This guest post is by Syed Balkhi of WPBeginner.
If you’ve been blogging for anything more than a few months, you probably have come across blogs using third-party commenting systems like Disqus, Livefyre, Facebook Comments, Intense Debate, and more. You may have asked yourself, “Why do other blogs use these systems? Are they helpful? Should I use a third-party commenting system on my site?”
I have used both the built-in WordPress commenting system and a third-party commenting platform for an extensive period of time. In this article, I will share the pros and cons, from my personal experience, of using a third-party commenting system, and point you to some of the plugins that I use to extend the power of built-in WordPress comments.
Pros of third-party commenting systems
1. Single login (authenticity)
There are a lot of trolls on the web leaving anonymous comments. By using a third-party commenting system, you can require the user to register before the comment, and so cut down on trolling.
If you’re using a popular third-party commenting system like Disqus, Livefyre, or Facebook Comments, then the chances are that the user already has an account with those services. Users can surf from one website to another while staying logged in to the commenting platform, and this allows them to easily track all of their comments—and those of others—throughout the blogosphere.
2. Expanded social media presence
Almost all third-party commenting platforms offer some sort of expanded social media presence, Facebook Comments being the leader because it gives you the viral aspect. Your users’ comments can be posted on their walls, as long as they leave right the checkbox checked.
Other platforms allow users to integrate with Twitter and Facebook. Livefyre, in particular, allows the user to tag their Facebook or Twitter friends within the comments. This tagging sends a tweet or Facebook message to their friend(s) notifying them about your post.
3. Spam control
Requiring a commenter to log in to comment virtually eliminates the chance of a spam bot attacking your site.
4. Increased engagement
Most third-party commenting platforms claim to increase engagement. Some do it by making your comments appear in real-time, simulating a chat-like feel within comments. Others allow users to easily subscribe to comments via email to keep up with the conversation.
Cons of third-party commenting systems
1. Change and frustration
While the concept of using one login across all websites sounds noble, it doesn’t always work.
If your current commenting system doesn’t require user registration, then your users will likely be frustrated when you introduce a new system. This change “forces” them to create an account with a third-party service to leave a comment on your site—and that may seem as if they’re losing their freedom to comment on your site. This can drive some of your most loyal users away.
2. Lack of control
If you are the kind of blogger who likes to fine-tune and tweak every aspect of your blog, then third-party comment systems probably aren’t for you.
You will lose control over most aspects of your commenting platform in terms of formatting and design by adopting these systems. Your users will also experience slower page loads while the third-party commenting platform loads (especially during maintenance and occasional server outages), which is totally out of your control. Last but certainly not least, you will not be able to add features, such as lead-generation option or comment policy text links, without mastering the commenting system’s API.
My choice: default WordPress comments
After using a third-party commenting system, Livefyre, for over a year, I decided to switch back to the default WordPress comment system. While I could go into the excruciating details about why I switched away from Livefyre, the main point was the cons outweighed the pros. I wanted more control over the look and functionality of our comments, and I also wanted to keep our users happy. Lastly, I was able to replicate just about every advantage of a third-party commenting system using WordPress plugins.
So let’s go through that pros and cons list again, and see how it caused me to switch to WordPress comments.
- Authenticity: While requiring users to register is one way to ensure authenticity, it was really annoying. So we just use Gravatar, which allows others to recognize the same commenter over multiple platforms. No need to use a plugin for this! WordPress has built-in support for Gravatar as long as your theme is properly coded (most good themes are).
- Expanded social media presence: I was able to add Sign in with Twitter and Connect with Facebook options to my blog fairly easily while leaving the default method as is. I used the plugin called Simple Twitter Connect which allowed me to add the Sign with Twitter option. I used the plugin called Simple Facebook Connect to add the Connect with Facebook option for my comments.
- Spam control: While requiring registration can reduce spam, it is also very annoying. I thought of a less annoying method that has been working great for us—the awesome Akismet plugin, which comes with every WordPress installation and does a fairly decent job of detecting spam comments.
I noticed the main reason why people leave spam comments is to get backlinks. Well, I decided to get rid of the link feature altogether. This required me to edit the comments.php file, but it wasn’t very hard. All I had to do was get rid of the Website field from the comment submission form. Then, I just edited the way our comments were displayed in the theme by removing the hyperlinks from the name and Gravatar image. This takes away the backlink incentive for most spammers. Another thing I did was disabled pingbacks/trackbacks on all posts. I noticed a lot of folks were trying to send trackback spam on our site, hoping for a backlink from posts. However by doing this, I totally avoided that issue.
- Increase in engagement: You can add the Subscribe to Comments feature to your comments using a popular plugin called Subscribe to Comments. I also added an opt-in checkbox to our comments that allows readers to subscribe to our newsletter using Newsletter Sign-Up.
As you can see, I was able to get almost all of the benefits of a third-party commenting system that people want while still using the built-in WordPress comments. Not to mention that I was able to customize the look of our comments, so they look good and are in keeping with out site.
Do you use third-party commenting systems?
Despite my experience, third-party commenting systems work perfectly for some bloggers and their blogs. I’d be interested in hearing your experiences of using a third-party commenting platform—or choosing to use the default system that came with your blog.
Syed Balkhi is the founder of WPBeginner, the largest unofficial WordPress resource site that offers free WordPress videos for beginners as well as other comprehensive guides like choosing the best WordPress Hosting, speeding up WordPress, and many more how-to’s.