I’m sure your familiar with how to comment on a blog post. You’ve probably done it many times before on other blogs.
But now that you have your own website, you’re in control. And you’ll need to know how to moderate the comments you receive on a daily basis, once you start writing and your visitors start leaving their own comments.
You’ll be glad to know that WordPress makes it quite easy for you to manage comments on you blog.
So let’s take a look at where all of the controls are.
Understanding The Terminology
Before we get into the specific tools for moderating your comments, let’s make sure we understand the terminology used in your WordPress dashboard in regards to comments.
- CommentsComments are pretty self explanatory. I’m sure you know what they are, but here’s what they look like in your WordPress dashboard.
Below you’ll see an image of a comment as it would appear in your WordPress dashboard. Notice that it has an avatar next to the name and email address of the person who posted it.
- PingbacksPingbacks are quite different than comments. And while you may not really care about them, you will encounter them on your blog. So it’s best to understand what they do, so you can turn them off if you don’t want to moderate them.
A pingback shows up in the comments section of your dashboard and eventually on your blog post, when someone on another website links from their blog article to one of your blog articles.
This happens by default and automatically with WordPress, but you can turn this feature off if you’d like.
Here’s what a pingback looks like:
Notice how a pingback differs in appearance from a comment. There’s no avatar, and the name of the article and a link to it are provided to the left. Also notice the excerpt from the pingback starts and ends with ellipsis (three dots) enclosed by brackets – a telltale visual sign you’ll get used to spotting.
- TrackbacksTrackbacks are very similar to pingbacks, but they are manual instead of automatic. They aren’t used much anymore since pingbacks were introduced and are more convenient to use.
How to Adjust Your Comments Settings
When your blog is new, it’s a good idea to take a look at all of the comments settings and adjust them to your liking.
If you don’t take the time to do it in the beginning, you could end up with a bunch of unwanted spam as well as a lot of pissed off readers who don’t come back.
There’s one main place where you’ll be adjusting your comments settings.
1. Get there by going to, “Settings” > “Discussion” in the left-hand navigation.
What you’ll then see is the following screen of options on the right-hand side.
Here are some brief explanations of each section and the settings you might want to select for each.
2. Default Article Settings
In general, you can leave these three settings checked just as they are by default.
Here are the specific functions of each option so you can better decide whether you want to enable them or not.
- “Attempt to notify any blogs linked to from the article” – This option tells WordPress to send out a ping to any website that you link to in your articles. If the site that you link to allows pingbacks, then a link will be established in the comments section on their blog that leads back to your website.
- “Allow link notifications from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks)” – This option tells WordPress whether or not to allow pingbacks. If this is checked, any other website that links to your specific article will receive a link in the comments section of your website. If you start getting a lot of spam in the form of pingbacks, you may want to deselect this option.
- “Allow people to post comments on new articles” – This options turns the commenting feature on or off for your whole blog. As stated right below this option, any of these options can be overridden on individual articles.
3. Other comment settings
Next we have some more specific options that will give you even more control over how comments on your site behave. Let’s take a look at each:
- “Comment author must fill out name and e-mail” – When selected, this option requires the comment author to provide a name and email address in order to submit a comment successfully. It’s highly recommended you leave this option selected.
- “Users must be registered and logged in to comment” – This requires a user to first register with your site, and then log in before submitting a comment. This might be one defensive measure if you’re having trouble with spam, but it will deter a lot of legitimate comments as well. So I don’t recommend it, if you can avoid using it.
- “Automatically close comments on articles older than 14 days” – This option allows you to close comment threads after a given time period has elapsed.
- Enable threaded (nested) comments 5 levels deep” – It’s probably best to leave this at the default setting or a lower number. The highest you can select is 10 levels, but your theme needs to be specifically coded to support it.
- Break comments into pages with 50 top level comments per page and the last page displayed by default” – You probably won’t need to change this setting at first, but if you do get a large number of comments, then you can use this setting to break them up into pages.
- “Comments should be displayed with the older comments at the top of each page” – As you might have guessed, you can use this option to reverse the order in which comments are displayed, with either the newer or older ones at the top.
4. E-mail me whenever
- “Anyone posts a comment” – WordPress will automatically send you a notification when someone posts a comment. This is very handy for keeping an eye on what’s happening on your site without having to log in. The email is sent to the author of that specific post.
