You’re probably looking at the title of this blog and thinking “Comment Policy, eh? What’s one of those and why do I need one?”.
Of course, if your blog is a wasteland of old blog posts and spam comments waiting to be moderated. Chances are you’re probably not going to get much use from this blog post. But for the rest of you, it may well be worth investing a few more minutes of your day reading on…
What should you include in your Comment Policy
Since it’s basically a set of ground rules for your visitors who are commenting on your website’s blog and any of your social channels. You’re free to choose what you include, but here are some pointers on the types of things you may want to consider.
Moderation, Editing & Spam
If you open your blog to comments, you’re going to be spending a lot of time on these three things. So laying some ground rules from the off on how you handle each of these is probably going to be the most important section of your entire Comment Policy…
You probably know already that it’s not a good idea to leave the comment section open for anybody to leave a comment.
As so, you may want to add information on how you moderate comments, trackbacks and pingbacks on your blog. It may also be useful to explain that if a comment is not showing up on the blog yet, it may simply be because an admin has not had the chance to click approve yet.
Are you going to approve and publish all comments ‘warts and all’ or are you likely to fix any spelling or grammatical errors?
If so, you may wish to add a section highlighting that you are doing this to improve the readability of your blog comments, and that no others changes will be made.
Now let’s face it, the majority of spam within your comment section will be automated so it’s highly unlikely that anybody will have even visited your website, nor even been made aware of your Comment Policy.
Either way, it’s useful for drawing a line in the sand and making real visitors to your website aware that any comments they post which you consider to be spam will be marked as “spam” (if you’re using WordPress and Akismet for example) and deleted.
You may also take this a step further advice that the spammers IP address will also be blocked so they no longer have access to your website, if you feel they are abusing your rules by posting spammy comment repeatedly or attacking you or your other commenters.
Language & Behaviour
You may wish to set out a few ‘house rules’ here for how people should be expected to conduct themselves within the comments section.
Some websites and blogs transcend continents and will have customers and visitors from all over the World talking many different languages. Your blog may be in English only and potentially have a built-in translation tool available (or visitors may use something like Google Translate to read the content).
So, you may wish to point out to commenters what your language requirements are. Are you happy to accept comments in other languages or would you rather keep the comments in the same language of the website and blog?
Profanity or Flaming
For the most part, I would assume you probably don’t want anything like this in the comments section, so it would be advisable to make it clear that this type of thing will not be tolerated.
You may also want to add what you will do if people continually break the rules, by adding comments that include swearing, or attack you or other commenters.
Will you simply edit out the bits you don’t like or will you be firm and delete all comments of this nature without exception?
Blog commenting isn’t the link building of choice for most these days. But can still be useful for building your own reputation if you add comments which enhance the content already on a blog post.
As so, you may well find that there are people still using this tactic and visiting your blog to add some further perspective to what you have written. Of course, others will simply be there to say things like “thanks for the blog post” so they can get a link… Oh well…
Some people like to use a URL shortener for tracking purposes so they can measure the number of clicks from various sources which is fine.
However, there are also people who make take this a step further and take the opportunity to use it to redirect to their website initially until the blog comment is approved and then switch the url to another website.
As so, if you’re not happy about people using them for their links in the “website” section of the comment. Add a section here highlighting that you will remove all of these links without exception.
This probably doesn’t happen as often in blog comments as it would in a forum post for example, but still worth including something about not allowing affiliate links within the “website” section of the comment. And that all of these links will be removed without exception.
Linking to Internal Pages
Most people commenting will add a homepage link to the “website” section of the comments. However, there are always going to be people who trawl the Internet looking for suitable blog posts talking about a product or service they sell in order to comment and get links.
The issue is, sometimes this can become a clear link building effort when they try and add an internal link to one of their product or service pages, to the “website” section of the comment.
There is no saying in Google’s eyes this could or would be an issue. But in this day and age of Penguins and Panda’s. Your own websites health is of more importance than your visitors need to build links.
Links in the comment body
There will also be times when people add links to the body of the comment too. These may be links to other websites which complement your blog post and offer more insight which may be useful to your visitors.
However, there will also be times when people add links to the comment body linking to pages on their own website too.
How do you handle these situations? It’s worth pointing out here what you find acceptable and what you will potentially edit or even delete completely.
There is no real point in people adding these, but some people will like to add one regardless with information on who they are, or adding in a business or website name and potentially a link. The possibilities are almost endless!
Of course, this is down to personal preference but in a blog comments, I don’t personally see any reason for using them so may consider removing that portion of a comment. However, you may have no issue with them and be happy to allow them.
As so, if you’re like me, it may well be worth including information here on how you handle these types of comments.
Do you allow them? Do you edit the comment and remove the signature? Do you delete all comments with a signature?
Real Names & Email Address
I’ve covered the website in the comments section, but how about the Name and Email Address sections?
Nicknames and pen names, you may prefer not to have them and instead want people to use their real names which is fine.
The bigger issue is when people add a link to their website in the “website” section of the comment, along with their main keyword anchor text. This is clearly done as a link building tactic by misguided individuals and spammers.
So, you may want to make it clear in your Comment Policy that these are not allowed and how you deal with them. Edit the commenters name (if you know their real name), change it to the name of the website or even consider deleting the comment entirely (especially since many of these comments will be spam anyway).
Real Email Addresses
Nobody likes spam, so many people are a little guarded about sharing their email addresses on blog comments as they do not want to be signed up to marketing offers and newsletters without their approval.
As so, you may want to add a section outlining how you use (or more likely not use) their email address for anything other than updating them on future comments on the blog post they have commented on.
If you do have a newsletter or any other form of email marketing on your website, then add an optional click to sign-up button when a blog comment is left rather than automatically adding them.
No matter if you have a ‘contact us’ page, and/or a dedicated page with a separate contact form for submitting support requests and potentially even leaving feedback and reviews.
You can almost guarantee that people will manage to miss all of these and visit your latest blog post and leave support requests or feedback on these without really reading the content of the blog.
I still have no idea why this happens, and I don’t think I ever will…
Handling Support Requests
In the cases where somebody is trying to reach out for help with a product or service you sell. How do you handle these situations? Do you publish the comment with a reply stating that you do not handle support requests in the comment section? And provide a link to the relevant section of the website? And/or do you reach out to them using their email address for the purpose of providing support?
Republishing Feedback, Testimonials & Reviews
For instance, if somebody leaves a comment in which you get great feedback, do you reserve the right to republish that blog comment on a “testimonials” or “reviews” page or use it in some other way?
As so, it may well be worth including information on how you intend to use these on the website. Maybe you seek approval first or you consider the fact that it was added to your website already, you are free to re-use and re-publish the comment/feedback. So, make it clear here.
What else can you add to your Comment policy
Well the great thing about them is they’re totally unique to your website meaning you can include as much or as little as you like. You can use the sections above as a template for your Comment Policy if you choose to add one, or expand on them with other things you want to highlight.
There is no right or wrong to all of this, it’s your blog and your social channels you operate for the benefit of your business and website. So, you can choose whatever rules and guidelines you wish people to follow for the benefit of your community.