Did you know that people who leave mean comments on blogs are called trolls? It's an image that suits them.
But there's still so much misunderstanding around social media some people don't know what a blogger is, let alone a troll. Others don't know the difference between a blog post and a comment.
My local paper recently wrote an article about how someone had been slammed by bloggers.
When I went to look at the site they mentioned it wasn't the blog post which was critical, it was the commenters. They really let rip. But since none of those commenters provided a link to their blog, or even left a proper name, they weren't bloggers, just trolls.
Stories like that scare a lot of new bloggers and when I take blogging workshops I often get asked:
“Isn't it a nuisance getting comments from people?”
“Do I have to bother replying to my blog comments?”
“But how do I deal with spam comments?”
So that's why I want to share more tips on how to deal with blog comments. This is what I do.
1. Install Akismet
Install the Akismet spam blocker plug-in which will filter out 99% of the spam comments on your blog. These comments mainly come from people who are pushing sex, drugs and other products. I wish I could have said rock and roll but sadly they're not as fun as that.
Spam comments aren't by people who have read your blog post so the comments are generic and probably automatically generated too.
Instead of using a real name like “Jane Doe” spammers use the name of their product in the hope it will improve their search engine ranking.
To give you an idea of how bad the problem is in the last six months Successful Blogging has attracted over 1,200 comments. Thankfully Akismet has filtered and placed them in the spam folder so I don't have to ever see those blog comments, read them or manually delete them.
I'm grateful for this because what's in there is vile.
Very occasionally Akismet makes a mistake and puts a genuine comment from a real person in the spam folder. When this happens the commenter usually emails me saying their comment didn't appear on the blog whereupon I go find it in the spam folder, approve it and email the commenter explaining what happened.
2. Set your blog comments to be approved before they go live
When someone new has left a comment I get an email telling me. Then I can read it and approve it. Once I've approved the first comment from a new reader all their following comments will go live immediately.
You can choose to set your blog comments so they go live immediately but I prefer to get notified when there's a new comment so I can reply to it.
3. Reply to your blog comments
I love my commenters because:
- Comments add value to my blog posts by sharing their tips, tricks and techniques.
- Comments give me feedback on my blog, not only by what they say but by what they don't say. If a blog post receives heaps of comments I know that's a topic or blog post style that interests my readers and I should write more like that. If a post doesn't get many comments it lets me know that topic doesn't resonate with my readers so all comments (or lack of them) constantly help me improve my blog.
- Comments make my blog look good. Social proof is huge and the having comments on my blog shows new readers that my blog is popular, worth reading and has a strong community.
- My blog isn't about me. It's about the community of people who read it then create bonds with each other here through commenting on the blog posts.
So of course I reply to my commenters, not because I feel I have to, but because I want to.
A blog post starts a conversation then the readers who leave a comment continue that conversation. I'd never ignore my comments just as I don't ignore clients that call or email me.
Having said that there are limits to the amount of time we have to respond to comments and not every comment on my blog has received a reply. I concentrate on replying to comments on new posts but, if an interesting comment or question comes up on an older blog post, I'll reply to that too.
There may come a time when I can't reply to every comment on new blog posts but even by leaving one or two replies, readers will know that I read all the comments and that I care about them and their opinions.
4. Delete mean or irrelevant blog comments
It's your blog. If someone leaves a comment that upsets you or your readers feel free to leave it there or just delete it.
I experienced a few mean comments such as:
“You make me sick.” which I deleted because it didn't add to the conversation.
The goal on both my blogs is to give an upbeat and inspiring place for people to hang out. Reading comments like that doesn't uplift or inspire anyone.
Likewise I experienced one reader who had an axe to grind with a brand I'd mentioned on my blog. He left endless long comments with links to strange websites and videos.
My blog post wasn't about that brand but I felt the need to reply and moderate. But the commenter never let up. They kept leaving more and more comments.
Replying was taking up too much time and energy so in the end I just deleted all their comments and sent them a polite email explaining why. I'm happy to say I never heard from them again.
Please understand that these are isolated cases from over two years of blogging.
5. Create a blog comments policy
I tucked mine away in the legal section mainly to make it clear that I don't want links in my comments because:
a. I can't get links in comments to open in a new window.
b. Some people abuse the system and add links to their blogs.
There are times when I leave the links in the comments if the link is relevant or I know the commenter is a genuine reader.
But having the comments policy in place means I can feel free to delete any links without explaining why and I exercise this right regularly. No one has ever complained.
We don't see many trolls round here for a reason. Like the biggest goat from the Billy Goat's Gruff they get knocked off the bridge and back into the stream where they belong.
Which leaves the way clear for all you lovely blog fairies and angels.
How do you handle your blog comments?