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.
I no longer use any social networking and do not wish to register for any third party site. Yet, often I can I find I cannot post comments because you have to log into facebook or another site
Interesting thoughts Syed :)
I’m with you, I use the commenting system supplied with JetPack as my commenting system. I also use the “ReplyMe” plugin, so any replies to the comment you get notified via email. I like it because it’s a feature that is standard in many of these services (such as Disqus), but not in the main core of WordPress.
THanks for this brief explanation .
Personally I don’t mind using any blog commenting platform. I especially like disqus and how it notifies you when someone has replied or commented.
I can see how some people may get frustrated by having to login to different 3rd party platforms, but if you use the same computer, once you’ve signed in once it can all be set so that you are automatically logged in for the future.
One functionality that I do like to see on blog commenting platforms is the option to be notified when somebody else comments or replies. Something i’d like to see here at Problogger! Anyone else agree?
Some of the third-party comment systems are ok. The best one, in my opinion, is Disqus. I am not a fan of the Facebook plugin as it forces a viewer to use their personal Facebook account to comment.
I’ve been happily using Disqus for a year or so with no problems. Interestingly, it syncs up nicely with your reason for using the default WordPress commenting system – Disqus does all that stuff, too. Easily.
I definitely use the wordpress comments. One of my biggest frustrations on a blog is when I have to sign in using some social account or livefyre or dicus.
Just let me type my name, email, and website and comment!
Livefyre has the option to allow people to post as a guest & not log in to a third party. I added the option for some of my technically challenged friends who had trouble leaving a comment. ;)
What do you think about Jetpack comments?
Can the module be used as a standalone plugin like some of the others without the need for connecting to a WordPress.com account?
I’ve tried many third party services and actually found Livefyre produced the most comments but had technical issues with it and now the the native comments with Jetpack.
The Jetpack comments is not independent. It makes calls to the WP.com API. It takes away the customization options, but it works seamlessly with WP.
Personally I use two commenting platforms. One is default wordpress commenting system and other is Vkontakte. I put both of them so that user can choose between them. It works perfectly!
But almost all of my visitors use default wordpress comment form.
I’m with Graham. My language becomes awful when I see LifeFyre as a blog’s comment platform. I used to contact bloggers to let them know how frustrating their system was. But now I just don’t comment.
You never want to frustrate the community you’re trying to build.
I am with you regarding the pros of wordpress default commenting system. Recently I stumbled upon a well known video blogger’s blog where I found a third party commenting system, which was almost too hard for me to figure out. I couldn’t leave a comment even though I wanted to just because of the Disqus platform.
But I am not so positive about the idea of removing the link field altogether, it will even prevent legitimate commentators. I think it’s a good thing offer a link back to their site in return for comments. Plugins like commentluv can almost totally refuse spam even while giving you the ability to reward comments with a link back.
Thanks for letting me know about the facebook and twitter connect plugins.
I think when someone really wants to add value to your site, they will do it regardless of the link. It almost seem like that backlinks is an ulterior motive for commenting for those who say that they would stop commenting if backlinks weren’t there.
I definitely use WordPress comments. One issue I ran into while using a third-party comment system was that if their site goes down, no one can leave a comment on my site. Not to mention all the other issues that can arise. It just wasn’t worth it to me.
That is very true. Your site users are affected when they are doing maintenance. Not to mention the issues for users who comment behind firewalls from work and such. I got complaints from users who couldn’t comment on our site when we were using Livefyre.
I have used the Social comment plugin (http://bit.ly/NPGMrN) in the past and loved how it combines many of the plugins listed above – all into one – while still using the WordPress comment system. Sadly, it doesn’t play well with my current theme.
Why not only use the Jetpack plugin? It has all the functionality you need. Facebook/Twitter integration on your comments and subscribe to comments also.
I just started blogging for the first time this week for a capstone course and I found this article to be very helpful on making a decision on whether to use the default system or move over to a third party system. I’ve noticed that when using a third party system like Livefyre that you are bombarded by emails of other users who has also commented on the same topic as you. I’m sure that there is and option to not receive those notification but for me that killed my experience of using third party systems.
You can easily subscribe from those emails. In each of those emails, there should be a link at the bottom giving you the option to unsubscribe.
I have been using CommentLuv ever since I saw it on thesaleslion.com.
