I have mixed feelings about blog comments. On the one hand, they can help build a community and the best comment threads are full of insightful responses from thoughtful readers. On the other hand, they’re often a spam-laden, rant-ridden reflection of the worst of the web. I’ve often mulled the idea of removing them altogether. Many bloggers feel that their blogs are their space, and others are free to comment on social media or their own site if they have something to say. I come down on the side of comments; their virtues outweigh their potential harm, but if you’re going to go with comments, you have to be aware of the potential risks and the work involved.
Spam comments can damage reputations
Business bloggers need to be aware that their sites will fall prey to comment spammers. These are usually automated bots that scour the web for open comment forms on which they can drop their payload of “work from home” advertising, porn links, and affiliate links.
However great the content above the comments, if the comment section is full of junk, your visitors are going to form a negative opinion of the quality of service you provide.
It’s not enough to rely on Akismet, which, although excellent, is far from infallible. Manual moderation is essential, and that’s why some sites have decided it’s not worth the effort.
Comments count for SEO
You would never link from your content to porn sites, gambling sites, black hat SEO sites, and other sites that inhabit the nether regions of the net, but comment spammers will gleefully spray links of that nature all over your comment section.
Google takes outbound links into consideration when it decides on the quality of a site. Poorly moderated comments can impact SEO ranking and revenues.
You can lighten the burden of comment moderation with automation and authentication. Akismet is far and away the most popular option as a first line of defense, and it will pick up most of the obvious spam.
My preferred method of comment filtering is to force users to log in using their existing social media credentials. There’s a lot to be said for anonymity on the web, but for those who really need to post anonymously, there are alternative ways to reach out (email). If you’re a WordPress user, the Jetpack plugin includes a social login module that makes it easy to restrict commenting to logged-in users.
Because most comment spamming is done by bots, CAPTCHA tests are an option. I prefer not to use CAPTCHA tests because they irritate some users and there are accessibility issues. But a plugin like Are You Human does the same job without making steam come out of your user’s ears.
Comments can add value to a site, but like a garden, they need to be tended to cultivate the best mix of contributions.