What makes WordPress a powerful platform is that not only can you create a dynamic website, but you can also allow for dynamic discussions about the content with your visitors. However, comments, the bread and butter of discussions, can add to the overhead of your website management. You have to keep up with responses to your commenters or they will think you aren’t paying attention. Comments also can come, unfortunately, in the form of Spam. We will give you some additional information about dealing with Spam in another section. For now, here’s how to manage your Discussion Settings.
- Start at the Dashboard.
- Navigate to Settings > Discussion
- The two main forms of discussion on a website are: “Allow link notifications from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks) on new articles” and “Allow people to post comments on new articles.”
- Comments are self-explanatory. People come to your website, read an article, and as long as you allow comments, people can write whatever is on their mind. Commenters must leave their name and email address (if you leave that setting checked). You can also require users to be registered to your site to comment. They would then need to be logged in to submit any comments. By default you will get an email sent to the admin account of the WordPress site when someone posts a comment, or when a comment is held in moderation. You can uncheck those boxes if you do not wish to receive those emails.
- A comment will appear on the article (post or page) only after you approve it. If you have approved a comment author once, they will be automatically approved the next time they leave a comment on your site. If you uncheck the box labeled “Comment author must have a previously approved comment”, then all comments will appear automatically. We don’t recommend this setting.
- You also have some control over comment moderation regarding how many links a comment contains (spammers like to put links in their “comments”). You also can filter out words, URLs, email addresses, to hold them in moderation. You can then approve them, spam them, or trash them.
- There are also forms of discussion called link notifications. Spammers like these too. Here’s an article on the What, Why, and How-To’s of Trackbacks and Pingbacks in WordPress.
Sometimes it’s nice to have visual representations of the people who are commenting on your blog. These are called Avatars and can be found under Settings > Discussion.
WordPress uses a common universal system of avatars called Gravatars (Globally Recognized Avatars). The system requires you to sign up with your email address. You can upload a graphical representation of yourself (a picture or other graphic). From then on you are identified with your Gravatar on any blog that you use that email address with.
In the WordPress Discussion Settings, you have a few options. Whether to show Avatars at all, the “rating” allowed to be shown, and what the default Avatar will be if a user does not have a Gravatar.
Managing Comment Spam with Akismet
Spam is common on WordPress blogs. Many users will prefer to turn off comments altogether (see “Enable and Disable Comments on Future Posts”), but if you want to use comments on your blog, you’ll want to activate the Akismet plug to manage spam.
To get started we need to activate a plugin. To activate this plugin:
- Click on the Dashboard
- Navigate to Plugins > Installed Plugins
- At or near the top of the list of plugins that are automatically installed in a new WordPress installation, is Akismet. It is not activated, so part of the process of getting Akismet is Activating the plugin. Before you activate it, however, you need to get an API key. API stands for Application Programming Interface, and it’s a way for programs and services to “talk” to each other. The Akismet plugin requires you to get an Akismet API Key, which is simply a “code” that you supply when activating the plugin. The key is free if you use it on a personal WordPress installation, and it’s available on the Akismet website.
- Once you arrive on the Akismet for WordPress site, click the Get an Akismet API key button.
- If you have an account at WordPress.com you can sign in with that login and get your key. Otherwise, fill in an email address, a username, and a password to use for a new account. Click the Sign-up button to proceed.
- Type in the URL of the site you’ll use Akismet on and click on the Sign-up button under the Personal plan (that is if you want it to be the free version). When you get to the next page, the recommended contribution is $36. You can adjust the slider down to $0.
- Fill in your name and click Continue.
You’re finished with the sign-up process for your key, and it will be displayed on the page for you (we’ve blurred ours out). Now follow the steps that they show you for using your new key. You will enter the key in either the Akismet area under Plugins or JetPack (if you have that installed).