Vendor tips: how to get blacklisted from Offbeat Bride's comments

This is the ban hammer, and we are not afraid to use it. Image © by ShutterBugChef, used under Creative Commons license.
I interact with dozens and dozens of amazing wedding vendors every day, and for the most part, it's an awesome industry filled with inspired, independent, creative, and whip-smart people. I love that part of my job is helping these smarties grow their businesses! My favorite advertiser stories are the ones where a part-time freelancer was able to take their business full-time after doing an ad on Offbeat Bride — warmest fuzzies EVAR. Unfortunately, however, there are always a few small business owners who are still playing catch-up when it comes to marketing online — especially blog commenting etiquette.

I totally recognize that people are at different phases of learning about web marketing, but we try to compensate for the inexperienced by being very explicit about our commenting policies — so it's hard for me to be patient when vendors screw up. From Offbeat Bride's comment policy, linked from the commenting section of every single page of the site:

Wedding biz commenting policies

While we love having business owners involved in the discussions here on Offbeat Bride, the comment section is NOT the place to promote your business. If you'd like to promote your business on Offbeat Bride, you're much better off joining us as a sponsor.

  • Please do not use your business or blog name anywhere in your comment — not as your name, not in the body of your comment, not in your gravatar, not anywhere. (Here's why!) You may use your website in the URL field, but if you use a name like "Seattle Wedding Photographer" or "Affordable Wedding Dresses," your comment will be deleted.
  • Don't leave meaningless comments. We see a lot of vendors who come and leave comments on dozens posts that say things like "Very unique!" "Love this!" or "Awesome wedding!" This is a half-step above spam, and we delete it.

It's remarkable to me the lengths vendors will go through to try to sneak around these rules. After blacklisting one vendor who kept using their business name in their comments, we started noticing another commenter who always used a long and awkward blog name as their username. My editors were patient at first — the line between personal branding and blog branding and internet handles can be murky. But then we started noticing that this commenter seemed to make a point to be the first comment on every post, often posting the half-step-above-spam comments like "Super helpful article!" Upon glancing at the URL the commenter was working so hard to promote, I realized it was another site owned by the wedding vendor who we'd blocked the week before. *LE SIGH* A+ for ambition and tenacity. D- for effective marketing methods.

It's especially frustrating for me as a small business owner because I TOTALLY understand wanting to promote your business… it's just that using blog comments for self-promotion is almost NEVER the way to do it. These vendors aren't spammers — they're real people who often make really cool things! Cool things we might even want to feature on the site… but certainly will not be featuring after having to blacklist the business owners for over-pimping themselves in the comments.

Where things get even stickier is Facebook, now that people can comment on Facebook posts using their business page as their identity. (In other words, Facebook user Jane Smith can now leave a comment as JaneSmithPhotography.) Offbeat Bride's assistant editor Catherine (known in these parts as Superman) has to dedicate a few minutes each day to cleaning up spammy comments on the Offbeat Bride Facebook page. We're cruel with blocking businesses over there — one comment promoting your giveaway or asking people to fan your page or linking your latest promotion, and you're blocked.

This isn't an Empire-specific issue, certainly. Marketing etiquette is an issue all over the web, but it feels like a slightly different game when my business model is built around helping small business owners reach my readers — and instead I'm blocking a few who learned a bad lesson or two about self-promotion on blogs. I spend too much time shaking my head and thinking, "Oh man: I want your awesome business to grow, but instead you're making me block you."

The moral of the story? Rather than leaving self-promotional comments, start investing in placement (we have ads starting at only $10!). Joining us as a sponsor is waaaay more effective than wasting your time posting comments that get you blacklisted.

Any questions? I spent 10 years working in marketing before I founded the Empire, so I looooove dorking out on this stuff.

Oh and PS: join our offbeat advertiser email list for more stuff like this!

  1. Thank you for posting this! I think more people need to know these etiquette tips not only on your site but on all sites. :-)

    • Yeah, this is definitely NOT an Empire-specific issue… but OH MAN. Does it get frustrating. :)

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  2. I'm so tired of being solicited and pandered to. I can't avoid it in RL, I can't avoid it on-line. I'm glad that the Empire has some strict rules about this thing so that we can avoid it here, particularly on OBB because I feel that as a bride planning a wedding, I'm particularly being targeted by marketers and ads for things I have no interest in

    I'm happy to come here and know I have a great resource for vendors but also that I won't be accosted by spam

    • Yeah, it's a super delicate balance. I'm a firm believer that when a sponsor is well-selected, well-written about, and presented respectfully, the information can be helpful instead of solicitous. Those are the values that drive all our sponsored posts — the idea is that these are cool businesses that we genuinely like, and maybe you will too. If you don't, well then at least it wasn't a PUNCH THE MONKEY!!! banner ad shouting at you about it.

