Enable comments: become an authority and boost user engagement

One question pops up again and again when working with businesses on their website. Should we enable comments or not? My answer is always the same, and these are the reasons why.

Quickly, an explanation for those who are not familiar with comments or how they work. By enabling comments in WordPress (and other content management systems) you are providing your audience with the option to publish their own thoughts at the end of the page in the form of a comment. Comments can be replied to by the author or other readers, and discussions can form.

I believe businesses should turn comments on

Enabling comments is a good idea because they can easily lead to win-win situations.

If a member of your audience adds and extra bit of detail or clarifies a point for you, then the usefulness of your content has just gone up without you lifting a finger. Win!

Many commenters will ask questions in the comments section. Responding to these questions can be really powerful for a couple of reasons:

  • By replying you’re no longer just a website in your audiences eyes, you’re a website being run by a person, and people connect with people much more than they connect with a website alone.
  • Answering a question in the comments presents you as an authority on the subject. People like doing business with people who are authorities in their fields.
  • Your website is now a two-way communications tool and people will relate to you, the person behind the site, rather than “just a website”. This really helps build trust levels.

Be comfortable rejecting useless comments and be ready for spam

Comments do have a darker side though and it is this darker side that leads to the comments on or off question popping up so much.

You will need to manage (approve or reject) comments as they come in—you choose to do this before their public or after the fact. There are people who will leave useless, or just plan insulting comments and it will be your job to decide weather a comment makes the cut.

I usually suggest a common sense approach to the approve or reject decision. If comments are rude or insulting you should happily reject it. But don’t be afraid of approving a comments that question or oppose your opinions. That’s a discussion starting and it’s a good sign.

For most business sites managing comments is not onerous, but can become unmanageable if the number of comments is regularly huge. This is one of those “victim of your own success” situations which means you’re doing something right, and there are options tools and services available to help you, like requiring commenters to signup before they can comment.

Comment spam is a very real issue too. If you enable comments without also enabling spam comment protection you will be quickly inundated with comments from automated spammers with zero relevance to your content or your audience. The most common spam comment protection for WordPress is a plugin called Akismet. It is built by the same team who build WordPress and is a must for any website with comments enabled.

No comments is fine too

Based on the management and spam issues you may decide to disable comments—and this is a perfectly valid choice. Doing comments badly is worse than not doing comments.

The quickest and easiest to disable comments across all your posts, pages, and media attachment pages is to use the Disable Comments plugin. This plugin allows you to disable comments globally, or per post type which is nice. I’ve been been flooded with spam comments because I didn’t take into consideration the rarely used media attachment pages. That won’t happen to you with this Disable Comments.

More likeable and trustworthy

At the end of the day, most business sites are aiming to convert visitors into customers. Visitors are way more likely to become a customer if they like you and they trust you, and enabling comments is a very effective way to boost both.

Happy commenting!