By Sarah Mitchell published May 28, 2010

How One Small Habit for Content Marketers Can Make a Big Difference

We’ve all heard the expression, “don’t sweat the small stuff”, right? It’s strategic advice reminding us not to get diverted by inconsequential activity. The great thing about content marketing is, sometimes, the small things can produce big results.

A large part of marketing includes reading and keeping abreast of current trends and industry experts. How often do you leave comments on the blog posts or discussion forums you’re reading? You may not realize it, but this simple action can produce appreciable benefit to you and your company.

I know, commenting takes time, and your to-do list is already long. But, consider these four benefits if you take an extra couple of minutes and weigh in on the topic at hand.

Improve Your SEO

While you control a fair amount of your search engine rankings through website content and keyword optimization, leaving prints around the web also impresses the search engines. In an effort to avoid spam, nearly every reputable website requires you to leave your URL creating, in turn, one more link for the search engines to consider.

Generate Business

Depending on the site, a sensible observation can go a long way to establishing your authority. The comment you leave should advance the idea in the article or contribute to the discussion. I closed business and acquired a new customer because of one remark I left on a post by Paul Hassing called “Dishing Dirt”.

Reciprocal PR

It’s not unusual to participate in a discussion on a blog and have the owner of the post join one of your discussions a few days later. If you’re a blogger, you’ll know one of the biggest gifts you can give another blogger is a well-placed comment along with a tweet or a Facebook post. Don’t be surprised when the favor is returned. It’s a lot easier than writing a guest post and a tacit endorsement from a reputable blogger can be just as valuable to your traffic. While the blogging rock stars can’t possibly participate in this activity, a local blogger probably has the ability to affect your business more profoundly.

Build Your Network

Both pithy observations and constructive criticism will provoke admirers to seek you out in other channels. If a comment resonates with me, I’ll find out if the person has a Twitter account or a Facebook page I can follow.

It’s important to remember every comment you leave is being analyzed by any number of readers. The ubiquitous “Great post!” adds no value and, done with regularity, can hurt your reputation. As you trawl around the web, join the conversations you find valuable and make your mark. Aim for making one new entry a day. You never know where it may lead.

What small habits have generated big returns for you? Add your suggestions in the comments!

Author: Sarah Mitchell

Sarah Mitchell is Head of Content Strategy at Lush Digital Media and founder of Global Copywriting. She develops content marketing and community engagement strategies for clients in a variety of industries. Sarah works in Perth, Western Australia and frequently speaks on topics related to Content Marketing and Social Media. She's also the Australian editor for Chief Content Officer magazine. Follow her on Twitter: @globalcopywrite.

Other posts by Sarah Mitchell

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  • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/blog/ Michele Linn

    Hi Sarah,

    I love thinking about how small changes can make a big difference. One simple change I think marketers can make is including a specific call to action in their content (not just pointing people to the home page). Sounds simple, but it's easy to forget. Thanks for post!

  • http://www.mycontentcreator.com Alan Stransman

    When I was teaching high school English, a number of years ago, I would occasionally give my students a “surprise” quiz or test. The first question that they would inevitably ask was “Does it count?”, which always amused me, and to which I would reply “Everything counts”. I wanted them to learn that in life, everything that you do “counts” in some way. The same can be said of online communication. It all counts.

  • http://www.dhcommunications.com/blog Dianna Huff

    Sarah,

    This is a terrific article. Leaving comments also has another benefit: it drives traffic back to your site. A few years ago I realized that my newsletter subscription rate had doubled — and when I analyzed where the subscribers had come from, many were coming from other blogs where I had left comments.

  • http://tip2top.co.za/blog Guy McLaren

    I was tempted to say great article, but felt that a pithy remark like that would get me listed a s spam. You are only too right about the benefits of commenting, I check out every commenters site, to see if they are spammers or not. I now follow dozens of people that I would not have known existed but for their comments on my blogs

  • http://www.paulconley.com/ Paul Conley

    Is it possible to read an article like this and not feel obliged to post a comment?

  • http://www.globalcopywriting.com Sarah Mitchell

    Commenting was something I sort of stumbled upon. I didn't start doing it for any strategic reason but due to undeniable benefits, I try to leave a comment at least once a day.

    Guy – I've found a lot of great people by tracing the person leaving the comment to their own blog.

    Diana – Great anecdotal information about the way commenting as boosted your newsletter subscription rate. Thanks for sharing that.

    Alan – Thank you, thank you for instilling such sound advice into youthful minds. I agree, it all counts.

    Michele – I'm all for finding easy ways to improve our marketing game. Thanks for another great suggestion. It begs the questions, if we're not making a call to action, then what are we doing?

  • jefflogden

    I've been doing this regularly for months. Glad to hear my approach has validity.

    Jeff Ogden, the Fearless Competitor
    President, Find New Customers
    http://www.findnewcustomers.net

  • JamieLee

    Great point, Sarah. I find that commenting is something that most people know they “should” do, but never make the time to do it. On the one hand, it seems such a small, negligible thing; and, on the other, it can seem overwhelming … like you have to be everywhere at once.

