One of the hallmarks of the WordPress content management system is the ability to engage a user audience and create a back-and-forth conversation of sorts in the virtual world. And while WordPress has some terrific plugins available that can help you create and manage a comment section on your site, too often unforeseen problems and lapses exist that stymie the commenting process.
Sometimes the problem leading to a dearth of comments is the way the site itself is being administered: not replying to visitors who opine on a post, discouraging ongoing discussions with users by utilizing a slow or inefficient comment section etc. Yet other times a lack of comments may be due to technical issues that an administrator—especially one new to WordPress—is unaware of and doesn’t have the knowledge to remedy.
Regardless of why a site doesn’t foster an active comment board, there are some quick and easy ways to change the issue. From technical solutions to simple changes in site structure and administration, here are a handful of ideas to help your most important resource—your visitors—join in the conversation.
- WordPress experts will tell you that a website comment section can strain internal resources, especially for your web hosting server. Each time someone leaves a remark, the server has to run a PHP script, and when multiple visitors are commenting concurrently it can put burden on the host and slow the entire site down considerably. This can be a turn-off for your users, so be sure you have a hosting provider that can handle strong comment traffic.
- CAPTCHA has become the go-to resource for blocking spam in a comment section: type in series of letters and numbers or a word from a picture and get access to the section. However it’s not the most user-friendly program out there: instead consider enabling “comment moderation” on your site and manually approve each and every comment that comes in. You’ll still effectively block spam, and you’ll be brought into closer interaction with your users.
- A great way to build a dialogue with your audience is to allow users to reply to their own comments. When someone leaves a note, there’s no way for them to be automatically alerted when someone replies: they’ll need to keep checking in with your site, and many users won’t do that. Check out the online tutorial at the WordPress home page and discover how to let users subscribe to their own comments through an instant notification.
- When a particular post has outlived its exposure, most admins will turn off the comment section for that post as a way to limit spam. But what if visitors sifting through your site find an older post and want to comment on it? If you’re already using the “comment moderation” feature noted above, go ahead and turn on the commenting option for all your posts both old and new: navigate to “Settings, Discussion” and uncheck the box next to “Automatically close comments on articles older that X days.”
- If you want to keep your most recent comments front and center, allow user to look at current discussions by displaying the most recent comments. Go to “Appearance, Widgets” and add “Recent Comments” to a sidebar. Now visitors, no matter where they are on your site, will be alerted to the fact that a discussion is taking place.
- When someone submits a comment, WordPress alerts them that their comment is “awaiting moderation,” or, essentially, approval. Unfortunately they have no idea when or if their comment will be approved. To enable automatic notifications that their comment has been approved, install the Comment Approved plugin and, once it’s activated, go to “Settings, Comment Approved” and configure it as you desire.
- Lastly—and this should be a no-brainer—become an active participant in the discussions that arise from the comments section of your site. You’ll want to reply to as many users as you can, but if this is too much of logistical burden install the “DX Unanswered Comments” plugin and use it to filter through all comments you haven’t dealt with yet. If your site is a busy one, with lots of discussions happening all the time, this will save you a great deal of frustration and greatly aid in managing your comment workload.