Best Practices for Managing WordPress Comments
Writing a blog on WordPress is a wonderful way to share your opinions, observations, and news. It’s made even more powerful because you can engage with your audience through WordPress comments.
But comments can also be a frustration for blog owners, especially when “trolls” arrive.
Here are some ways you can encourage people to comment and how to handle the bad actors that will inevitably frustrate you.
A blog without comments is a stale blog. Here are a few tips to increase reader engagement:
- End your post with a question for your readers. This can be as simple as “What do you think?” but can be more specific. For example, if you write a post about your favorite cat video, you can ask “What’s your favorite cat video?” Or “How would you rate this cat video?”
- Be (somewhat) controversial. People will comment to disagree with you and that’s OK. In my personal experience, writing something controversial is the best way to get people to comment. Some will passionately agree with what you wrote and others will vehemently disagree. It’s good to have both sides engaged with a blog.
- Make it easy for people to comment. WordPress’ default comment system doesn’t require registration and is easy. Requiring people to register in order to leave a comment will drastically reduce engagement.
- Enable the WordPress feature that allows people to subscribe to comments. They will receive an email every time someone posts a comment after them. This brings them back to the blog to continue the discussion.
- Use nested comments so people can reply to one another within the comments.
Spammers use automated tools or low-cost workers to leave comments on your WordPress site that include a link back to their site.
WordPress has a plugin called Akismet that eliminates 95% or more of this spam. But spam still gets through.
You can usually identify spam because it uses poor grammar, is very generic in nature, or links to a site that has nothing to do with your blog topic. WordPress comment spam is often generated by bots that harvest URLs from the internet, sort to find the easiest targets, and then post random promotional comments on that website.
If you’re writing about art, it seems rather odd that someone would leave a comment including a link to a site about online casinos or pharmacies.
Some spammers are sophisticated and might not be easy to detect to the naked eye. They might use some of the text from your post in the comment or leave a generic comment that gives you accolades. In general, if the comment doesn’t detract from the conversation or link to somewhere weird, it’s OK to leave the comment on your site.
If you think the comment is acceptable but are worried about the site the person links to, you can always delete the link and keep the comment.
Deal with Trolls
Some people have nothing better to do with their time than to try to upset people online. They spend time in forums and on blogs just trying to make people’s blood boil.
These so-called trolls can ruin a good conversation. Thankfully, WordPress makes it easy to delete comments. But don’t get trigger happy; dissent and differing opinions help stimulate dialogue and establish an engaged community.
Set up a Good Policy
A good way to manage comments is to publish a fixed comment policy—and stick to it.
For example, you might allow people to use a pseudonym when they post a comment but require them to use a real email address. This reduces the chances that trolls will take over because they will lose some of their anonymity. (It may be hard to determine if an email address is real, but many people use an obviously fake email address when submitting a comment.)
Also, set guidelines such as the use of foul language. Many trolls like to spout off four-letter words, and having a policy against this makes it easy to delete comments without getting into a fight about if it was fair to delete the comment.
Another guideline could be that commenters are welcome to attack the ideas people express, but not the people themselves.
You’re in Control
Ultimately, WordPress gives you the control to manage comments however you’d like—including the option to turn off comments completely. However, comments are one of the great things about blogging. They create a two-way conversation that brings people back. Encourage more commenting, not less.
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