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Valuing your readership – Front page links for top commenters

Valuing your readership – Front page links for top commenters

I recently installed a plugin that enables you to show your top commenters. It’s there to the right of the screen. I wanted to reward my mostive active participants.
As some of you may have read already, I don’t nofollow my commenters I think it’s a lame thing to do to people who take the time to comment on what you have said. Some blogging platforms place restrictions at the core program level making it very difficult for people to do very much about it. Not everyone can get in there and hack or change things they dislike. Lots of bloggers probably don’t even realise that their commenters are nofollowed simply because they are not as tech savvy as the next person. Not everyone surfs with a customised css file or firefox search status plugin! It’s refreshing to read that people with a broad reach like Robert Scoble are re-evaluating their positions although some like Anil Dash remain less convinced.

Anyways, this isn’t another anti nofollow rant, its more a case of talking about building a readership and rewarding those who participate and some of the stuff that has to be done to make that happen.

People are driven by their emotions. Whilst some of us might like to think that its all about the intellect, or logic, the power of the mind etc; the reality is that it isn’t. At some level, we all want to be noticed, valued and loved, that’s emotion. It’s pretty fundamental and we will do all manner of things to make it happen. Flowers for our wife, a good home cooked meal for our husband, a helping hand for a friend even, are examples of that virtuous circle of showing others that we care and that they matter.Blogging isn’t too dissimilar and has lots of real world parallels. Just because its often solitary in deed, doesn’t mean that its any way different to any other form of communicative exercise.

Personally, I blog and comment on other blogs because I’m interested in what I choose to talk about and what others have to say. I love to follow a good debate and usually enjoy noting how an issue or products perception can shift and move. It’s fascinating and often mirth inducing to watch the various players and performers act out their roles and play their hands in the game.

It’s entertaining to see how some people really do get caught up in the perception of their own piss and importantance, the whole A , B or Z list celebrity thing, that whole false manufactured media bullshit thing that we are fed with in the mainstream world, that cult of personality crap, is very much alive and kicking in this little world of ours too. I love to watch certain personalities, learn about them, almost 2nd guess their next move or reaction, almost like a mini casino where 20 quid says that in rection to that comment there, mr so and so will say blah. It’s that predictable at times, but damn, it’s funny and entertaining too. Real soap opera stuff .

Take last night. I was thinking about the recent soap that is the MBL fiasco and of how it seemed to have inflamed so many passions. It got me thinking about how silly spats and disagreements are played out in this timeless interconnected space of machines and technology. People insult or deride or pour scorn upon others by way of subtle nofollowed references or blatant aggressive linking to hijack a name. They know that the target of their praise or vitriol will be pinged and trackbacked or told by an ally or cronie, or if not will show up in some referal string somewhere. Alliances can be forged by a me2 or a link, as can enemies too. When egos are ruffled, the reactions can be explosive.

Ok sure, its a natural consequence of what happens when you paricipate in or observe a thing that is connected; a fluid conversation, ebbing and flowing, sometimes spilling over before simmering down again to some accepted level. The blogosphere full of its little niches and communes, their subsets and competiting constituencies all vieing for that prime position or space like some primitive primordial sludge bubbling and popping and boiling. Digg, Technorati, Google, Yahoo, msn, links and the like, being a vehicle to enable progression to some higher level of existence up in the food chain.

It’s an evolutionary tale; if you ever watched or participated in the various cloaking and spam and nofollow debates of years gone by you might be surprised at the shape and makeup of the exisiting picture today. You might be inclined to think, wow, how did they pull that off. Or you might be one of those who say, yeah I saw that coming all the way. If you are then great, I hope you invested well in what you saw and are reaping the benefits and dividends. I gotta confess, I’m not one of them! The point though, for illustrative purposes is that key individuals engaged in these debates and won out. They won out to their advantage and profited from it too.

Look at how nofollow is used today; look at how various search engine employees or blogs comment on the thing. look at it in the context of paid links and search engine gaming, look at how they want us all to adopt it and question why that might be.

Look at the way in which cloaking now almost has this universal black dark art connotation.Just go go and read up at forums and see how it almost universally panned as a big big no no. That didn’t just happen, it was bent and moulded and shaped by key participants with vested interests. It was about rank on our terms or we will kill you. That simple. So its use of course, waned.

