Why You MUST Set Limits On Blog Commenting & Building Relationships
Over the past two months, I've entered into what I can only describe as an enforced experiment with blog commenting.
Although I wanted to try and drop blog commenting for a while as part of an experiment at the start of the year, I never did, but entering into May I found myself entering passively into the experiment due to four reasons:
- I've been working on a new project (plugin development).
- I've been working on my niche sites.
- I've been left frustrated marketing to marketers.
- I've not seen the growth I had hoped for via blog commenting.
So over the last two months, I've left just a handful of blog comments. I'm talking under 10 comments left over the past 2 months. Compare that to the two months previous to that, where I left in excess of 200 comments, and it's a notable difference.
So what sort of results did this experiment throw up? What's changed?
TIME STATISTICS: BLOG COMMENTING
Before I share the results of the experiment, I want to share some information I collected regarding the time I personally spend on blog commenting. If you've ever read one of my income reports, you'll know that I tend to time a lot of things I do online. For instance, in every income report, I tell you the exact amount of time I've spent in the month creating blog content.
Every time I start a new post, or continue editing one I have already started, I start my timer. When I finish, I note it down, and when I come to publish an income report I add all the time up and tell you how long I've spent creating content.
(The image to the left, for example, is how long I have spent on this post up to now).
What I've never done however, is totalled the amount of time I spend off the blog, promoting my own content and commenting on other people's blogs.
But in February, I did do a small piece of data collection to see just how much time I was spending reading content on other blogs and then responding with a comment.
I appreciate this won't be the same for everyone, and I appreciate that I did it with a very small number, but based on reading and commenting on 10 blog posts, it took me an average of 8 minutes and 45 seconds.
8:45 to read and then comment on a single blog post.
And by the way, that is without clicking on any links that may have been in that article, that is without reading any other comments other people left on the article, and that was without sharing the article on social media.
In March, I know I read and commented on 102 articles. So going on this average, I spent approximately 14.5 hours reading content and commenting in March.
And that's when I realized I had to cut back on it. Because I was seeing no tangible return on investment.
And when I say tangible return, I mean earnings directly related to the efforts of the blog.
Not how many comments I got. Not how many shares I got. Not how many new fans I got on Google+.
I can tell you now, the earnings from the blog over the last 2 months where I've not been commenting are pretty much exactly the same compared to the months I'd spent countless hours commenting.
So what's it all about then?
THE PURPOSE OF COMMENTING
Let's cut in and remind ourselves why we go out and comment in the first place.
We comment on other blogs:
- To build relationships with other bloggers.
- To help establish authority and credibility within our niche.
- For links back to our own site.
- To add insight and value to a post in order to get noticed by other commenters.
While these reasons sound good on paper, in reality, they are probably not as good as you would imagine. Let's take a look at them one by one.
I can't argue with the first point. Relationships are important. I have no issue with building relationships at all. Rather, my issue is with the amount of relationships you build, as you'll read further down the page.
To an extent, point 2 is also a good reason we comment on other blogs. When you leave a comment, your image and name is usually visible at the beginning of your comment. However, there have been times when the blogger hasn't even bothered to reply to my comment. Leaving me with the uneasy thought of 'Has anyone actually seen my comment at all?'. So if nobody has read or even seen my comment, then how am I establishing authority or credibility?
QUESTION: When you see a huge number of comments on an article you have just read, do you read all of those comments, or do you do what I do and leave your own comment and bounce?
Point 3, links back to our sites. The majority of comment systems label any links as 'no-follow'. Meaning it has absolutely impact on how Google ranks your site and pages. The point of these links though is more to do with referral traffic. But if your comment is somewhere within 100 other comments, all with links back to the individual commenters site, is your link going to be even seen, let alone clicked?
And point 4 - getting noticed by other commenters. Same as above really. If you are the 50th person to comment on a post, how likely is it that anyone will read your comment, let alone notice you in that sea of comment loveliness?