      (To be fair, this business model works for Offbeat Bride — it doesn't work for Home or Mama, where we've had to do more traditional banner ad placement to pay the bills. Oh well!)

  3. Super helpful article!
    jk. But seriously, this was really helpful. As a wedding vendor myself (is that vague enough?) I know that it can be hard to balance wanting to generate good SEO and wanting to respect a blog's integrity. I used to post as my business name but I've stopped, because I realize that comment sections aren't for my personal advertising. They're for people to respond to the post above.
    This was a legit article- thanks for taking the time to write it. It's definitely made me more aware of my own comments on blogs.

    • RE SEO: Almost all blog publishing systems (blogger, wordpress, movable type, etc) default to "no follow" links in comments, meaning that commenters get ZERO SEO value from linking their businesses in blog comments. It's been this way for 5+ years, but the myth of SEO value from blog comments lives on…

      1 agrees
  4. The funny thing? I would never check someone's link or check out a business if they left an inane comment or left a spammy irritating comment on a blog. That isn't where I go looking for vendors. Have something awesome to contribute to the conversation? Then yes, I'd find you appealing and I might want to involve you. But there are good ways to do that and Offbeat Bride (and the Empire) offer ways like sponsored posts. The information overload on the web is so high that marketing has to get better, not just be all over the place.

  5. I am a vendor and disagree with this in some ways. I don't always think that using your business name is a sneaky way of promoting your business… sometimes it just a way to give props to the photographer that took the pictures. For instance if I post a blog entry on my personal wedding blog and another photographer comments, I am extremely flattered. I actually think it validates that my work is good (not necessarily theirs) even more than just a regular comment would and if OBB ever commented on my blog I'd be thrilled! That's not to say that some people don't leave comments as a way to promote their business, I know those people are out there but I think in general it's more of a way to say "Hey, I am a vendor too and really respect your work" Which, especially in the world of photographers means a lot. We are sadly known to be catty and extremely competitive with our competition.

    • Great points, Deb, and I think you're getting into the difference between using blog comments for networking vs. marketing. It feels perfect appropriate that, on a blog about your wedding photography business, other wedding photographers would reference their own businesses. That's networking.

      Even here on offbeatempire.com, business-related comments are perfectly appropriate. We're talking about business, so of course we're going to mention our businesses in the comments. Again: networking.

      Offbeat Bride, however, is just a whole different ball o' wax — because the readership there is mostly brides (not vendors), business comments aren't about networking with other business folk, they're almost always about marketing to brides. But as Little Red Lupine (a newlywed) notes in her comment above yours, "I would never check someone's link or check out a business if they left an inane comment or left a spammy irritating comment on a blog. That isn't where I go looking for vendors." It's just not effective marketing.

      So, in summary: blog comments can be GREAT for networking with colleagues. They're not great for marketing to prospective clients.

      • I totally agree with you that "blog comments can be GREAT for networking with colleagues" but are not great for marketing to prospective clients.

        I have never once got a client from posting comments…people are really silly if they think that is how to get clients. All of my clients come from word of mouth or paid advertising (a lot come from OBB!!)

    • I think, though, that there is a big difference between saying "Hey I'm a photographer too, and thought those were some great shots on your personal blog, I like how you used lighting there," etc….which is (as Ariel mentioned) more "networking" than "spamming" and interesting to read as a consumer.

      As opposed to, every other website where you see a comment by "Affordable Wedding Dressez" saying "Very nice!!!" and nothing else. Bleh.

      As a bride-to-be and consumer, I definitely feel insulted by those latter types of comments. I would love to hear what: Jane Smith has to say about a post. I couldn't give a flying flip about what: "Affordable Wedding Shoez Dot Comz" has to say about a post. [all made-up names]

      It seems like this particularly happens with wedding-related sites (though I *have* been reading more wedding things lately…). You don't really see comments like: "Good post! Come check out our low prices on soda! Love, Your Local Grocery Store." It's just *SO* odd to me when a business "comments" on something!

      • It does seem to happen more on wedding-related sites, but also baby ones! I love that you guys get rid of these. People seem to think that pimping their personal blog or Etsy shop isn't advertising. If I buy something you made it's because it's pretty, not because you write brilliant comments.

