Blogging 118: Trackbacks

As I said in Blogging 117, blogs enable conversations, and one key way those happen is through comments. And comments you leave on other blogs have the additional benefit, if you comment thoughtfully, of encouraging readers of those blogs (and perhaps the authors) to visit your blog and see what you have to say.

Trackbacks are a special kind of comment that require special mention and explanation, because they involve some mysterious lingo that isn’t intuitive.

In essence, a Trackback is a comment on someone else’s blog post that you leave on your own blog. It’s sort of a mega-comment.

Here’s how it works.

Continue reading “Blogging 118: Trackbacks”

Blogging 117: Attracting Blog Visitors through Comments

Blogs are a conversational medium. As we learned in Blogging 101, a blog is essentially a newspaper. Two major factors that set blogs apart are:

  1. Anyone can be a publisher, and
  2. Within reason, every letter to the editor is published.

I say “within reason” because some people go out and leave meaningless or off-topic comments as a way of driving traffic to their sites. Thankfully, as a site, SMUG is protected against comment spam automatically by Akismet. But still, sometimes one sneaks through, with an innocuous comment like, “Great site. Keep up the good work” that includes a link to a Russian porn site. When that happens, I mark the comment as spam, which deletes the comment and makes it more likely Akismet will prevent that person from infecting other wordpress blogs.

But comment spam isn’t the main point of this post. This post is about how you can legitimately engage in discussions through comments on other related blogs, and as a natural byproduct attract visitors to what you’ve written.

If you’re commenting just to attract blog traffic through that single link, people will sniff it out and you won’t get much out of it. But if you’re contributing meaningfully to the conversation, you not only will get some visitors via the link in your comment (as described below); you also make it likely that the blog’s author will take notice of your blog and possibly link to it in a future post.

Continue reading “Blogging 117: Attracting Blog Visitors through Comments”

Blogging 103: Commenting on Blogs

In one sense, a blog is just a Web site.

A Web site that, because of easy-to-use and free software like WordPress, anyone can publish. You could decide to use as your content-management system, to produce your own one-way Web site. All you would have to do is turn off the comments feature, either for the whole site or for individual posts. In this way, you would have an easy Web publishing system.

But what sets blogs apart from traditional Web sites (Can you believe that? I used the word “traditional” to describe something that first started in 1994!) is the ability to invite comments and create conversations.

That’s what makes blogs interesting.

Yet most people who read blogs never participate in the discussion by leaving a comment. Forrester research indicates that about 33 percent of Internet users are “Spectators” who read blogs, listen to podcasts or watch YouTube videos without leaving any comments, and 52 percent of users are “Inactives” who don’t even read blogs. (I think the inactives number is overstated because, as I said earlier, a blog is just a Web site. People are going to blogs without even knowing it.)

In keeping with our SMUG goal of getting people to stretch into new areas of social media, in Blogging 103 I hope to help some of those Inactives and Spectators move up the Forrester Ladder of Participation into the Critics category.

Just complete the assignment below, and you’ll climb a rung or two.


Click the “Comments” link at the bottom of this post. It looks something like this if no one has commented yet:

Or if some people have commented, it will have a number in front of the word “Comments” – like this:

Then you’ll see the full post reload, showing any comments from others, and at the bottom you will have a chance to add yours.

I’ll bet you can figure out how to fill in that comment form.

In a future post, I’ll show you how to participate most effectively, but for now, it’s important to just take that first step and make a comment.

You’ll note that I have set this blog to accept comments without being approved by me. In other words, I’m not “moderating” comments in advance. So you’ll get the immediate gratification of seeing your comment show up right away after you submit it, provided you’re a real human being. I use Akismet to weed out the automated comment spam that unsavory characters use to promote their herbal Viagra alternatives and the like. More on that in a future post, too.

But I also know that one reason why people don’t comment on blogs is because they don’t know exactly what to say. So I’ll set you up with a couple of questions to prime the pump, just to make it easier for you to dive in.

