Navigation

How to Drastically Improve Your WordPress Blog’s Comments

How To, Marketing, WordPress | Apr 6, 2011

In general, bloggers focus on traffic for their blogs; after all, numbers of visits and page views are easy to quantify and are useful if you are looking for advertisers.

However, the most successful bloggers will say that collating these figures is not what’s important; rather, creating a community around a blog is the essential part.

The first step to creating this community is to attract high-quality comments.

To help you do this, we’ve laid out some key factors to keep in mind. If you have others in mind, please suggest them in the comments below…

 

Engaging Readers Through Content

This is the most important step. Unengaging content will not generate comments, no matter how many plug-ins or theme hacks you implement on your blog.

Ask Open Questions
People love to give their opinion and share their knowledge on specific topics. Give them the opportunity to do so by asking open questions like, “What do you think of the MySpace logo redesign?” or “Which software would you recommend for invoicing and why?” You’ll get more feedback from this than from inspiration posts or simple articles, and maybe you’ll learn something, too.

Write Controversial Articles
This is a sure way to get comments, but be delicate. If you have a strong opinion on a topic, be bold and write away. That said, don’t be insulting or make every post controversial, which would be tiring for all participants. Finally, know your limits to avoid potential lawsuits.

 

Managing Comments

Keep comments under control, and be cautious of spam. The following should be helpful with this.

Reply to Comments
Visitors who make the effort to leave a comment appreciate recognition. Replying to all comments, at least those that deserve a reply, is encouraging and shows cares, and it increases the likelihood of future interaction with readers.

Fight Spam
Set up Akismet on your blog. The plug-in will rid your blog of most spam and save you time on moderating. In the past year alone, Akismet has saved me from 76,000 spams comments; if you factor in manual deletion at 3 seconds per spam comment, that’s about 633 hours. Also, make sure to regularly check the spam section of your blog’s comment management area to look for false positives.

Moderate Comments Effectively
While Akismet works quite well, it doesn’t detect every type of spam, nor can it sniff out every type of troll. Finally, never let people start flame-wars in your comment section.

Have a Comment Policy
While you don’t necessarily have to write one, letting viewers know what is acceptable on your blog is good practice. Be prepared to handle any situation that may arise, and stick with whatever policy you establish; this will save you time in the end.

Close Comments on Old Posts
Leaving the comments area on old posts active requires much more maintenance and isn’t a good idea if you want to keep everything clean. To close comments on old posts, in the WordPress admin area, go to Settings → Discussion → Other Comment Settings, and check the box for “Automatically close comments older than ×× days” (filling in the desired time limit). By popular choice, 14 days seems to be a good deadline.

discussion settings

 

Promote Active Commenters

No matter how useful your articles, blog readers who take action after reading one are in the minority. Show them some love, and make sure they have incentives to comment again in future.

Display Recent Comments in the Sidebar
Expose the latest comments to point out articles that are currently active, and also to show who is participating in the conversation. This is fairly easy to do, but if you are not comfortable hacking your WordPress theme, then you can use this plug-in.

Reward Good Comments
There are several ways to reward good comments. You can send the author an email of congratulations, quote their comment in a blog post or simply retweet what they wrote. If your readers know that there might be a reward for commenting, then they will more likely take the time to craft their thoughts.

Show a List of Top Commenters
Listing top commenters in your sidebar is another way to show appreciation, and it encourages others to comment. There is a plug-in for that, too.

 

Encourage Interaction Among Commenters

Getting reactions to articles is great, but getting readers to interact with each another is even better. It is the best way to generate discussion and create a real sense of community.

Set-Up WordPress Threaded Comments
Threaded comments will enable in-depth conversations to build in your comment area. With WordPress 2.7, this feature is built in, although you must still activate it if your theme doesn’t support it. Setting it up can be a bit tricky, but Otto Destruct has a good tutorial.

