There are a lot of different factors that help to make a blog successful, and reader engagement is one of those factors. A blog that has a high level of reader engagement is likely to receive a lot of quality comments from readers, and a blog that gets a lot of comments is likely to benefit from that high level of engagement.
The commenting functionality was a key issue in the rise to popularity for blogging several years ago. Visitors who were accustomed to reading static pages with no option to leave their own feedback typically appreciated the opportunity to interact with the blogger and other readers. Over the past few years it seems like more of this discussion has shifted to sites like Twitter and Facebook as many blogs have seen a decrease in comment activity. However, the opportunity is still there for blogs to benefit greatly from an active comment area.
In this article we’ll take a look at the different commenting options that are available to bloggers who are using self-hosted WordPress to power their blogs. Most of these options are also available for other blogging platforms as well.
Native WordPress Comments
WordPress includes the necessary functionality to support reader comments, and no third-party plugin or app is needed. If you’re using a free theme or a premium theme, chances are that the comment functionality will work just fine without the need for any of the third-party apps or plugins that we’ll be looking at later. However, that doesn’t mean that there are not features that can benefit both you and your readers through the use of these other options.
Regardless of what theme you are using, you can probably implement any of the third-party options relatively easily. If you’re creating your own custom theme from scratch, using a third-party option may be able to save you some time, as you won’t have to dedicate the same effort to design and code the comments area.
There are a few significant benefits to sticking with the native WordPress comments functionality. First, it gives you more design freedom since most of the third-party options give you very little control over the look and feel of your comments. If you are aiming to create a comments area that involve a unique look or will make a strong visual statement, sticking with the native WordPress comments functionality is likely your best bet.
Second, there are loads of great WordPress plugins available that involve the comments area, and most of them will only work if you are using the native comments functionality. For example, CommentLuv is a very popular plugin that will automatically add a link to the commenters most recent blog post, which encourages comments.
Third, many bloggers who have used third-party options and have wanted to switch back to the native comments have experienced problems, and in some cases lost all of the comments collected through that third-party app/plugin.
Fourth, the native comments tend to load faster than any of the third-party options. While this will make a small difference in page load time, it can still be a factor.
DISQUS is probably the most popular of the commenting systems, and it comes with a number of features that make it an excellent choice. For starters, designers will appreciate that DISQUS makes it easy to add a mobile-friendly comments section to a blog, and it can be used with responsive layouts.
DISQUS offers threaded real-time comments so commenters can reply directly to others and the conversations are easy to follow. Comments can also be voted up or down by readers.
At the bottom of the comment area DISQUS will also show links to a few related posts with a comment from a reader, which is great for helping to promote other content on your blog and encouraging more pageviews.
In addition to comments, DISQUS will also track and show reactions to your posts that have been tweeted.
Intense Debate is developed by Automattic, the people behind WordPress. Like DISQUS, Intense Debate also offers real-time comments. Those who have Intense Debate accounts can accumulate reputation points, which can help their comments to show up above other comments with lower scores.
Increased discussion is encouraged through the option to subscribe to replies and the option to reply to comments by email.
Intense Debate also offers a few widgets that can be used on your blog to display recent comments, comment stats, most popular posts, and more.
As far as social integration is concerned, commenters can opt to send a simultaneous tweet when posting a comment.
Livefyre hasn’t been around as long as DISQUS and Intense Debate, but it has developed a strong user base. Livefyre’s main features involve integrating your blog and social media to benefit from the popularity of sites like Twitter and Facebook.
The SocialSync feature pulls in comments/posts from Twitter and Facebook, and you can reply and interact with these comments just like you could with standard blog comments.
Livefyre also includes a friend tagging feature so you can easily invite Twitter and Facebook friends to participate in the conversation. Commenters can also share their comments on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
Another interesting feature is media embedding. Comments can include things like YouTube videos, photos from Instagram, slide decks from SlideShare, and more.
As you have probably noticed, all of the third-party options that we have looked at include some sort of functionality to integrate social media into your comments area. Well, another option is to use Facebook’s comments option.
There are some significant pros and cons to using Facebook comments. First, on the positive side, it is a great way to increase your blog’s exposure on Facebook and to increase traffic from Facebook as comments will be shown on your blog posts and also on Facebook.
On the negative side, comments are not actually hosted in your database. Also, visitors will need to have a Facebook account in order to be able to leave a comment. While most visitors will have Facebook accounts, it can feel alienating to those who don’t.
Like many other things in life, there is no choice that is right or wrong for everyone and for every situation. I encourage you to read the information available from each option when you are looking for a comments system, and make the best choice for your own situation. If you do a few Google searches you will find blog posts from people who love each one of these options, and you’ll also find posts from people who despise them. I’d also encourage you to read some of these reviews and posts because there may be something said that specifically applies to your own situation that can help with your decision.
For my projects I typically use the standard WordPress comment functionality as it works well and allows more freedom in terms of design and the use of other comment-related plugins. When I don’t use the standard WordPress comments I typically go with DISQUS, and from my experience it has been a good solution, and it’s the one I prefer over the other third-party options.