If you’ve ever gone through the process of creating a simple blog you’ll be familiar with the WordPress comments system.
The default comments system built into WordPress is very basic but usually fine for startup bloggers. However, you will find it lacking if you want to give your readers any advanced functionality or try to improve their commenting experience in any way.
In order to allow your readers a number of methods to comment on your blog posts and pages you are going to have to use plugins to improve upon the default functionality. Thankfully, comment plugins have come a long way in the last few years. Not only do you have the option of using threaded commenting, you can now login with social media accounts and take advantage of a great deal of constantly improving features.
Let’s take a look at five plugins that will elevate you above the default comments system. These plugins will vastly improve the commenting experience and take your site to a whole new level of reader engagement.
1. Jetpack By WordPress
Jetpack is practically considered the default comments system these days. The multi-functional plugin created by Automattic does far more than improve the commenting aspects of your website, though that is a major feature of the plugin.
Jetpack allows your readers to connect to your website and leave a comment in multiple ways. Whether that is by using the default WordPress comments, connecting to WordPress.com, or by logging into Facebook, Google+ or Twitter.
Not only does it allow for a more social connection, you are also given the ability to use threaded comments for more organized commenter discussions, as well as having the functionality to notify people whenever a new comment is added to the thread. Because this comment system is part of Jetpack it is constantly being expanded and improved by the Automattic team.
Jetpack is one of the most popular plugins installed on WordPress sites because of the additional features it has. With Automattic continually improving Jetpack it is worth installing on your website, even if you decide to use another plugin to maintain your comments.
2. Disqus Comment System
Disqus is one on the most widely used comment systems in the blogosphere. It isn’t tied exclusively to WordPress and so one user account can be used for blogs on any system that has Disqus installed. This means that rather than control the comments within the WordPress installation and adding to your database, Disqus uses its own servers to manage the user login and comment management.
In what is fast becoming a standard feature list for plugins of this type, the Disqus plugin allows for threaded comments, notifications of new comments in the thread, subscription options for comments and inbuilt spam and malware filters.
Disqus is a community-focused plugin. Users carry a record of every comment they make on their account and can be followed by other Disqus users. This let’s them engage with them not just on your site, but on any site they leave a comment.
3. Intense Debate
Intense Debate is another plugin system developed by Automattic. It allows your users to create rich profiles and build reputations based on their comments.
The key aspect of Intense Debate is the user reputation and comment voting system. User reputation is developed by readers as they take part in the comments discussion and have their entries rated by others. This feature allows your readers to build their own followers on your site and develop a community where they are acknowledged for quality comments on your blog.
It integrates various anti-spam and malware filters in order to ensure that your comment area remains free from junk comments. It also includes blacklists and enhanced moderation options to try to streamline that difficult process.
Intense Debate also allows for various social interactions, such as connection to Twitter, Facebook as well as fully integrating with the Gravatar service. As with the others you can use comment threading to keep control of your comment section.
It comes with the ability to receive updated notifications and RSS tracking of the comment section. You are also given the useful option of being able to post to and moderate your comments with the Reply-by-Email function built into the software.
4. Facebook Comments
While not multi-functional, Facebook Comments’ singular focus ensures a deep integration with the daddy of social networks. This means that each user commenting on your website is a real person — anonymity is not an option available to them.
This has the drawback in that the person must have a Facebook account and be happy to use it in order to comment on your site. Not everyone is happy with this type of integration so it may result in people who would have commented avoiding doing so on your site.
It has been implemented by several extremely large sites to cut down on the comment spam they receive and appears to have worked simply because comments are tied to the Facebook account of a real person.
The plugin changes your comment system on WordPress to match the standard comment structure found on your Facebook wall. It also allows you to post any comment you make to your Facebook wall, bringing your friends into the discussion and increasing the possible user engagement.
The Facebook Comments plugin is very useful for those who don’t want to have to manage every aspect of their site. It is ideal for those who still want to have a great looking and robust comment section without most of the overheads associated with the standard moderation.
5. Comments Evolved
Comments Evolved has grown from an old Google+ comments plugin into something much greater. Rather than simply being a way to use Google+ to comment on your blog now, it allows you to integrate with WordPress.com, Facebook and Disqus.
As with the others of this type, this plugin offers a great deal of user flexibility. Each commenting account type is displayed in its own tab, which may be the only real drawback of this plugin. It would be useful to have each comment displayed in one single thread and allowed the user to contribute to that thread regardless of their login method.
It is a great and lightweight plugin and is ideal if you want to keep the comment threads separated by login method. If you prefer having the options to login with various services, but combine all of the comments into a single point, then this may not be the plugin for you.
There are a number of plugins out there to enhance your comment system, though these five are by far the most impressive. Most of them will give your readers multiple connection options and each plugin handles those connections in slightly different ways.
You may decide to open up your comments to allow multiple methods of connection, or lock it down to a single option. Whichever method you choose, one of these plugins will be able to offer you exactly what you’re looking for and will dramatically improve the experience for your readers.
Have you used any of these comment systems on your blog? Which one is your favorite and why? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.