WordPress Comments: Start A Dialogue With Your Visitors

Because of its history as a blogging platform, WordPress includes the option to allow visitors to add comments to your posts and pages. If approved, these comments then appear on your website for everyone to see.

You may remember that, in Lesson 4, I cautioned you about allowing people to comment on your posts and pages because of the nuisance of spam. Leaving open the opportunity for visitors to add their own content can turn your website into a magnet for spammers around the world to post garbage and, at times, some seriously offensive material.

Enable Comments

However, if you have a good reason for inviting your visitors to leave comments on your website or blog, and if you are prepared to moderate them, here is what I recommend you do:

From the dashboard, click on ‘Settings’, ‘Discussion’ and check the following boxes:

  • Allow people to post comments on new articles
  • Comment author must fill out name and email
  • Comment author must have a previously approved comment

There are other settings on that page that are self-explanatory and you can decide for yourself what else you want to check.

Then click ‘Save Changes’.

That’s all you need to do if you want a comment box to appear at the foot of every post and page. But you will probably want to be a bit more selective about which pages you actually want to allow comments on. For example, you probably wouldn’t want to invite comments on your Contact page.

To set up selective commenting, from the dashboard, go to ‘Pages’, ‘Add New’. Then look over to the top right of the screen and click on the arrow next to ‘Screen Options’.

Where it says ‘Show on screen’ make sure the ‘Discussion’ box is checked.

What this will do is to add a ‘Discussion’ box on the screen where you add a new page. You can then check or uncheck whether you actually want a comment box on that page at the time that you add or update that page.

Do the same with the Screen Options on the ‘Posts’, ‘Add New’.

Moderate Comments To Banish Spammers

Note that I recommend that comments must be approved before appearing on your website.

The way this works is that, when someone posts a comment via a page or post on your site, the administrator (you!) will receive an email informing you that a new comment is awaiting moderation. This email will contain links to enable you to approve the comment or mark it as spam.

When you approve a comment it will appear on the page where it was originally posted. But if the comment is spam it will be loaded into your Spam folder.

If a visitor posts a comment and you approve it, then, if that visitor ever visits your site again and uses the same email address, they can post another comment which will be automatically approved. That’s because WordPress assumes that you trust this visitor and that their future comments are going to be OK.

This is generally true but a few people do abuse this so it’s a good idea to just keep an eye on comments. You can easily trash any that are unwelcome.

If you are allowing visitors to submit comments to your website it is essential that you use the Akismet plugin (see Lesson 12). Akismet will automatically detect spam and place the comment in your Spam folder. However, there can be comments that you want to designate as spam that Akismet doesn’t trap. So you will need to keep an eye on your Comments box and label them accordingly.

To see all current comments on your site and to manage your Spam folder, from the dashboard click on ‘Comments’.

From here you can click Approve, Reply, Quick Edit, History, Spam or Trash when you hover your cursor over a comment.

To mark a comment as spam, hover your cursor over the comment and click ‘Spam’. The comment will then go into the Spam folder. You should empty the Spam folder regularly. To do this click on the Spam (…) tab at the top of the screen and then click on the ‘Empty Spam’ button.

If you receive a comment that is not spam but which you don’t want to appear on your website you can mark it as ‘Trash’. You can empty the Trash folder exactly like the Spam.

The other options are self-explanatory and you can explore these for yourself.


If someone posts a comment on my website, can I post my own reply to that comment?

Yes. You can, in effect, enter into a dialogue with your commenting visitors. When anyone adds a comment to your site and you approve it, a ‘reply’ link will appear alongside it. To enter your own reply to that comment, display the post/page where the comment appears, click on the ‘reply’ link and another comment box will appear for you to add your reply.

Help – I have set my site to allow comments but no-one has ever added a comment! What am I doing wrong?

Relax – in the early days of a website you will probably not be getting many visitors and those who do visit may just be passing by. And even when you do get traffic, in most cases only a very small percentage of genuine visitors will actively contribute their own comments.

Give it time. The way to get started it to put yourself about, by which I mean make yourself visible to others who may have an interest in your website.

Tweet and follow like-minded individuals. Join forums. Post on your friends’ Facebook pages. Post regularly to other websites/blogs. Post regularly to your own website and try to build up a regular readership.

Why not add some controversial topic and ask your readers/followers to have their say? You could even invite your friends to chip in and start off a discussion. Just keep at it!

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