Look at search and how its monotheistic power status has panned out, the probability is that it was more luck then any finely honed visionary judgement. A reason why Google succeeded in the way it did, was because it carried a keycommunity with it. The do no evil thing, the warm words of reassurance, the we are like you mindset, engendered a spirit of cooperation amongst the community it embraced; the community itself wanted it to succeed above all others and god, succeeed it did! Is it possible for one or two individuals to look that far ahead and say, we will make that happen and it’ll happen this way and us and us alone will triumph with magnificence! Did Larry and Sergei think that way? Was it some kind of carefully thought out world domination plan? Nah, no way, just not possible, too many variables. it’s a good lesson though, a lesson in how with careful cultivation and with the right people, you can achieve a great deal. Google used forums to deliver their message, evangelists like Googleguy the high preachers spreading the gospel.

Todays terra forma is the blogosphere, blogs have that instant power to snowball a message through to 100’s of 1000’s of individuals and gain that instant attention. Just look at the readership of techcrunch as an indicator of how fast something can grow. 200k reported feedburner subscribers, reported to be in the top 1000 sites on the internet by alexa, an established regular readership.. yet in early 2005 in terms of numbers, it just didn’t exist.

Daniel is a useful example to close this whole post down with. I found his blog via some blog somewhere or other.I commented, he took the time to mail me personally and thank me for my comment. Ok, so it was probably automated, I don’t care if it was, but it was personalised, it was the thought that counted and it was different. I’d probably have gone back and read there again anyway, but he now sits more favourably, just because of that single action.

We are emotional beings and feed off of each other, don’t expect me to explain the intricasies of the human psyche here, go ask a Freudian or Jungian analyst for that, I’m just a commentator on life as I see it sometimes.People and tech stuff and seo nonsense just happen to float my boat. It’s entertaining, beats TV. It’s real world drama at its best.
The point I wanted to make before starting on this mega post here was that if people feel that you are rewarding them, or that you value them and what they do, if you can show them that you have their interests at heart as well as your own, if you can appeal to those emotional needs without sounding like some contrived arse, then you’ll reap a benefit too.
Valuing and recognising your regular commentators using the plugin mentioned is one way of doing that. πŸ˜€

Rob Watts
Kickstart your business today - Get an SEO Consultation or just talk to Rob about your online aspirations. With over 20 years experience in building traffic he's pretty much encountered most markets and scenarios

42 thoughts on “Valuing your readership – Front page links for top commenters

  1. robwatts Post author

    Ha! Good afternoon Andy. Yes I have a whole 4 subs! I think I’ll have a little edit later.

    Maybe I should just hide that shocking little number, or inject a bigger one. πŸ˜‰


  2. Robyn McMaster

    Ok, Rob, I’m the first to admit I’m not tech savvy like you. That’s what makes the blogosphere great – we need the minds of many. I would like to use a plug in for comments so I could recognize others as you have. Would the one you use work in Blogger? And, more importantly, would you be willing to share the code? Or am I making this too hard. Do I merely make a list at the side of my blog weekly as I see on yours?

    And, when I pressed on the RSS Feed at the top of your page I received a lot of code. My feeds run through FeedBurner and I do not have the skill to figure out how to transfer yours since when I press on others’ RSS icons FeedBurner pops up and I then put it in my aggregator. I will still give it another try. πŸ™‚

  3. robwatts Post author

    I don’t think it would Robyn. I’m not sure if its possible for you to even edit the html of your comments or waht options are presented to you at the back end. If you wanted to give a little ‘link love’ then you’d have to either look to edit the aspects of code that mentioned rel=nofollow and just remove that aspect, but again I’m really not that familiar with the options open to you. Sorry I cant be more definitive there for you. πŸ™

    My feedburner url is Let me know how you get on with that. Andy did alert me to an issue regarding my feeds, which I do intend to address soon.

  4. Robyn McMaster

    Wow, thanks for taking time to consider what I could do in Blogger. I have come a long way and the learning curve has been astronomical since I began blogging last June. One of the reasons I selected you and some other folks very skilled in tech as contacts in mybloglog is that I wanted to learn more and with continuous updates in tech, you folks are great to know.

    With some twiddling I now have subscribed to you in my newsgator. All is well. Thanks.

  5. Dane Morgan

    To Robyn; There are, I believe some third party comment systems for Blogspot blogs that don’t have nofollow. At least there were about a year ago when a bunch of us were investigating the Yahoo following of nofollow.

