Have you ever tried to leave a comment on a blog only to find that it required you to register, sign up for an account, confirm your email address, fill in a nearly impossible to read captcha (am I the only one who can't read those half the time?) and then stand on your hands while chanting, "Please let me comment, please let me comment..."? Then by the time you finally have access to comment, you've forgotten what you wanted to share in the first place!
It's hard enough to get readers to leave their thoughts, without asking them to jump through more hoops. So don't.
I can hear you now, "But the spammers..." Yeah, they stink. I agree. But we can combat it with better strategies.
Strategy #1: Install a spam filter on your comments form.
If you're using WordPress this is as easy as activating Akismet. It's under "Plugins" -> "Installed" and you can click the Activate button then it will give you a red message on the top of your screen asking for a WordPress.com API. You get that by registering for a free account (not a blog, just a user account) with WordPress.com
If you're using another blogging platform check their support options and see what's available.
Strategy #2: Setup your discussion options smartly.
Have you explored your discussion settings yet? They're hiding under "Settings" -> "Discussion" on the left in WordPress. Here's what to pay attention to on the Discussion Settings Page.
General Discussion Settings
(Click any screenshot in this post to see a larger version.)
As you can see in the screenshot, I've chosen to allow people to comment, but require the name and email address to be filled out.
I do not require people to register on my blog in order to leave a comment.
My blog emails me whenever someone posts a comment or when a comment is held for me to moderate.
And if I've previously approved a comment from someone they're able to post more comments without it being held for moderation (I may change that in the future if it becomes a problem but for now it's working for me).
Next set of options: Moderation and Blacklist Filters
If you want a comment held for moderation if it contains links, set the number in that box. Mine is set to 2. This means if you leave a comment and link just to one other page/post/site, it's fine, but if you link to multiple sites the comment will be held for me to choose whether to approve or not. This is because often a spammer will include a bunch of links in their comment.
Next, if certain words are flag words for you but might not be spam, put them in the moderation box. I've blanked mine out in the screenshot here so it's not easy to get around. ;)
Then you can create a blacklist where you might add words that you know for sure are from spammers. Certain medications, for example... this is a good place to add those words. If a comment contains a word on the list it will be automatically marked as spam and will require no intervention from you.
And on to the next group of settings, Avatars.
Under this section you can decide whether or not to display Avatars along with comments. I like to see who's commenting so I have mine set to show avatars, but only ones rated G. You can block offensive avatars by setting that to an appropriate rating.
Be sure to click the button to save your changes after you've modified them.
These settings will help manage your comments for you and make it easier for your visitors to comment without overwhelming you with spam and garbage.
Strategy #3: Post (and stick to) a comment policy.
Coming in tomorrow's post...