Comments have always played an important role in blogging and content marketing. If you’re familiar with my product creation process, you also know that for me personally, comments have been an important source of insights into what exactly my customers (and potential customers) want out of a product.
If you have a WordPress website, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to picking a commenting system. Apart from the default comments that come part and parcel with WordPress, you can also choose from these alternatives: Disqus, Jetpack Comments,Facebook Comments, Livefyre Comments and SolidOpinion.
Read on to discover the pros and cons of each solution, as well as my personal favorites.
Default WordPress Comments
Let’s start with the most straight-forward commenting solution for any WordPress website: the one that comes baked right into WordPress.
The default commenting system is solid and gets the job done, but it doesn't come with any extra bells and whistles. Visitors can leave comments by entering a name and email address, nested comments (comment replies) are supported and avatar images are driven by Gravatar, which is free and widely used.
And there ends the feature list for the default WP comments.
WordPress Comments Pros
- Comes with WordPress, doesn't require further installation or setup.
- Usually styled to perfectly match your theme's overall design.
- Simple, straight forward and has all the basic features needed for engaging your readers in a discussion.
- Hosted on your own site, no "lock-in" with any other system or service.
- Extra functionality can be added with plugins and theme features.
WordPress Comments Cons
- The spam problem.
- Doesn't support social sign-in.
- Prompts readers to enter their details every time unless they're logged into your site.
- No fancy extra features, unless extended with plugins or theme functionality.
The one point I want to briefly expand upon is the spam problem mentioned above. Theoretically, WordPress comments work out of the box, with no further customization needed. In practice, the comments system doesn't work as a standalone product.
Even if your site isn't very popular, you will soon get hundreds, if not thousands of spam comments submitted on your site every day. The volume of spam is such that manual moderation is simply out of the question, so an anti-spam solution is a must.
By default, Automattic's own Akismet is added on new WordPress installations. For commercial sites, Akismet costs $5 per month and it does a decent job of automatically filtering spam.
There are also alternatives available such as the GASP plugin (free) and the Simple Comments plugin ($29).
Out of all the solutions I've tried, I've consistently found 3 issues:
- False positives: I regularly fish legitimate comments out of the spam folder.
- Spam protection being too aggressive (complaints from real users that they can't get a comment through).
- Anti-spam system being overcome by spam bots, leading to sudden floods of unfiltered spam (this is particularly a problem I've had with free plugins).
The bottom line is this: WordPress comments only work in conjunction with a spam filtering solution and none of those are perfect. I recommend using either Akismet or Simple Comments.
Jetpack Comments is the WordPress team's own answer to some of the shortcomings of the default commenting system. Part of the Jetpack plugin, Jetpack Comments completely replace the default comments and come with a few distinguishing features.
Some of the new features include social sign in (users can comment using an existing social media account), an option to receive reply notifications by email and an option to receive email notifications about new posts on the blog.
Jetpack Comments Pros
- Slicker commenting interface than most themes provide.
- Allows social sign in via Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or WordPress.com.
- Comment and blog subscription options built in.
Jetpack Comments Cons
- Does not include spam filtering.
- Won't work with all of the anti-spam solutions that work for the default commenting system.
- Style might not match your theme very well.
To me, the pros and cons balance out and that's not a good thing. Were it not part of a large (and mostly free) bundle of other WordPress extensions in the Jetpack plugin, I think this commenting system wouldn't have too much going for it.
Disqus is a commeting and community system that can be integrated with WordPress via the Disqus plugin.
Disqus also offers social sign-in and a notification system, but it's more than that. Visitors can open a notifications tab directly on your site, that will show them replies and other activity from anywhere they've commented previously.
You can also use Disqus to list posts related to yours, from your own sites as well as other Disqus enabled sites.
There are two important factors that you should be aware of when using Disqus:
- Disqus is more than a commenting system. Think of it as a community layer you can add to your site.
- Disqus can drive traffic and engagement on your site, but it can also lead visitors away from your site (who might have otherwise stayed).
- Integrates neatly with WordPress comment moderation and comment counts.
- Allows social sign in via Facebook, Twitter or Google+.
- Comment notifications available.
- Spam filter is included.
- Engagement features such as comment voting and favoriting.
- Related posts feature and potential traffic source.
- Can also be a potential traffic drain.
- Design might not match your theme's style.
Disqus is widely used and the discussion thread is cleverly designed to highlight the best contributions and make adding a new comment as frictionless as possible for new visitors.
I haven't used it on any high-traffic sites, so I can't say much about the spam filter. What I can say is that I've never seen a spam comment make it through, but I don't know how many legitimate comments get whacked by Disqus.
