blog comments

Everything you should know about WordPress comments

After I have already presented the WordPress basics, today I would like to take a closer look at one topic: the comment function. I'll show you all the settings for WordPress comments, explain where you can moderate your comments and go into the "side effects" of comments.

WordPress comments - a short review

You probably already know that our favourite CMS originally comes from the blogging scene. For years, it was common practice on blogging platforms to comment on posts. This enabled an exchange with the author. This enabled an exchange with the author, readers could get involved, give feedback and discuss their opinions.

Insulting comments, advertisements and spam did exist. On most blogs, however, the number of comments of this kind was fortunately manageable. With the growing popularity of WordPress, and with the growth of users on the internet in general, comments and the abuse of the comment function increased at a similar rate.

Exchange or no exchange: which is better? 

WordPress allows your visitors to leave their own comments on the content of your website. By default, this feature is deactivated for all pages and activated for all postspages. However, not every website necessarily needs a comment area or even benefits from it. For example, if you want to specifically prevent spam content or improve the performance of your website. More on this later.

In many situations, the comment function in WordPress can be valuable: 

  1. Comments are a good way to get in touch with your readers - or customers - and get direct feedback. 
  2. A lively exchange strengthens your online presence: If your readers share their own experiences on topic XY, they underpin your expertise.

However, at the latest since the entry into force of the General Data Protection Regulation ( GDPR), the whole issue has become more complex. If you want to activate and allow comments on your WordPress website, seek legal advice to be on the safe side. Even if we come across the GDPR again and again in this article, I cannot and must not offer you such advice. 

WordPress Comments - Settings

WordPress  Comments
The "Discussion" setting in the WordPress dashboard.

Let's move on to the comment settings. In the "Settings" → "Discussion" section of your WordPress dashboard you can already see how complex the basics alone are. But don't worry: I will explain each relevant point below.

Default settings for posts

Besides the classic comments, there are also the so-called pingbacks and trackbacks in WordPress . These are basically notifications that you have been linked on another site and vice versa. The official WordPress blog says about pingbacks: "The best way to think about pingbacks is as remote comments."

" Try to notify all blogs that are linked to the post

If this function is activated, your WordPress tries to send a so-called "ping" - i.e. information - to the other linked WordPress system. This happens whenever you link to another site on your blog. The pingback then appears in the comments of the linked site (if the linked site allows pingbacks and trackbacks, see next point).

If you enable this function, you'll also receive a notification when another blog mentions and links you. Unfortunately, this option is often used by spammers who hope to get a backlink when your pingback appears in the comments.

Even if you check both boxes, due to the various WP versions, web server configurations, and a number of other factors, there’s no guarantee that this "info ping" will work. On the other hand, if you disable both these options, you definitely won’t receive any.

Since blogs live mainly from interaction with each other, it’s rather useful and exciting to know which blog has mentioned you. For example, you can write a comment there (if they’re enabled) and respond to the mention. 

Since this function, as mentioned, unfortunately does not always work, I recommend that you also set up a Google Alert with your name and the name of your blog. In my opinion, this works more reliably and always sends you a message if your name or the name of your blog is mentioned somewhere. 

" Allow visitors to comment on new posts.

Here you can define whether visitors are allowed to comment on your postsor not. If the check mark is set, all postscan be commented on. If the check mark is deactivated, no post can be commented on.

This setting can be adjusted for each post individually in almost every theme. You can, for example, disable comments overall and then allow them for certain posts. The same applies vice versa. 

The settings that come after these are only relevant if you allow comments. If you uncheck the box as in the screenshot above, the following settings will be ignored altogether.

Other comment settings

"Users must provide their name and email address to comment.

With this setting you determine whether postsmay be commented on anonymously. To reduce the amount of spam, I recommend that you check this box. Keep in mind, however, that with this function you also receive the names and email addresses of your readers and have to manage them, keep them safe and delete them completely from the system on request. WordPress helps you here, but you are in a bind. It is essential that you inform yourself about the legal consequences - I cannot and must not give advice on this at this point.