RELATIONSHIPS: ROBIN DUNBAR
A question that I've always asked myself is this: Just how many meaningful relationships can one realistically build and then maintain online?
And the only answer I could logically come up with is: Not many.
When I delved further into this, I discovered something called Dunbar's Number. In the 90's, Robin Dunbar did some research and evaluation, and proposed that humans can only comfortably maintain 150 meaningful relationships.
It's bad news for us bloggers in my opinion, because our 'offline' lives have already naturally filled this quota. In fact, if I look at my Facebook friends, I have 123 people recorded as friends. Adding on the sensible friends who refuse to join Facebook, then the number of friends and relationships I have in my life is startlingly close to Dunbar's suggested figure of 150.
His theory also suggests that when the number of relationships we build start to exceed that figure, older relationships we have built with other people decline and eventually drop off.
That point alone is absolutely crucial. And it highlights one very important message I'm trying to put across in this post.
When we are on the threshold of the maximum amount of relationships we can cohesively maintain (taking into account our cognitive limitations and other logical constraints such as time), building a new relationship essentially means an old one will inevitably drop off and go from a meaningful relationship to a dispersed relationship.
In short then; you're chasing your own tail when you are trying to build relationship after relationship after relationship. There MUST be a limit.
And if you think about it logically, it's right.
While it's not impossible to build a large number of relationships with other bloggers, it's certainly impossible to maintain them over time to any degree of success.
And looking at the relationships I have built over the past two and a half years, I can say that many relationships have fizzled out, due to the constraints mentioned above.
QUESTION: How many relationships have you built up in the past that have inadvertently fizzled out simply because you didn't have the time to maintain the relationship?
To make sense of all this, I do think you need to go back and revisit the reasons why you have a blog in the first place, and remind yourself of your goals. Because I believe a lot of people are too hung up about building relationships and blog commenting, and have lost sight of their primary goals.
If your goal is to receive 100's of comments and 100's of shares for every article you write, then I guess cooking out on building relationships and going on commenting benders will help you reach such goals.
But if one of your blogging goals is to make money, then you are one of the people who seriously need to think about some of the points I'm making here today.
Because I've been pondering over this question for quite a while now: Is there a correlation between building relationships, blog commenting and making money?
Personally, I don't think the correlation is steep enough to make it worthwhile for me to be spending 14.5 hours a month blog commenting. Using my biggest source of affiliate income on the blog as an example (Optimizepress review), and using the affiliate dashboard which provides names of people who have purchased through my affiliate link, I went through 12 months worth of names to see if I recognized anyone on those lists whom I have a relationship with or where I have commented on their blog.
There was just one person I recognized. Just ONE.
And it lends weight to my argument that the people I build relationships with, and the blogs I frequently comment on, are not my target audience.
Looking at the emails I've received about my OptimizePress review, the majority of them are not marketers per se. Signature links in these emails have pointed to financial services, churches and ministries and websites that are out of the marketing scope.
These people have come from Google. Not through any relationship I have built, and not through blog commenting.
To explore this argument further, I went into my analytics dashboard to see where most of my traffic had come from over the last few months for my OptimizePress review.
And I found the bulk of my traffic and potential affiliate commissions arrive from search engine queries, backing up my claim above.
Some may point to the referral traffic, but referral traffic takes many different shapes and forms. So to look further into this, I looked back through some of my older comments where I had commented on a blog which was CommentLuv enabled.
The stat below is from a comment I left on a blog, where my CommentLuv link was a link back to my review.
From that comment, I got absolutely ZERO exposure. I got no backlink juice, because it was a no-follow link as so many of these comments are - so in other words, it was like putting a sign up for my review in the middle of a jungle.
In other words: A complete waste of time.
MANAGING & EVALUATING ROI
The points I'm trying to make with this blog post is that there has to be a limit on the time and energy you put into blog commenting and building relationships.
I see a lot of bloggers these days simply push the idea of building relationships and blog commenting without any thought to limitations or an end goal.
'Build relationships, build relationships, build more relationships' I hear them say.
