20 Essential WordPress Plugins for a Smoother Commenting Experience
For many bloggers, the comments section of your posts is a huge part of what makes your site worth visiting. Sometimes, you can find just as much insight in the comments as you can from the site content itself – if not more.
That’s great for site owners who already have tons of highly engaged visitors willing to jump into the discussion every time a new post comes out (along with a partner or an assistant to help with comment moderation), but great content and a solid traffic-generating strategy isn’t always enough to get people to post their thoughts.
And if you’re on your own with managing and moderating comments, that can easily take up several hours of your time – even for just an average level of commenter engagement!
With the right features and tools, you can set your site to autopilot to get the discussion flowing, saving you loads of time from all the nitty gritty comment management and moderation tasks that come with having an active comment section. This means you can get back to working on other important things that need your attention.
So here are 20 plugins that make commenting a pleasure to all who visit, and comment moderation a breeze on your end. And the best part? They’re all free.
The Akismet plugin is all about spam control, and if you’re managing any kind of WordPress site – new or old – you’re going to need it.
The plugin checks every comment and trackback that’s submitted to your blog against the Akismet Web service, filtering out the spammy ones made by bots or users who want to promote their links. You’ll need an API key to use it, but that’s easy to get for free in just a few minutes. Once you have that, Akismet can get to work at greatly reducing the number of spam comments you’ll have to moderate.
WordPress already enables users to disable comments on individual posts or pages, but if your site uses specific post types and you only want comments activated on one or multiple types, then doing that manually can be a bit of a pain.
The Disable Comments plugin enables administrators to globally disable comments on any post type quickly. It’s particularly useful if you have lots of media pages on your site where you don’t want comments to show up.
CommentLuv is a useful little plugin to have if a lot of your visitors are blog owners too. Before a visitor comments, CommentLuv will pull a few of the most recent blog posts from their own blog or site if the “Website” field is filled out. The commenter can then select which post link he wants to be posted underneath his comment.
Blog owners use it as a way to drive traffic to their own blogs, and when they see that a blog has CommentLuv support, they’re often more likely to leave a comment. The plugin has been downloaded over 700,000 times, and has a premium version as well for a cool $67.
Yoast is widely known for its powerful SEO plugin and other web optimization tools. Another popular option, the Yoast Comment Hacks plugin enables you to tidy up your comment management and moderation.
The plugin offers cleaner email notifications, comments of a maximum length, thank you page redirects for first time commenters, input fields on the comment edit screen to change the parent ID, links in the admin comments to email commenters, and a button in the toolbar to email all who commented on a post.
To give your commenters an easier way of formatting their comments, you can use the Basic Comment Quicktags plugin, which adds simple quicktag buttons to the comment form. Commenters can easily insert links, bold or italicize certain words, and add quotes.
This is a super helpful plugin to add if you already have a lot of commenters who leave long and detailed comments.
What’s one of the best and easiest ways to get your visitors to come back? Give them the option to subscribe to any replies or additional comments on the post that they commented on.
The Subscribe to Comments Reloaded plugin enables commenters to sign up to receive email notifications for subsequent comments. A double opt-in option is even available, so users can confirm their subscription first to make sure they really want to receive follow-ups.
Users who are extremely eager to leave comments on posts can run into problems when they publish it too fast and realize they left something out. Whether they want to fix a spelling mistake, need to clarify something, or would like to add some additional piece of information, it’s impossible to do that without deleting the entire comment and reposting it.
The Simple Comment Editing plugin gives commenters a limited amount of extra time from the time their comment was posted to be able to go back and edit it.
If you have your comment moderation set up so that you must approve them first before they can be published, often commenters never find out whether their comment goes live as WordPress doesn’t notify them about it.
Comment Approved is a helpful little plugin that solves that. As soon as you approve a new comment on your site, the plugin automatically sends the commenter an email notification to let them know.
When you go to leave a comment on a WordPress site, you typically only have to fill out three or four different fields by default. They include your name, your email address, your optional website link, and the comment message itself. The WordPress Comments Fields plugin enables you to add more custom fields to your comment form using drag and drop functionality.
While you should be all set with what the free version has to offer, there’s also a Pro version that’s scheduled to come out featuring fields for file uploads, secure download links, color pick input types, comment ratings, and more.
Postmatic is another great plugin that gets your visitors and commenters to come back for more. It enables them to subscribe to individual posts or to their comments by email – they can even reply to comments by hitting “reply” right within the email message itself, for real-time commenting.
