Scenario #1: You are in a conversation at a party, maybe with one or two other people, and someone comes up, interrupts, and starts talking about something completely different. They typically end up controlling the conversation and the original groups quickly excuses themselves to leave and find new conversations.
Irritating lady

Scenario #2: You are at a networking event, maybe for a chamber of commerce or a conference. You are in a group of people discussing industry “stuff”. Suddenly, a new person joins the group, inserts themselves into the conversation, and talks about their business and why everyone should work with them. Amazingly, they are selling themselves and their business when no one asked anything about it. (Again, people walk away.)

Scenario #3: Telemarketing Calls.

How do these three instances relate? I’m sure many have been in these situations and can identify with at least one or two situations. They all focus on someone interrupting the flow of a conversation and not “playing by the rules.”

I like to attend networking events, they are fun for me and I especially like the local chamber of commerce events, as I have made many friends over the years. They are well worth the time, as I learn about local businesses and the people behind them. Ultimately, the goal of any social networking group is to refer business to each other because we like them and trust them. It’s a significantly strong network.

However, I have also been in networking groups that force the relationships, simply because a member provides the service. Those don’t typically last long. The best networking groups are those that focus on the long term relationships and building those “like and trust” ideals.

Much like those networking situations above, the internet tends to devolve people into conversation interrupters. I am not really sure when it became cool to drop a link into someone else’s blog. Link exchange requests have always been suspect, in my opinion, as I have no knowledge of this person, their site, or even their business. Why would I offer a link to a site where I have no knowledge of the content or the purpose?

It seems as though the entire principle of interrupting conversations has taken on a whole new light.

First, the obvious comment spam (which didn’t even pass the spam block):

Obvious comment spam

Then, the insideous link dropper, interrupting the conversation to talk about himself:

Crappy comment spam

This is just terrible grammar, the depth of which is superseded only by the arrogance of the link. When the commenter states, “SEO Article” he is attempting to make it look like it is MY article he is referring to, when the hyperlink obviously shows that it is HIS own article that he is complimenting. Funny enough, when I followed the link to his site, it does everything that I preach against; keyword stuffing, repetitive usage, non-contextual positioning. Bottom line – it’s nowhere I want to send my visitors.

The questions in my mind when I see a link in a comment are:

  1. Who are you?
  2. What is the purpose of the link?
  3. Do you contribute to the conversation?

To me, this is worse than spam. It’s SEO’s who know enough to work things to their advantage, and it looks like crap. No wonder SEO is getting a bad reputation.

Now, I’m not totally against link-dropping in comments. There have been times that I’ve allowed them to go through. Here is one from the Accessibility Blog that I allowed:

comment in conversation

The author of this comment contributed actual content to the conversation. When they link to a resource that everyone can use, and it is on context with the conversation, so it was helpful to everybody. At that point, I didn’t mind the link to an article on their site – they contributed and marked it as such.

As Nigel Tufnell observed, “It’s such a fine line between stupid and clever.”

So, here are my rules for conversation . . .

  1. Have something to say that contributes to the conversation.
  2. Don’t be forward in linking to your own stuff. Build a reputation first.
  3. Don’t “trick” the author into getting a link. Link text appropriately.
  4. Most visitors don’t read blogs to see other people’s comments – it’s the author’s blog, not yours.
  5. and finally,

  6. Ask Yourself – Would you do or say the same thing in an offline conversation among a group of people?

Do you have rules for allowing comments on your blog? Are they more or less strict?

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How to Get Links Without Trying
The 3 C’s of Marketing: Content, Context, Community
Social Media Under the Microscope