How to manage reader comments (and spam comments) on your WordPress website

We’re going to talk about two different things when it comes to comments: allowing comments on your site and dealing with comment spam.

Comments are a great way for your readers to interact with you and each other, and is a great way to create community on your site. But how do you manage comments? How do you enable comments? And what do you do about spam?

Managing comments on your WordPress website is pretty easy, and although you can install a comment plugin like Disqus or even use Facebook to allow comments on your blog posts, the native WordPress comment system is often the best choice because it’s designed for WordPress.

Additionally, it shouldn’t conflict with any plugins or themes, it offers links and formatting options, usually looks good with your theme without a lot of adjustments, doesn’t force your readers to login with social media accounts, and of course, it’s free since it’s already built in to WordPress core.

Now, to be honest – I often don’t allow comments on my sites or I only allow them on certain posts. What you do is totally up to you BUT, here are 4 good reasons you might want to allow commenting:

  • Commenting increases engagement. Allowing readers to share their opinions makes them feel like they’re part of the story. It’s an important psychological factor in how people engage with your site.
  • Comments keep readers on the page longer. Time spent on a page is an SEO marker and helps search engines to rank the page for relevance. The longer someone is on a page, the more search engines regard it as relevant.
  • People read comments. Some audiences will spend more time reading comments than reading the actual article they’re commenting on.
  • You can learn a lot by reading comments. People love sharing their opinions and allowing comments gives people a way to share another point of view that you may not have thought about before or to give suggestions for alternatives. There is always something new to learn!

Now that we have that sorted, what about spam, Annie?

The biggest drawback to opening up comments is spam, not just because it’s a pain but because search engines WILL dock you for it (or you’ll be relevant for things you don’t want! LOL).

Luckily, we have options to help combat comment spam. . .

I highly recommend only keeping comments open on your posts (NOT pages – keep comments off for pages) for a brief period of time. You can set those options in the Settings under Discussion in your WordPress dashboard. On the ones I allow, I have it to close comments after 14 days.

To combat spam, you’ll need a plugin like Akismet (from the makers of WordPress) or something like CleanTalk. Both have free options as well as paid options if you need more features. As with security, I’ve found most sites do just fine with the free versions.

Using a spam plugin will eliminate spam comments and either immediately trash them or save them for you to review later. Occasionally, a legit comment will get caught in a spam filter but by and large, most spam filters do exactly what they’re designed to do – eliminate spam.

If you choose to immediately trash spam, you won’t have to do anything else. If you choose to have comments saved for review, you’ll find them in your WP dashboard in the right sidebar under Comments. From there, you can delete them or allow them to post or whatever. Most systems will automatically delete any saved spam comments after 30 days.

The bottom line is this: if you enable comments on your site – and you should if you want to build community, install a spam plugin to keep your comment area clean and free of unwanted “noise” and questionable links.

Photo on 6-23-18 at 1.53 PM

Annie Anderson

Hi, I'm Annie. . .

"Your instructor for How to Build a Course on WordPress as well as the one behind this website. I'm a graphic designer and web developer with over 25 years experience. I've been working with WordPress since 2005, have spoken at WordCamp Seattle and other local venues, and specialize in building course and membership sites for my clients.

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