(Guest writer: Kristi Hines)
One of the best things about using the self-hosted version of the WordPress platform (i.e. not WordPress.com) is the plugins. Sure you get great functionality with the base system, but you can enhance it using plugins, and the comment system – the heart of the community of your blog – is not excluded from enhancement.
We believe as site owner, we’re constantly bugged by the spam comments which not only overwhelm your blog, but making it looks very annoying and unprofessional. That’s why the comment plugins are created, and we are here to showcase you some of the most commonly used plugins for managing WordPress comments, plus some tips on how to use them to benefit both the site owner and the commenters.
So congrats, the spammers will hate you as never before, and you’ll also have more useful features for your precious commenters!
1. GASP – Growmap Anti-Spam Plugin
There is nothing more frustrating than hard-to-figure-out captchas, yet site owners know they can be vital to helping control automated spam. Growmap Anti-Spam Plugin, or G.A.S.P., is the cure for annoying captchas.
Instead of a word, numbers, or shape that a visitor has to interpret before submitting their comment, all they have to do is check a box saying they are not a spammer. Granted, human spammers can check this box all too easily, but automated bots can’t which will dramatically help decrease your spam.
In conjunction with Akismet as mentioned above, your site will be as spam-free as possible.
Greet commenters. Check out the configuration settings for this plugin under Settings > G.A.S.P.. Customize your checkbox label to greet commenters and let them know they have to check that box.
Allow trackbacks. While you may be tempted to un-check the box to prevent all trackbacks, I suggest leaving it checked to allow them. Why? Sometimes they are legit notifications that your post has been linked to somewhere. Other times, they can help you find out if your content is being stolen by scraper sites.
CommentLuv allows commenters to add their latest blog post link to their comments. This is a great way to encourage comments by letting commenters showcase their posts while joining your community. As a blog owner, it can help comments stuck in your spam folder stand out a little more for the rest of the spam. Even visitors to your blog will enjoy it as they can count on your blog comments as a great resource for other bloggers who are writing on similar topics.
Customizing CommentLuv. Whenever you install it, be sure to visit the settings page under Settings > CommentLuv. You can customize the functionality of your CommentLuv plugin, including the image or text next to the CommentLuv checkbox and number of posts that a commenter will get to choose from when commenting on your site (from 1 to 10).
Registering users may be a bad idea.There is an option to force commenters to register to your WordPress site if they want to choose from their latest 10 posts. I would recommend not doing this as commenters generally don’t like to register for anything and it will mean more users in your WordPress system.
Comment spam is on the rise. Used to be, spammers only targeted blogs that were specifically dofollow, meaning that the site had installed a plugin to remove the rel="nofollow" attribute to comments giving the links more SEO value. But now, spammers, from humans to bots, are taking on any blog and blog topic for their evil purposes.
This is where Akismet comes to the rescue. It checks against a database to determine if a comment has any telltale spam markers and moves those comments to a dedicated spam folder for your review. This means you won’t get notified of as many pending comments that are actually spam.
While this plugin does reduce a great deal of spam, it also has a lot of "false positives" which means that legitimate comments end up in the spam filter as well.
Check spam daily. Check your spam folder daily to find good comments to approve and delete the rest. Depending on how popular your site is, that folder can easily populate anywhere from a few to hundreds of new spam messages a day. Those messages are hogging up precious database space and are much more difficult to clean out after they have gone into the thousands!
Keep your spam, at least for a while. Under your Plugins > Akismet Configuration, un-check the box for "Auto-delete spam submitted on posts more than a month old." as this means that you will never get the chance to fish out a good commenter on your older posts which can be very frustrating to a long time reader and commenter who discovered an older post of yours and took the time to respond.
4. Subscribe to Comments
Subscribe to Comments allows commenters to check a simple box on the comment form to be notified via email of any new comment added to that specific post. There are several different types of “subscribe to comments” plugins out there, but I like this one in particular because it allows readers to unsubscribe from comment at any time.
It also gives the site owner a comment subscription manager under Tools > Subscriptions to see the email addresses that have subscribed to the most posts as well as the posts with the most subscriptions as shown in the screenshot above.
Monitor subscription list.Check your comment subscription manager regularly to see who is subscribing to the most posts. This will tell you which of your commenters are your die-hard fans and really into your content.
Update old post.Consider updating older posts that get a lot of subscriptions, then add a comment to those posts that there is an updated version. This way people who are subscribed to the comments will get an email update.
5. Twitterlink Comments
Twitterlink Comments adds an additional way for your site’s community members to connect with each other – through their Twitter accounts! The other added bonus is if the site owner wants to reply to a comment through a tweet, they will have the commenter’s Twitter handle easily available to them.
Customize Twitter Input Box. Be sure to visit the settings page under Settings > TwitterLink Settings to customize your Twitter input box on the comment form as well as where the commenter’s Twitter link will be displayed on their comment.
Over-customize: bad idea.That said, don’t over-customize as people are accustomed to the standard design / working of the input box on other blog comment forms.
Here are more WordPress commenting plugins. They did not make into our list, but still worth checking out:
- WP Ajax Edit Comments – Allow user to edit their comments after posting, for a limited time.
- Crawlable Facebook Comments – Allowing Google to crawl and index your Facebook Comments.
- Comment Rating – Let your readers rate, and comments will sort accordingly to the votes; highly rated comments on top, lowly rated below.
- Tango Smileys Extended – This plugin disables the WordPress built-in emoticons and attempts to add more to it.
- Thank Me Later – Sends a "thank-you" email to commenter automatically.
- WP-FacebookConnect – Integrate Facebook and WordPress with Facebook Connect. Provides single-signon, avatars, and newsfeed comment publication.
- WP No External Links – Mask or hide all links embedded in comments.
- Facebook Comments for WordPress – Allows your visitors to comment on posts using their Facebook profile. Supports custom styles, notifications, combined comment counts, recent comments.
- Greg’s Comment Length Limiter – Customize the length of characters in comments.
- comment2tweet – Automatically post new comments from a WordPress blog to a Twitter account.
- TentBlogger RSS Reminder – A simple Subscribe via RSS reminder at the end of your comment form.
These are some of my top recommendations for plugins to enhance the WordPress commenting system. What are yours? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
(This guest post is written by Kristi Hines for Hongkiat.com. Kristi is a social media enthusiast, freelance writer, online marketing strategist, and blogger at KristiHines.com. When sHe is not online, she enjoys photography, tennis, and salsa dancing!)