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Ever written an amazing blog post only to be greeted by deafening silence? No retweets, no shares, and – perhaps most importantly of all – no comments? It’s a deeply worrying feeling for a site owner as, without comments, it’s difficult to know which topics are truly resonating with your audience.
Fortunately, there are a number of high-quality plugins available for WordPress to help site owners make it as easy as possible for their users to comment, and for them to manage the interaction that results.
In this article, we’ll step through nine of the best WordPress comments plugins out there with a view to giving you a complete set of options to choose from for the particular needs of your own site.
Before we get down to brass tacks, though, let’s briefly consider the question of whether comments remain relevant in today’s social media-dominated world.
The Ongoing Importance of Blog Comments
As a platform with deep blogging roots, comments have long been at the core of WordPress usage for site owners and visitors alike. Their popularity has come under attack from two fronts in recent times, however:
- Maintenance overhead. Given the wrong circumstances, managing comments can add an administrative burden. A debate has raged online over the last number of years regarding whether it’s worth site owners’ time enabling them. Some major-league sites such as Popular Science have even been moved to remove them entirely.
- The rise of social media. The days of social media being a “fad” are long past. With over two billion active social media accounts in the wild, many site owners are tempted to manage all their audience interaction directly via the channels that social media makes available to them.
Both of these are real factors you need to take into account on your own site. Left unattended, comments can quickly devolve into a cesspool of unwanted spam and random trolling, and the tools that social media accounts make available for managing interactions with your users can be of great value.
With the right audience and enough resources to really engage with them, however, comments still have a vital role to play in engaging with your audience. In their respectively different ways, sites such as Asymco, Vulture and The Guardian all demonstrate the extra level of insight, entertainment, and user loyalty that well-run comments can offer.
A huge part of making comments work for you rather than against you is, of course, using the right tools to implement and manage them. That’s what we’ll be concentrating on for the rest of this piece, with solutions ranging from all-in-one to highly specific.
Let’s crack on with the list!
Jetpack from none other than Automattic is a multi-featured plugin offering over 20 separate modules of functionality bundled within one package. It’s essentially a series of powerful plugins contained within one remotely managed plugin. That’s a slightly complicated idea to get your head around, but the range of options on display is impressive, and there’s no doubting the WordPress chops of this plugin’s developer!
The Jetpack Comments module replaces WordPress’ standard comment functionality and gives your readers an expanded set of options to identify themselves, including verification via Twitter, Google+, and Facebook. This is a great way of enabling users to quickly add their two cents while keeping them accountable and the overall standard of commenting high.
Using the Disqus Comment System plugin involves taking a radically different approach to the matter of handling comments – outsourcing it entirely. By installing this plugin, you’re handing off comment handling to the Disqus service, which is custom built to deal with it entirely on its own.
This offers a number of benefits to you as a site owner. Firstly, the burden of actually processing comments is largely lifted from your site – they’ll be entered and stored on the Disqus servers and brought to your site via the plugin. You also benefit from advanced options such as threaded comments and replies, and powerful moderation and admin tools.
If you’re expecting substantial traffic and a lively audience, Disqus is a great option to consider for really taking ownership of site comments as a separately managed process.
Left to their own devices, comments across your site can start getting out of control quickly, or start sucking up a considerable amount of your time in terms of policing. Sometimes, limiting options for your users is the way to keep things manageable for all concerned.
The Facebook Comments plugin keeps things nice and simple by concentrating on one social channel that also happens to have by far the best user verification systems in the business. By enabling Facebook users to comment directly on your blog, you encourage interaction while minimizing potential spam problems. The plugin also offers built-in moderation options, shortcodes and multi-language support.
In contrast to solutions like Disqus, the wpDiscuz plugin attempts to start with WordPress’ native comment functionality and build on things from there. The plugin is fully responsive, well-documented, and ships with a number of impressive front end features such as nested comments, integration with social logins, and integration with Postmatic (more on that later).
The plugin also integrates (in terms of avatars and profile pages) with several popular membership options such as BuddyPress, Ultimate Member and Users Ultra. A WooCommerce-orientated version of the plugin is also available in the form of WooDiscuz.
Yoast are well known for their analytics and SEO plugins, but the Dutch outfit have also taken on commenting in the form of the Yoast Comment Hacks plugin. They’ve taken a simple, low-key approach to the subject by bundling a bunch of common hacks they tend to employ on sites into one plugin.
Options available include cleaner comment notification emails, the ability to disallow comments beneath a certain length (a small but highly useful feature!), and settings to redirect first-time commenters to a special thank-you page.
CommentLuv takes a rather interesting approach to encouraging participation by dangling the prospect of a recent and relevant backlink before your audience. If a reader comments on your post, a link to their most recent blog post will be included at the end of the comment.
It’s a potentially useful way of boosting engagement and virality but tread carefully if you are going down this route. Handing out free backlinks willy-nilly is often a recipe for attracting spammers so you’ll need to deploy and moderate carefully.
We mentioned Postmatic earlier in the context of wpDiscuz, but it’s more than worth calling out in its own right. Postmatic takes a simple idea and executes it perfectly: it enables users to make use of email-based commenting and subscribe to individual posts.
Postmatic sends an email to commenters with updates on posts they have commented on when new comments are added. Subscribers who wish to add additional comments need only respond via email to have their new comment added to the discussion.
This is an extremely low-friction way of enabling users to continue the conversation and encourages ongoing commenting. The main Postmatic site is also worth a visit to discover more about how you can integrate with existing lists from Jetpack, MailPoet and MailChimp.
Popular Widget tackles a slightly different part of the commenting conundrum by enabling you to highlight your most commented upon posts simply and effectively.
The plugin gives you options for showcasing content that has been heavily engaged with by displaying it in a widget. Options are available for specifying particular date ranges, displaying thumbnails, including excerpts, and more.
No list of WordPress comment plugins would be complete without mentioning Akismet – the leading WordPress anti-comment spam plugin for many years. The Akismet plugin is backed by the wider Akismet service which analyzes data from millions of sites in real time to help block the bad guys automatically on your site.
The free version of the plugin should be more than enough to help smaller sites stop comment spam at source and pro versions are also available.
Enabling comments won’t be the perfect solution for all websites, but it’s still a great way of boosting engagement and communicating directly with your audience. As a site owner, it’s hard to beat the sense of satisfaction that comes with seeing genuine feedback pouring into a post after you’ve published it to the world.
You’ll need extra tools to run things smoothly with comments, however. Every site’s needs are naturally different, so we hope our nine solutions above offer something for everyone.
If you’re just starting off, the combination of Akismet and comment functionality made available via Jetpack is hard to beat. More experienced site owners may well wish to experiment with more custom solutions.
This being a post about comments, we’re particularly interested in hearing yours! Get in touch and let us know what solutions are currently working for you.
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