The comments section below a WordPress post allows you to engage directly with your readers. But WordPress goes a notch higher: it gives you the ability to moderate user comments via the comments moderation feature. However, to moderate or not to moderate is the age old question that seemingly has no definite answer. Ultimately, the decision is up to you but you must carefully weigh the pros and cons of either option.
Since this is a beginner’s guide to WordPress comment moderation, I’d like to highlight a few reasons for and against comment moderation before suggesting an ideal solution.
Why You Should Moderate Comments
- Without moderation and the right spam filtering tools, your blog can easily become a spamfest especially if it’s popular. Moderation gives you full control to display comments only from trusted users, thus weeding out spam and other low quality comments. Engaging trusted users builds confidence and your blog will quickly gain authority in your chosen niche.
- Spam comments typically contain links, some of which may redirect to potentially malicious websites. If a user clicks on a link that redirects them to a place they don’t want to be, they will lose faith and trust in your blog—which is essentially the same as losing faith in you. With moderation, you can block potentially malicious links.
- A well moderated comment thread can add value to an otherwise dull post. There may be readers who are more knowledgeable about the topic and their contribution can elevate your post. Good quality comments attract knowledgeable people that will add valuable info and this is what you want for your post. Remember, comments become part of your blog’s content for as long as the post exists on your blog.
Why You Shouldn’t Moderate Comments
- Comment moderation can be time consuming. For larger websites that have good readership, it can be a real pain or even impractical (unless you use a third-party comment system).
- Moderation frustrates many genuine users who want to engage in the discussion. Users usually want to see their comment immediately after they hit Post. What if you’re not around to approve it?
- You can deal with comment spam using a plugin. For instance, the Akismet plugin that comes with the basic WordPress software does a pretty good job of weeding out spam provided you’ve set it up properly.
Now that you know the reasons for and against moderation, what are you going to do? My recommendation is to moderate but be smart about it.
The primaryWordPress comments system is decent enough on its own. It allows you to moderate comments effectively while keeping out the vast majority of comment spam.
Ideal Settings For WordPress Comment Moderation
To set your blog for moderation, go to Settings > Discussion.
Look for the part that says E-mail me whenever. This is where you enable or disable comment moderation using the base system and it’s pretty straight forward: if you check the second box (A comment is held for moderation), you’ll be able to moderate all post comments.
Moderate First Time Authors
One easy way to make moderation less of a pain is by enabling automatic approval for comment authors who have been approved once. To enable this setting, go to Settings > Discussion and check for the Before a comment appears section check the second box that reads Comment author must have a previously approved comment. Leave the box above unchecked.
If a comment author changes the way she enters her details—name and email—then she’ll have to be moderated again.
Also, look out for comment authors who were previously approved: some of these have learned the ins and outs of the system and can make some quality comments initially but then slack off with future comments since they know they are being automatically approved.
Turn Off Comments After A Specified Period
Another smart way of staying in control of comments on your blog is by limiting the time your blog comments are open to authors. Typically, 30 days is a reasonable period but can be more or less depending on your specific circumstances. Doing this helps keep out SEO spammers—users who comment to build links for their own blogs. They usually search for blogs that have achieved a high PageRank.
It takes anywhere from a few weeks to several months to build a high PageRank, so SEO spammers typically target blogs that have been around for a couple of weeks or months.
Ordinarily, a blog post hits peak popularity within 2 to 3 weeks after date of publishing. This means that you can expect to get the highest amount of activity in the comments section during this time. So plan to limit comments to 30 days (ideally) so that you don’t have a lot of comments to moderate. Feel free to make it longer, however, if a great discussion is going on.
To set a limit on comment authorship time, go to Settings > Discussion and look for the Other comment settings section. Check the option that reads Automatically close comments on articles older than__days and specify the number of days to keep comments open:
Sometimes, you’d rather deal with comment spam than trackback spam, so think carefully before enabling Trackbacks. It’s generally a good idea to turn them off since you can still know who is linking to your site via the Incoming Links section in the dashboard. Note that this section may not show for a brand new WordPress site. You can also setup your RSS feeder to see incoming links.
Use Plugins To Filter Comment Spam
Spam comments can be difficult to spot but with the help of capable plugins, they are easier to identify, if not blocked completely. Here is a selection of plugins you can use to achieve that:
I briefly introduced the brilliant Akismet plugin that comes built into the core WordPress software to filter comments that appear like spam. All you need to do is activate it but you will have to sign up for and set up its API key to get started. While it performs a decent job of keeping out spam, it is not foolproof and some legitimate comments may sometimes be mistaken for spam. So check your spam folder regularly for legitimate comments.
A relatively new plugin, WordPress Zero-Spam helps to block spam automatically without any need for a CAPTCHA. Once installed and activated, it will do its magic right away. There are no APIs to setup.
Allow Users To Do The Moderation
Finally, one other way to maintain your sanity while moderating comments is by allowing certain authors to do the moderation. You can only give your most loyal users this kind of authority. If your blog commands considerable authorship and authority, this might be the best way to manage comment moderation.
Loyal community members become trusted users that you grant access to moderate other users. You can create a reward system to keep them motivated, such as allowing them backlinks to their own blogs. A plugin such as the User Role Editor can be used to seamlessly create and add this role to your blog. There are many others you could explore too.
Always remember that you retain full control over who comments on your posts and what they post. Give this section of your blog the attention it deserves and your blog will become a trusted authority. Is the comment section of your blog busy? How do you moderate comment authors? Do you have better ideas on how to improve spam filtering without losing your sanity? I’d love to hear your thoughts!