I believe that when security software throws the baby out with the bathwater, it's too aggressive. It's time to step back and re-evaluate.
In some cases the software settings can be tweaked, so it's usable, but we know that most business owners are going to install and run security software as is, right “out of the box.”
A few years back, we still included setup and organization of client computers and networks to help new website owners get up to speed with handling web requests and online orders. One of the greatest obstacles we faced was anti spam and firewall software that was far too aggressive as installed. Leads were not being followed up and orders were never fulfilled. In other words, security had become very bad for business.
More recently, we will occasionally have clients complaining about email spam coming from information request forms on their website. A little spam goes with the territory, but we've had some clients that were downright insistent that we eradicate all spam. After trying several different Captcha and anti-spam solutions, we can usually rid the inbox of unwanted emails from their website. These same clients will almost certainly be complaining a few days later that hardly any leads are coming in any more. And there's the catch; make the forms unfriendly enough for spammers and they are every bit as antisocial with prospective customers.
A few days ago I read a post that advocated installing 3 anti spam plugins on a WordPress blog. I felt that was perhaps overkill and wanted to put in my two cents worth. Guess what; my comment failed to meet certain criteria and was never approved. This was a blog I have often commented on before, but now I struck it from the list.
CommentLuv's New Anti Backlinker Plugin
Over the past months we have been a huge promoter of CommentLuv. We have purchased and installed the Premium version for most of our client sites, blogged about it and spread the word in social media. We had a profound “Luv” and admiration for the value the plugin and the community it fostered brought to blogging.
Many online marketers began denouncing the practice of blog commenting when bloggers put the ‘nofollow' attribute on any outbound links in comments. Quite a few prominent blogs in the SEO industry no longer even accept comments, much less engage in leaving any. They consider commenting a relic of a more social, less self-absorbed, value-for-value era in blogging. Has the practice of commenting indeed become focused on exclusion and getting something for nothing? They may have a point. Accepting comments, while giving nothing in return, is not a sustainable model, and very soon blogs may not include a comment feature. In that, the naysayers may be right.
Some of us in the SEO, content marketing and affiliate marketing industries still believed that commenting had merit, because although there was little or no link value left for search rankings, commenting still encouraged real visitors to stop by and engage with fresh content. When I read a useful comment, I am very happy there's a link that allows me to visit the thoughtful writer's blog and expand my network. CommentLuv permitted the nofollow attribute to be removed, and even included a link to the latest post published by the commenter. CommentLuv provided genuine value to commenters in exchange for taking the time to leave thoughtful feedback and add value to the blog. Often the comments below the post brought the writer's content to life, and I have spent more time reading comments than the posts themselves.
When the Anti Backlinker Plugin became available to CommentLuv Premium subscribers, we installed it on our blog, and those of our clients. Within hours a flood of angry comments and client emails came in demanding to know why the comment feature on the blog was now providing “stupid error messages” in boxes and then stripping the backlinks from the comments.
We quickly checked on the CommentLuv settings and discovered that by default, the Anti Backlinker Plugin requires the commenter to have a Gravatar set up with WordPress, and the blog link provided must be for the root domain (http://www.domainname.com). Most of our small business clients will not have a Gravatar set up when we meet them. They are not full-time bloggers, where the blog is the ‘Home' page. They will have a static home page and other pages that describe their company and the products and services they offer. The blog will be available from the menu and probably resides at a URL like http://www.domainname.com/blog. This blog is located at http://www.colewiebe.com/blog and I have therefore been receiving the dreaded “Sorry but…” messages on CommentLuv sites wherever the Anti Backlinker plugin has been installed with its default configuration.
I do get that blog comment spam is a problem and that there is a need for some measure of effective filtering. It's limiting comments to just “our little club”, where all the checked criteria a professional or serious hobby blogger will have in place are satisfied, that I believe may ultimately kill commenting for everyone.
I've read quite a few self-righteous posts and comments from dedicated purist bloggers who believe that comments from conventional brick and mortar and ecommerce businesses are driven only by a desire for profit and a quest for free links. I understand they believe that only true bloggers have an untainted sense of “community”. For them, the new Anti Backlinker should shut out most non-career bloggers quite effectively and it may help remove the last shred of value blog commenting had in a small business marketing strategy. Personally, I find references to the impure profit motive in commenting, for conventional businesses, and the need to stomp the practice out, a bit humorous. Click one of the links for products or services on these virtuous blogs and you'll generally discover that an affiliate referral has been made to another site. And stop leaving comments on these righteous blogs and see how quickly they forget about commenting on yours any more. Very few of us have the luxury of time to comment without expecting something in return.
At the end of the day, commenting only has value to blog owners if there's a return on investment. I visited quite a few of the CommentLuv blogs I usually will comment on last night and only the qualified “insiders” in the “dedicated blog” club had links associated with their recent comments on the large percentage of them. I had now been relegated to the “outside” − the un-Luv'd − on many blogs I'd been quite active on.
Will I waste my time, adding a thoughtful comment, knowing my links will not be published, because my blog is located at www.colewiebe.com/blog instead of the root domain URL? Let's see… nobody is ever going to follow a link to my blog, if they liked my comment, because the links simply aren't there. No links = no resulting traffic, expanding the social network, or return comments = no value at all. It would appear that my list of “comment friendly” blogs just became a lot shorter. I will be placing a red “X” in front of ‘CommentNoLuv' blogs the first visit and strike them from the list if some reciprocal value has not been restored by the next visit. Time is money. It's just business.
Anti Backlinker may have its place, but I believe all of the settings should be unchecked by default. In other words, exclusion of any commenter interested in more than leaving their point of view, or one that fails to meet very specific criteria, should be a very deliberate choice. The policy, “I'm happy to publish your comment, but refuse to return the favor for the value you've added to my blog, unless you have jumped through a list of unspecified hoops,” is one the blog owner is of course entitled to, but I am convinced that potential commenters should receive a notification of the site's policy BEFORE they take the time to craft a meaningful comment. Owners of blogs the don't comprise the whole website, like mine, need to know that their blogs will not be treated as legitimate.
Help appears to be on the way… Please read Andy Bailey's quick response (and solution) to this post below and my reply. Andy is the developer behind CommentLuv.
For The Record
I believe the original CommentLuv Premium plugin is brilliant. Their claim is: “Gets more comments and social engagement on your site.” And they have delivered on that in a big way, until just recently. It's only the impact of the Anti Backlinker add-on plugin I'm having an issue with.