How to Manage Blog Comments

If all goes well and blog readers begin to leave comments on your posts (success!), you will need to budget time to manage and respond to these comments.

How to establish blog community guidelines

You want comments, but you want the right comments for your site. Ideally, your visitors provide on-topic and interesting feedback that encourages conversation with other readers. Make those guidelines straightforward and clear. Your rules may exclude anything you want. Common blog rules outlaw comments that include

  • Racist or bigoted speech

  • Sexually explicit content

  • Discussions or descriptions of violent or criminal acts

  • Unlicensed copyrighted material

  • Threats, harassment, or personal privacy violations

You have to enforce these rules, but simply having them in place can deter troublemakers from posting at all, particularly if you're scrupulous in enforcing your guidelines quickly.

Although some bloggers attack writing with a no-holds-barred attitude, others prefer to keep the space PG rated. It's okay to ask your readers to follow your personal guidelines when adding to your posts with their comments!

The blogging software solution that you use might also have a set of standards in place with which both you and your visitors must comply. For example, Wordpress.com, a hosted blogging solution, places responsibility for content found within comments on the blogger. Every hosted blogging service has its own set of rules that you should be aware of. Don't get caught breaking the rules!

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Over time, you may need to adapt any guidelines that you create, especially while your blog grows in popularity or changes its focus. Be sure to set a time every so often to review your own guidelines and make changes. You might include your visitors in the development of the community guidelines, checking with your readers about what you do to protect them. They'll love you for it.

The blog comment policy on Pistol Packin’ Dad, a site about one man's passion for gun ownership. The site's author makes it very clear to his readers that although debate is welcome, respect is required. He also expresses his right to delete comments at any time. Remember, your blog is yours! If a comment makes you uncomfortable, you do not need to allow it to remain on your site.

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Like Jason from Pistol Packin’ Dad, Amy from Selfish Mom (www.selfishmom.com) makes it clear to her readers that their comments are welcome but she maintains the final say regarding what remains posted on her site. As she states in her policy, “Play nice, or else.” You can read her entire comment policy at http://selfishmom.com/full-disclosure/.

How to edit blog comments

Sometimes, a reader posts a legitimate comment that you need to alter in some way. For example, you might prefer to remove profanity from otherwise legitimate comments or edit a long web link that's breaking a page layout. Whatever the situation, edit a reader's comments delicately.

Your blog is your domain, your kingdom, and your place in the world, so your word is final.

Of course, when you choose to edit a comment, you might want to alert readers that you have done so and why, as has been done in comment #7 on Buzz Marketing with Blogs,. You may also want to lay out in your blog comment policy circumstances in which you'll edit comments. Both these techniques can head off accusations of censorship.

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How to delete blog comments

Unfortunately, not all the comments on your blog are fun to read or even should stay on your blog. When it comes right down to it, you control which comments appear on your blog, whether you moderate them ahead of time or afterward.

You need to moderate comments because quite a few of your blog's comments probably come from spammers and add nothing to the conversation. But sometimes you may need to delete comments from real people that are even on topic. Despite potential criticism from readers, every blogger has to make a choice about what kinds of comments to delete.

Bloggers choose to delete comments for several reasons:

  • Comments are off-topic for the post to which they're attached (a common issue with spam comments).

  • Comments make personal attacks on the blogger or other readers. For example, many bloggers draw the line at comments that contain racial slurs, name-calling, hate language, or speculation about things such as sexual orientation. People who leave these types of comments are often called trolls.

  • Comments left anonymously or by using a fake name and e-mail address.

  • Comments feature a URL apparently included for marketing purposes.

  • Comments are libelous.

  • Comments are obscene.

  • Comments contain private information (which you don't want to make public).

  • Comments contain plagiarized material.

In blogging terms, a troll is an individual who posts irrelevant and often inflammatory things in blog comments. Trolls try to get an emotional response out of people and can be quite disruptive. Most blogs won't see any troll activity, but if you become popular, they will make an appearance from time to time.

How to moderate blog comments

The single best solution for keeping spam off your blog is to read each and every comment left on your blog individually, removing the comments that are spam or inappropriate. Sifting through your blog's comments is called moderating. Moderating your blog comments can add overhead to your blogging time, but if you're dedicated to making your blog successful and useful to your readers, it's time well spent.

You have several options for how you manage the time that you spend looking through comment lists, but the method you choose as your primary line of defense depends on how your community grows.

You, your community, your software, or a combination of all three can moderate your blog. Some bloggers have strong preferences at the outset, but you can experiment with the best setup for your blog and readers.

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