Matt Cutts (AKA – Mr. Head of the Google Webspam Team and SEO Guy) recently posted a short video to the YouTube Google Webmaster Help Channel on November 13th, 2013 titled: “Are all comments with links spam?”
If you are not familiar with this channel it is definitely worth following. If you watch and listen to them closely he will occasionally drop subtle hints about other important SEO related aspects that you should or should not be doing.
The question/questions that were asked in this one are as follows:
Google’s Webmaster Guidelines discourage forum signature links, but what about links from comments? Is link building by commenting against Google Webmaster Guidelines? What if it’s a topically relevant site and the comment is meaningful?
1 – Use your real name when commenting. When you use a company name or anchor text you want to rank for, it makes it look like you are leaving the comment for commercial marketing purposes and thus may look spammy.
2 – If your primary link building strategy is about leaving links in blog post comments and it shows that a majority of your links come from blog comments, then that might raise a red flag.
The first answer most of us have heard many times by now. Use a real name when commenting.
The second one I think some people tend to forget or overlook. He says if your link building strategy is primarily blog commenting, then this might raise a red flag. Although he doesn’t mention just how many it might take or when this could potentially raise that flag. However, it is pretty clear that at some point it will.
What about links from blog comments?
This brings up the question especially among bloggers, is your primary link building strategy blog commenting?
Whether intentional or not it seems to me a lot of bloggers tend to focus on other blog sites. They may not be commenting specifically for backlinks. They could simply be interested and enjoy them, or they could be working on relationship building who knows. So it is certainly possible to rack up many backlinks that would fall into the single blog commenting category and thus raise the potential red flag and not even realize it.
Do you know how many or what percentage of your backlinks are from blog comments?
There used to be a great site that would provide you with this information fast and in an easy to understand report. Unfortunately that site charges a steep monthly fee now.
A free alternative that I use that can provide you with a rough idea of what types of sites you have backlinks from involves using a combination of two sites. One for downloading data in .csv format, and another to use that file to generate a report.
The first thing you would need to do is visit Open Site Explorer by SEO Moz/Moz:
You need to register for free account in order to download your backlinks to a CSV file. Non-registered users can’t download it.
Then, punch in your website URL and search.
Once the results are returned for your site you will see an “Export to CSV” link on the right side of the page near the top.
Click on that to download it. This might take awhile depending on how many there are so be patient.
Once you have the .csv file from Open Site Explorer downloaded you can sign up for a free account at Link Detective and import that file here:
You will see near the top of the report: live vs. dead, known vs. unknown, and follow vs. nofollow.
Under that you find links by type that contain all the different types of sites linking to yours, the percentage of each, and the number if you hover over the pie chart.
As you can see this one contains: Comment (blog comments), Directories, Forum Posts, Link Lists, Profiles, Articles, Web 2, and more.
In this particular example the vast majority are from blog comments. I would consider trying to get backlinks from other sources rather than focusing so much on blog commenting in the near future.
Keep in mind that this is based on the .csv file imported from Open Site Explorer, which may not have all of your known backlinks, but it will provide you with a rough idea.
You can also switch to: Links by anchor text to see if you have certain anchor text links that happen to be excessive.
Under the pie chart you can check individual links.
If you know of a fast free alternative that will provide similar data let me know.
Before diving into aggressive link building and getting in over your head, be sure to check this page from Google:
It contains a lot of useful information about the kinds of link building you should avoid.