Install a Comment Rating System
An awesome commenting system is what helped Reddit to become so successful. With a similar system on your blog, readers will be doing part of the moderation work for you. WordPress has a great plug-in if you want this feature on your blog: Comment Rating.

Let Readers Quote Each Other
The Quote Comment plug-in will assist commenters to quote directly from a discussion thread.

comment rating

 

Make Your Comments Area Sticky

Enlisting regular commenters is the best way to keep a discussion moving. Below are some tools to help.

Comment Subscriptions
Let commenters know when a reply has been posted on one of their comments. This will bring them back to your website to contribute further. The conversation will really develop with this plug-in on your blog.

Display an RSS Feed for Comments
This feature has been built in to WordPress for a long time, but it is not displayed in every theme. If your theme doesn’t include it, you can follow these steps to provide an RSS feed for each post’s comments.

Thank Commentators
The WordPress plug-in “Thank Me Later” automatically sends an email to readers after they write their first comment on your blog. Used as is, I find it to be a bit invasive. However, you could easily offer a freebie that is accessible only through the email that would make things much friendlier.

Add dofollow to Comment Links
This plug-in will definitely bring commenters back, especially if they are bloggers who are looking for link juice to their own website. But be careful, because it will probably also attract spam. To implement it, check out the DoFollow plug-in.

subscribe to comments

 

Make the Comments Area Attractive

In addition to all of these tips, improving the UI of the comments area is also important and will make comments more readable.

Different Layout for Author’s Comments
Distinguishing between the statuses of commenters will make this section more scannable, and it will show readers that you are participating in the conversation. Setting this up is fairly easy. Just tweak your comments’ PHP file; Matt Cutts explains how.

Display Avatars
Avatars let readers show a bit of themselves on your blog. There are two popular ways to add avatars in WordPress: Gravatar and Twitter. The WordPress Codex explains how to set up Gravatars, and Smashing Magazine goes over Twitter avatars.

Separate Comments From Pingbacks
Pingbacks show that your blog is connected to other blogs and is therefore popular. However, they can also interfere and make the conversation stream less readable. I’d suggest removing pingbacks from the body of the comments and grouping them together at the end. This tutorial explains how to do that.


For professional WordPress Themes, check out Elegant Themes

Written and compiled exclusively for Webdesigner Depot by Mirko Humbert. Mirko is a graphic and web designer and blogger from Switzerland. When he is not working for his clients, he blogs on Designer Daily and Typography Daily.

How do you attract more comments on your blog? What type of comments do you appreciate most?

Share this post
Comments (no login required)
  • http://www.glprint.co.uk/services/litho/ GL Print | Litho Printers Berkshire

    Good post – its all about content stupid! Absolutely – if the content is good and thought provoking then people will return and then they may make useful comments – and then this feeds on itself to generate more.

    Thanks – useful post
    Rob

  • http://b5n.fr/ Baztoune

    Nice overview of what’s possible to do to easily improve and boost comments on a wordpress blog.

    About the comment subscription plugin : there is a new plugin based on “subscribe to comments” (which hasn’t been updated since 2007), named “Subscribe to comments reloaded” http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/subscribe-to-comments-reloaded/

  • http://www.slideaway.ca/ jamEs

    Just install Disqus and be done with it. Sure you can tweak the crap out of WordPress comments, but really no matter what you do it’s still not going to be as good as Disqus. I love the fact you can use universal logins, as well as having your Disqus account extend to other blogs out there. Makes me more prone to comment seeing they have Disqus installed

    • http://featurethem.com Angelee

      I agree and I’ve been using this third-party commenting system for my first blog site. There are many advantages of using Disqus than WordPress plug-ins, since there is another community and connections in it.

      I have a question though.. Since Im using Disqus, will installing the sidebar plug-in for exposing comments still work? Im not sure how it works but I might try it later…

      Great read!

