Are you stopping visitors from commenting?

Comments give readers the opportunity to relate their experiences, offer their point of view, and provide related information. This interaction within the blog can help to expand the original blog post, sometimes giving it a life of its own.

If one of your blog’s goals is to encourage commenting, you should try and make the commenting process as simple as possible.

In this post, we will describe some ways to encourage WordPress comments, while dealing with the inevitable, unwanted comments posted by finding ways to moderate them.

A CAPTCHA, seen at the bottom of this comment form, could stop website visitors from posting a comment.

Avoid CAPTCHAs – A CAPTCHA is an automatically generated test where a user is typically asked to read distorted text and type the letters they see. Because an automated spam program cannot easily decode this distorted text, a CAPTCHA helps ensure that comments are submitted by a human.

The downside is that humans can find CAPTCHAs annoying. The squiggly lines of text can be extremely hard to read, making it frustrating for the commenter, who may have to try several times to guess at the characters. Many give up.

Eliminate unnecessary forms – Posting a comment should not involve filling out a long form; it should be as little work as possible.

We recommend not having any unnecessary forms to fill out such as entering your email twice, or having a pull-down menu of your “preferred title”. Unless it’s absolutely necessary, those commenting should only be required to enter their display name, email address, and comment.

Consider using OpenID – There are tools available that make it easier to sign up or sign in to comment.

The OpenID plugin for WordPress, for instance, makes commenting easier for those who already have OpenID accounts. OpenID gives users control of their online representation across multiple websites, so that their account and username are the same for each and every website. From a usability perspective, giving visitors the option of signing in using OpenID means they doesn’t have to manually enter an email address or handle, and their account is consistent across many sites.

Tools to eliminate spam – By making it easy to comment, it could be easier for spammers to post comments. Eliminating spam is crucial because comment spam not only can it reduce the overall quality of the conversations, but it can also bring down your site’s search engine page rank.

One tool that helps manage spam is Akismet, which helps filter out comment and track-back spam by running each comment through hundreds of tests to determine if it’s spam. This means you don’t have to waste time sorting through and deleting spam from your blog.

One of the great things about Akismet is that there are plugins for many popular platforms including WordPress and Joomla.

There is a trade-off between making a blog easy to comment on, and mediating spam. Tools like Akismet make moderating comments easier, but you must also spend some effort manually finding and deleting spam comments. We think, however, that the extra time and effort this is worth it, given the value that legitimate comments can provide to your blog.

Feel free to share any questions or tips about how to encourage blog comments. If you need help simplifying your blog’s commenting system for your visitors, or dealing with comment spam, please let us know!