Give your wordpress blog better comments by making them stand out, look more professional, and using WP plugins that encourage people to comment more often! I will show you exactly how to customize your default WordPress theme installation and turn bland comments in a world class comment system!
One of the key features of a blog is the interactivity, the ability to comment on every page. Sometimes it can be a struggle to get people to comment, especially to comment regularly. You should already be encouraging people to comment at the end of each blog post, but what else are you doing to enhance and encourage comments throughout your blog?? If your answer is nothing – you are missing out on a great opportunity. Comments can be a huge driving factor for getting repeat visitors and building community around your blog. The biggest blogging mistake you can make is not taking full advantage of your commenting system.
You have to change the comment process from the default WordPress standard which is this:
- Visitor submits somment
- Blog owner approves comment
- Comment is displayed on post page
To something better looking, more professional, and interactive like this 12 Step WP Comment Process:
- Visitor is encouraged in last sentence of post to comment
- Appealing graphic encourages them to comment – including dofollow info
- Smilies are available to customize the comment
- Visitor has ability to “subscribe” to comment thread
- Human interaction must be proven with captcha form
- Visitor submits comment
- First time visitors are emailed with courtesy thank you
- Admin approves comment
- Comment is posted “dofollow”
- Visitors with URL’s that have a feed will have their last post title parsed and linked as a byline at the end of their comment automatically
- Top Commenters are displayed in sidebar widget
- For updates to comments, those subscribed will get notification when new comments are added or theirs is replied to
Now I’ll describe exactly how to customize your default wordpress install and theme for professional WordPress comments!
Step #1: Visitor is encouraged in last sentence of post to comment
You should already be doing this. In the last sentence of your thank you visitors and solicit a comment – “if you liked this post and have a question or something that would make it even better, please comment now!”
Step #2: Appealing graphic encourages them to comment, including “dofollow” info
This is one that I think most blogs miss. If there’s something special about your comments – be sure to let your visitors know in a way that will encourage them to comment. I edited my comments.php in my theme folder and placed a new div just below the H2 header with a nice animation and reasons why they should comment. You can see this in action at the bottom of this (or any) page on this site. If you need some css styling info to create a box like the one I use – visit this page on CSS drop shadow.
Step #3: Smilies are available to customize the comment
People love to add a little emotion to their blog posts and content – and everyone loves little custom smilies and emoticons. Just install the custom smilies WordPress plugin and you’ve got this one covered. The cool thing about this plugin is that once you install it, you can add your own custom smilies to your library and make your site different than anyone elses! You can also enable the docking bar and add your smilies to your posts.
Step #4: Visitor has ability to “subscribe” to comment thread
Before blogs were uber-popular most of us posted in web based forums. When you posted you could “subscribe” to a thread and get email updates anytime someone replied to the post. If you were an avid poster, this was the only way you could keep track of which posts had new responses. If you expect interactivity on your site and people comment – how can you expect any interactivity beyond that initial post unless they can get a notification when they have a reply or there’s a new comment? I have seen some of the biggest sites on the web not have this ability – and it’s a shame (and also why I don’t return to them that often). This is easy as pie to enable – just install the subscribe to comments WordPress plugin.
Step #5: Human interaction must be proven with captcha form
I know you’ve filled out a captcha before – that’s a text field where you have to type in some words displayed before you can submit a form. WordPress comments don’t have a captcha, and there are many automated programs all over the web that allow people to bulk submit comments just to try and gain links. If you had a captcha in your form a human would have to fill out the captcha field before the form could be submitted. This also cuts out almost all spam. Askimet is great, but it only gets 98-99% of the spam. You still have to delete 1-2% of it by hand, and if you get a lot of comments this can be time consuming. So a captcha cuts out spam – but what if you could implent a captcha that also served a good purpose outside your blog? Read about Re-Captcha and how you can help digitize books by using it in your WordPress blog. All you have to do is download and install the Re-Captcha WordPress plugin to have a professional looking captcha in your WordPress comment form today!
