10 Plugins That Take the Pain Out of Managing WordPress Comments
If you’re using your WordPress site or blog to engage with an audience of readers, there’s a good chance that you’ve got comments activated. After all, without comments, how will your readers give you feedback on your posts, congratulate you for being such a fantastic writer, or ask questions?
Even better, comments are a great place for your readers to talk to each other and start building a community centred on your site.
But as your site becomes more successful, managing comments can get daunting. You can find yourself dealing with more and more spammy comments, receiving comments so regularly that you aren’t getting any work done because you’re always reading and responding to them, and find that the user interface isn’t working as well as it could be for your readers.
There is good news though. A variety of plugins can help you to manage comments on your site and improve the process of commenting for your users. These generally come under four headings, although some of them will do more than one of these jobs:
- Keeping spam out
- Letting people comment using third party services
- Helping you manage and respond to comments
- Enhancing the commenting interface for users
So let’s take a look at the top 10 plugins that will help you manage comments on your site.
Akismet is the Daddy (and Mommy) of comment plugins. It comes preinstalled with every WordPress installation and it will filter out spammy comments without you having to lift a finger. To activate it you need to get yourself an API key from the Akismet website, add it to your settings and you’re good to go.
If your site or blog is personal and not making money, a free Basic account with Akismet will get you an API key but if you’re running a commercial site or you’re getting over 50,000 comments each month, you’ll need a premium account. You can either sign up using your existing wordpress.com account (if you have one) or create an account with Akismet.
Activate the plugin and relax in the knowledge that Akismet is dealing with comment spam while you sleep (or work, party, watch TV or go running: whatever you like to do instead of dealing with spammers).
Maybe you’re not happy with the built-in WordPress commenting system, or you want to give your users extra options for interacting with and being updated on comments. Disqus is the web’s biggest dedicated comment management system, and with the Disqus Comments Management System plugin you can replace standard WordPress comments with Disqus commenting.
The main advantage of Disqus is that if people already have a Disqus account they can use that to comment on your content without creating an account on your site. It also gives your users options for RSS, notifications and email and manages spam for you.
The downside is that your readers might not always want to create an account with a third party service to interact with your site, and in my experience it can be slower to load than built-in WordPress comments. It also has known conflicts with a few popular themes and frameworks, but there are fixes for many of these.
Our own Comments Plus plugin makes commenting easier and more flexible for your readers. With the plugin installed, they can either comment using the standard WordPress comments interface, or they can sign in with Facebook, twitter or Google+. Their comments will be posted to their social network account, increasing the reach of your site and encouraging new readers to check out what they’ve commented on.
Once you’ve installed the plugin you’ll need to enter your own credentials for the social networks you’re using, and there are customizable options and add-ons to allow more features.
For me the main benefit of this plugin is the way it easily lets your loyal readers share their thoughts on your content to their own social media feeds, showing their friends and followers that yours is a site they’re interested in and encouraging those friends and followers to visit your site too.
Sometimes your readers might post comments that they immediately want to edit or retract. If your posts are engaging and inspire debate, there’ll always be someone who fires off a passionate comment, only to regret being so forceful as soon a they’ve hit ‘Reply’ and wish they could edit what they’ve written.
With the WP Ajax Edit Comments plugin, your users can do just that. It gives your readers a limited amount of time during which they can edit a comment after posting it.
It also gives you as site administrator the option to edit and moderate comments in the front end of your site, saving you the hassle of switching to the WordPress admin screens.
Maybe you want to give your readers the option of subscribing to comments on your posts but you don’t want to use a third party commenting system or social media plugin. If you install the Subscribe to Comments Reloaded plugin, you can give your readers the option of subscribing to comments and replies.
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Users can either sign up for replies to a specific comment (maybe their own comment) or to all new comments on a post. They’ll need to be signed in to your site to do this, as the system needs their email address. If you’re concerned about spamming, you can specify double opt-in so that users have to confirm their subscription by clicikgin on a link in an email the system sends them.
Something I like doing in Facebook is adding images to replies and comments. It can be a fun way of making a point or adding to a conversation. But by default, WordPress doesn’t let you add images to comments.
Tom McFarlin’s Comment Images plugin changes this, letting your users upload images to their comments. The plugin only accepts the most common image file types, will style the images so they fit into your commenting layout, and lets you see images attached to each comment in the WordPress admin.
It also adds any uploaded images to the Media Library, so it could be a useful tool for a collaborative site where users can upload images that you’ll later use in the content or elsewhere.
This plugin is designed to improve on the default ‘Recent Comments’ widget. It gives you an alternative widget for displaying recent comments, with configurable options for trackbacks and pingbacks, gravatars, smilies, AJAX and more.
It also lets you completely customize what’s output by the widget, by creating your own template for comment output. Add or remove content, reorder elements, include links, add custom text and more. You can also edit the template for grouped comments, such as all the comments on a post.
If comments are an important part of your site’s content and your users engage with them a lot, this can give you a lot more control over the way they’re displayed and help you engage with your readers more effectively.
If your users are posting multiple comments quickly, WordPress will display an error message telling them to slow down and not post comments so fast. This is designed to prevent spam but can be a nuisance if you want to generate lively, real time discussion between readers of your site.
Our own Comments Control plugin lets your readers comment quickly without being told by bossy old WordPress to slow down. If your site has quick, real time conversations going on in the comments, or you’re using comments for a collaboration site, this saves time and a heck of a lot of frustration.
If you do have a problem with some commenters that you don’t want to posting comments in quick succession, you can edit the plugin settings and block their IP address from this feature: they’ll still be able to comment, but they’ll be told to slow down.
If you’re using WordPress Multisite to manage a network of blogs or sites with an active community of users across sites (a bit like WordPress.com or edublogs), you’ll find that each user might be making and replying to comments in multiple sites across your network.
Our Comment Indexer plugin is designed to work with other plugins to enable you to index, archive, search and display comments across your entire network.
For example, use it with:
- Recent Global Author Comments Feed to list all of the comments by an individual author.
- Recent Global Comments Feed to display all of the comments across your network in one place, maybe on your core site or in individual sites.
- Recent Comments Widget to place a widget displaying recent comments form all the sites in your network in any widget area in any of the sites on your network.
If you’re building a community of bloggers or site owners, displaying recent comments on your main site can help potential users to see what’s going on on your network and understand the benefits of joining, and for existing users, displaying network comments on their site can help their users engage with the wider conversation.
Comments are an important part of WordPress. If you’re running any kind of site that needs to engage with its readers, they’re a fantastic way of letting visitors leave feedback, make suggestions and interact with you and each other. The plugins I’ve listed here will help you build an active, engaged community of loyal readers of your site. Enjoy!
Do you have any favourite plugins for comments? Leave your thoughts in the comments (no pun intended!) below.