefit, even from these types of comments. People who are looking for the book written by the person leaving the comment may discover the blog of the other author. Is it worth it to the blog owner to leave these comments alone? Maybe, maybe not. If there are too many of them then the answer is probably not.
Moving more toward clandestine advertising rather than blatant advertising we find a situation in which a person leaving a comment leaves a comment that is on target with the topic of the blog post or the ensuing discussion, but within the comment is a link to a product. For example, a blog owner talks about people having stinky feet. Someone comments and says, “That is why I invented these baking soda inserts for shoes.” This kind of advertising is one target, but some people are offended by it. This is the point at which I have decided that some people are offended too easily. Blog readers may be looking for a solution to the problem, so if another person posts a comment about his product that solves the problem then it has value for the readers. It adds value to the blog because it provides free content that the search engines will find when looking for related content.
We can move one more step and find a situation in which the comment is about the blog post and rather than suggesting that the product will solve a problem the person leaving the comment just mentions it, perhaps with a link. In this case, the blog owner receives benefit because the person took the time to comment. The product link may be offensive to some people, but the free content that the blog owner is receiving should be considered before becoming offended at the person posting for mentioning his product.
Long Complex Comments
There are a couple of ways to look at long comments. On one hand, long comments are hard to read. People may skip a long comment or read a small portion of it. The other thing to consider about long comments goes back to the free content issue. While people reading the comments may not want to read long comments, search engines will use the information and occasionally they include information that is useful to other people as well.
When leaving comments, it is usually best to try to keep those comments to a minimum, though it is sometimes hard to limit one’s comments in a short amount of time. How long is too long? If I were to pull a number out of a hat, I would say that 250 words should be the maximum length of a comment, but the ideal comment is shorter than that. If you are unable to say what you would like to say in that space, the right thing to do is to write you own post on your own blog, linking back to the other blog and then leaving a link to your post on the other blog, along with a summary of what you state in you blog. People who want to read all of the post can do so, but others need not.
The most important thing to remember is to be respectful of others when visiting other people’s blogs. While there are no rules that are set in stone, we must be careful of our actions and recognize that some people may not see the same value in things that we do.