WordPress comes with a built-in comment system that allows for community interaction around your content. In this beginner’s guide, we will show you how to moderate comments in WordPress, deal with comment spam, and everything related to comments.
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What are Comments?
Recently while teaching a WordPress class, we found that several users who had been using WordPress for more than 6 months still did not know what was the purpose of comments, where were they coming from, and what should they do with them.
Comments allow your website visitors to communicate with you and other readers. They can add their input on a specific article that you had written, ask questions, and provide feedback.
On most WordPress sites, anyone with a valid Name and Email can leave a comment without verifying their identity. By default comments are turned on so depending on the theme you use, there will be a comment form displayed at the bottom of every post and page of your website.
Once someone submits a comment, it will be held for moderation for you to approve or delete. This allows you to control what appears on your website.
Moderating Comments in WordPress
You can see all comments on your WordPress website by clicking on the comments menu in WordPress.
On the comments page you will see four different tabs (all comments, pending, approved, spam and trash). Comments that need your approval will appear under the Pending tab.
To approve a comment take your mouse over to the comment, and you will see action links appear below the comment. Click on Approve to make a comment publicly visible on your website. You can also reply to a comment by clicking on the reply link. Replying to a comment automatically approves the comment as well.
If you see a comment that looks or feel spammy, then you can mark it as Spam. You’re probably wondering what does a spam comment look like?
Well, there are few different indicators that you can use to tell if a comment is spam:
- Comments with bunch of links, keywords, and strange characters – This is the most obvious type of spam comment, and you should not have a hard time telling it apart from a real comment.
- Comment with a Fake Name – If you see a comment that’s being left by a person named “Best Mortgage Rates” or “Cheap Printer Ink”, then you can clearly tell it’s a marketer trying to spam your site for a backlink.
- Generic Comments – Often spammers rely on generic comments to bypass your spam filter. These generic comments are “Thank You”, “Really Nice Article”, or insert title of your post and make a generic statement (example: I agree beginners guide to comment moderation is essential).
WordPress comes pre-installed with Akismet, but you need to activate the plugin and signup for this anti-spam service for it to help you reduce spam.
Once you mark a comment as spam, Akismet will learn to catch similar comments in the future. All comments marked as spam will appear under the spam tab. You will not need to visit this tab that often. However, if a user complains that their comments are not appearing on your website, then this is the first place you should look. If you find a comment that is wrongly caught by Akismet as spam, then simply click on Not Spam link to move it from spam to pending.
If for some reason you accidentally got hundreds of spam comment appearing in the Pending, then simply come to the Spam tab and click on check for spam button. This will trigger a spam check on existing comments on your website and Akismet will move spam comments from Pending to Spam.
You can also click on the Empty Spam button to delete all spam comments at once. Even if you don’t, spam comments will be automatically deleted by WordPress after 15 days. Remember that deleting thousands of spam comments at once can slow down your site a bit. If you are trying to delete thousands of spam comments, then it is better to try the method described in our guide on how to quickly batch delete spam comments in WordPress.
If you want to remove a comment without marking it as spam, then simply click on the Trash link below the comment. Comments deleted by you will be sent to trash and will live there for next 30 days. After this time WordPress will automatically delete them forever. If you accidentally deleted a comment, then simply visit the trash tab and click on Restore link below the comment.
Comment moderation area shows comments for all posts and pages. However you can individually view the comments left on a particular post by either visiting that post on your site or through your admin area.
Viewing Comments for A Single Post in WordPress Admin Area
You can view all approved and pending comments for a post by opening it in post editor. Simply go to Posts » All Posts and click on the Edit link below the post you want to open. On the post editor screen scroll down to the bottom, and you will see all comments made for the post.
You can edit, delete, reply and moderate comments directly from here. In case you don’t see the comments under the post editor, then click on Screen Options button at the top right corner of the screen. This will bring a fly down menu where you need to check the box next to Comments. After that simply scroll-down, and you will see comments for that post under the post editor.
Turn Comments On/Off for Specific Posts in WordPress
There are sometimes when you don’t want comments to be enabled on some posts. WordPress allows you to turn comments off for single posts or pages. Simply edit a post and on the post editor screen scroll down to the Discussion metabox. There you can uncheck the box next to ‘Allow comments’ option.
