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Can You Get a Google Penalty for Short User Comments?

Blog Comments Google PenaltyLast year, it was confirmed by Google that there are in fact penalties for site owners who allow users to put spam in their comments. In a previous era of SEO, some site owners may have kept spammy comments with links to other sites simply because they wanted comments, believing that the activity on the page would better attract search engine spiders than no activity at all. This is one of the many reasons NoFollow tags became popular and also why Google began taking a more hardline stance against the trend of purposely un-moderated comment activity.

Now, most people know that deleting spam comments is the only way to go – and if you don’t, you will receive a Google penalty (referred to by some SEO companies and blogs as the “DoFollow penalty,” because it implies that the site owner failed to use NoFollow tags in the comment sections).

But when it comes to penalties for user comments, that isn’t the end of the story. Now, a rumor has emerged that site owners can also be penalized for non-spam comments left by users. Specifically, the story goes, bloggers who hold giveaways could receive Google penalties if they call upon the audience to answer a question in the comments in order to enter. Here is an example of such a giveaway:

“I’m giving away a free (insert name of product)! Leave a comment with your favorite color to enter. I’ll announce the winner this Friday.”

So, is this true? Could your site receive a search ranking penalty simply because you held a contest and hundreds of people descended on your blog to tell you their favorite color in hopes of winning something? Even many SEO companies and social media agency experts were inclined to believe the rumor at first.

Thankfully, it is only that: an untrue rumor. Google’s John Mueller addressed the matter recently on a webcast Q&A, saying, “I don’t think that’s something we would take any kind of manual or algorithmic action on, just based on the length of the comments.” So, the good news is that your readers are still free to tell you, “Blue!”; “Purple!”; or “Great post!”, because it will not affect your SEO at all. You do not need to start deleting all comments that are shorter than three words (this is what many site owners began doing as the rumor spread).

However, Mueller did say that bloggers should be careful to monitor their comments for spam, and hinted that NoFollow tags are still very helpful for keeping spam comments from hurting your search rankings. “Generally speaking, if you allow random comments without moderating at all, then you kid of run into that problem of people posting spam…and not creating anything of value there,” he said. “If that’s something you’re doing on your blog, that’s something to watch out for. But if people just leave comments and say hey, this is a great post…that’s not that bad.”

If your blog is susceptible to spam comments with embedded links, don’t take it personally; in general, comments sections are breeding ground for spammers (although fortunately, Google has begun penalizing their sites, too). But all site owners should make a practice of monitoring their comments sections, cleaning out spam comments as needed. If you would like to speak with an SEO company that can do the work of monitoring your blog for you, contact the San Diego SEO team at Crest Media. We will be glad to answer your questions.

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