One of the key features of blogging is the ability for readers to interact with the blog author through the use of comments. It is this exchange of feedback and ideas that transforms a basic web journal into a vibrant form of social media.
If you are going to allow comments on your blog, you should consider creating a Comment Moderation Policy and clearly stating it somewhere on your site.
Decide What Is and Isn’t Permitted When Commenting
Before you type up your policy, you need to decide what type of comments will be allowed – you may even decide not to allow comments. Remember that it is your blog and you set the tone for the conversation.
The major blogging platforms allow you to configure basic commenting settings to help you enforce your comment moderation policy.
For Blogger blogs, changes to your blog’s comments settings can be made on the Settings tab in the Comments section. Important options include:
- Who Can Comment? – accept comments from anyone (including anonymous users), registered users, etc.
- Comment moderation – review all comments (highly recommended), on posts older than 14 days or never. You can also enter an email address to receive notification of a new comment.
- Show word verification for comments? – require that commenters enter a CAPTCHA phrase when making comments.
For WordPress blogs, changes to your blog’s comments settings can be made under the Settings, Discussion section on your Dashboard.
- Other comment settings – require commenter to enter name and email address; automatically close comments on articles older than ___ days.
- E-mail me whenever – anyone posts a comment and/or a comment is held for moderation.
- Comment moderation – hold a comment for moderation if it has ___ or more links; specify keywords, URLs and IP addresses which will trigger comment moderation.
- Comment blacklist – add keywords, names URLs, IP addresses and email addresses and coments containing these will be automatically marked as spam.
Manage Commenter Expectations
It is only fair to set out your comments moderation policy for your visitors. This can be done using several methods:
- Make sure your Terms of Service agreement (TOS) contains a paragraph outlining how you will handle comments on your site (see the TOS here at GeneaBloggers as an example). Most important is a phrase stating that you are not responsible for comments made by visitors to your site. See Do I Need A Terms of Service Agreement On My Blog?
- Consider also adding a comments policy statement so that it is visible at or near the comments box.
- For WordPress blogs, consider adding the Comments Policy plugin which allows you to create a comment policy statement automatically. Here is how the end result appears:
You can also find more comments-related plugins at the WordPress Plugin Directory.
- For Blogger blogs, you can edit the Comments Form Message (under Settings, Comments) and add a brief message. Here is an example of the HTML text:
and what the commenter will see:
Dealing With Spam Comments
Comments are the usual hangout for spammers and for this reason alone you should never allow unmoderated comments. Imagine if Aunt Matilda checked in on your blog one day, went to leave a comment and saw the previous commenter trying to sell a product or worse yet leaving links for adult web sites!
- Carefully review the comments settings and enable features which will help you identify comments as spam.
- Spammers like to comment on very old posts – that’s why the “14 day or older” setting in both Blogger and WordPress can be very helpful.
- Another trick spammers use is to comment with set phrases such as, “Nice blog. I think I will visit often.”
- WordPress users should definitely install the Akismet plugin which checks the comment text against known spammers in their database and places them in the spam comment queue.
© 2009, copyright Thomas MacEntee