"Users must be registered and logged in to comment

This setting is even stricter than the previous one: anyone who wants to comment must be a registered member of your website. If you want to activate this option, remember to activate the registration option in the settings. You can read more about this in my basic article on WordPress Dashboard.

This is the most convenient option for you as you can easily remove users who become offensive or post spam. Nevertheless, I also recommend seeking legal advice and assessment by lawyers.

"Automatically close comments on posts older than X days.

This allows you to deactivate the comment function for older posts. For example, you can choose to close the comment function for posts older than 14 days. Existing comments will remain visible but no further comments can be added.

"Organise nested comments in X layers

If you allow comments, both your posts and the comments below them can be commented on. This can easily get confusing during longer discussions.

" The oldest/newest comments should be on top

Blog posts normally appear anti-chronologically. This means that the most recent postsappear first in the overview, i.e. at the top. For the comments, I recommend the opposite approach: The oldest comments appear at the top and your readers can read them "from old to new".

Send me an e-mail when

"Someone writes a comment

You’ll be notified via the administrator email address when a new comment is posted on your site.

"A comment waiting to be activated

This setting informs you about a comment pending approval and refers to the following settings. 

Before a comment appears,

"The comment must be released manually

This is the option I referred to above. You can decide that each comment needs to be manually approved by you. Even if this means additional work for you, I recommend keeping this setting to avoid spam, insults, and other unwanted comments appearing on your site.

"The author must have already written an approved comment.

Once you have approved a comment from a person, the system can automatically approve the next comments from that person. Even if this setting sounds great at first glance, I do not recommend it. The reason: Other people who know about this function can easily use the "released" email address for spam and the like. 

Commentary moderation

WordPress  Comments
Comment moderation helps you detect spam comments.

Here you can adjust the algorithm that detects spam comments. For example, many links in a post are a clear sign of spam. You can also define certain words, such as "Viagra", "sell" or "sex", as suspected spam.

Caution: similar to plugins, this option analyzes the comments for corresponding words and links. If you use this option, your users must be informed about the analysis as you may be editing and processing personal data.

Avatars

WordPress  Comments

Avatars are the symbols or photos that appear next to the comment. They're often photos of the user who wrote the comment. Sometimes they’re also comic figures, icons, or logos.

If you check the box "Show avatars", other items will be activated. If the box is left unchecked, all the following settings will be ignored. My recommendation here is to check and set the maximum rating to "G” (suitable for all audiences).

Standard avatar

The service Gravatar for WordPress is popular the world over: 

Gravatar Avatar
Gravatar is a popular service for standard avatars.

The free service gravatar.com allows you to link your email address to one or more photos. All services that use Gravatar will then show your chosen photo when you use your email address to comment.

While Gravatar really is a great service, you need to exercise caution in today’s climate. By connecting your email address with your photo, you’re processing personal data after all. Blogs and websites that use Gravatar access and process the Gravatar database - and with it a lot of personal data.

Since gravatar.com now belongs to wordpress.com, this data is unfortunately not stored in the EU, but in the USA. Therefore, unfortunately, the following also applies here: If you use gravatar.com, inform your visitors about it. At best, get legal advice.

For all commenters who have not linked their email address to Gravatar, the "default avatar" set below will be used. If you allow comments but are unsure about the legal situation, I recommend this option. If you want to inform your visitors and, at best, get advice, the Gravatar variant is the nicer one.

Moderate WordPress comments

WordPress  Comments
In the navigation point "Comments" you moderate your WordPress comments.

In WordPress Dashboard you will find the item "Comments" in the navigation on the left. All comments appear here in a tabular overview.

The overview in the upper area lists all the comments you've already received. You can also filter the comments and show:

  • only your own,
  • all pending,
  • all those already approved,
  • all with suspected spam or
  • all those in the trash.

If you use WordPress plugins, further sorting options may appear here. Pay particular attention to the "Suspected Spam" section. Especially in the beginning, false comments will appear there.

