Last September, to help me with my goal of increasing my RSS subscribers to 200 I ran an experiment with blog commenting. I was curious on how blog commenting related to visits, subscribers, and which blogs could be better targets for it.
I commented on several blogs each day, writing down the date and where I commented. Then, when a comment turned 7 days old I checked how many visits my blog got from this particular comment, and repeated when it turned 14 days.
Noting down all this data was quite tiring at first, but once I got used to this, it became second nature. Tracking down the visits with Google Analytics is more tiring. I still do it today, as it helps in knowing where blog commenting is more effective.
How I got that many visits? Lessons learned
There are several important things to consider when blog commenting, some I already knew before I started, some I learned during the experiment
1. Comment only in posts that interest you: You should comment in posts that you have read and enjoyed, posts that you think may turn you into a subscriber to that particular blog (if you are not already).
2. Add value: The most common advice with blog commenting, and I can't stress this enough. Adding value is adding an interesting point to the post, or arguing with some point you disagree, linking to a post (even if it is not in your blog!) where you think there is more information. Don't comment to say Hey good work, go check my blog!
3. Always add a link: Add a link in the content of your comment to a relevant post in your site. Of course, this results in a lot of comments landing in the awaiting for approval queue in most commenting systems, but if your comment is not spammy it will get through 99 times out of 100. You may wonder if the link to your blog from the comment isn't enough. It isn't. Roughly 30% of my comments had no content link. These resulted in less than 20 visits. If you can't manage to link to a related post, you can add a link to your latest post as a mean of signature, but try to link to at least something related to the post you just read.
4. Promote posts where you comment: This is a key and frequently overlooked point. Submit them to Reddit, StumbleUpon, Delicious and share them on Twitter. If you are true to point #1, this should not be a problem.Think of this like an investment: your comment accounts maybe for 0.1% of all the visits this post will get. This could be 1000 visits if you are lucky and it becomes a viral post, promote it like you would do with your own posts.
5. Try to land one of the first 5 comments: If you can't get yourself one of these spots, it is very unlikely that you will get visits from it.
6. Look for interesting posts constantly: Scan social networks for interesting posts to comment. Give frequent looks to the new section in Reddit or Digg for recent posts to comment on. Follow bloggers you like in twitter, and read their new posts as soon as they tweet them. Comment only if #1 applies, of course.
More details on the numbers
I wrote 114 comments and 6 of them never got approved or landed in a blog about to die. Of these comments, 9 had more than one link on them and 39 didn't have a link in the comment.
Two comments account for 75% of my comments.
One was luck: I just visited a high profile blog when a new post appeared. It was interesting and I had an interesting link to go with it... A win-win scenario, ended with 1180 visits and it stills gives some odd visits (20 per week or so).
The other comment was hard work (and luck, but chance favours only to the prepared): I had been monitoring a social news aggregator for 30 minutes and a very interesting story appeared. With viral potential. I wrote a short intriguing comment with a single link on it. After two weeks, 2100 visits and it still results in a few visits each week. I just checked, and tracked how many visits I got after the two weeks, 600 more.
The remaining 1280 visits come from persistence. Lots of interesting comments end up in quite a few interested visits, who spend at least a few seconds scanning content. Or even subscribing.
Observe that I am counting visits with referrer URL. In the image in the beginning of the post, the linked page in my blog had 2515 total visits but only 1843 referred visits.
Summarising, this was through:
46% Hard Work (and a little luck)25% Luck29% Persistence
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Book Review: The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield (highly recommended book)