- “A comment is held for moderation” – If you have the option above checked, you don’t actually need this one. But in the event that you don’t, this will be helpful for notifying you that you need to moderate (approve or reject). The email is sent to the owner of the blog that’s listed under, “Administration” > “Settings” > “General”.
5. Before a comment appears
- “An administrator must always approve the comment” – Checking this option will create a lot of work for you, as you’d have to approve or reject each and every comment. However, if you’re having trouble with spam, you might want to turn this on until you get it figured out.
- “Comment author must have a previously approved comment” – This is perhaps the best way to simplify the control of spam in your comments. The idea is that, if a commenter has already proven himself with an appropriate comment, then he’ll be able to freely post comments without need for moderation.
6. Comment Moderation
- “Hold a comment in the queue if it contains 2 or more links.” – Of course you want your visitors to be able to leave relevant links in their comments. This setting helps you pick up on users who are abusing that privilege by holding the comment for moderation until you can check it out.
7. Hold Comment For Moderation
- “When a comment contains any of these words in its content, name, URL, e-mail, or IP, it will be held in the moderation queue.” – This is where you can start to get a handle on spam. If you find that a certain person is spamming your comments, you can add their name, URL, email or IP address to block them. You can even add all of those things for the same person. Just make sure that each entry is on a separate line. Then if anything matches, the comment will be held for you to moderate.
8. Comment Blacklist
- “When a comment contains any of these words in its content, name, URL, e-mail, or IP, it will be marked as spam.” – Very similar to the box above, yet with a different outcome. Just list the piece of information you’re using to identify the spammer, and then when a comment matches that information, it’ll automatically be marked as spam and move to your spam folder. This helps eliminate the time-consuming job of moderating comments that you already know are going to be spam.
- Avatar Display – Simple enough. Check the box if you want avatars displayed with your comments. Uncheck if you don’t.
- Maximum Rating – When users create their “Gravatar” they are given the opportunity to rate the appropriateness of their avatar photo. This is based on a scale from “G” to “X”, with “X” being the worst. Here you can select the level of Gravatars you’d like to have shown on your site.
- Default Avatar – This option will set the default avatar to be shown for commenters who don’t have a Gravatar associated with their email address. The “generated” avatars will change randomly based on the letters and numbers in the commenter’s email address.
10. Save Changes
Last, but certainly not least, make sure to save you changes before you attempt to navigate to another page.
3 Places to Moderate Comments
There are five different places that you can access the comments on your blog in order to moderate them. Some are more convenient than others depending on where you’re working at the time. So it’s good to know all of your options.
- Left-Hand Navigation
On the left side of your WordPress dashboard, you can find the “Comments” menu item and click it. From there, you’ll have access to all of the comments on your blog and be able to “Approve”, “Unapprove”, “Mark As Spam” or “Move To Trash”.
When you first log into your Dashboard, you’ll see a “Discussion” column on the right-hand side. This will give you a quick visual, as well as links to the different categories of comments and the number of comments you have in each.
- Recent Comments
Also showing when you first log into your Dashboard will be the “Recent Comments” in the right-hand window. This window will show you the most recent comments posted to your blog, along with the information of the poster, and an excerpt of the comment. From here you can: “Approve”, “Reply”, “Edit”, “Spam” or “Trash” the comment.
- Posts (Backend)You can moderate the comments for any post within the backend page for that post. In other words, just go to, Posts > All Posts, and then click on the post you want to edit the comments for.
The comments won’t show up by default, so you need to turn them on by going to, Screen Options > Comments, in the upper right-hand corner of your dashboard AFTER you get to the post page.
You should then see a box show up down below the post box that looks like this…
- Posts (Frontend)Of course, you can always go the the blog post itself, and Edit or Reply to comments. The only problem there is, you can’t Unapprove, Trash or Spam comments from the frontend. Also, you’ll want to make sure you’re logged in, or you won’t be able to Edit or Reply either.
Wrapping It Up
In this article, we identified the differences between comments, pingbacks and trackbacks.
Then we went on to explain how to adjust your comment settings so as to make it easy for you to combat spam and moderate comments more effectively.
Finally, we talked about the five different places you can moderate comments from both the frontend and backend of your WordPress website.
In a future article, we’ll tackle the topic of combatting spam, which will also make the job of comment moderation more manageable.
If you have any questions about comment moderation, leave your comment below… and make it a good one, or I won’t approve it! 😉
Photo by: CollegeDegrees360