If you allow comments, you should check here regularly to see if there are any new comments for moderation. This also applies if you have activated the setting "Notification of new comments". This is because these notifications may not reach you - or may even be defined as spam by your e-mail provider.

Moderate comments with WordPress plugins

There are now many WordPress plugins that analyse, check and filter comments and detect spam. 

Akismet

WordPress  Comments
Aksimet is a popular WordPress comment plugin.

Akismet, for example, is such a comment tool plugin. In many WordPress installations, it is even integrated by default. Akismet comes with many functions and advantages for managing your comments. Since the contents of the comments are sent to America with this tool, there is unfortunately also the big shortcoming here: data protection.

Before using this plugin , you should seek legal advice. You should also inform your users that this tool is being used on your website.

Antispam Bee

Antispam-Bee
The spam plugin Antispam Bee makes it easier for you to manage your comments.

Antispam Bee is another plugin to moderate and manage comments. Antispam Bee is free of charge and , according to its own statement, GDPR-compliant. 

In contrast to similar solutions, Antispam Bee works completely without captchas or sending personal data to third parties. Thus, Antispam Bee is 100% compliant with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

With this tool, you can significantly expand the WordPress settings for comments and, for example, automatically delete spam, include the time of the comment in the rating or create statistics. This makes it a very exciting tool. Despite the GDPR conformity, you should inform your visitors about the use of the plugin.

Antispam Bee blocks spam comments

Spam comments and trackbacks are more than annoying. But the spam blocker "Antispam Bee" puts an end to it: Stefan Kremer from Pluginkollektiv shows you how to stop spam comments in WordPress.

Final thoughts

WordPress comments are an excellent way to get in touch with your readers, to stimulate the exchange of experience and knowledge, and to respond directly to customer feedback. Nevertheless, you should always ask yourself whether comments on your website really offer added value - or unfortunately just make more work. And the downside with spam, links and the like certainly doesn't stop at your site . The decision whether to allow comments on your WordPress website should therefore be carefully considered.

My personal experience

On my own blog, I have decided with a heavy heart to no longer allow comments. The interaction and exchange with my readers used to be a lot of fun. I also enjoyed organising regular competitions and other activities that brought me visitors on the one hand and always great exchanges on the other.

But for me personally, the risk of the legal grey area is too high. In addition, I simply don't have the time at the moment to respond adequately to comments and to moderate them. My website is more of a "self-presentation" and portfolio of my photos than a place for extended discussion. However, the idea of allowing comments again is always on my mind. 

It may well be that I want to encourage more exchange in a few weeks’ time and I’ll activate the comment function on my WordPress site again. 

Tip: outsource comments

A little trick that I currently use myself is the following: For posts that I would like to discuss, I invite visitors to reply to me on Twitter. To do this, I first create a tweet with the question from the blog post and then link it directly to the post. 

On the one hand, this brings me feedback and followers on Twitter. On the other hand, I can get at least some of my readers (at least those with a Twitter account) to participate in the exchange. And the big advantage: I'm not involved in the eternal discussion about data protection because I don't manage the comments myself.

Final tips

  • For the creation of an imprint I recommend the generator of eRecht24.
  • For the creation of a data protection page I recommend the data protection generator of lawyer Dr. Thomas Schwenke.
  • Allow around an hour when using these generators and you’ll have to answer many questions.
  • Depending on whether your website is more private, professional or a shop, these generators are free of charge or come with manageable costs.
  • Remember to log in to your system at least once a week to moderate your comments and also respond to questions and, of course, deal with insults.
  • At best, get legal advice from a lawyer, and at least from the WP community and experienced WP users. 
  • If you decide to activate the comment function in WordPress, be sure to inform your visitors about the analysis tools used in your privacy policy.
  • Think a step further when creating the privacy page: Most WordPress hosting providers, for example, store the IP addresses of visitors for a certain period of time for security reasons alone. Such information should also be included on your privacy page.

Comments in WordPress - yes or no?

Now I would like to hear from you: What is your experience with the comment function in WordPress? Do you allow interaction on your website? Let me know in the comments below!

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