The WordPress development and UI team put a lot of work into WordPress comments. Did you know there are 18 features to a single WordPress comment not counting the comment content itself? Rarely do we stop to consider these powerful features in WordPress, so let’s take time now to understand all the different features and what you can do on the WordPress Comments Panel.
1. The Checkbox
The checkbox is actually one of your most powerful allies in the pursuit of mass comment editing. In Cleaning Up Post Tags with WordPress Bulk Edit I go through the step-by-step details on how to use the bulk edit feature of WordPress to clean up posts, and while most of the powerful bulk editing features are necessary on the Comments panel, it works the same way.
To select many comments and apply a single action to them:
- Select the checkbox for the comments you with to include in the action.
- From the Bulk Actions dropdown menu, choose from Approve, Unapprove, Mark as Spam, Move to Trash.
- Click Apply.
This is ideal for managing a lot of spam comments, many comments waiting for approval, and cleaning up multiple comments.
2. The Gravatar Image
Gravatar images are the defacto avatar for WordPress sites around the world. Through the Profile Panel or directly with Gravatar, register your email and associate it with an image. I explain how to create the image and add it to Gravatar in Adding Avatars and Gravatars to Your WordPress and WordPress.com Blog, but here are a few things you need to know.
- The image is directly linked to an email address. If the commenter uses a non-registered email when commenting, their Gravatar will not appear and a replacement image will be shown.
- WordPress offers several options for Gravatar replacement images. There are several WordPress Plugins which will add more image replacement options, too. These are set at the bottom of the Settings > Discussion Panel.
- Choose your default Gravatar replacement image carefully, matching the look and feel with your WordPress Theme and overall content style.
3. Commenter’s Name
This is where the commenter’s name, as filled out in the comment form, will appear. If the comment is a trackback, the name of the referring site and/or post will appear.
If the commenter doesn’t not fill in the name, WordPress will not leave it blank, changing it to “Anonymous.”
If you wish a name to appear or to change the name they left (for questionable comment spam which I’ll cover below), Click the Quick Edit link (N) and change it. Sometimes people make mistakes, type in the question or their email address in the name space, or do other odd things. The Quick Edit allows you to clean that up fast.
4. Website, Email, and IP Address
This section consists of three links which I call your “opportunities to play detective.” These are the “proof” that the commenter is legitimate. There is a lot you can learn from what people volunteer in two of those three links, and the third might provide even more information. To check any of these links, click them or right click and choose “Open in a New Tab” to open the link and investigate.
If the website is a crap site, a spammer, marketer, or linked to more than just a domain name, it’s probably a spam comment. If the website is legit and the content supports their comment’s value, excellent.
If the website address doesn’t match the email address, maybe you need to check a little further to see if it’s really a person or a bot. You can also use Whois Lookup to look up their domain name information if publicly available.
If you find spam words in the website address or email address, be suspicious.
If you would like to privately contact the commenter, the email address is right there for you to use. The email address also connects with their Gravatar, so if they have an issue with their Gravatar not appearing on your site, check the email address to help them with their troubleshooting.
The link to the IP Address generates a filtered list to all your comments showing every comment with that IP address. This might help track a conversation. This is also a great way to track all the comments by a single commenter, and check to see if many comments by “different” people are all coming from a single IP address, a comment spammer technique. If so, use the Bulk Edit feature to select them all and mark them as spam.
If you need more information, you can do an IP Address search which will usually not turn up more than their Internet Provider and a location. There are a few IP Address databases which track the illegitimate use by spammers by their IP address such as The Spamhaus Project – Blocklist Removal Center and DNSBL Information – Spam Database Lookup, but some spammers tend to be smart and get around these.
Rarely, a commenter may contact you and request that their comments be deleted or their website or email address to be changed due to a security or privacy issue. By click on the IP address link, you can quickly filter the comments to edit them, or you can use the Search Comments feature for their name or email address.
5. Date, Time, and Comment Permalink
Above the comment is a line beginning with Submitted on followed by the date and time in a link. This displays the date and time of the comment. The date and time format is set under Settings > General.
The link is the permalink for the comment. If you wish to create a reference link to the comment in a post or another comment, copy the link and put it in a properly formed hyperlink or short url such as the comment used in the example image at the top of the post.
6. In Reply To…
WordPress comments are now threaded, and most modern Themes feature the ability to showcase threaded comments. The feature can be turned on or off from within the Settings > Discussion and set to various levels.
To help you track the conversation, the link in the Reply To goes to the comment to which the commenter replied to in the comment queue.
7. Post Title Edit Link
The Post Title Edit Link will take you to the Post Edit panel to edit the post. This is handy if there is a need to make a correction or update the post if new news is available, often from someone commenting with an update.
There is some debate about changing the Post Title Edit Link to a link to view the post and changing the View Post to Edit Post. Over the years of developing WordPress, this has changed a few times. Those in favor of making the change say that it is more user friendly, meets with user expectations (click the post title, go to the post), and improves accessibility and usability creating a larger link surface. Those in favor of keeping it as it has been for the past few years say that people want to edit a post more than read the post, so the emphasis should be on the editing.
While this doesn’t improve usage or performance, it is a little history worth considering.
8. View Post
The View Post link takes you to the post itself, not the comment.