If you can’t find the discussion metabox on the post editing screen, then you need to click on the Screen Options button at the top-right corner of the screen. This will bring a fly down menu where you need to check the box next to discussion. After that scroll down and you will see the discussion metabox under the post editor.
Comment Settings Configuration
WordPress allows you to change comment configuration for your entire site. The comments settings page is located under Settings » Discussion. There are different sections on the discussion settings page, and we will walk you through each option on the page.
The top section on the discussion settings screen controls the default article settings. The first option in this section allows your blog to notify other blogs when you link to them in an article. The second option allows similar notifications from other blogs to be accepted on your site. These are called pingbacks and trackbacks, and we recommend you to uncheck both these options. The first option can slow down your entire site and the second option would bring you a lot of spam comments.
The third option on the article settings screen is ‘Allow people to post comments on new articles’. It enables comments for all new articles you write on your WordPress site. It is important to note, that you can turn comments on and off for individual articles like we showed you earlier in this article.
Under the other comment settings section, you will notice the first option as ‘Comment author must fill out name and email’. This option makes it mandatory for comment authors to provide a name and email address with their comments. You need to check this option unless you want to allow anonymous commenting on your website.
There is also an option to require users to register to your site before leaving a comment however in our opinion it’s not necessary for most sites.
You will also see the option for closing comments on older articles. Some website owners use this to prevent spam, but it’s completely a personal preference.
WordPress allows users to reply to comments. Those replies will appear nested under the original comment only if you check the box next to ‘Enable threaded (nested) comments’. You can specify how deep these nested comments can go. The appearance of these nested comments is handled by your WordPress theme. Having too many levels can distort readability of comments. The default setting of 5 levels is good enough for most WordPress themes. More advance users can checkout our guide on how to style your WordPress comments layout.
If one of your articles becomes popular and starts getting too many comments, then you will notice that the comment section will become too long. Users will have to scroll a lot to read the latest comments on the article. To address this problem, you can check the option to break comments into pages. By default this option allows 50 top level comments, you can increase or decrease this. Choosing this option will also show the last page of comments first.
By default, WordPress shows the newest comment at the bottom. You can reverse this to show older comments at the top.
The next section allows you to receive emails whenever a user leaves comments on your site or whenever a comment is held for moderation. This option is only exciting for the first few days of your website. As you get more comments, these emails become annoying, so we recommend turning if off.
Under ‘Before a comment appear’ section, the first option is to manually approve each comment. Make sure this box is checked so that no comment can appear on your site without your approval.
Below this you will see the option ‘Comment author must have a previously approved comment’. If this option is checked, comments from authors that have a previously approved comment will appear without explicit approval. Uncheck this option to make sure that all comments are manually approved.
A very common trait among automated spam comments is that they contain a lot of links. Since you have already set your comments to be manually approved, all your comments will go to the moderation queue regardless of how many links they have.
You will see a larger text area where you can enter words, IP and email addresses, or URLs that you want to watch out for. Any comment matching things you enter here will be sent to moderation queue. There is no need for you to enter anything here since you have already set all comments to be manually approved, and they are all going to the moderation queue anyways.
The last section on the comments settings screen is for Avatars. These are the images that appear next to comment author’s name on your website. WordPress uses Gravatar, which is a free service that allows users to have the same avatar on all the blogs they visit (see our guide on what is Gravatar). When a comment author doesn’t have a Gravatar image associated with their email address, WordPress uses Mystery Man as the default gravatar. You can change this, by selecting a default avatar from the list or even add your own custom default gravatar in WordPress.
That’s all, you have configured your comment settings. Don’t forget to click on the Save Changes button to store your settings.
Over the years, several third-party commenting platforms have been introduced for WordPress. Each platform comes with their own moderation interface and technology. On WPBeginner, we are using Disqus commenting system.
For those wondering why we use Disqus, here’s a detailed write up on why we switched to Disqus and how you can setup Disqus on your site.
We hope this article helped you learn how to setup and moderate comments in WordPress.
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