In my opinion, Disqus is a good solution and its advantages outweigh the drawbacks quite significantly.
Facebook make a commenting widget available that can be added to any website. There are also many WordPress plugins available that make this integration easier.
Facebook comments do a good job of eliminating spam, in part because all commenters must be authenticated Facebook users. When using FB comments, I've never had an issue with spam getting through.
There's also a social traffic compontent to this system: there's an opt-out feature that will post a new comment as an activity in the commenter's Facebook stream, which can potentially drive more visitors to join in the discussion.
Facebook Comments Pros
- Good at eliminating spam.
- Can attract more traffic and additional comments due to the integration with Facebook.
- Comment voting and sorting (default view shows the highest rated comments).
- Commenters are notified of replies.
- Huge, active user base means many visitors will already be signed in and can comment without any extra steps.
Facebook Comments Cons
- Requires a Facebook account for commenting.
- Design might not match your theme's style.
- Comment form isn't mobile responsive by default. This has been fixed in the newest version of Facebook Comments.
- Moderation has to be done in a separate dashboard (away from your site).
- Somewhat complicated installation process.
- Not indexable for search engines.
Facebook comments make you face a tough decision, because they come with some strong advantages but also with some significant drawbacks.
In our own Thrive Themes, we've added a feature that lets you activate Facebook comments on their own or alongside the default WordPress comments. We've also added a very simple way to embed Facebook comments anywhere in your content in Thrive Content Builder.
Even so, you'll still have to consider carefully before you use Facebook as your sole commenting system.
Livefyre comments are one compontent of a wider range of social and web tools offered by Livefyre.
Much like the other solutions, Livefyre comments can be added to your site through a WordPress plugin and they completely replace the default commenting system.
Livefyre also offers social sign-in, but even the default (name + email address) signup form opens in a popup window, so it's not as smooth as the Disqus system. A distinguishing feature is what they call "Social Sync": this unifies comments posted on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks and brings them all into the comment stream on your site.
Livefyre Comments Pros
- Spam filtering built in (plus: community driven spam monitoring).
- Social sign-in with Twitter, Facebook, Google+, OpenID or Linkedin.
- Commenters can easily comment and socially share at the same time.
- Social Sync feature shows discussions from social networks in your comment stream.
- Supports comment rating and sorting.
Livefyre Comments Cons
- Social sign-in feature not as smooth as other solutions.
- Design might not match your theme's style.
- It appears that the user base is smaller than that of either Disqus or Facebook, so fewer of your visitors will already be signed in when they come to your site.
Livefyre has some interesting features and is comparable to Disqus. There is one factor that's difficult to put into words or quantify, but to me, it just doesn't feel as good to use as Disqus does. This might just be a subjective thing, though.
The best way to describe SolidOpinion is to say that's it's a commenting system inspired by free-to-play mobile games. That is to say, the main objectives of the system are to get users engaged with gamification features and then monetize them through micro transactions.
You can add this system to your site by using the SolidOpinion WordPress plugin. Commenters on your site can then earn and lose points, depending on their interaction. You can set your own rules and award or subtract points based on comments, votes and more. The more points users earn, the more visibility their comments get and the more features they unlock (such as the option to add annotations inside other users' comments and even cross parts of other comments out).
This is where it becomes like a mobile game, because these features can create something of a power struggle between more seasoned commenters and newer ones. This power struggle can be overcome by paying for extra features (yes, really). In addition, SolidOpinion also offers the option to use ads around your comments for added monetization.
- Supports social sign-in through Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Yahoo and VK.
- Advanced gamification and user engagement features, including a ranking system and custom rules.
- Focus is on the meta-game and monetization more than on having a discussion with readers.
- Design might not match your theme's style.
To me, what SolidOpinion does is quite unsavory. It creates a competition among members of your community that not only awards them powers over each other's comments but also encourages them to simply pay their way up the ranking system.
When it comes to the purpose I use comments for, SolidOpinion misses the mark. Unfortunately, this kind of model has worked exceedingly well in the gaming industry, so there's a good reason why we're seeing it applied in other areas.
There's no single right or wrong solution here, but there are some strong contenders in the roundup. Here are my (somewhat subjective) thoughts on what I consider the top 3 commenting systems for WordPress:
#1: Default WordPress Comments
The default commenting system has a lot going for it. First and foremost that it doesn't involve any third party, you don't have to worry about how your visitor's data will be shared and used and you aren't locked into any system that might be hard to get out of, further down the line.
Used together with Akismet/Simple Comments and something like Subscribe to Comments Reloaded, you have a system that gets all the basics right.
