Comments in WordPress

Previously on the CogitActive Saga:
A blog without comments isn’t a blog at all. Besides, genuine and meaningful comments are valuable in many ways.

While I addressed comment spams in my post about Akismet, I haven’t talked about comments yet (except for some setting configurations on that matter). Even though they are an essential part of blogging, there is probably not much to say about comments. However, ignoring them altogether would be a mistake. Putting asides the negativity (i.e. spams) that surrounds them, this post will go over some reasons why you should allow comments (and how to implement them in WordPress).

Positive aspects of comments

Paraphrasing Lisa Sabin Wilson1, comments are especially important for communication – a two way process. By actively involving themselves in your site, your readers will be part of the discussion. By responding to their comments (or allowing comments on the first place), you give your audience the assurance that you are listening to them. Moreover, allowing comments sends the message that you, as the author/owner of the site, are open to the views and opinions of your readers1.

Comments provide your website’s visitors a platform to communicate with you and other readers. It allows them to add their input on the topic, ask questions, and provide feedback. They allow for community interaction around your content.Syed Balkhi

In keeping with this idea, comments are particularly useful to foster a community on your site. Again, responding to comments is the best way to make people come back to your site frequently. Your visitors almost certainly appreciate hearing your feedback to them1 as much as you want to hear from them. Nonetheless, it is important to connect with your readers, so they truly feel like a part of your site.

As outlined in my Comment Policy, comments can be a great way to add value to your posts in the form of useful, constructive (either positive or negative) criticism. By expanding on an article’s premise, comments can also bring further material, as well as insight, to the topic being discussed. Well-informed comments can definitely add to the conversation, if only by raising important questions.

Comments also help you keep track of which posts are most popular and of the satisfaction of your visitors. Comments give them an easy way to provide you with feedback. They may even become a source of inspiration for follow up content.

Receiving feedback, or comments, is akin to having a guestbook on your site. People can leave notes . . . and you can respond and engage your readers in conversation. These notes can expand the thoughts and ideas you present in your content by giving your readers the opportunity to add their two cents’ worth.Lisa Sabin Wilson

High-quality comments – especially if they include keywords – can also boost your SEO performance. Indeed, search engines crawl these user-generated contents as well. Moreover, a very active commenting section indicates that people are engaged with your blog and enjoy interacting with it.

Comments screen

WordPress makes it simple to manage2 comments and to combat spams (see Do I need Akismet?). In fact, the Settings > Discussion screen gives you complete control on how to handle comments, empowering you to configure the exact interactive environment that you want for your site1.

Assuming you have allowed comments on your site – either globally or on a per-post (or per-page) basis – you will be able to see notifications (once you start receiving comments) in the Activity widget (in your dashboard; see WordPress housekeeping), in the Comment bubble (in the admin bar at the top) and in the Comments screen (in the left navigation menu). WordPress makes moderating these comments a simple process. In particular, the Comments Screen lays out the basic information about each comment and lets you decide what to do with it3:

Briefly, as described in the above article, the Table of Comments, which displays all the comments, comprises four columns: Author, Comment, In Response To and Submitted On. There are many valuable information about each comment in this table:

  • Commenter Gravatar
  • Commenter Name
  • Commenter Website URL
  • Commenter Email Address
  • Commenter IP Address
  • The actual comment
  • The name of the post that inspired the comment
  • The number of comments on that particular post
  • The time and date this comment was submitted

When you hover your pointer over a comment, several links (i.e. Immediate Actions) appear and give you the opportunity to manage the comment. You can Approve (or Unapprove), Reply, Quick Edit, Edit, Spam or Trash.

You can approve, spam or trash a comment with one click. Reply, Quick Edit or Edit will open up a new screen for you to write a reply to the comment or edit the comment.WordPress

Trash status

When you delete any item (i.e. not limited to unwanted comments) in WordPress, it is sent to the trash. By default, trashed items remain there (i.e. in the trash) for 30 days, before to be permanently deleted. In other words, deleted comments (or posts/pages for that matter) can be restored within 30 days, after this period WordPress will remove them automatically.

Once an item has been permanently deleted, it is gone forever.WordPress

This feature – introduced with WordPress 2.9 – can be easily set to any number of days you prefer. To do so, you have to add the following code in wp-config.php (above the “/* That’s all, stop editing! Happy blogging. */ line):

Define( ‘EMPTY_TRASH_DAYS’ , 10);

You can set the value you want (i.e. other than 10 days) for the EMPTY_TRASH_DAYS constant5. Beware, if the constant is set to 0, the trash functionality will be disabled and the ‘Delete Permanently’ button will appear instead of ‘Trash’ button6. There will be no coming back.

Now, if you want to stop WordPress from automatically emptying the trash, you will have to remove the WordPress function that permanently delete trashed items, namely wp_scheduled_delete(). This WPBeginner article explains how to proceed if that interests you.

Last comment

As you already know, WordPress has a built-in comments system and you don’t even need to look for third-party alternatives to give your readers the opportunity to share their own thoughts on your posts. While the overall functionality of this default system is stripped down and basic, it is easy to use and comes with a clean interface. Moreover, you can rest assured it will not conflict with anything on your site.

Allowing comments is a personal choice, however, and you don’t have to allow them if you don’t want to.Lisa Sabin Wilson

Now, if – like me – you choose to enable comments for your posts, a comment form will appear at the bottom of the posts7. The basic comment form, which appearance depends on the WordPress theme, includes the following fields8: Comment, Name, Email and Website.

Coming next: Customizing my comment form

1 Lisa Sabin-Wilson (2017) WordPress All-in-One For Dummies – Third Edition. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons. ^
2 Quick reminder: only Administrators (or Super Admin) and Editors have full control on comments. They can edit, moderate and delete them. Authors, as well as contributors, can only view comments (also those with Pending status). ^
3 See Comments in WordPress. ^
4 As explained in Comments Screen, once a comment has been marked as Spam, that comment and other Spam comments can be accessed via the Spam Filtering link above the Table of Comments. Once those Spam comments are accessed via that Filter link, then each Spam comment can be Unspammed or can be Deleted Permanently. ^
5 You might remember from my Network Settings post that, in PHP, a constant is an identifier (always uppercase by convention) for a simple value that cannot change during the execution of the script. ^
6 See Trash status. ^
7 I opted to close automatically comments on old posts after 30 days – a good way to limit spam comments – and, therefore, this form will not be displayed under these old posts. ^
8 Actually, if you check the “Show comments cookies opt-in checkbox, allowing comment author cookies to be set” in Settings > Discussion, WordPress will add a cookie consent checkbox to the form. ^

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