The biggest benefit is that it automatically links to the most recent blog post of everyone that comments. It is a great way increase engagement because it gives people an extra incentive to post a comment. Plus it helps the community because you can see what everyone is doing.
The premium versions offer a great deal more functionality. For example you can reward your most loyal followers by changing the links from nofollow after a certain number of comments.
I am also a big fan a Disqus. Mostly because I can log in and see all the comments I have made around the web. It is quite handy if you want to remember what you said on a certain post.
From a user standpoint, I can totally understand the benefits third-party comments bring (i.e login to see all the comments you have made). It’s almost like leaving your digital foot-print on the web. I think it would be really neat if Gravatar starts integrating that considering how many sites use Gravatar in comments.
As for the incentive of backlinks (nofollow / dofollow) that’s a whole another debate. One debate would be whether Google really counts nofollow backlinks anymore. I hear folks saying that nofollow attribute doesn’t mean much (so it counts). If you head on over to fiverr, there are tons of folks that are willing to get you PR5+ backlinks for $5 … and they do that through comment SPAM.
We did take a rather drastic approach by getting rid of links altogether, but it seems to be working for us. For anyone who stops commenting because we are not giving them backlinks … need to check their reasons for commenting to begin with. If your sole reason was to get backlinks from our site, then we probably don’t want you as a commenter.
I did have a talk with the CommentLuv developer regarding having the ability to add links for the most loyal users. But it’s easy to make the link dofollow when it’s there. It’s hard to add the link because then you have to determine where do we get the link from. How do we know a certain user has made XYZ comments without registering. Once a user reaches a certain number of comments… do we invite them to register?? so they can have a badge + links…
This is definitely something our team has been thinking hard about. We want to add these sort of community elements, but we don’t want to rush into making a decision.
This is exactly the post I was waiting for! Perfect timing! I’d been researching and debating whether I should switch my blog to a third-party commenting system. I really like the WP one so I wasn’t sure. After hearing so many good things about Disqus I was about to switch. However, I was hesitant about letting go of that control. Your solution of incorporating WP plugins is perfect. I’ll do just that. Thanks!
Like Rob, I also use commentluv. The automatic links that he describes are awesome.
Spam control is a huge issue. I like the GASP feature on commentluv premium.
Great conversation here!
I was previously a Disqus user and it ended up creating some problems on my blog just because of incompatibility when various updates were implemented. I switched to Livefyre and really love it.
That’s not to say that there aren’t still sometimes issues with incompatibility. I previously used to use Rafflecopter for giveaways on one of my blogs and when I implemented Livefyre for comments there was some weird conflict between the two. As someone who doesn’t do a lot of coding or tech things, I don’t know how to easily resolve things like this and I think that’s one of the biggest problems I’ve encountered in using a third party comment system. What I’ve learned over time is that the more you add to your blog in the form of plug-ins and code, the more problems you may encounter. They can be wonderful but it’s important for newer bloggers to be aware that there can be issues that arise.
In the end, I decided to stop using Rafflecopter for giveaways and to continue using Livefyre. For me, the benefits of the Livefyre commenting system outweigh the drawbacks. I don’t like the built-in WP comment system (although I can see how it would work much better with the adaptations you’ve suggested here). I like LiveFyre’s format, understand it really well and have had few problems with it.
But to each their own for sure!
Wow. This is a great article! I’ve been aware of third party commenting systems but have never even gave it much thought until now. We do not use third party commenting, and it seems to be going well so far as we monitor the comments. Great information though.
I was always concerned when considering a third-party option. I wonder if one will win out as the best, similar to how WordPress as essentially won over most bloggers as the best blogging software.
We definitely would have to see if one platform emerges as a winner however I don’t think that will be the case. Currently it seems that Disqus is leading from what I see on sites.
There should be some application that checks comment for spam.. and all the user will have to go through that check before commenting. i think such application will help to control spam issue.
Would you care to elaborate on that point? What checks are you suggesting?
Like Graham Lutz, I use WordPress comments. I feel a bit uncomfortable using my Facebook account to comment on blogs around the world, and I find it frustrating to have to sign up for a variety of third-party systems just to comment on any particular post. I’ve come across blogs that give me no option that I am already signed up for and so I give up on commenting altogether. I would rather let them fill out their information and try to deal with spam some other way.
You’re right on this. I don’t like to use third party commenting system on my WordPress blog because the default commenting system on WordPress has a lot of PROS, but on my Blogspot blog I would like to suggest everyone to use IntenseDebate commenting system because it has a lot of goodies. IntenseDebate allows us to enable CommentLuv on our blogspot blog and I hate the default Blogspot commenting system.
