Sometimes, when purging comments from the various blogs I do admin duties for, I find some real gems. “Here at MegaSpamma, we’re debating the same thing,” claims one. I’m sure you are. Of course, I’m sure you are because you’ve probably linked to my blog about the topic and left a comments thread of your own open. But there are always a few genuine links to content, and in your over-zealous deletion of what you perceive to be spam comments, you’re deleting tips-of-the-hat from other sites.
It’s not difficult to spot the differences. Here’s a clue – if someone’s URL or email address is either gibberish or something medically related, and you’re writing about cheese and wine festivals, people wanting to show you how to lose that much weight on their site is probably a small clue they’re aiming for clicks, not affiliates. Building relationships with other sites, and becoming a source of great links that people often use to back up their own online arguments, is important. But by wiping their comments, you might be sending them away from you.
Often, I find the most misleading links are trackbacks. Square brackets, snippets of their text without a clear relation to your content at all and no indication of where their anchor text (for the link to your particular blog post) lies tends to set you against them. WordPress’ “related posts” feature is also a similar source of stress and irritation, as it’s unclear whether people think your post is related to theirs, or whether WordPress does.
If you’re a popular news blog, you’ll find that sifting through comments becomes near-impossible after a while. Clearing out thousands of comments a day that may not quite refer to the text, but instead sell diets, viagra and trainers, becomes an exercise in futility unless you’ve got the budget to employ a comments-god who’ll dish out digital justice with their mouse button. Waste of money, really – no matter how good your URL and IP filters are, people will get through.
Spam is a digital arms race – you’re always going to struggle to keep up with the pill-pushing, endlessly nattering little critters leaving comments endlessly on your blog, but you’ve got to maintain a sense of zen-like rationality when it comes to the few people who do have something to contribute. For every hundred spam comments, there’s one person who’ll write a short essay in response, and your job is to make sure that person doesn’t see their efforts to communicate with you destroyed within 24 hours as part of a comments-purge.
In fact, why not start commenting on other people’s blogs? All too often we sit back and let people’s contributions roll in, but are we really linking back to the community? Link to other blogs, comment, tweet – you need to engage with the writing community around you and make them a part of your world if you want to be a part of theirs. Scratch their digital backs, and they’ll scratch yours. Even if it’s a “this was really interesting, I’d love to interview you on my blog!”, you’re contributing to the overall mish-mash of ideas and commentary.
Next time you’re reading this blog, or someone else’s, comment. Write something complimentary, critical (be nice, please) or inspiring, and invite them to do the same. You’d be surprised how quick people will recommend you if you’ve done nothing but contribute to a blog they feel looks like an endless digital monologue. But no medical stuff, right? Unless I start blogging about Twitter curing all known diseases, can you stop telling me I can lose weight easily, spammers? It’s Christmas, don’t make me feel like I’ve got to cut back before the best aspect of the season begins!