Use Right Click > Open in a New Tab or Window to open the post in a new tab to read it and/or catch up with the conversation, allowing you to quickly return to the comment if necessary to respond.
9. Comment Count
The quote graphic with a number in it represents the number of comments on the post.
Hover over the quote graphic and a balloon tip will appear to indicate the number of posts “pending” (awaiting moderation action) on that post.
Click it and a page will be generated featuring all the comments on that post so you can track the conversation or edit, spam, or trash multiple comments.
Introduced a few versions ago, instead of deleting a comment or post, WordPress now has a Trash bin, much like Windows and Mac computers. It is a temporary storage space for deleted posts and comments so you can undo the action if you make a mistake or change your mind.
Depending upon your settings, the trash bin is emptied every 30 days automatically.
When you click Spam the comment’s information is forwarded to Akismet for tracking in their massive database of millions of users. If enough commonality is found, and enough people “vote” with the spam link, comments of that form and by that spammer are blocked for everyone, not just you.
Don’t mark a spam comment as trash. Mark it as spam and help Akismet learn so we are all protected.
The History link is easily overlooked. The link takes you to the Edit Comment panel for that comment and down to the Comment History. The comment history could include a list of times the comment has been edited or submitted to Akismet or sent to the Trash.
While not that important for a typical blog, for a multiple author site, the history of comment’s activities could be helpful in tracking who did what when.
13. Edit and N. Quick Edit
There are two edit features for comments in WordPress. the Edit link (M) opens the comment in an edit panel much like the Edit Post panel. There, you can edit all aspects of the comment, view the comment history, change comment status, and adjust the date and time of the comment.
The Quick Edit link (N) edits the comment on the Comment Panel. You can change the name, email, website, and comment text.
I use Quick Edit daily. My site policy is to not allow comment spam, but there are times when the comments are slightly suspicious but relevant. I will Quick Edit the comment to fix the name if they are using keywords or their website domain name or title, and remove the website URL if I am suspicious. Comments left for Google juice, link bait, or marketing reasons often look good but I don’t want to give them any credit back to their site if I’m suspicious. I also remove and fix links in the post so they are in HTML anchor text and not link dumps and clean up obvious misspellings and errors.
For years, what I called the number one flaw in WordPress was the inability to reply efficiently and immediately to blog comments. After all, the key ingredient in defining a blog is the interactivity. WordPress developers finally added AJAX inline commenting and comment replies became simple and easy to do, and my dreams came true.
Click the Reply link and a reply box appears. Type in HTML or use the comment quicktag buttons to create links in your reply and hit Reply to post the comment.
Your comment will appear temporarily below the comment you responded to. When the Comment panel reloads, your comment will appear in reverse chronological order.
One of the most requested features for comments is to allow comments to be showcased threaded under their post titles for improved reading order. There are some Plugins that have attempted to do this, but reverse chronology puts what is most recent at the top of the list, giving it priority. However, a simple “mark as read” option would be very welcome by all.
When a comment is held for moderation (awaiting approval), the comment will be highlighted with a different background color. To approve the comment, click Approve.
If you find a comment that is suspicious or you need time to think before it appears on your WordPress site, you can make it Unapprove and it will be held for moderation.
You can quickly see all moderated comments by clicking the Pending link at the top of the Comments panel, and use the bulk edit feature to approve many comments at once.
More You Need to Know About WordPress Comments
Here are a few more things you may need to know about WordPress Comments.
16. Identify Trackbacks and Pings from Comments: Trackbacks and pings (as they are now all called) are referrer links from other sites linking to yours. They are identified from comments by an ellipse before and after the comment such as
[...]. Do not reply to them. If you wish to check out the referrer post or respond, click the link in the website link and respond on their blog.
17. Search Comments: The search at the top of the Comments panel can search by name, email, IP address, or keyword.
18. Comment Filter by Type: To separate the comments from trackbacks/pings, use the Filter by Type form at the top of the panel.
19. Filter by Pending, Approved, Spam, and Trash: By clicking the links at the top of the page, you can filter the comments by those pending in moderation, approved, spam, and trash. “All” shows only comments approved, awaiting approval (pending), trackbacks/pings, and comment spam not marked as spam yet.
20. Comment Count and Pages: At the upper right of the Comments panel is a count of all of your approved comments and trackbacks/pings. Next to is pagination links that will take you through the comments page by page in reverse chronological order.
21. Comment Panel Screen Options: Click Screen Options at the top of the screen and you will find two options. You can choose to show on the comment screen Author and/or Response To, and set the number of comments to show on each page. If you have a highly active site, changing this to a higher number may save time. If you are editing a lot of comments at once, setting this higher will also help, otherwise keep it at the default 20 comments.
22. Question Marks and Strange Code in Comments: Not all blogs nor browsers are set up to handle international languages. Question marks and odd code may not be indicative of comment spam. If it looks suspicious, mark it as spam. If it doesn’t and it annoys you, trash the comment.
23. When in Doubt, Trash or Edit: Trust your gut instincts. If you feel uncomfortable with it, edit out the stuff that makes you uncomfortable and be done with it. No one will question it. It’s your site. Respect its integrity.
24. Create a Comments Policy: A strong and clear comments policy is important for every interactive site. Write up your policy and add it to a Page on your WordPress site and make the link visible in the footer or comment area if necessary.
Okay, that’s more than 18 things you can do with WordPress comments. Did I miss anything?