Or, how do you promote a blog without looking like an infomercial pitchman?
[h/t Daniel at Casual Kitchen for suggesting this topic]
I have a question for you, readers:
What is an acceptable level of promoting your blog in the comments of another blog? Where's the line between linking back to your blog in the comments, and Blog Flogging?
Please answer in the comments section, at the bottom of the post.
Now for some context around why I'm asking this question.
Recently, I've started trying to get my blog read by a wider group of people. I've been submitting recipes to other sites that request them for links pages, and I've become an active commenter in blogs that I follow regularly.
Now, "leave comments on other sites with links back to your site" is common advice for increasing your blog's readership. It's such common advice that it often gets abused. I don't like it when I see a comment along the lines of:
My prime directive when commenting is: say something that adds to the conversation. If you can't, then don't comment. When I write a comment, I add a signature with a link back to my blog. My though process is: I am pushing my blog, but it's by adding to the conversation on this blog. If someone finds my comment interesting, maybe they'll click back to my blog to check it out.
Also, on occasion, I will link to a post on my blog in the comment. I only do this when the subject is something I've recently written about on my blog, particularly if my post goes into the topic at a depth that doesn't fit in a comment.
This has worked reasonably well in increasing my blog readership - it's gone from friends, family and Google Searches including the words "Rotisserie" to, well, a small group of regular readers. Nothing dramatic, but I can see the gains in my comments section and my Google Analytics numbers. Also, and more important, I've enjoyed being part of the conversation on the other blogs. Since I only comment on posts that I can add to, it's a post that I care about - I find myself following up on them to see what other people have to say.*
*It's all about the wider conversation. Blogging can be a pretty solitary effort; when you start out, it feels like you're shouting at the ocean. But there's a big group of us out there, and joining in that conversation is great. Knowing that there are other like-minded people out there can be uplifting, even if you've never met them face to face.
Then, earlier this week, I left a comment on the Bitten Blog at the New York Times. That's when the long knives came out. Commenters left some pretty biting remarks about "flogging your linked blog."*
*I have to admit, the signature from one made me laugh out loud:
Maybe I should launch that site?
Oh, my. Have I crossed the line? Gone from signing my work to just being rude? Am I Blog Flogging instead of commenting? Where is the line, exactly?
I spent some time searching Google, and reading the commenting policy on the bigger blogs I follow - the answers were contradictory.*
After an email exchange with Daniel at Casual Kitchen (one of those blogs I have been commenting on, to get some feedback), I think I'm going to change my personal commenting policy to:
1. Say something that adds to the conversation.
2. Sign your work...but not with a http:// header - only add a link if you can actually use HTML in the comments. My new "standard" signature will be MikeV @ DadCooksDinner.
*Technical details: This means, if the comments section can't handle DadCooksDinner, then I'm not getting a link back to my blog.
3. Never leave a comment on the New York Times again
*Sorry, hurt feelings
3. Be extra careful on the New York Times, and other sites that don't allow HTML in the comments. Something about that http:// and .blogspot.com brings out the "stop pushing your blog!" in people.
So, again...readers, what do you think?
[Update 10/19/2009] Daniel of Casual Kitchen just posted his take on this in his Quick Writing Tips blog: A few words about blog comments [quickwritingtips.blogspot.com].
Mike, I struggle with this ALL of the time, too. When I first started posting on my blog, I really treated it just as an on-line version of a journal. I figured a few of my family and foodie friends might be interested in what I had to say on a regular basis. But after a while, I reached a point where I realized that I had a wider audience than just those few people. I started being more careful about the keywords I associated with each entry so that they would be indexed more effectively by search engines.
I feel no shame plugging my blog on my Facebook and Twitter accounts. Since I don't participate on those silly FB quizzes such as "Which Simpsons character are you?" or "What color Crayola crayon are you?", I don't feel bad sharing three or four links a week.
However, when it comes to sharing links on other forums, I am always careful not to do it too often as I don't want people to think that the only reason I post is to pimp my blog. For the Cleveland Food and Wine Forum, I normally only post a link to a blog entry if it's in direct response to a question ("Anyone ever been to such-and-such restaurant?") or if the blog entry has something to do with someplace outside of Cleveland that Clevelanders might find interesting to check out.
I'm definitely always looking for new places to get my blog mentioned, but like you said, discretion is the name of the game. That being said, I don't think what you posted at the NYT was inappropriate. Think about it this way ... for every person who dings you for being inappropriate, how many other people were curious enough to clink on the link to your blog?
Exploring Food My Way
You're joking, right? Or has putting on an apron really turned you into this much of a mewling wussbag? You slimy maggot, you disgust me-- I'll bet you sit down to blog!
I mean really... The entry had 22 comments. A whopping two made any reference to blogs. One (the guy who apologized for not having a blog to plug), was rather amusing. The other was an rant with nothing to add, from someone so whose convictions and moral fiber were so strong that he couldn't even sign his name.
If you are worried about upsetting people, I certainly think you should stop plugging your blog in comments. Matter of fact, it might be wise to stop commenting altogether. Now that I think about it, maybe you should just close down the blog. I'd hate to think what might happen if Gordon Ramsey reads it, and takes exception to your belief that you can get good flour tortillas at Acme... you might commit hara-kiri.
Did Sandra Lee let complaints that she doesn't know how to cook stop her from relentless self-promotion? Did Martha Stewart stop grinding the bones of her critics to make her bread? Has anyone dissuaded Rachael Ray from screaming EVOO!!! Yum-O! at the top of her lungs? Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?
In other words, I think you're OK. If you want to get upset about something, how about the death of Sheila Lukins?
I like your thinking here. The important thing is to keep at it and spread good vibes while you're keeping at it. And there's nothing wrong with ruffling a few feathers here and there with an occasional flog. And you can put a linkback in your comments on my blog anytime.
Casual Kitchen 😉
MikeV @ DadCooksDinner says
Everyone: From reading the comments, I think I laid on the "poor, poor pitiful me" a little too much, and not enough on the actual question. Sorry about that.
@Anne B - Thanks for the input on which comments annoy you
@Anonymous - So their comment backfired, and got you to check out my blog? Outstanding!
@Geoff - Thanks for the tough love. (For some reason, R. Lee Ermey at 5AM comes to mind.) Remind me never to make you angry. Or, at least, never to make you angry at something other than my being a wimp.
And, to everyone: Yes, I know I need a thicker skin if I'm going to be posting on the Internet. I've been around long enough have been in a few flame wars on BBSes back before there WAS an Internet; you'd think I'd remember. (That's where I met Geoff, by the way. Um...and we were both two years old. Yeah, that's it...)
Thanks for all the kind words, and keep the comments on commenting coming!
I'm coming over from Bitten Blog...I wanted to check your site out especially since people got anal over you including your blog in your signature. It was biting and unnecessary. Blogging is a community, and with that thought...there are always going to be people who feel the need for vigilante measures. I've not ever encountered blog flogging rules...and did not feel that you were out of line. Sorry that they made you second guess yourself. You've got a nice blog.
Anne B. says
It is a great way to find other interesting blogs....
The only time that it annoys me is when the comment is not relevant to what was being discussed....but even then...no big deal...I just don't use the link or go to the blog...
After reading numerous blogs...it seems that developing a thick skin and a good sense of humor is required because there are always going to be people that leave undesirable comments.
Keep up what you are doing and laugh...it is all good!