    Rob, love your style. Subscribed, though I did it through the native rss link because I’m cantankerous like that. I like the reference to TV. Reading the blogs is a lot more fun, but in the end we’re stimulating the same neurons as the daytime TV crowd with the blog dramas.

  6. robwatts Post author

    Hi Dane, welcome and thanks for commenting.

    Yes, you are right of course; be we tech focused nerds or not, at a base level we are all essentially made of the same stuff. I guess its one of those features that helps unite us, like some social glue kind of thing.

  7. Jeff Herz

    Thanks for the call out, though not sure how I feel about being referenced as not so tech savvy. ANy suggestions on how I can stop nofollowing for my commentors on Blogger?

    Anything I can do to fight the system is good for me.

  8. robwatts Post author

    Sorry Jeff, a tad presumptious of me there. Tech savvy was not the best choice of words, no offence intended there. I guess I was trying to say that not everyone is aware of the little link nuances that go on, the debates that informed them or the methods available for spotting them.

    I really dont know whats availble for blogger users though. Maybe a little emailto the support section might help. I had a brief scout out for Robyn the other day, but got distracted and drew a bit of a blank. Dane makes reference to some 3rd parties he was aware of, but doesn’t post specifics. Perhaps he might be worth a shout?

  9. Jeff Herz

    No offense taken. Just happy to be noticed. Unfortunately I dont have enough time to spend enough time on the blog, optimizing for SEO as others, so I take whatever attention I can get, if it gives the appearance of not being on top of everything that is available.

    Thanks again

  10. Andy Beard

    From what I remember there used to be a pro version of Haloscan that was usable.

    The best thing about blogger these days is that you can migrate from it to another platform easily these days, on your own domain, and then redirect the blogger blog to the WordPress blog and get Technorati very confused πŸ˜‰
    It is quite possible that Google also treat my blog as if it was still a blogger blog πŸ™‚

  11. Mark from

    Interesting article – I have just recently written an article about “buying” comments. I am still not sure where I sit on this one.

    I try to encourage comments and I always work to say “thank you” either by reading and commenting on a commentators blog or by setting up a blogroll link manually if I like the content coming from the commentators site/s.

    Of course, I do not have hundreds of comments to sift through each day, so that could be another reason some of the big guys are implementing the “automated-solutions”

    Again, still on the fence, I guess I do not believe in rewarding comments for the sake of comments. But if somebody really adds something of value to the site, then heck yeah… I love to reward them (although, I don’t know how much of a reward it is to get a link from my measly site right now *grins*)

  12. robwatts Post author

    Hi Mark

    You make some really good points.

    In terms of the big guys and 100’s of comments, well, if they are getting that many then they have quite a readership and are probably blogging full time and perhaps taking any monetisation that comes with the terrotity or are fortunate enough to be in a postion where finance doesnt really enter into things or is part of some other feedoff. It occured to me that for some though, a plugin like top commenters would be a fair compromise.

    Anyways I guess i’ll probably head on over to your blog later and see how much value i can get from ya! πŸ˜‰

    Thanks for stopping by!

  13. Andy Beard

    I don’t personally like “top commenters”, even though I gain a benefit from it on a number of blog, that isn’t the reason I comment.

    I much prefer nice LSI related links from comments preferable to something on my blog that exactly matches the subject being discussed.
    Blogrolls are one of my most hated things. I much prefer links in content, and tend to link through to people who comment on my blog a lot more… it is a community thing.

    I read my community’s blogs as much as I can, and where I can that is where I will source a large percentage of my content.

    Nofollow on comments is so much better.

    On a site like mine, each piece of content appers on maybe 10 pages in the site. Only one of those pages has comment, the page that is the permalink. I don’t use a blogroll because each of those duplicate content pages, which are being used to transfer LSI related links around my site, would also have the blogroll or top commenters.

    That isn’t just a small leak, it is a broken water main. The only way to correct it and keep the links is to noindex nofollow all those duplicate pages, but then I lose the relationships between the pages.

  14. Mark from

    Hey there Andy –

    Forgive my less than stellar techno decipher-ability, but I do not know what LSI means.

    To make sure I have your point right, you are saying that anything on the sidebar gets hit with a duplicate content penalty?