Step #6: Visitor submits comment
Wow – you get a buy here. I didn’t notice that for this (necessary) step there’s nothing for you to do! A Visitor has to actually submit a comment.
Step #7: First time visitors are emailed with courtesy thank you
The majority of your visitors that submit comments will do it once and never again. That’s because there’s so many sites on the web they may never find (or need) yours again. So why not send them a complimentary “thank-you” courtesy email for submitting a comment? It’s so easy, all you have to do is download and install the Comment Relish WordPress Plugin – and it does all the work for you! If you thank someone in person they are usually genuinely touched because of the infrequency people do it nowadays. I think most peope that comment are surprised and grateful to get a response back.
Step #8: Admin approves comment
This one is of course self-explanatory. The best advice I can give you is to be sure and approve comments as soon as they come in. The faster you do, the faster they’ll be read – and the more comments you approve and reply to, the more you’ll get. Some larger sites have so many comments coming in they have to designated people just to handle them all.
Step #9: Comment is posted “dofollow”
You probably already know how valuable links are, and that google follows the links on your site when the search crawler comes. If you have a bunch of links leading to irrelevant content or sites of ill repute you could be in trouble (visit bad-neighborhood.com). Good links are great, because when relevant sites link back to you normally that’s how you get google pagerank. But you can add a tag to your links, the rel=nofollow tag to tell google not to follow those links. Many blogs (like WordPress) have automatically added the rel=nofollow to comments, so when people add a URL they don’t get a credited link back. You’ve probably seen the “You comment, I follow” graphics on sites (like this one on ours) that tell patrons – if you comment I don’t use the rel=nofollow tag and you will get a credited link. Why not? If you’re moderating your comment appropriately this shouldn’t be a big issue and really encourages people to participate. To do this all you have to do is download and install the dofollow WordPress plugin, and you’re good to go!
Step #10: Visitors with URL’s that have a feed will have their last post title parsed and linked as a byline at the end of their comment automatically
CommentLuv is a newer WordPress plugin that I hadn’t seen before. Once a comment is submitted, it uses the URL field of the comment form to grab the commenter’s last post from their web site and leave it as a byline at the bottom of the comment. This of course encourages more people to visit the commenter’s web site and it’s great because it’s automatic! It starts working once installed, so of course it’s not going to go back and do this for all the previously submitted comments, just the new ones submitted after it was installed. There are no options, so if you want to test it you have to logout of WordPress and submit a test comment yourself using another valid URL (that has a feed to parse), and then approve your comment to see it. An awesome way to encourage visitor’s to comment!
Step #11: Top Commenters are displayed in sidebar widget
This one seems pretty popular on quite a few blogs – especially the bigger and busier ones. When people submit commets, the “Top Commentators” are displayed in a sidebar widget. The stats reset every month so someone can’t dominate forever. It gives the most frequent visitor’s that comment a link to their blog in the sidebar in addition to the number of comments they’ve made. I’ve used this WP plugin for quite awhile and it works nicely.
Step #12: For updates to comments, those subscribed will get notification when new comments are added or theirs is replied to
This is of course automatic now – thanks to Step #4 and the Subscribe to Comments plugin you enabled. Visitor’s also have the ability to “manage” their subscription anytime in the future for any or all posts, including choosing not to receive email anymore at all.
There you have it – Rock Star WordPress comments in 12 easy steps! If you did everything now your visitors will have much greater reasons to leave a comment, you’re encouraging them to come back time and time again with notifications, and you’re helping to stomp out comment spam on your blog all at the same time! You have successfully conquered the blogging mistake of a bland default WordPress commenting system with world class comments! The only additional things I can offer is if you want to tweak the appearance of your comments, two very popular ways are by using the nested comments WordPress plugin (like I do), or the fancier Collapsible WordPress Comments Plugin.
If this post helped you, or if you have a question or contribution to make it even better – please comment now and share with everyone!!