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Engagement is now a key metric in rank and relevance
The days of tricking search engines with Keywords are well over. Additionally, having content laden with keywords and topics alone to improve rank are fleeting if not over in some competitive spaces. In fact if your SEO "Expert" is still talking in terms of keywords (stuff) and creating backlinks alone s/he is probably the equivalent of a medieval doctor using leeches to cure a broken arm.
Engagement is key in the new Google search/social/app environment. While the saying you need quality content is still true. Now you need to not only to provide the content, but be an active participant within it to satisfy new ranking metrics from; Google, facebook, YouTube, Twitter. To be fair to the designers of the engagement metrics, it truly is a good way to gauge how good a piece of content is. After all it doesn't seem fair to rank a piece of content higher just because it is older and has a keyword stuffed in it, when in contract another piece of content has had 1000 times more shares and engagement.
Note be clear blog commenting/spamming is a different beast and was one dirty tactic, used for dodgy linkbuilding to bump ranking of a sites in SERPs. However, the strategy was never that good at eliciting quality traffic and has been frowned-upon for several years now. Not to mention your company does just look spammy if seen blasting comments all over the Internets. However, even though the strategy of blog comment spamming is being rubbished as time wasting spamming by most of the experts in the Digital Marketing sphere. I will still touch on some factors which are intriguing, so we will go a bit in-depth to unveil the true correlation between blog commenting / Engagement and rankings.
However, in the content of this blog we are referring to post engagement by users and admins, ergo; comments, replies, likes, shares, retweets in Social media and on the Blog posts themselves. This is what we are recommending our clients aim for when creating their content and we ourselves are pivoting to focus more on engagement. Furthermore, we are focusing on real replies, not automated generic replies (though their is some room for automation).
The data supporting the benefits of this strategy is freely available from the social platforms themselves, Google and quality sources / leaders in the space, such as; Moz.com, Gary Vaynerchuk, Eli the Computer Guy. Just make sure you check the dates of the posts you read as 6 months old can be way to old for many strategies in tech. Additionally, you can test it yourself. Tweets, blogs, posts with high levels of engagement (positive or negative) seem to take on a life of there own and rocket up the rankings in a self fulfilling loop.
Benefits of blog engagement / commenting
Let’s take a look at the benefits of blog / social comments:
Think of user/admin comments as content add-ons to your post: Ergo, if you write a peerless piece of informative content and illicit engagement from visitors and they in turn comment. This can add to the contents breadth. You may have touched on a subject which users are really interested in and hungry for more information, so they ask for more details/clarification and you reply. You likely just added a lot of valuable content to your blog. So now, not only is your content reaching an engaged audience, but you are also adding exactly (we hope) what your users are asking for with your replies.
Search systems regard this activity as a sign of high relevance. After all you not only have a measured on page response, but you have likely add more relevant content to the page, with your user comments and your replies. Put in this context, it is almost common sense engagement should feed a better rank.
Comments can mirror the engagement rate of your post: Comments can be seen as identifiers of a useful piece of content. A blog post with lots of quality or emotive content can compel visitors to read the post and then post a comment of their own perspective. Additionally, lurkers of an author can post as a sign of support of their beloved author/company/celebrity. Both can be a sign of the quality of the content contained within and the overall following of the the poster.
I certainly notice when I see good content and zero engagement on the one post and then all posts. It makes me ponder whether, it is garbage or whether I am literally the first person to ever stumble upon it. I am very dubious, when I see masses of followers and near zero engagement. However, when I see low followers, but high engagement I'm inclined to be more trusting of the content, especially if it is very long, such as; a 2 hour video or long blog post.
Comments can masquerade as content update: Search engines are known to show an affinity towards any posts or websites that are updated on a regular basis. Therefore, adding new content via a comment to update your posts can literally create a stronger rank relevance, based on historic popularity and the update/s your post can be reborn with more authority than a fresh post.