    I've found that blocking out 30 minutes each morning to just cruise around my favorite digital hangouts (facebook, twitter, and the many blogs I read) has helped me to make commenting a habit. It's best to think of it as FUN, instead of a TASK. I consider it more like hanging at the water cooler or chatting at the local coffee shop with friends. The benefits you list off are all valid, but I think one of my favorite reasons to venture out into cyberspace each day is the chance to learn something new.

    Great post. Congrats & talk soon!
    :)

  • Vicki

    I'm shy about commenting (not sure what I have to say will add value). I will certainly work towards commenting on a post a day. I'm certainly reading enough blogs that it shouldn't be a problem. Thanks for the insight.

  • http://www.globalcopywriting.com/ globalcopywrite

    Hi Jamie,

    As someone working from a home office, I certainly enjoy the communal aspect of commenting. You make a great point though, the reason to be out there in the first place is finding out what's happening.

  • http://www.globalcopywriting.com/ globalcopywrite

    Hi Vicki,

    As long as you make an honest observation, you'll add value. I'm always surprised at how often a comment left on my blog post opens a new train of thought for me. The great thing about commenting and having comments left on your blog is the collective wisdom we all receive.

  • http://lauracreekmore.com Laura Creekmore

    If we're talking about commenting as a PR strategy, I'd say the real challenge is to find places that you WANT to comment — highly trafficked, highly valued in your market — where you can also reliably find something new to contribute. As Guy notes above, it's never enough to say, “Great post!” For commenting to work as a business strategy, you have to add value to the conversation.

  • http://Www.goldendog.com Goldendog

    Thankfully you did not insult your readers by accusing them of being lurkers if they fail to leave a comment.

    I comment when I feel I have something to add or question about the article. I did not realize the potential for adding to my digital footprint. Thanks for pointing this out.

    Enjoyed reading this. Thanks

  • http://www.useglobalreach.com Ann-Christin

    Great points, Sarah! I really do need to make a better effort at doing this.

    I've realized that leaving comments also gives me better comprehension and retention of the information I read. Some days I might read a dozen blog posts or articles — then promptly forget them. But if I take the time to critically evaluate the information, figure out how it applies it to my own business/life, *and* write those thoughts down in a comment, I’m much more likely to remember it all – and put it into practice.

  • http://www.microscan.com Laura Hoffman

    While it sounds reasonable and logical, my practical reality is that I barely get time to read blogs period. When I do read blogs, I am usually just skimming for ideas and not connection. I rarely comment. So, as part of my comment improvement plan I am starting here. Thanks for providing the logical motivation.

  • http://www.globalcopywriting.com/ globalcopywrite

    Hi Laura,

    I mentioned it in an earlier comment but I honestly don't get too hung up on the whole thing as a strategy. I read any number of blogs and newspaper articles. As Jamie says, the main reason to be out there is to keep myself informed. I'm an avid reader so that helps, too. I use Google Alerts to track certain keywords for my business – “content marketing” is one of them – and it can take me places I've never been. If I see a good blog or articles, I leave a comment with little thought to the traffic of the site.

  • http://www.globalcopywriting.com/ globalcopywrite

    Hi Bonnie,

    I was looking for usage statistics last week for a presentation I was doing in Perth. One of the most interesting things I discovered is there's no good way to understand how many people are using social media strictly as a listening device. We spend so much time worrying about what's being said and who's saying it, it's easy to forget about the millions of people – yes, millions – that have no intention of “joining the conversation” but are listening to and reading everything being said. And they're all potential customers.

    Now see, here's a great example of how leaving a comment helps your traffic. I checked out your website based on your comment. I wasn't surprised to find an attractive website fueling what looks to be an interesting business. I'm following you on Twitter now.

  • http://www.globalcopywriting.com/ globalcopywrite

    You're so right, Ann-Christin. I probably should have included “retention of concepts” as a fifth benefit to commenting. Weren't we all told in school, “write it down”?

  • http://www.thefeistyempire.com/samples/blogs Paul Hassing

    Many thanks for the mention in dispatches, Sarah!

    I was thrilled you got business from your comment. It seemed just reward for the many generous and considered contributions you make to our posts.

    I (and my site stats) agree with all you say in your excellent article. I spend about an hour each day reading and commenting on other people's blogs. It can be a bit tiring sometimes, but it beats the crap out of the time I used to spend sending cold-call emails.

    I learn from almost every post. And the online relationships I build (as with you) are beginning to rival some of my 'in person' associations.

    It's wonderful to watch your star ascend from the other side of the continent. Keep up the ace work! Best regards, P. :)

  • http://www.globalcopywriting.com/ globalcopywrite

    Hi Paul,

    I smiled at your reference to cold calling. I recently gave a talk on social media and someone defended time spent on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., as preferable to cold calling. Now you've mentioned it here. I've never thought about it that way before but you're so right.