What’s particularly fantastic about this plugin is that its email messages are gorgeously optimized for easy browsing (on both the web and mobile) and makes getting back into the discussion easier than ever.
Moderating every single comment yourself can get tedious and time consuming pretty fast. If you’re fine with offering a regular and trusted commenter the role of comment moderator, then you can use the Moderator Role plugin to do it – without having to give them their own WordPress account for your site.
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All you have to do is install the plugin, activate it, and then you can change the role of a user to moderator quickly and painlessly.
Swifty Bar is a popular plugin that puts a sticky bar at the bottom of your WordPress site. It’s great for reminding visitors of the post title or category, encouraging them to share the link to social media, or helping them move on to the next post.
Another thing it can do is add a call to action to check out the comment section. Swift Bar gives you the option to add the number of comments of each post to the bar, along with a link to the comments form. It’s a great way to pique your visitors’ interest and remind them to check out the comments before they leave.
If you’ve ever wanted to move a comment to a different post or page, you could only do so by inserting the post ID number. That’s fine if you have to do that once, but for multiple comments, it can be frustrating and sucks up far too much time.
The Tako Movable Comments plugin enables you to move comments around faster and more easily, just by choosing the post title you want to put it under by using a convenient drop down menu. All nested comments will also be moved over automatically. There’s even a bulk comment moving option!
For a more personalized email subscriber option to comments, you can use the Send email only on Reply to My Comment plugin. It basically gives commenters three different subscription options:
- They can choose to not receive email notifications for further comments.
- Receive email notifications only if someone replies to their comment.
- Receive email notifications for any new comment.
The second option is really nice to have for commenters who are only interested in replies relevant to them.
One of the most inconvenient things about blogs that receive lots of comments definitely has to be needing to scroll through all of them to read the ones that are really good. Comment Popularity is a helpful plugin that adds a voting system to your comments, so users can then vote on the best comments.
Comments with the most up-votes will rise to the top while comments with more down-votes will be pushed toward the bottom. Users are rewarded with karma points any time their comments are upvoted, similar to Reddit. Administrators can also assign users as experts to give more weight to the comments they vote on.
From the same folks who bring you the CommentLuv plugin, there’s the Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin (or GASP), which gives you an extra little useful feature to keep the spammers out of your comments. It adds a client-side generated checkbox to the comment form, which users will have to check off before they submit their comment to prove that they’re not bots.
It’s meant to be easier than entering a CAPTCHA, but still invisible to bots — claiming to keep 99% of all automated spam bots out.
Getting commenters to subscribe to additional replies or comments is one thing, but what if you have an email newsletter list you’re trying to build?
The Newsletter Sign-Up plugin is exactly what you need to turn commenters into subscribers. It connects with your email list management tool and adds a checkbox to the comment form that gives commenters the option to subscribe as soon as they hit submit. You can leave it checked by default or unchecked to allow commenters check it off themselves. The plugin works with MailChimp, AWeber, iContact, YMLP, and phpList.
Chances are you’ve probably come across several WordPress sites that use all sorts of different commenting systems besides the default one. Comments Evolved is a plugin that helps bring the most popular ones together. Users can switch through tabs to post or see Google+ comments, Facebook comments, Disqus comments, and of course WordPress comments.
This is great for versatility, but keep in mind it will split up your comments based on whichever comment platform users choose for leaving their comments. If you’re fine with not having all of your comments shown together on one screen, then this plugin is definitely worth checking out.
If you’ve ever visited any online discussion forums before, you’ve probably noticed that many enable users to add a signature that automatically appears under any of their posts. The Comment Signature plugin brings a similar feature to WordPress comments.
Registered users of the site can add their own signatures to their profiles, like a website link, their Twitter handle, a favourite quote or anything else. Some options like font color, horizontal line separation, and URL size are available to further customize a signatures. Users who aren’t registered will not have signatures.
Sometimes, words aren’t enough to express just how you feel. Comment Images brings visual discussion to your site’s comment section by enabling users to upload images to their comments directly from the comment form. The plugin supports PNG, GIF, JPG, and JPEG formats, and images are styled properly so they never stretch outside of the comments section.
Whether you have an entertainment-focused site or a site geared toward technical stuff, giving users the option to say what they need to say in image format is a huge plus.
Have you used any of these free comment plugins on any of your own WordPress sites? If so, what was your experience with using them? Leave a comment below to let us know.