Oct 06 2007

Comments are King – Unfortunately

Published by at 12:41 am under blogging,SEO

With regards to search engine optimisation, you often hear the catch-cry “content is king”. I’m certainly not disputing that. But we must never overlook the value of “user generated” comments as part of that content.

In September, I wrote about Maddison Gabriel – a (now) 13 year old model. Andrew Boyd described it as “well-timed controversy“. At the time, it was just something that struck me as “not quite right”, and something I felt strongly enough to write about.

Darren recently pointed out how quickly blog posts are being indexed and ranking very highly on Google, perhaps not terribly surprising for a blog with Problogger’s authority. But for a blog like mine (which has only been around for five months on this domain), the power of Google never ceases to amaze me.

As news of Maddison spread globally, my blog post was initially somewhere around the front page of Google, but I’ve since noticed that it’s moved into first position for a search for “Maddison Gabriel” (in Australia anyway).

How did that happen? I think it was a combination of a few links, but also the number of comments (67), many repeating Maddison’s name (close to 70 times).

As further testament to the power of comments, around seven of the commenters used the word “p0rn”. Now, I haven’t been game to even Google some of the search terms to see where I rank for them (although webmaster tools gives me some indication). But if you have a look at my search stats (filtering for search terms that contain that word) you’ll see that they’re arriving here and I’d obviously rather they didn’t (n.b. I have since added a couple of links to “help” sites at the bottom of the post). This is replicated for other (unfortunate) words used in the comments.


Below are the overall stats for that page. The traffic generated is like nothing I’ve seen before on this blog – perhaps you have , but it was a shock to me (the closest I’ve come to this was probably when I wrote about Paul Potts – FYI 63 comments). While it seems to have petered out, those little blips at the end still represent around 2-300 visits per day.


Recently Mark Laymon posted User Generated Comments Are King! What happened to content being the king? He concludes with:

Think about this for a minute. What would you rather have, a 2000 word essay on your site about your product, or a 200 word post with 2000 words in the comment section below your post all created by individuals with different outlooks?

I’m not a sensationalist (aka “linkbait”) blogger. I don’t write posts according to what is currently popular in an attempt to get traffic (that’s not to say that I don’t write about things that are topical).

But for me, the moral of the story is

  1. don’t overlook the power of comments (and building a blog which fosters this ethos)
  2. don’t underestimate the power of Google
  3. don’t diminish the value of “well-timed controversy”
  4. if this kind of traffic appeals to you, then perhaps you should think about a new niche (a la Perez)

What about you? Have you ever had “accidental” traffic like this?

22 responses so far

22 Responses to “Comments are King – Unfortunately”

  1. Colin Campbellon 06 Oct 2007 at 6:29 am

    Yes I wrote about Sam the Thieving Seagull and that got picked up by Google and my daily views were in the high hundreds for a few days, which is a lot for me. I have also had some good links from time to time. All very random.

  2. Mark Laymonon 06 Oct 2007 at 7:51 am

    Now you will also rank for the term you used in quotes in the 6th paragraph.
    Be very careful of keyword phrases in followup posts.

    Comments are driving a vary large percentage of traffic to many of my blogs. Users add keyword phrases that I often would never use. Next thing I know I have two or three pages listed for that term.

    Another thing to look at, when you link to my post it created a trackback. In many blogging platforms that creates a new page. (mine does not, just a anchor point) When you generate 30 comments, you now have 30 new points of content on your page for Google to index.

  3. Mark Laymonon 06 Oct 2007 at 7:54 am

    By the way, did I say I love comments on my blogs?

    Comments are KING!

    They are great for link building.

  4. Leighon 06 Oct 2007 at 8:19 am

    I love how quickly things are indexed (and ranked now Google loves me again :) ) Post something in the morning, and by the afternoon your #1.

    Not really blog related, but in my forums we have a news section. RSS from news.com.au and user posted content.

    Back in October last year just before the HSC started a young Sydney girl, Elizabeth Claro sadly died. There was no mention in the media of how she died. I was so surprised the interest in the story. We were in the top few results when searching for her name and related keywords. 100’s of people a day were coming, some times 6-700. After a day or 2 I pulled the thread, I thought it was in bad taste to have people discussing this poor girls death. But still for over a month people streamed in looking for information on her on her.

  5. Kinon 06 Oct 2007 at 9:39 am

    I think the best part about this is that a little blog like mine is still getting 30-40 hits a week from my comment on that post! I figured you must be still getting traffic from it, but not that much.

    Although a couple of my posts have similar results (albeit on a much smaller scale). Interestingly most of my google hits come from my planning and organising posts and recipes (I post my versions of common recipes like Apple Crumble and Apricot Chicken.

  6. Snoskredon 06 Oct 2007 at 9:54 am

    Oh yes. I’m going to mangle these words up for you do you dont get that kind of traffic, hopefully you’ll know what I mean.. :)

    There was the time I wrote a blog post about br1tney, par1s and l1ndsey and their cr0tch sh0ts. I did not actually put the photos there. I somehow got to number 7 on google for that search term. In the space of 12 hours, about 2,000 people found my site that way. They didn’t stay long – obviously because I didnt have what they were looking for and more than likely they were h0rny y0ung m3n – and as soon as I worked out what was going on, I changed the post to use words with numbers in them.