    But the sidebar is part of each page, which means that each page would get hit with the duplicate content right? I think there I am fundimentally missing something you are trying to say here – I would appreciate any clarification, and if you can keep it simple so even I can understand it, I would appreciate it πŸ™‚

  15. robwatts Post author

    Mark, I’ll leave Andy to comment on Latent Semantic Indexing but if you are impatient you are welcome to have a look at this.

    Andy I’m kinda with you on the multiple links thing, but Im not too fussed about it here.

    There is a school of thought that suggests it’s not really a good idea to have similar content throughout and that to do so could contribute to a problem of duplicate content, so yes for me too on an outright commercial website I too probably wouldnt link out to the same bunch of externals sitewide, at least not in the way in which Im doing here.

    (we could talk BLA too but maybe its best to leave that for another day πŸ˜€ )

    That said, as far as this blog here goes it’s a different ball game. The get a link on every page post here, was in a way designed to get people to read and comment and hopefully get suitably inspired to think egocentrically in a ‘ooh something for me’ kind of way.

    I hope they’d make the effort to say something and maybe come back for more too. The danger is of course that I end up with lots of me2’s and yeah I agrees, but I’m prepared to risk that and edit as required, not to mention of course that nothing is ever set in stone.

    One other thing, on the commenter thingy. The links also change too as you can specify a time period so it’ll give the top commenters from the last say, 30 days or whatever timeframe you specify. So IOW, its never gonna be completely same ol same ol, it will vary.

  16. Andy Beard

    LSI = Latent Semantic Indexing

    It all boils down to terms which are thought by the search engines to be related.

    This flour eggs milk fryingpan oil syrup would all be related to pancakes … yumm

    So if you are using lots of categories, tags, related posts etc, this all interlinks between related content very nicely.

    The problem is that many of those solutions create duplicate content pages. Many SEO experts think duplicate content is a bad bad thing – in some ways they are right, but it can add value in the same way a library might have an index of subjects, and an index of authors, plus you can browse the top 100 books, and newest books.

    Example duplicate content pages on this blog

    I am not sure how Google handle comment links

    They are not quite identical content, because some just contain snippets etc, but each page the sidebar links appear, maybe 15% external links.
    On my site because I also use extensive tagging, if I used a blogroll I might have 30 or 40 blogs I read frequently, representing a 30% leak on 10 or 20 pages for each post I wrote. It adds up fast.

    You can use a plugin you noindex nofollow those pages, and block them with robots.txt, but then you lose the keyword relationship bonus.

    Alternatively you can hack plugins and templates so they use some logic, and don’t show a blogroll or recent commenters on the duplicate pages.

    If you are gaining loads of links, it probably doesn’t matter. If people are reciprocating the blogroll then it can counteract some of the leakage.

    The big problem with that philosophy is that it is widely known that search engines discount the value of sitewide links in the sidebar.
    I have never read any research as to what stage of the calculation process they apply the discount.

    Thus they might divide the juice up first, and then discount some of it, and not give that juice back to other pages within the content.

    These are just my theories and some of the things I test on my blogs and even I question them.

  17. Mark from

    Thanks Rob – I will check out the link to the wikipedia article.

    I had heard a while ago that duplicate content was sort of a “bugaboo” and was not huge deal on most sites. But, if you guys are saying it is… I probably need to re-consider.

    Do you know if there is a way to keep the sidebar from being considered duplicate content?

  18. robwatts Post author

    @ mark if you are that concerned with aspects of your sidebar being indexed and seen as the same stuff, you *could* consider using javascript to document.write certainstuff, but that might be a little bit extreme! the great thing with a WP install is that you could like i do here, create a series of different sidebars which you could apply to different templates. This way, you can mix things up a little. On a busy blog with lots of new content and comments it doesnt matter a great deal as its almost fluid; its changing constantly due to lots of different interactions. Its one of the reasons why I used the digg dugg plugin in the way I did as it gives me contextually related content that changes daily and varies the makeup and shape of the pages.

    Andy, great summary, thanks for taking the time out to explain your thoughts in such depth.

    Its one of the things I love about all this stuff. It’s akin to detective work, hunches and bingo moments. When you hit it spot on and see your efforts bear fruit its kinda special. Understandings of things like this for me are at times, both both an asset and a hindrance. HavingΒ  to read up and understand things like PR, Hilltop,Β  LSI,Β  BLA and the almost constant stream of other theories and associated disinformation incentives (SE patent filings)Β  πŸ˜‰ that continually pop up, helps keep us all on our toes!

