Free Your Comments!

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 API.  You get that by registering for a free account (not a blog, just a user account) with

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

This section allows you to create two things: a moderation filter and a blacklist filter.

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…


  1. says

    Let’s shout out an “Amen!” for this post!

    Thanks so much for addressing this issue. I just hate those captcha thingies. I’m with you – I can’t read them half the time – No, make that MOST of the time!
    I’ve been coming up against all kinds of “snags” during this 30-day blogging challenge in regards to leaving comments on people’s blogs. Some of the folks have graciously looked into the problems and fixed them right away. There’s one member of the event who has some type of widget or badge right inside the comment box that prevents you from even clicking inside the space to post a comment. I don’t get it? And some of the folks using Blogger blogs don’t have a profile sign-out choice that applies to me so I can’t leave a comment there, either.

    I think people worry the most about spammers. You’ve provided the solutions for that nasty little issue!

    .-= Melanie Kissell’s last blog ..Oh For The Love Of God! It’s Just A Blog Post. =-.

    • says

      I have too, Melanie. One blog I couldn’t even figure out how to comment on. I’m not sure if they had comments closed or were just really good at hiding the option, but either way they missed out on a compliment because I thought the post was excellent. Hopefully this post will be helpful for those who are concerned about overwhelming spam but do want to allow people to comment. :)

  2. says

    You’ve done a great job explaining this thorny issue, Michelle. I think I have my prefernces set the same as yours, and Akismet catches the spam all right. I wouldn’t be without that plug-in.
    Now I haven’t had any of the challenges that you, Melanie and Karen have mentioned in respect of posting comments to blogger from firefox – I suppose I WILL now :) But I’ll take a good look on the next one and see what is different.

    On the road to being Uncommon..
    Kind regards

  3. says

    Yeah! Thank you for the post! I have now finally set up Akismet correctly. I was missing the API. I had over 4,000 comments, almost all spam. It was hard to go through all that to find the legit one’s.

  4. says

    Hi Michelle,

    great post! I hadn’t ever bothered with the “Moderation and Blacklist Filters” stuff before, but now I know what it is, I will!!

    I use WordPress extensively (for all my clients) and have taken to install another plugin called “Wp captcha free” – you just install it, no configuring required, and it does some smart techie checking & has reduced the amount of spam even tgetting through to Akismet (where it is generally stopped, of course!) from over 100 a day to about 3 or 4 a week – a brilliant combo of 2 plugins!

    Thanks again!
    Tracey Rissik recently posted… Getting your website found locallyMy Profile

  5. says

    Thanks for the information Michelle. I had all but 1 correct. I must not have been paying attention in that WP class. Just kidding. It was a couple of years ago and full of great information.

    Just courious, why the monster gravitar?

    • says

      LOL I thought it was funny at the time. I changed it a while back to the boring mystery man. Eventually I’ll customize it with an image that reflects my blog. I have a half-written blog post on how to do that. I should finish it. :)

  6. says

    I may be late to the comment party, but I agree with a vengeance.
    Captcha is one problem. The other one are these folks who want one to use OpenID (and it rejects mine) or WordPress (which then automatically adds the comment WordPress in parentheses- to tell me I have an illegal character.)
    The only thing worse than this is when you want to write to a US Congressperson who is a CHAIRMAN of a committee only to be told- Sorry, you don’t live in his/her district. Hmm- chair of a NATIONAL committee and you have to live in the district.
    Maybe the bloggers have been emulating those folks!
    Roy A. Ackerman, Ph.D., E.A. recently posted… Sugar and antibiotics- not so nice…My Profile

  7. Shelly Ann Black says

    It looks like my blog settings are already set to what you recommend it just a matter of me getting more people viewing my blog and reading it.


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