    I've learned a lot from watching you manage your own blog. You reply to every comment and it's amazing to watch your initial idea grow and modify as the your loyal fans line up to contribute. It's a great technique that keeps people coming back because they know they're part of a community.

    I appreciate your very kind words of encouragement. Thanks!

  • http://www.globalcopywriting.com/ globalcopywrite

    Hi Laura,

    I'm sure every person reading this post can identify with your “practical reality”. I certainly do. I have days when I delete my Google alert notifications without even opening them. I do find, as Ann-Christin pointed out, when I slow down and read deeply enough to leave a thoughtful comment I get a lot more out of the content. Thanks for weighing in.

  • http://www.webcontentcafe.com/ Nick Usborne

    You make a great point about the value of leaving comments. We should probably all do it more often. But…there is that scary divide between leaving comments that add value to the original post, and leaving comments simply because of the SEO benefits.

    Putting aside the people who are obviously trying to game the system by submitting valueless comments just to get a link, I also sometimes question my own motives.

    I’ll read a post sometimes which I want to comment on. And then, as you point out, I might feel, “Heck, I don’t have time for this. I have work to do.”

    What sometimes tips me over to taking the time to write that comment? The SEO and traffic benefits. : )

    I guess we all have mixed motives, but ultimately have to do the right thing, and offer reasonable value in exchange for the link.

    Nick

  • http://www.globalcopywriting.com/ globalcopywrite

    Hi Nick,

    You've tackled a big subject by bringing motive into the discussion and it's one for which I don't have a good answer. Is it wrong to be active online simply for the SEO benefits? As long as you're supporting your brand, you're going to be fine. One of my big pieces of advice for clients when they're considering embarking in online activity is to remind them they must always act in a professional manner or risk harming their reputation, their business, or their employers reputation.

    As Jamie pointed out, the real reason to be out there is educational and keeping yourself informed. Thanks for stopping by and putting thought to a difficult issue.

  • http://writingontheweb.com Patsi Krakoff, The Blog Squad

    Great post! (Just kidding….) It's a fitting tribute that you've generated many insightful comments, Sarah, AND you've modeled an important commenting behavior that should be mentioned if you want to encourage more comments… always respond to commenters! And, you do it with thoughtfulness and wisdom… makes it worthwhile to read through the comments … I picked up a couple tips from the others here, thanks.

  • http://www.globalcopywriting.com/ globalcopywrite

    Hi Patsi,

    Thank you so much for your kind words. It has certainly been a great way to start at CMI. One of the big benefits I get out of blogging is all the new ideas I get from the readers. It's also gives me a chance to expand on points, too. My ideas and opinions are often shaped, for the better, through the commenting portion of my blog.

  • http://www.russhenneberry.com/ Russ Henneberry

    Great thought Alan — I sometimes think that as adults we are even more conscious of “what counts” and what doesn't.

    I think what those students and us adults are really asking is “Does this have any immediate positive or negative repercussions to it?”

    We are very much interested in only that which is immediate — which is a shame because almost nothing of real value comes to us immediately — it takes commitment, consistency and hard work.

    Thanks for the great thoughts Sarah!

  • http://www.globalcopywriting.com/ globalcopywrite

    Hi Russ,

    [sigh] If only life were as easy as it seemed when we were students. As you rightly observed, nothing worth having comes easily. But commenting on blog posts is one little step in many right directions. Thanks for your kind words.

  • Doug Kessler

    The question of motive has come up a lot in our discussions as we encourage clients to get out there and comment.

    As it turns out, the real value in commenting is that you're out there participating in the right conversations and contributing to a larger community. SEO benefits are part of what you get back but there are plenty more reasons to do it.

    Commenting with relevance and respect is indeed a powerful thing.

  • http://www.globalcopywriting.com/ globalcopywrite

    Hi Doug,

    I agree completely with what you've said. In work with my own clients, I find encouraging them to comment is often a good first step in getting them to overcome their trepidations about social media. Once they understand the benefits far outweigh the possible drawbacks, they often embrace the tools and expand their social media presence.

  • BJ Adkins

    Thanks Sarah, great post! I hadn’t thought of leaving comments for SEO reasons, but I did for meeting people.

    BJ

    • http://www.globalcopywriting.com/ globalcopywrite

      Thanks, BJ. It’s amazing how many ways we connect with each other and build our networks.

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  • Janelle Urchenko

    Thanks Sarah.  I’ve been an admitted ‘lurker’ over the last months as I’ve been frenetically researching social campaigns to develop our corporate social media strategy.  Never thought about SEO, but your post woke me up a bit.  If for no other reason, we lurkers should go out of our way to thank those like you who make your insight available to us.

    Janelle

  • http://www.globalcopywriting.com/ globalcopywrite

    Hi Janelle,

    There’s not a thing wrong with lurking; it’s vital to any content strategy to have plenty of places you can look and listen to see what’s going on. I do it myself everyday.

    I’m glad to hear this post resonated with you. I appreciate your very kind words and hope you’re sprinkling comments around soon. 

    Cheers,
    Sarah