Sure, it lacks features like social sign-in or comment voting, but you don't strictly need those to engage your readers on your site.
Disqus is a slick and well designed commenting system that comes with some clever engagement features, but without being overloaded or confusing. It allows you to import and export comments, so the "lock-in" factor is greatly reduced as well.
My favorite thing about it is that when you use Disqus, you don't have to spend any extra time thinking about how you're going to deal with spam or what plugins or extensions you should use.
Having said that, you should also keep in mind that Disqus is an ad-supported business, so they track your visitor's activity and they serve ads after or inside your comment stream. You can opt-out of the advertising and tracking features, though.
#3: Facebook Comments
Let's be clear: Facebook comments have many disadvantages and anything I wrote above about Disqus tracking your visitors is doubly true for Facebook. But it also comes with a huge advantage in the form of its large user base.
When using Facebook comments on your site, many of your visitors will already be logged in anyway, which means there are zero hoops for them to jump through before they can leave a comment. I've seen high levels of engagement whenever I've used Facebook comments, which is probably because of the social factor (comments attract more commenters). I've also noticed that I get more long-term comments (i.e. comments added to older posts) with Facebook comments. No idea why that is.
On sites that offer Facebook comments as an option, I've noticed that somewhere between 10%-30% of comments are submitted using the default WP comments. That means you might be losing out on 10%-30% of potential comments if you offer only Facebook.
As a final note, I think it's worth considering using Facebook comments for very specific purposes such as on a marketing page or launch page, while using a different commenting system on your regular blog posts.
Over to You
I hope this post helps you find the right WordPress discussion system for your site. If you have any questions, please ask by leaving a comment below. I'm also interested to hear what your favorite systems are and why.
In the spirit of this whole post, let's get a discussion started. :)
I do a lot of commenting and have come across most of these systems, soI have accounts with each one. That is where the problem arises – If you want comments from non-bloggers they will not all have accounts with Disqus, WordPress.com etc. Nobody is going to be so desperate to comment that they will go through all the hassle of signing up for a 3rd party site.
Also if the comments are on your own site then search engines will find them . . . If they are hosted elsewhere they are not going to do your site any good at all.
All my sites use the native WP comment system for all its flaws.
This is one of the factors I took into account in this review and I agree that it’s quite important. With WordPress, Jetpack and Disqus, there’s not much of an obstacle to leaving a comment when the visitor doesn’t have an account yet. With Facebook, the obstacle is the biggest one of all solutions, but the user base is already huge. It’s a difficult trade-off.
Very timely post for me, since I am about to launch my own web magazine platform and still haven’t decided which otpion to use for comments. I expect huge amount of visitors and aim for otpimizing the content for maximum sharability (viral factor is much more important to me than seo at this point). Still can’t choose between Disqus and Facebook comments. My concern is that in Disqus there is a lot of people who overuse the guest posting to spread negativity (aka haters), which is also true to Facebook, but I as long as Fb users need to have an acount(under their name) there is much less of that kind of comments. Will probably need to test both options to find out which will work best for my platform and audience.
Thanks, Paulina. Where does the concern about haters come from? Do you write about a very controversial topic? If you do, I think you should embrace the haters. Controversial topics thrive on being polarizing.
Any notion on how each option affects site performance?
On my Thrive themed site I have it set to load comments asynchronously. Are there any other performance issues, such as a comment plugin’s existence itself in the system?
Also, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to your recent post on social media use and the 80/20 analysis. I’m thinking of turning comments off, like Copyblogger did recently. I get more activity and value elsewhere, such as email.
Thanks for the comment, Johnn!
I didn’t do any performance testing myself and the only post I could find on the matter is from 2012 (this one), so I didn’t link to it since a lot could have changed since then.
I doubt anything will be faster than asynchronously loading default comments. But Disqus also loads asynchronously, so the difference might be trivial.
Regarding turning them off: that’s definitely a question of the value comments have in your business.
One of the reasons I left Disqus is because it loads so slowly. Too often when I visit a site that has discuss, there is a little spinning icon that I get to look at waiting for Disqus to load. Unless I really have a burning desire to leave a comment, I will usually just move on.
That’s a fair point, Mark. I’ve also seen instances of Disqus loading quite slowly, although it seems to be the exception rather than the rule. It’s the downside of the fact that it asynchronously loads and only starts loading once it comes into view in the browser. That’s good for the overall loading speed of the page, but it does try the patience of would-be commenters.
The only option I think that is missing is not having comments enabled at all. Which is becoming a very popular option. For me, this is the direction that I am going to go in 2015.
