Blogger’s comment system is quite different to that of other blogging services, and is not so “friendly” to regular readers who may not understand how this system works.
When faced with a default comment form, visitors to Blogger blogs may feel rather daunted and unwilling to participate in the conversation. However, there are many settings which Blogger authors can change which makes commenting more enticing for readers who are unfamiliar with the way Blogger comments work.
In this post, I’ll explain how you can alter your comment settings in Blogger to make it easier (and more enticing) for readers to comment on your posts, along with a few tips to present comments in a more favorable style.
The main problems with Blogger’s comment system
Many bloggers would agree that, in contrast to other blog comment systems, that employed by Blogger is extremely lacking in functionality!
There are many things about the Blogger comment system which we can’t control, including:
- The comment form, which must always be presented on a separate page
- The lack of moderation settings: we can either moderate ALL comments, or moderate none. There are no language filters or other mechanisms for ensuring unwanted comments don’t appear unless we choose to moderate each and every one!
- No WYSIWYG editor: as Jeremy Martin points out, “WYSIWYG editors are now a consumer expectation”. Sure readers can use basic HTML tags in their comments, but nothing beats the ability to click a button and achieve the same thing!
- The irregular “login” settings: rather than offer commenters the simple function of leaving their name, email address and optional URL when leaving a comment, we are faced with choices of Google Login, OpenID details, Anonymous commenting and finally Name/URL. It seems like overkill to me…
So why does Blogger force us to use this system?
As I’m not a Google employee, I can’t offer an official explanation; however, I can offer some insight based on my perception of the system.
Each comment made to a Blogger blog is hosted separately from the blog post it refers to (perhaps even on a different server). When comments are displayed on posts (and on the comment form page), each is referenced according to it’s unique ID number and the ID of the post to which it was posted.
Separating comments from blog posts closes some security flaws which could otherwise endanger the integrity of a Blogger hosted blog. And as I’m sure those who use Blogger will agree, we receive very little comment spam in contrast to those using WordPress!
Unfortunately, increased security does come at a price: most notably for our blog readers. So let’s explore the possibilities of making commenting on Blogger blogs more friendly and enticing for our readers.
Friendly Comment Settings
In our Blogger dashboards, we have a whole page of settings which we can change to make commenting more appealing for our readers. Here I’ll go through some of the best ways you can alter these settings to invite more comments from your readers.
Who can comment?
Unless you run a private blog, you’ll probably want all of your readers to be able to leave a comment on your posts.
By default, this setting is limited to “users with Google accounts”, which (in my opinion) is the most unfriendly setting of all! It’s unlikely that all of your blog’s readers will be using Blogger themselves; many may not have a Google account (or even know what one is!). Forcing readers to log in or create a Google account simply to leave a comment adds extra steps to actually writing a comment and puts most people off altogether.
Choosing “registered users” is a slightly better alternative, but again this forces readers to need an account of some sort in order to leave a comment. If your readers do not use WordPress, TypePad or OpenID, they will likely be unfamiliar with the login required and again be unwilling (or unable) to comment.
My preferred setting is to allow “Anyone” to comment. This allows readers to sign their comments using their own name (or nickname) and add their blog URL if appropriate.
Using “Anyone” as the setting for who can comment ensures no readers are excluded from the conversation in your blog.
The only downside of this setting is that anonymous comments are allowed too, providing an opening for spammers to attempt comments on your posts. However, as I mentioned earlier, comment spam is rare with Blogger and those which do seep through the security barriers can be deleted with just a few clicks (even faster if you choose to moderate all comments on your blog).
Comment form message
While we cannot access the code used to display the comment form, we are able to add a message which can be read by any reader leaving a comment.
This message could simply be an invitation to comment, or you may like to add some “rules” for the type of comments you allow (for example, asking readers to leave comments which are relevant to the post).
A personal message on the comment form adds a sense of interaction between you and your blog readers, and could assist in generating more comments for your posts.
Show comments in a pop-up window
This setting defines whether the comment form will appear in a small pop-up window or direct readers to a separate page.
Most blog readers would prefer the “pop-up window” option. This is because it’s much easier to access the original post (by closing the pop-up) once a comment has been made.
When the comment form is displayed in the same page, there is no clear link to go back to the original post and continue reading:
As such, the full page comment form provides readers with little incentive to remain on the blog any longer!
Enable comment moderation
This is a tricky one, and only you can decide the setting which will work best for you.
In my own blogs, I choose not to moderate all comments before they are displayed. I have had very few problems with comment spam, and prefer my readers to see comments as soon as they have been made.
However, in cases where you are concerned about any of the following issues, you may prefer to moderate comments before they appear on your blog:
- If your posts are controversial in any way
- If you have suffered from comment spam (or malicious commenters)
- If you have any concerns about the validity of comments in regard to the actual content
- If you prefer to have complete control over all content posted in your blog!
If you do choose to moderate comments, I would strongly advise you to check your dashboard often for notifications. If comments are left unmoderated for long periods of time, readers can become frustrated that their contributions are not valued, and feel less welcomed as a visitor to your blog.
Show word verification for comments
Word verification (or CATCHPA as it is often called) presents a set of letters displayed as an image which readers need to type before leaving a comment on your blog.
This is used by many different blog comment systems, and is intended to thwart spam-bots since it requires human verification.
Personally, I prefer this setting to be activated for my Blogger blogs, which may account for the minimal amount of comment spam I receive. Unfortunately, the CATCHPAs provided by Blogger can at times be difficult to interpret (generally I discover this when my posts attract fewer comments than normal).
If you decide to moderate comments before they are posted, I would suggest there is no need to use the word verification setting (since you can prevent any spammers simply by deleting their comments).
If moderation seems unnecessary to you, perhaps the word verification can add that extra layer of security to reassure you about the validity of comments posted to your blog
More tips for ensuring a friendly comment system
There are also methods available which can make commenting a more inviting prospect for your blog readers. These tips do require you to modify your blog’s HTML code in some way, though the overall changes can be beneficial to reader interaction with your blog:
Change the comment link
Many blog readers will be unaware of the significance of the “0 comments” or “n comments” links (where n is the number of comments attributed to a post) which provides a link to the comments section.
Vin of Dummies Guide to Google Blogger Beta has written a useful post explaining how to change this link to a more familiar phrase.
Highlight author comments
Using a different color or style for comments you have posted in reply to those left by readers can help visitors understand when you have responded. You can read a full tutorial of how to highlight author comments at Blogger Buster.
Add Avatars to Comments
Using MyBlogLog, you can add a useful script to the comments section of your blog which posts an avatar of the commenter beside their comment. This is similar to the Gravatars available to WordPress bloggers. You can read full instructions to add comment avatars in my post on Blogger Buster.
I hope this post will have provided useful information to make your Blogger comments section more appealing for your readers! Please feel free to add your own suggestions by leaving a comment below.