For many bloggers, having comments is the best part of their blog ownership experience. They enjoy interacting with readers, getting real-time feedback, and seeing their community grow. However, while there are a lot of benefits to enabling comments on your WordPress website, you might run into a few problems along the way.
If you’re on the fence about enabling comments, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll cover the pros and cons and discuss how you can protect your site from unwanted spam.
The pros of enabling comments on WordPress
With the potential risks comments pose, why do so many bloggers keep them around? Here are a few benefits to enabling comments on your site:
1. They build a strong community
Behind every successful WordPress website is a group of loyal followers. Enabling comments on your website allows people to share stories, connect with like-minded readers, and gain a sense of ownership and pride.
Even if you can’t respond to every comment, your audience members will feel acknowledged and appreciated when they see that you’re reading and engaging with fellow followers.
2. You can receive valuable feedback
The comments section of your website gives visitors an easy way to leave feedback on your site. Much of this will come naturally. If a post sees substantially more comments than normal and a plethora of positive responses, it’s a good indication that the subject matter really resonated with your audience.
Asking the following questions could help solicit feedback from your readers:
- Do you like this style of post? Do you want to see more or less?
- What other topics would you like me to cover?
- What are the most common problems you encounter with (the subject matter of your site)?
- What’s the most helpful advice you’ve seen on this site?
By asking direct questions, you can better gauge if you’re serving your audience well. And when readers feel acknowledged and see that you take action based on their feedback, they’ll have a greater sense of loyalty and ownership. This is a key part of developing brand advocates that will proactively share your site with their friends and family.
3. You can increase views and conversions
When a person leaves a comment on your website and you or another reader replies, they’ll come back to view that response. Imagine if every commenter visited your website multiple times to reply to comments. Your page views would go through the roof!
With commenters regularly returning to your site, the increase in page views could bump up ad revenue or improve the chances that they take a desired action — register for your email list, purchase a product, leave you a tip, follow you on social media, and more.
The cons of enabling comments on WordPress
While enabling comments on your website seems to be a great choice, remember that everything has two sides. Now that we’ve covered the benefits of comments, let’s examine the potential downsides.
1. Moderating comments is time-consuming
While getting feedback and connecting with your audience is great, moderating comments is a time-consuming process. You’ll need to read each comment, formulate a response, and do your best to keep spam comments at bay. You might be able to handle it when your blog has a few readers, but as your audience grows, comments can quickly get out of hand.
2. You may attract unwanted spam
Unfortunately, the moment you enable comments on your website, spambots will come running. You can get hit with a wave of bot-generated comments even if your audience is small. While there are ways to protect your WordPress site from comment spam, dealing with spam is one of the many responsibilities that fall under site management.
3. They could negatively affect your brand
No matter how hard you try, you can’t make everyone happy. There will always be people who disagree with you or aren’t big fans of your content. This can be emotionally exhausting, but also make others wonder about the validity of your work.
Malicious comments with links that lead to viruses or other nefarious traps could harm your visitors and cause distrust and frustration.
But a comment section that’s filled with gibberish spam remarks, lewd or obscene comments, or even no comments at all can make readers associate your site with bad feelings. Allowing each and every comment with no moderation is an express lane to a tarnished reputation.
The SEO benefits of enabling comments on WordPress
Bloggers put a lot of work into search engine optimization (SEO). With all the hours that go into creating content, it’s natural that they want people to see and read the fruits of their labor.
Google has made it clear that comments can have a positive impact on search rankings. Let’s look at three SEO benefits of enabling comments on your website:
1. Increased natural keyword density
When search engines crawl your site, they’re looking, in part, to understand what each page is about, based on the content it contains. When your readers comment and mention the keywords you’re trying to rank your blog post for, search engines will take notice and may give your rankings a boost.
This is especially true when it comes to semantically similar keywords. These are search terms closely related to the keywords you’re targeting. Imagine you wrote a blog post on chocolate cake. While “chocolate cake” is your main keyword, words like “icing,” “gluten-free,” “recipe,” and “ingredients” are all semantically similar keywords that help improve your content’s relevance.
While search engines don’t appreciate, and will even penalize, stuffing your page full of keywords, organic comments can do the work for you while staying on search engines’ ‘good side.’
2. More webpage content
To Google and other search engines, the comment section of your website is simply additional content. Your blog post could only be 600 words long, but if you have 800 words worth of comments, you now have 1,400 words of content on your page.
Of course, these comments need to add to the value of your blog post. On the other hand, long comments unrelated to the post could have the opposite effect. This is why comment moderation, although time-consuming, is essential.