Thanks for your comment! True, that’s another viable option. Although it really depends on the role comments (and communication in general) play in your business. In my case, removing comments would be a bad idea. I’ve gained so many ideas for content, products, product features, marketing messages etc.
So, I have been leaning toward Disqus for my blog, but I love the way Thrive integrates native tools very quickly and naturally. I notice that you didn’t include your comment tool in the top three. I know you are a pretty humble guy, but if it’s good it’s good. Would you recommend it for combining WP and Facebook comments?
Thanks again for adding so much to the community. I recently chucked everything to go “pure Thrive” wherever possible and the site is very fast so far.
We don’t have a comments tool. :)
We do try to make the default WP comments as clever as possible in our themes (especially in the more recent ones). We also integrate with Facebook comments in a good way. But that’s not really comparable to a real commenting system like the ones reviewed here.
Disqus was our choice first, then we went to Facebook, and then back to Disqus. KEY ISSUE: If your site is at all “personal” or “private” (I do emotional freedom coaching), we get VASTLY more comments not using Facebook, since people fear that their comment will appear in their Facebook feed for all to see. The different was 25x, and also the comments in Disqus were more vulnerable and real.
Even more important: Disqus also maintains the wordpress comment database concurrently. Remove disqus and… you still have your comments! Add disqus and… you still have your comments. Facebook is its own ecosystem, and when you remove facebook comments, you lose them all. (Sad face)
That’s a really interesting point, Rick! Great point to take into consideration when choosing one of the systems.
That’s a really useful comparison of the systems Shane. I tend to favour Disqus, but I think that’s purely because I haven’t really had time to dabble with the others. Mark’s comment about your own tool is pertinent. As a Thrive content builder user I would have been interested to see it compared. You’ve proved enough integrity to be sure that most people who read about it in here would be able to trust fairly readily what you say in relation to other products.Great information yet again!
Thanks for your comment, Ray. See my comment further above about our own commenting system: we don’t actually have one. :)
This is an excellent summary Shane. After trying a number of things I’ve come down to using either wordpress comments, along with the simple comments plugin which has been great at limited spam, or Disqus, which, as you say, is really easy to implement and pretty much eliminates junk comments. The sign in is relatively painless for readers too which is nice.
This was a good read Shane. Maybe it’s time for someone to develop a solution that combines the different types listed above in one wordpress plugin :-) Alright it might be difficult and there might be legal issues doing so, but there obviously is a problem (and a need?) here. Maybe Team ThriveTheme should get innovative on this stuff. I was working on a comment plugin for wordpress some years ago, inspired by the comment system from Kajabi (allowing to post comments, questions, suggestions and answers)(you can see it at commentee.net.)) The plugin is not really up to date anymore, but I still like the idea of it. But a combination of the above, in some odd way, would be cool!
Thanks for your comment, Jakob!
This isn’t a market we’re eyeing, to be honest. There are solid solutions here and I don’t see a way to gain a significant edge over all of them. I’m generally interested in markets where I can see a way to gain a very big advantage over all available products. Minor improvements are more difficult to sell. :)
Thank you for another great article I just love everything you are doing at the moment. You really are empowering small businesses owners with the resources to enable online business success.
My question is what commenting system do you use on your websites
Thank you very much, Jule!
I’m currently using all three of my top recommended systems somewhere. I’m using default WordPress comments most commonly, but I’m considering switching to WP comments + Facebook comments on the Thrive Themes blog, to see if it makes a difference.
Disqus is what I’m using on some smaller sites at the moment.
Great article and very timely information for me.
Can you clarify what you mean when you say you use WP comments + Facebook comments? It that a plugin that combines both features into one? Or, do you simply have both commenting fields open for readers to chose from if they want to comment?
I just display the Facebook Comment form as well as the regular comment form on the same page, one after the other. Pretty simple, but it works.
Which form do you display first?
Have you found that it converts the same either way?
Also, was wondering which form typically gets more comments?
I get the feeling you’ve probably done some statistics regarding conversion. :)
Thanks for your willingness to share. Much respect for all your hard work!
I displayed the Facebook form first. I got more comments via Facebook than the regular comment form, especially in the long term. I only ever tried this on one site, though and I didn’t run any elaborate tests or anything.
Thanks Shane. Have a Merry Christmas!
Thanks for all your great insights. I was wondering about changing comment systems. What happens to a page’s comments if a particular sight changes its commenting system? Is there any way to transfer the old comments to a new system?
It would be good to know if this big decision is “irreversible” and the big decision needs to be made at the launch of a site.