  6. THANK YOU for this article! Seriously I know so many folks that should read this (wedding vendors and beyond). I think it's also important to note that as a consumer, not only do I not tend to click on links from comments that seem spammy, but I'll also go out of my way to avoid vendors that do that. On Facebook especially there's a convenient button that allows me to mark a post as spam (on my page, but also on ANY page) and I won't hesitate to use it. Social media and blogs can be hard enough to navigate and find the information that I need, it doesn't need to be any harder.

    • Yeah, it's odd with those "report as spam" … there's bot-spam, which I think of as "real" spam, because it's produced by a machine instead of a person. And then there's just overly-self-promotional comments, which are clearly left by real people… so I'm hesitant to call it spam, even though it basically is. Human spam vs. bot spam, I guess? The hardest part is that bots are programmed by people who KNOW they're spamming… where-as human spammers often honestly think they're doing something that's best for their business.

  7. I LOVE that OBB does not allow BS marketing… spamming me automatically loses my business. Much like during election time when all the politicians are calling my house a dozen times a day, I listen to the message just long enough to know who WON'T be getting my vote!

  8. Slightly off-topic question : is it inherently wrong to leave "half-spam" comments? Because sometimes I'm too tired/busy/mundane to leave anything deeper than "Your dress rocks my socks!"

    Have I been breaking a netiquette rule???

    I mean, I know you're not going to block me or delete these comments but.. is it kinda rude? Like I'm not holding up my end of the conversational bargain?

    OMG HAVE I BEEN PICKING MY NOSE ON THE INTERWEBS?!?

    1 agrees
    • Oh goodness no: comments are only "half spam" if:
      1. It comes from a business
      2. They leave comments like that on multiple posts

      Brief comments are fine — it's when it's a business person ONLY leaving brief comments that it starts to look shady.

  9. This is really interesting, because it's something I've noticed in other places around the web. A lot of people on one blog I frequent will have their user names as "XX @ Name of business or blog", which I find really offputting.

    The funny thing is, I actually get quite a few hits from my own comments there (I comment because I love the blog), and seem to be building my readership overall too, so really, if people find you interesting and you have a link in your profile/name, people will check you out anyway!

    • Oh, also, I read your profile, and had to say – I never realised that all those times my friends were bagging out Microsoft and I replied "yeah, but I hear they're great to work for" that was all because of you! Your work there sounds amazing :-)

      1 agrees
      • HA! :) No joke: Microsoft takes very VERY good care of its employees. I wasn't always super passionate about my job there, but I always felt good about the product I was marketing, which was Microsoft's employee benefits. Microsoft's health insurance made it possible for me to become a mother, which is a pretty major bonus…

        1 agrees
  10. I one time left a comment on Offbeat Home that just said: I love Offbeat Home! I wasn't even trying to spam, I just was honestly feeling really full of love for Offbeat Home, and didn't have much more to say. The comment did get deleted. I then (ahem) read the comment policy and was mortified, not because I was upset that my love for Offbeat Home had been deleted, but because I thought: oh shit! I did a spammy thing! So just so you know I didn't mean it. I mean I meant that I loved Offbeat Home, I didn't mean come look at LMP because she loves Offbeat Home.

    • That actually ISN'T a comment we'd moderate (I asked Cat; she confirmed) which means you got filtered out by Akismet, our spam filter algorithm … which I guess means it really was spam-like! This is one those cases where my spam-o-meter doesn't go off (I know you! You love Offbeat Home! Makes perfect sense!) but apparently Akismet felt otherwise…

  11. I'm curious about a specific instance– There was a post on Offbeat Home about grown-ups that still play with dolls and enjoy posing them. I commented, posting a picture of a plush doll that I made- just to join in because I thought it was fun that others did this too. Someone commented they wanted to know how to make/where to buy one—- I didn't want to spam so I didn't know what to do. Techically it would be self promotion– but that's not why I posted the picture… just a by-product. Help? haha.

  12. I used to disagree with your policy of not allowing posters to include a link, as long as the comment was on topic and useful. As a part-time blogger, reading and commenting on blogs is the best way to spread the word, and can be done without spamming.

    However, the last couple days I've been spending more time on one of my favorite sites and found that many articles were filled with comments that were not only vague and generic, but sometimes utter nonsense. Sure enough, they included a link. It wasn't difficult to notice the difference between those comments and the ones that show up on offbeat posts, which more often than not include specific references to the post and much more debate.

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