  • http://blog.end3r.com/ Ender

    Very good article – I’m already using some of the things mentioned (without WordPress, I’ve wrote my own blog script), but couple of things sounds very interesting. I’ll try to implement it and see how it will work and influence the commenters on my blog.

  • http://FatWalr.us/ Luke

    I feel obligated to leave a comment…

  • http://www.4muladesign.com/ Jamie Brightmore

    Ironically, the comment system here are Webdesigner Depot is very basic. Surely it’s time to integrate something a bit more dynamic, like Disqus?

  • http://www.websitesalacarte.co.cc/ Lane Lester

    Lots of good advice here… with the exception of Akismet. Yes, it’s the default and it’s on every WP install. However, active bloggers have discovered that Akismet marks as spam a lot of non-spam, and even worse, it tags people as spammers who aren’t. It then marks as spam anything they post. The best current solution seems to be the free GrowMap Anti-Spam Plugin, and you can get it here: http://goo.gl/aR3AG

    • Lara

      thx for the tip Lane

    • http://hathawaydesignsnw.com/fiberartblog/ Kathryn Hathaway

      I use GrowMap. Maybe I was confused, but I thought Akismet had started charging commercial users? Akismet really lets in a lot of unnecessary traffic.

  • http://trafficcoleman.com/ TrafficColeman

    I see that replying back to a comments will be more important then anything else..that person will come back because they know your looking out for their responses..

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  • http://percyjacksonmovies.com Kyle King

    I have found that a easy way to have really great easy comments section is to just use intense debate plugin. Yes, it may put a little more load time except it does load using ajax. It kinda fits all of your suggestions and makes moderating a whole lot easier especially when your sites has over a couple of thousand comments.

  • http://www.wittymag.com/ Jani

    I agree with all the points you mentioned.

    I think it also depends “how you write”, I mean if you are writing blog posts to attract search engines only then your writing style will not have a natural touch.

    I am going to check out the dofollow plugin, its good to offer visitors to come back when new comment is made :)

  • http://fromscratchto.com New York Web Consulting

    Great article, but now…. what if you ask the questions and no one answers =D then you just got a bunch of empty blog posts.

    I would think before you can expect people to comment you would have to build up a decent amount of traffic and promotion. Thoughts?

  • http://fuelwebdesigns.info Tim Maloney

    Very helpful info and feedback for people to go by.

  • http://erichogue.ca Eric Hogue

    Great post. Now I have to go work on my comment section.

  • http://www.onyxbits.de Patrick

    “Add dofollow to Comment Links”

    Hm, yes, I can definitely see this piece of advice being followed here XD.

  • http://www.szudi.hu/en/ Janos Szudi

    Lots of comments here. :)

  • Toby

    Personally I think closing comments after 14 days is too soon. There is potential for information that isn’t timely to be relevant and discussable for a much longer period. But of course it depends on the nature of the blog.

  • http://wordpressapi.com Sony

    With many articles People do like to read the comments also. If you start the discussion through comments that is really helpful for people.

  • http://www.absolutewebdesign.co.uk Web design

    This is a great post which covers all the bases, I’m making a checklist of the points raised here which I will use to jog my memory when creating my own posts

  • http://www.blazewebstudio.co.za/marketing_guide Geoffrey Gordon

    There is quite a bit I did and didn’t know here thanks for the ideas and knowledge shared. Definitely bookmarking this one. :)

  • http://sanjaykhemlani.0fees.net sanji

    nice post! will definitely implement the dofollow in comments, give a reward for the visitors.

  • http://www.360webshops.nl 360 Webshops

    Nice post! It’s a shame do-follow-links are rare!

  • http://www.timstewartarchitects.com.au architect

    Spot on about writing controversial articles. It seems it can be a very wise strategy to swim against the stream with your blog post. Nothing makes people speak up more than if you provide an interesting & somewhat debatable topic.

  • http://www.cottonwebdesign.com Lakeland Web Design

    Excellent post! I especially love the tips about the WordPress settings. Thank you so much!