'Blog comment, blog comment, do more blog commenting' I hear them say.
Yet, there has to be a cut off point. There HAS to be. We can't just keep on building relationships infinitely. We can't just keep blindly commenting on endless amounts of blogs if there is no end result.
And I strongly believe that you simply MUST have some sort of idea on the return you are getting with building relationships and blog commenting. Otherwise you are just doing it blindly without any sort of purpose or direction. Stuck doing the same thing day in, day out, without any sort of end result apart from the odd guest post invitation and mention in a post.
If you do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got
Ford Motor Company (1863-1947)
A while back, and I can't remember where or who it was, I read an article defending blog commenting and building relationships.
The person was either a freelance writer or had some sort of consultancy business, and they said that blog commenting brought in a lot of business. They went on to say that they were spending 4-6 hours a DAY posting blog comments. I started writing a comment but ended up deleting it for fear of upsetting them.
I wanted to say that clearly this strategy was not working if they had a spare 4-6 hours a day to leave blog comments. Seriously, if it was working so well, they certainly wouldn't have this sort of time to be commenting - they would be too busy consulting, surely?
And it swings back to that ROI thing again. If it takes you 100 comments to get a customer who is perhaps paying you $100 for a one off consultation, are you really following the best strategy for acquiring customers, and are you really making the most of your time?
RESULTS FROM 60 DAYS OF REDUCED COMMENTING
Here's the results from the enforced experiment then.
Simple table below, March and April were months where I left in excess of 200 comments in total. May and June were the months where I hardly did any commenting.
Clearly then, dropping the whole commenting thing had very little impact on any of the figures, and the drop in visitors I suggest, is down to the reciprocity decreasing. I didn't comment on their posts, so they didn't comment on mine sort of thing.
HOW I USED MY 14.5 HOURS
Very little commenting done in May and June then. So what did I do with the 29 hours I saved over these 2 months?
I went out and did one thing that directly made me money (worked on building up my Amazon Affiliate Sites), and one thing that will hopefully make me money in the near future (creating a wordpress plugin).
Below you can see my work over the last 2 month directly impacting my income on my Amazon affiliate sites:
Amazon Income May 2015:
Amazon Income June 2015:
If I had continued doing what I always did, and spent those 29 hours commenting on other blogs, would I have seen the growth I've seen in my other online businesses?
I don't think I would. Added to that, the fact that income from the blog hasn't been affected, then I wonder why I have spent many a month leaving endless amounts of comments.
MY CONCLUSION...AND GROWING OLD
Don't get me wrong here. I'm not for one minute saying that you should ditch blog commenting, or stop building or maintaining relationships.
I'm simply saying that you need to seriously evaluate your Return On Investment when spending time commenting and building relationships and set some sort of limit, because if you're not achieving your goals using these strategies, then what exactly is the point of putting in time and effort on something that doesn't yield the results that are directly related to your goals?
When I started getting serious about building relationships and blog commenting just over a year ago now, I did see an increase in visitors, shares and comments. Which was all well and good. And all very 'nice'.
But it did not lead to an increase in earnings.
Which is the first reason I'm moving forward with a reduced emphasis on blog commenting and relationship building.
And the second reason?
Well, in four months, I turn 33. And I refuse to waste my life away sat behind a computer spending endless amounts of time blog commenting and building relationships for no return on the goals I have set.
Moving forwards, I'm going to concentrate on maintaining the relationships I already have, spending no more than a couple of hours per month doing so and commenting on other blogs. I'm also going to spend some of this time I've saved going back and participating on signature link enabled forums, where there's a much higher chance of your comment getting read and noticed.
And I'm going to use the rest of the time I've saved to increase my earnings within other parts of my internet business, and do more of the things I enjoy in life in general.
And it's here where I would usually ask you to share your thoughts in the comments section below. But this time, I'm not.
Because I'd rather you use that time to reflect on some of these points I've made, including evaluating your ROI on commenting and building relationships, and specifically, that very last point I have made.
It's a short life my friends.