  1. Is this your first time commenting on a blog? If so, what has been the main barrier that keeps you from commenting?
  2. If you do comment sometimes, what are the factors that cause you to join the conversation?
  3. For extra credit, what social media topics are most interesting to you? What questions about social media would you like to see answered and discussed further?

Share This:

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to Ma.gnoliaAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

Blogging 113: Comments Policies for Blogs

In Charlene Li’s presentation yesterday, she showed the JNJ BTW blog, and its comments policy, which reads in part:

All comments will be reviewed before posting. Since this blog is about Johnson & Johnson, comments that don’t directly relate to the Company or to topics covered on this blog won’t be posted. That said, some comments may be forwarded to other people within the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies for follow-up as appropriate.

We generally won’t post comments about products that are sold by the Johnson & Johnson operating companies. Product questions should directed to the companies that sell them. A list of the products sold by our operating companies is available on the Johnson & Johnson website.

If you’re starting a corporate blog, I think this is a good example of a “plain english” explanation for comment moderation, and also highlighting that some of the issues that may be raised that would be more appropriately handled 1-1 with the customer will be done that way, instead of on the public blog.

The Marriott on the Move Blog also has some good language in its Terms of Use:

The primary rule when commenting is to be relevant and respectful in your postings. Just as we would not allow someone to stand in one of our hotel lobbies shouting profanities or engaging in other disruptive behavior that upsets guests, we will not allow that same type of action here. While Marriott assumes no duty to pre-screen or regularly review posted content, the blog will be moderated by an Editor and an Editorial Board who will have the right to refuse to post or remove any posting that they believe violates these Terms of Use.

These are good examples of ways you can set expectations for your blog, so that if you want to moderate comments and be able to deal with an individual issues off-line, it doesn’t interfere with the overall conversation.

What do you think of the JNJ and Marriott comment policy examples? If you have other examples to share, please add them in the comments below.

Speaking of comments, I may publish a Terms of Use or a Comments Policy for SMUG as a separate page, too, but for starters here is the policy I follow:

  1. I LOVE comments. If what you have to say relates to the topic of the post, I’m delighted to have you join the conversation. That’s why I don’t use a Captcha, because I don’t want to make it harder for real people to comment.
  2. I use the Akismet anti-spam service, which is part of and has spared me 42,792 comments so far. It’s really good, and I don’t even check the Akismet queue any more. In medical lingo, it’s both highly sensitive and highly specific. It catches most spam, and it rarely falsely labels a legitimate comment. So if your comment gets caught by Akismet, it’s not going to be posted. I won’t even see it. But if you’re a real person instead of a spambot, that’s not going to be a problem.
  3. Negative comments are fine. I don’t even really mind personal attacks. In fact, I published a highly negative comment from a reader here, and it caused me to do this follow-up post. If you use profanity, however, I will delete the expletives and do the cartoon representation (such as &#@!) to maintain a family-friendly atmosphere.
  4. I don’t moderate comments in advance, but I might take them down or mark them as spam if they fall into Category 5 or Category 6 below.
  5. If you’re just selling something and not adding value to the conversation, I may not mark your comment as spam, but I will take it down. So, for example, if I’m reviewing the Flip video camera and you are the manufacturer of a competitor, I would welcome you to comment, talk about your camera’s capabilities and feature differences, and include a link for more information. But if you’re running an on-line store for various video cameras and just post a link to your site, with no other value added, I will remove the comment.
  6. If you’re selling Viagra or its alleged herbal equivalents, and if somehow your comment and link makes it past Akismet, I will mark it as spam to ensure that you will be caught the next time you comment on an Akismet-protected blog.

Since SMUG is an on-line university dedicated to the exchange of ideas, our comments policy is more open than is appropriate for a big brand or a corporate blog. If you have thoughts on this draft policy and its appropriateness for a personal blog, or ideas on something I might be missing, I’d be glad to hear those in the comments, too.