3. More linking opportunities
Comments on a WordPress website increase linking opportunities — both internal and external. Answering questions in your comment section gives you the chance to link to relevant articles on your website, giving visitors a reason to stay on your site longer.
Even referring to third-party sites when a question goes beyond the scope of your expertise can help search engines better understand the full context of your site and where it fits in the online ecosystem. Plus, honest referrals to other experts is a great way to build a relationship with sites who may return the favor in the future.
How to disable WordPress comments
You can choose to either disable comments on individual pages of your WordPress site or disable them across the entire site.
How to disable comments on your entire WordPress website
To completely disable comments on your site, navigate to your dashboard and go to Settings → Discussion. Look for Default post settings at the top of your screen. Uncheck the box that says Allow people to comment on new posts.
How to disable comments on individual pages
What if you want to disable comments only on specific pages? You might notice that some blog topics or articles are more prone to spam than others. To disable those comment sections, go to the Posts or Pages tab. Find the post or page you’re looking for and click on Quick edit below its name. Next, you’ll see a box that reads Allow Comments.
If the box is checked, disable it. You can repeat this process across your website for all the pages and posts where you want to turn off comments.
Keep in mind that depending on the nature of your blog, disabling comments on your website could cost you valuable engagement. Thankfully, you can take steps to avoid spam comments on your website without sacrificing your comment section entirely.
An overview of comment spam
If you want the benefits of robust reader engagement without the annoyance of dangerous spam, there are some steps you can take to prevent comment spam.
What spam comments look like
Spam comments are often easy to spot. Since bots behave according to how they’re programmed, they tend to follow a few general guidelines. Here are warning signs a comment might be spam:
- The message leads readers to a third-party website that’s unrelated to the subject matter of the post
- The comment comes from a guest account or one with no name
- There is no user avatar/profile picture
- There are direct mentions of products and services
- The comment is unrelated to the blog topic or comment discussion
- The comment is rife with grammatical errors or gibberish that doesn’t contribute to meaningful discussion
Let’s say you run a blog that caters to dessert recipes. A spam comment posted by a bot might look something like this:
“Find out how to keep your Air conditioners clean all year round here!!! → (insert link)” – Guest 0123r67
The vague name and unrelated comment are clear signs of spam, so the comment should be removed as soon as possible.
Why spam comments are harmful
From the moment you allow comments on your site, you’re bound to attract some spam. As your content and audience grow, this spam can become overwhelming to manage while the number of people who could be impacted increases. Let’s review a few of the reasons why spam comments are harmful.
1. Spam comments foster distrust with your readers
Not only do spam comments make your site look unprofessional, they foster distrust with your readers. No matter how credible a website looks, a comment section riddled with spam will raise red flags among visitors.
While some people may understand that spam comments are a natural occurrence, others may not be so understanding. This is especially true if they fall prey to following a link from one of these comments.
Remember, if you choose to enable comments on your site, it’s your job to monitor them and keep your followers safe.
2. Spam comments ruin the user experience
Followers looking to have real, meaningful conversations with other readers will be put off by bots taking over the comment section.
If you sit back and let spam comments wreak havoc across your website, you miss out on valuable feedback, suggestions, and potential connections with your audience.
3. Spam comments impact your SEO
Failing to delete low-quality comments could severely harm your site’s search engine rankings. You’ve put months, maybe even years of hard work into your website, but letting comments build up with links to malicious sites can undo much of your progress.
How to avoid spam comments
If you decide that it’s worth it to have comments on your WordPress website, remember that the best defense is a good offense. Don’t wait for your website to become overrun with spam comments before investing in a spam-fighting plugin like Akismet.
Akismet can automatically detect spam on your website by sifting through comments and separating the good from the bad. Within seconds, Akismet analyzes the comments submitted to your site and runs them through their global database. If a comment is flagged, it won’t get posted — plain and simple.
One major benefit of Akismet is the time it saves you when moderating comments. Instead of viewing every comment submission manually, you only need to check the ones that Akismet flags as potential spam. Or, you can just let it get rid of the worst spam without having to review it at all!
Should you allow comments on your website?
We can’t make the decision for you, so you’ll need to weigh the risks and benefits of comments on your website yourself. While building a rapport with your audience and using comments to improve SEO may be worth it for some, the need to constantly moderate comments for spam may put others off.
If you’re really on the fence about enabling comments on your site, you can always try it out with a spam-fighting plugin like Akismet. This way, you can prevent harmful comments from appearing on your site without missing out on real, meaningful comments and engagement. If you find that they do more harm than good, you can always disable them and try again in the future.