Note: If you do this on social networks, most users who; liked, comments, shared will get an alert also. You can capitalize further if on Facebook by giving it a little paid boost.
Comments can nurture engagement: lets put the marketing jargon aside for a moment. Comments are real engagement with your customer base. One thing which troubles me when talking through how content / social marketing works with clients and they are reluctant to engage in social with their clients. It troubles me because they have the mentality that clients should just throw money at them, just because they want it. Things are no different from Back in the day, though some business owners may feel entitled to business without putting themselves out there. In the days of print marketing as a business owner/marketer you would kill for just a few phone calls, so you could talk(engage) with your potential clients. Then if a call came in, you would hang on to that call like a Dropbear on an unsuspecting US tourists face(lol).
The same rules should apply in social and content marketing. You should a 100% be gunning for engagement. The bonus with online engagement is the comments and replies are their for other users to see. The comments and replies can act as a type of soft close for your potential clients/readers. Essentially, doing the work of a hard sales person in a soft fluff safe environment.
Spam comments or strategic comment placement, how it can still work?
It is true that most blog comments (including reddit) links are classed “no follow”. However, DO NOT underestimate the power of engagement with a highly targeted audience. Blogs comment areas can be a means to easily lure in targeted traffic to your post. In an honest an up front fashion, without being spammy.
For instance, if you are a web developer / expert and you genuinely add to a piece of content via a comment on say a tutorial blog on coding. Perhaps a comment that helps both the author and readers in finding a solution. It will highlight you as well as the post. Users will be compelled to check your profile and engage with you too. I have on many occasions earned business with a selfless act of trying to help via a comment. The ROI is huge and it only requires a little effort.
Engagement to illustrate your brand ethos
Blog comments are a great means to building brand awareness. Many companies say they are; unique, funny, caring, cool to work, hard working, fast to act, detailed etc etc in their about page and throughout their copy. Essentially, the message gets drowned in the noise of everyone trying to be the same by being uniquely, differently the same! as everyone else. Therefore, what better way to actually to actually show, you are not only real behind your digital facade, but that you actually do have that personalty, culture etc.
I know our actual clients are constantly pleasantly shocked at how hard we work for them and the long hours we put in. Also they like the way we are relaxed, but straight shooting with our advice and not afraid to disagree. With engagement via our blogs and social we can also demonstrate how we operate through the way, frequency, time and quality of our comments and responses. You can also do the same.
Note: I truly believe this! Nothing is more off putting than an automated dead message. I really think I'd rather having nothing than that. Also tricking people to follow or engage is messing the point of the whole exercise. No one gives a shit if you have 10k+ followers on Twitter, Facebook if you don't engage in a two way fashion. This is perhaps in part why some companies, personalities are smashing it on mediums such as, Snapchat where you have to engage with frequency to prosper.
In Summary, I don’t see any reason why anyone / entity should discard the concept of engaging actively with users. It is a real metric being used by search and you'll either take this advice on board and prosper or wither, then become just another ghost page and disappear into the 100+ page nowhere land.
Mozcom. (2016, no-date). How Blog Commenting Can Still Be a Healthy Part of Your Post-Penguin SEO Strategy . [Weblog]. Retrieved 16 July 2016, from https://moz.com/ugc/how-blog-commenting-can-still-be-a-healthy-part-of-your-postpenguin-seo-strategy-case-study
Fatrankcom. (2015, 30 December 2015). SEO 2016 - Blog Commenting Advanced Guide - FatRank. [Weblog]. Retrieved 16 July 2016, from http://www.fatrank.com/seo-2016-blog-commenting-advanced-guide/
Itsvickycom. (2016, no-date). How Does Comments Effect Your Blog Post Rankings in Google? Case Study Results. [Weblog]. Retrieved 16 July 2016, from http://itsvicky.com/how-does-comments-effect-your-blog-post-rankings-in-google-case-study-results/