Positive or constructive user engagement can go a long way to enrich your website. However, if you’re not moderating comments, internet trolls and spam trolls and spam posters can cost you conversions and cause your site’s traffic to take a hit.
That’s why moderating comments is a key website management task. Fortunately, WordPress provides a range of tools and settings that enable you to filter out damaging posts and valuable ones.
Introduction to Moderating Comments in WordPress
Moderation is the process of screening comments before they go live. This prevents spam and other inflammatory content from ending up on your posts.
To understand how moderation works in WordPress, you first need to have a handle on the comments settings available for the platform. There are four options you can choose between:
- Disabling comments entirely, which may lead to lower engagement rates
- Allowing all comments, which gives spam posters and trolls free rein
- Requiring approval for all comments, which eliminates low-quality content but can be time-consuming
- Mandating approval only for commenters who are not logged in or who have never posted before
While each method has its pros and cons, it’s recommended that you moderate comments to some extent. Disabling the feature entirely works against your site, as you’ll miss out on opportunities for social proof and meaningful engagement from users.
Choosing not to moderate comments often leads to spam. These posts are typically left by bots and provide no value. Instead, they usually contain harmful backlinks, which can drastically lower your search rankings and credibility.
Not moderating comments also leave the door open to ‘trolls’ who post disruptive content. These users are deliberately offensive and can negatively impact the perception of your website. They may create an unwanted reputation for your brand, and leave visitors with a poor impression of your integrity and credibility.
However, it’s important to distinguish between a troll and someone leaving constructive feedback. Even if you’d rather not publicize criticism of your site, this content still provides valuable information you can put to use.
Guide to moderating user comments in WordPress
Step 1: Configure Your WordPress Discussion Settings
We’ve already explained WordPress’ comments settings at some length. The first step to building your moderation process is to choose which ones to implement on your site.
To get started, navigate to Settings > Discussion in your WordPress dashboard:
There are several options listed here, but for this post, we’ll just cover the highlights. First, note the checkbox labeled Allow people to submit comments on new posts.
Unchecking this box will disable commenting across your site. As we already explained, this isn’t ideal. Unless you can justify the loss of engagement and social proof, make sure to select this option.
Step 2: Turn On Your Email Notifications
While you’re in your Discussion settings, you’ll likely notice two options under the Email me whenever section:
Additionally, letting comments pile up is not the most productive or efficient way to moderate them.
Step 3: Install an Anti-Spam Plugin to Streamline Moderation
Before we get into how to approve and reject comments, it’s important to make note of some tools that could streamline moderation for you. Anti-spam plugins such as Akismet use machine learning to recognize low-quality posts and delete them automatically:
In addition to installing and activating the plugin, you’ll also need to create an Akismet account.
Step 4: Manually Approve and Reject Comments from Your WordPress Dashboard
At the beginning of this post, we explained that submissions awaiting your approval can found in the Comments section of your WordPress dashboard.
Here you’ll find four options to effectively bulk-manage users’ posts:
- Unapproved: Remove an approved comment from a post and return it to the list for moderation.
- Approve: Allow a comment to appear on your live post.
- Mark as Spam: Tell Akismet that this comment contains elements it should recognize as spam in the future.
- Move to Trash: Delete the comment permanently.
User comments can be hugely beneficial for your website. Unfortunately, they also require moderation to prevent your posts from turning into a toxic environment.
In this article, we covered four steps for moderating comments in WordPress:
- Configure your Discussion settings.
- Turn on email notifications.
- Install an anti-spam plugin.
- Manually approve and reject comments.