Commenting on blogs related to your business helps to build your visibility, if you do it right. Done wrong, on the other hand, it’s worse than useless. Comments should contribute to a discussion, and they can show that you have some expertise. What they aren’t is free advertising.
Spam doesn’t work
The worst thing you could do is pay somebody to post generic comments like “Hey, great blog!” on randomly chosen blogs and link back to your website. Most blogs will automatically identify these as spam. Not only will they fail to appear, you’ll be flagged, and even your legitimate comments will stop showing up. Spam blockers, such as Akismet for WordPress, update their data continually, so you’ll be kept off all blogs that use it.
A comment should be relevant to the post and show that you’ve read it, but even then it shouldn’t be blatantly promotional. If you say, “Hey, I know a great solution to that problem!” and give your URL, a few people might click on it, but most will look at it skeptically, and the blog owner might delete it.
Contribute to the discussion
You’ll make a better impression if you have useful information to contribute. Choosing a few blogs where you can contribute regularly works better than one-shot appearances in a lot of places. Blogs related to your locality or your type of business are good choices, but avoid ones owned by direct competitors.
Let’s say you run a snow removal business. You can find some popular regional blogs, as well as blogs that relate to home services. You can set up an account to comment there and have it link back to your business. That way anyone who clicks on your name will see your business site.
Look for topics where you can add something useful, and leave a brief comment, tying it in to your business if it makes sense. Suppose a regional blog mentions a predicted snowstorm. The wrong approach is to say, “I’m from XYZ Snow Removal, and we’ll be glad to help at 555-9999.” A better technique is to say something like, “We hope everyone can find off-street parking the evening before, so the plows can clear everything.” Conveying a sense of responsibility and community involvement will help more than self-plugging.
When you comment on a professional blog, you can talk more about how your business works, but it still has to be useful information rather than overt promotion. Suppose a post on a home services blog discusses seasonal cycles in the lawn care business. That’s an opportunity for you to talk about how you deal with them in the snow removal business and what you do with the off-season.
Interact with the group
Once you’ve commented on a post, keep an eye on it for replies. If they ask you questions or offer a different point of view, saying something useful in response strengthens the sense that you’re actually involved with the blog and the discussion. Just saying “Thank you” or “I agree,” though, usually looks like a waste of space.
Not every comment you leave has to relate to your business. If you comment occasionally on topics of general interest, it helps people to get to know you and trust you.
Watch out for “trolls,” though. Responding politely to criticism is fine, but some commenters just want to stir up trouble. With them, it’s best not to respond at all, or to say just “I don’t see any point in continuing this discussion.”
Be cautious about “flame wars” as well. Sometimes people passionately take up opposing sides and get personal about it. Little good comes from getting involved in them, unless you can offer a straightforward factual correction and not get pulled into the flaming.
If you choose your blogs well, you’ll find a lot of opportunities for constructive comments that will get your business well known and improve its reputation. Think of it as dinner conversation, and you won’t go too far wrong.