Should I Approve Blog Comments On My Blog?

Brendan Egan

Should I Approve Blog Comments On My Blog?

To approve or not to approve, that is the question.  I’m always asked by both our SEO clients and website owners how they should handle blog comments.  I have a few strong opinions on this as an SEO provider, so this article will address the pros and cons of blog comments and how I recommend managing them.
Blog comments are designed so people can interact with a blog posting–share their opinion and ask questions or give feedback.  Unfortunately a few years back people discovered that you can use blog comments to gain backlinks, a critical aspect of SEO.  So today, 99% of blog comments are just spam in order to get a link.  Some people are good at this, others are pretty awful.

Blog Comments Are An Enormous Problem For SEO

The problem becomes the fact that Google and other search engines look at your website and blog and they evaluate who you are linking to.  You don’t want to get caught linking to bad websites or link farms, as enough of these outbound links can hurt your rankings.  It’s a tough situation for bloggers because they now have to be in charge of deciding who gets a link and who doesn’t — and virtually every single blog comment is going to have a link in it.
One option you have is attaching a no follow tag to every link on the website.  That way search engines (allegedly) won’t follow that link and won’t hold it against you.  There’s plugins out there for most blogging platforms to allow you to automatically make all blog comments no follow.
But on top of SEO, I personally don’t want to be linking to these types of websites, no follow tag or not.  So what I did for the longest time was visit the websites of each person commenting on my site and evaluate if it is a “good site” or a “bad site”.  This was easy for me to do as an SEO provider, but not so easy for the average Joe.  It’s also time consuming, and I found that over 50% of my links were from “bad sites”.
I then removed the URL all together on my blog comments because I was spending hours moderating them and most of them were junk in the first place.  I would get upwards of 250 junk comments per day that I was just deleting, so I figured removing the URL would remove the spam, which it did, but it also left people with good things to say commenting less as they don’t get any recognition.

Moderating Blog Comments Takes Time

Unfortunately as a business blogger I just don’t have the time available to moderate comments for hours on end, so I’m going to stay with this model for some time.  For you, if you have time, go through and moderate comments as this is the best way to find the junk sites.  You can also usually tell by the text in the comment — if it just says “Nice Post” or “I really do enjoy this website of yours” then it’s probably someone overseas who was hired to blast the web with spam comments.  If the comment shows that they read your blog post and are actually interested in what you have to say, then it’s probably a legitimate reader who wants to interact on your blog.
Blog comments are on the decline as the vast majority of them are just spam from low quality SEO providers.  Blog comments can be a good part of any SEO plan if you use them properly — that is actually read other’s blog postings and don’t just go out to spam hundreds in an hour.  Hopefully in the months and years ahead Google finds some way to value quality blog comments and not just the junk blog comments as this would dramatically reduce blog comment spam.

The Bottom Line

I say yes you should approve blog comments if they add value to your website, but no you should not approve spam comments, comments linking to questionable websites, or comments that simply say “Nice Post”.   Having engaging conversations in your comments can add enormous value to your website, readers, and blog post, but having a bunch of spam comments not only hurts your SEO efforts but also can hurt your website and your reputation.
PS> Anyone want to take me up on a bet that someone will spam this blog post about blog spam with a junk comment?  Anyone??
August 20, 2012 Follow Up: Just for your reading entertainment, we received over 50 spam comments to this post in the past 4 months.