I personally prefer the WP system for its simplicity, but I’m not completely closed to trying others
With Disqus, importing and exporting the comments is no problem, so you can switch to and from Disqus any time.
Facebook comments are the opposite of that: if you turn off FB comments on your site, that’s all the comments gone. There are plugins that will sync FB comments to your WP database (such as this one), but I think the result is that you’ll have the same comments listed twice, on each post.
Jetpack comments are also all stored in your WordPress site’s database, so you can switch them off without any issues.
I’m not sure about the other systems in the roundup.
Shane, Thanks for the pros and cons of each commenting system. Ana Hoffman showed me the Comment Luv system and it has the GASP plugin included with quite a few other plugins to help me control comments in one system.
I am very satisfied with the results I have gotten with Comment Luv and recommend the premium plugin to other blog owners looking for a comment system that will help keep spam off your blog and increase traffic to your posts.
Thanks for your comment!
The last time I tried CommentLuv was years ago and I have to admit that I haven’t come across it since. But it’s good to hear that you’ve had a positive experience with it!
Hi Shane, great post, thanks for the info! One thing I like with the native WordPress comments, and that should be highlighted, is that the moderation panel actually is within the WordPress admin interface (and not an external moderation interface like Disqus). Admin centralization is definitely a plus!
Yes, that’s a good point. It’s nice to have everything in one place.
Hi Shane, can you link to an example of a Thrive theme that has both Facebook and WordPress enabled along side eachother? Nice post, I’ve always wondered about what’s best and this gives some more insight…
We don’t have that active on any of the demo sites at the moment. Sorry about that. But it’s basically just the Facebook comments box above the regular comments box.
which comment system are you using shane?
This is the default WordPress comments system.
Hi, it is interesting how You fight against spam then :)
Are there any alternatives to livefyre, so it will be possible to get comments from Twitter/Facebook into the WordPress blog?
None that I know of.
If your main goal is generating traffic, go with Facebook comments. If you’re worried about author engagement (and content ownership), definitely go with WordPress comments.
Hope that helps ;-)
thank you for such a comprehensive comparison.
I’m in the same situations many folks are here. I’ve tried Jetpack comments, then Facebook comments, then Disqus, etc.
Jetpack is great, but there are many side effects, sometimes the iFrame doesn’t reload, sometimes it messes with the layout, etc.
This morning I had an issue with comments being stuck. so I decided to try more seriously other alternatives, and it turns out that, like you, I switched back to the default commenting system, which is clean, and does the job.
I installed WP Ajaxify Comments:
Super clean, no fuss (I’m getting tired as well of all these plugins that require extra API connection, integration, registration), I do understand that integration with tier services is important, but I do think that:
– If someone want to interact with what you said, they won’t mind filling in their name and email.
– Even if they can’t reply with Facebook, Google, etc, they will still reply
And if they don’t, in my experience, it’s more the content/ audience, rather than the technicals about which commenting system is being implemented, and this is really important to understand, as first and foremost, content generates interaction.
Another note on Disqus, I didn’t like the fact that it required to create a new site, because I didn’t wanted to have to maintain another community on Disqus for my website.
TL;DR: As often, simple things that do the job always win :-)
Is the plugin working well for you? I love the idea of this plugin, but I’m concerned about it potentially causing issues and conflicts…
But it’s definitely a big improvement over the default comments, where everything happens via page reloads.
it works flawlessly…until you have a multilingual website; which is the case where I tried it. The plugin is not able to “pick” the right locale (so people end up seeing messages in french while it’s suppose to appear in english, and vice-versa).
But for my blog, the plugin works perfectly yes. If you have a dev. environment, you can give it a shot and see if you like it or not.
PS: your email notification landed in my spam mailbox.
It’s been more than a year since your comment and I am wondering if you still use this plugin … and if your experience during this time has changed.
One of the reasons I prefer Facebook over Disqus is accountability. It’s easy to hide behind a keyboard and say things you never would in person. I see more bickering in Disqus than when the person is identified by Facebook. They can’t hide behind a screen name.
My opinion is better to use jetpack, set moderation comment, and restrict to give an articles which is published more than 90 days.
Great overview… another pro for the facebook comments would be if you were focusing on building a community on your FB page, then FB comments could help bring some continuity to that and your blog.
…I’m not sure if that’s enough of a reason to use Facebook comments (I generally prefer Disqus), but it’s an interesting thought.
I think that’s a fair point, Martin. Personally, I don’t like to invest in social media a lot, because organic reach (especially on FB) is pretty abysmal, these days. Seems like the best place to be in social media is early on a newly trending platform.