  19. Carsten Cumbrowski

    What are you complaining about long posts Andy? Add your comments together and put it next to the post and well, we will see πŸ™‚ kidding.

    Good to see that I am not the only one with the tendency to longer posts hehe.

    I don’t know if a site wide link would be a reward or a punishment. SE tend to de-value or ignore site wide links, because they are either navigation or links to the hosters/isps, the corporate site or the web designers/developers website. One permanent link in context on a few pages gets you probably more.

  20. Robyn McMaster

    Hi Rob, it’s interesting to see the other side of nofollow. Like you I want to value my readers and I like the plug in. Blogger seems to either be more controlling than I enjoy, and I was all set to install WordPress, but I had glitches in getting SQL operational in Apache on my computer. HTML and XHTML began to swim around in my head after following instructions in the book, “Blog Design Solutions,” by Andy Budd, Simon Collison, Chris J. Davis, Michael Heilemann, John Oxton, David Powers, Richard Rutter and Phil Sherry. I gave it the best shot I could with the limited time I have. So hopefully folks interested in providing a like widgit for Blogger will soon share it. πŸ™‚ Thanks for showing both sides of nofollow.

  21. robwatts Post author

    Hey Robyn, good to see you πŸ™‚

    I noticed you went some way to getting there but had a little issue with haloscan and the way they handle comments. Im really not a fan of the way the various blog platform providers apply these blanket ‘solutions’ only to not give people an option to opt out when they want to.

    Im not sure, I’m kinda time limited right now, but I believe that WP does allow for a blogger import, whether blogger allows for an export is another matter of course!

    WP is certainly my blogging platform of choice.

  22. Andy Beard

    Robyn, I will get you fixed up – just an additional note that Haloscan would also cause problems with migration to WordPress in the future if you so decided.

    Currently the only way to import from new blogger is to first of all import to, and then export to your own wordpress. It is why I suggested in the past to a few to people to wait until WordPress 2.2 is released (just around the corner)

    I might be weird, but I love seeing nofollow on all those links to me in the sidebar.

    I am in the middle of a long long long blog post, but had to drop in πŸ˜‰ will take a look at the plugins and install them – great work!

  23. robwatts Post author

    >I might be weird, but I love seeing nofollow on all those links to me in the sidebar.

    Whatever floats ya boat Andy πŸ˜‰ – Only on the single posts – Home page Top Commenters are dofollowed, can’t allow too much juice to flow out… πŸ˜‰

    Thanks for sharing that info too , have fun playing with those plugins!

  24. Andy Beard

    Actually you are doing it better than you claim, your are using if is_home() for a followable link. I checked πŸ˜‰

    Hmm, thinking about it, upload a hacked version of the top commenters plugin I can link to. I would love to mention it in this long post I am writing.
    If the plugin is GPL you can just change the comment part at the top to say that it is modified.

  25. robwatts Post author

    Well – no, not quite Andy, but close and probably a much beter approach than the roundabout way I hacked at it! I made another version of my sidebar renamed it sidebar2, then within the TC plugin, I just mirrored the function, renamed it added a rel=nofollow and slapped into the singlepost sidebar.

    I’ll do a quick edit and throw it up when Ive dropped the kids off. I’ll ping you when I have, perhaps you can add a little addendum or run a little edit on this very long post you are writing πŸ˜‰

  26. Hanen

    Hi Rob,
    I’m new to blogging I have only been doing it for about a month. I to have to thank you for appreciating your readers comments. I’ll book mark your site and ill be back.

  27. soloads

    Rob, a bloggger that installs a Top Commentators plugin has a win-win case. However, I have a question for you: why don’t you take yourself out of the top (it sounds awful, I know, sorry about this)? Most of the bloggers do this because the real purpose of the Top is another one than to show youself there.

    Nothing personal, I hope you don’t mind for my comment πŸ™‚

  28. robwatts

    No probs at all! I am a top commenter after all πŸ˜‰

    I never read a defined all encompassing top commenter definition myself, but the short answer is that I did actually edit the thing for some reason or other, the reason why for which escapes me right now!

    I may well do what you suggest. πŸ˜€

  29. soloads

    Oh, no way! You’re not a commentator. You’re the artist who posts his work and the others are the observers who comment your work. From time to time you respond to the comments made by the others, but you’re not a commentator. You’re the artist and the landlord, not the commentator πŸ™‚

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