  • http://[email protected] Peter L Masters MCIM

    A great post! I have found that despite my focus being Social Media and marketing for construction and property, that humour is greatly appreciated in these difficult times! I have added serious points of reference too, particularly relating to the reluctance of construction to embrace any kind of marketing, but it has been well received by fellow marketers and construction professionals alike. Again, a great post, well written and lots of good content. To me, it’s all about the writing and having the passion and enthusiasm to do a good job. I’ll be back here for sure!! Regards, Peter

  • http://www.charcoaldesign.com.au michael bretherton

    Great tips – glad I caught this post.

  • http://ashish4design.wordpress.com Ashish

    It’s really very effective article for wordpress users. The ways described in the article to improve the comments in WP is really very appreciative.
    Thanks!

  • http://jivebay.com/ jive

    I never leave comments when I have to use Disqus, I hate having to login to leave comments.

  • http://www.virtual-sidekick.com Carlton Barnette

    One thing that we try to do is make use of plugins like Keyword Luv & Comment Luv, as they help to promote good commenters a little more. Commenters can actually get dofollow links for the keyword of their choice once they’ve proven themselves worthy commenters. They system will also show a commenter’s last blog post if it can be found, helping to promote not only their comments and link but their actual blog.

    Disqus can be helpful, and I’ve used on blogs and sites in the past because it does help to spread the conversation across the social Web. I understand that some folks don’t like to log in, but I’ve noticed that I rarely ever have to do so because I’m always logged into one of my social networks. Not to mention, all it takes is clicking a button – not so different from connecting to our accounts to use various apps etc. And when you think about it, if I’m rewarding commenters on my blog with dofollow links etc. then they probably have to log in to take advantage of that anyway. Most folks who really are in the business of leaving good comments don’t mind logging in, from my experience.

    One other thing I suggest is taking some time to create a follow-up blog post that discusses the comments left on the original post, or creating a blog post from the comments (particularly controversial ones or really good questions that have been asked). Not only does it give you more content, it rewards your commenters in a different way and gets readers more involved in comments.

    Those 3 would be my best suggestions for encouraging & rewarding comments. Other than that, your suggestions in the article were spot on.

  • http://www.kaizenlog.com Infonote

    On my blog I installed Facebook Comments plugin.
    In this way I am not using wordpress comments, and reducing comment spam, since they have to use their actual facebook account to comment.

    Another alternative is Disqus.

    • http://www.virtual-sidekick.com Carlton Barnette

      There seems to be a big debate going on in the world of web design about the use of Facebook Comments. Some seem to think it is limiting in that the conversation only extends to one’s friend network – groups of people who may or may not be the best target audience and who may or may not elect to view their friends activity in their news feeds. If you’re going to go social with your comments, just the fact that it only takes the conversation to Facebook does seem a little limiting. Not to mention, I’ve often found the system down on sites that use it.

      Have you had any of these issues? How are Facebook Comments working for you?

  • http://www.internetbeacon.com Dustin

    Nice post! I found this information very helpful. I have been writing blogs for some time now but I have only been receiving a couple comments every once in a while. While I feel that my content is useful and current I have never really left it open for discussion by asking questions or engaging the readers. I have just recently begun to open up the topic for discussion and ask for the readers input, as opposed to just feeding important information. Hopefully with that implementation and by utilizing your other suggestion I’ll be able to see and increase in comments and create a community surrounding my blog.

    Thanks again for all of the helpful information.
    -Dustin

  • http://www.globalhemp.com/ Global Hemp

    Very good information. The only thing missing is the pro’s and con’s of using WordPress built-in commenting or hosted (e.g., IntenseDebate, Disqus).

    • http://www.cquinndesign.com Chris Quinn

      We use Disqus and it’s great for keeping track of not only the comments that we write, but the comments left on our wordpress blog.

      Thanks, great article!