    I thought I didn’t get the attraction to it myself, but then I thought about it and if I’m perfectly honest there’s a few male celebs I’d like to see those kinds of *ahem* shots of. 😉 So I guess maybe I do get the attraction to it.

    It taught me to be very careful what I wrote about, that’s for sure! Nobody wants people looking for pr0n coming to their blog as a surprise.. 😉


  7. Megon 06 Oct 2007 at 11:10 am

    Colin – I had to go and Google it! Seagulls can be so sneaky!

    Mark – I did substitute the number “0” for “o”, so hopefully that will help. But I couldn’t agree more with what you say about comments adding so much to the content.

    It also surprises me that so many bloggers don’t send trackbacks, because they can be a good source of traffic and also tell the search engines that this is “related” content.

    Leigh – I’m so glad you and Google patched up your differences! I think you did the right thing to pull the thread.

    Kin – Not too many of the commenters were bloggers, so there weren’t many links to follow – your comment was well placed. You should have seen the number of clicks that went out to the ugly people agency…

    Snos – I thought of editing all the comments to put a zero in the word, but they’re not MY comments, so I felt a little funny about that. There’s also the word “s3xy” numerous times… As Andrew pointed out on his post, perhaps frustrating these people isn’t such a bad thing 😉 As you say, it is an eye-opener.

  8. Steven Snellon 06 Oct 2007 at 1:21 pm

    Interesting point. That’s almost always overlooked.

  9. Neeravon 06 Oct 2007 at 4:05 pm

    Meg I can’t see why you wouldn’t edit those unwanted words out, eg: my comments policy is very clear and amongst other things states:

    “Comments may be edited for spelling, grammar, length, to remove foul language etc.”

    PS its definitely true that comments can bring in extra traffic and also add useful information not present in your original blog post, some of my product reviews have well over 100 comments each

  10. Megon 06 Oct 2007 at 4:15 pm


    Thanks. You’re right. It’s done. Now I just have to work on my comments (& disclosure) policy….

  11. John Lampardon 07 Oct 2007 at 10:21 am

    That’s an amazing traffic spike considering it was the result of comments! Also I have to say I like Neerav’s commenting policy. I don’t get a million comments a day or anything but maybe I’ve been casual about what I do approve.

  12. Megon 07 Oct 2007 at 10:28 am

    Hi John

    Probably not ALL due to the comments, but I think they definitely contributed by adding content (and keywords) in a unique and natural way.

    It does make you stop and think about the comments. I’ll be watching the traffic now that I’ve altered the words to see if the “unsavoury” traffic drops off.

  13. Lornaon 07 Oct 2007 at 6:47 pm

    My search referrals spiked and until now I get a lot of hits daily from searches to my Harry Potter post with a certain horse… uh, better not mention it, otherwise you’ll get unnecessary hits also. However, that post didn’t have many comments, I think there were only two. You may be right however on the fact that the name repetition in your comments have contributed to your traffic.

  14. Megon 07 Oct 2007 at 7:31 pm

    Hi Lorna,

    I had to google it, because I wasn’t aware of the horse’s name. Now I see what you mean!

    BTW thanks for the top commentator plugin. I just downloaded it and installed – very simple and good options for customisation.

  15. swollenpickleson 08 Oct 2007 at 12:10 am

    Accidental traffic? Put it this way, I never dreamed that there’d be so many people searching for “cam3l t0e”!

  16. Megan over at Imaginifon 08 Oct 2007 at 9:17 am

    This is interesting Meg. There are days I could sit down and cry with the amount of child exploitive traffic I get on my site. Given my topic on child abuse, every post almost, mentions that thing we do as our ‘conjugal right’.
    Unfortunately I have sometimes been linked to those horrible sites that sell ‘conjugal right’ to people looking for children. Sickens me.
    I do however like it when the peds, leave me comment. I pass them straight onto the Federal Police. Funny, but I’ve seen a real dip in the provocative comments I receive now!

  17. Jasonon 09 Oct 2007 at 10:18 am

    This is a great article

  18. Mike Macgirvinon 09 Oct 2007 at 1:31 pm

    Re: Accidental traffic… I recall sometime last year when my website got a million hits in less than 24 hours for the first time.

    Besides my own community weblogs, I aggregate interesting content from several other sites across the planet on a wide variety of topics. Turns out that on the day in question a Hollywood gossip feed published the now infamous photos of Brittney sans undergarments.

    Comments are small potatoes when it comes to celebrity nudity.

  19. Megon 09 Oct 2007 at 2:14 pm

    Mike – woah! That’s a heap of traffic. Yes – definitely think I’m in the wrong niche 😉

  20. mphungon 11 Oct 2007 at 6:57 am

    re: accidental traffic … I always know when MySpace is down because I get a flurry of visitors from search phrases like “myspace routine maintenance”.


  21. Oneunderon 11 Oct 2007 at 7:36 am

    In golf the expression is “drive for show, putt for dough” the “drive” or “big shot” is the content that makes everyone go uh and aw, the putt or small shot is the comments or user generated content.

  22. […] a follow up to my comments are king post, you’ll be happy to know I have finally eliminated all searchers looking for […]