Wondering though – is it good to have all those plugins for connect & subscribe or better to go with just one like social (by mailchimp)?
I tried the Social plugin. I didn’t like the way how it was styled. Also, I didn’t want retweets to be in my comments. How does it help to have 90+ RT’s as comments because they really aren’t. I have taken a rather drastic approach to comments. If they do not create a conversation or add value, then it is not a good comment. For example those small comments like “great post” or “thanks awesome writeup” … goes straight to be deleted.
Reason: over the long run, those comments don’t help anyone.
I use DISQUS on my website and it works great. People who want to just use their name and Email, they have an option to do so. On the other hand, people with proper accounts with Faceboo, Twitter, Google and so on… can use their choice of login options. I am very satisfied with DISQUS at this time though I don’t discount the default wordpress commenting system that a lot of leading blogs use.
It comes down to what works best for you, I guess. But thanks for sharing the insights. It’s a great point to think about!
Syed Balkhi – What do you think about websites who use Facebook as their comment system ? There are lots of websites who are doing it.
Using Facebook Comments definitely has its PROS. It brings a huge viral aspect to the play. However I know that a lot of people like to keep their FB personal, so requiring them to connect is a huge turn off. I know a lot of people don’t leave comments on sites that require an authentication like that. I haven’t left a comment on Mashable in ages because they require me to connect my twitter or FB.
Having used Facebook Comments on a WordPress blog for the past year, I can tell you it’s a load of rubbish. The comments are stored on Facebook, not on your site. I probably screwed up something with the setup, but I never get notifications of new comments and there is no list of all comments. I actually have to go to each post to see the comments.
Even if it was working properly, I would not use Facebook Comments. There are some people who still refuse to have a Facebook account. Others will wish to protect their privacy. Facebook owns your comments, not you. When I finally remove FB Comments, I will lose all my comments.
I have been trying out the native WP comments with the plugins suggested by the author. It has been working out so far (mind you, the new blog I am working on is still in beta). There is also a Simple Google Connect for Google+ users (from the same guy that created the SFC and STC plugins). All comments are stored in my WP database even when users sign in through their social accounts.
I am only speaking about my personal experiences. FB Comments may work for big sites like Techcrunch, but it’s not right for me.
The most annoying thing is if you want to change platforms. There goes most of your old comments.
Well most platforms have the ability for you to retain the comments. However, you might lose the threading of comments and such. When we switched away from Livefyre, we noticed that we lost comment threading on a lot of older comments. The comments were being treated as independent ones when they were really in replies to the other.
I would have to agree with using the built in commenting system. Mainly because in all honestly I’ve never been a big fan of single sign on from a privacy and security standpoint at least.
Single sign on is a great idea for corporate intranets and things like that… but not for the global Internet. All it would take is one malicious site and boom… your username/password you use everywhere is now out there.
Plus the other major issue that I’ve encountered time after time working on my clients’ blogs is that the code used to generate the comment forms can break… very easily. You wouldn’t believe the hours I’ve spent trying to figure out bugs like why a disqus comment list is floating over every other element on a page even when the CSS says it shouldn’t. Fun times ;)
You are right some times third party commenting systems took a little bit more time to load and that can be irritating some time for the reader but for me I am using CommentLuv just because of its gives you the chance to control over spamming comments and its also great importance in terms of SEO point of view.
Great thoughts syed. I use the commenting system.. and like it because of the notification thing that is sent to our email through which we know if people are agreeing or dis agreeing with us
I do, I use the disqus commenting system. I find it better on catching spam. The default wordpress comments easily gets spammed even with Akismet installed.
Totally agreed. I was also using one of the third party commenting system. Later, removed it. Reason… same as you mentioned.
Thanks for briefing, sure it will help others too.
My vote certainly goes to the default WordPress commenting system. I don’t see a point in forcing my blog readers to register/create account in a third party system just because I am using it. I could lose many potential visitors and it is somewhat annoying as a commenter to be “forced” in that manner.
Moreover, using the WordPress software, I very much appreciate their system and its features – not to mention the commenting system. I don’t see I am missing anything and if there is anything I want to add, there is always a plugin available (as you have mentioned here)!
Spam – I deal with it using Commentluv premium.
Thanks for this post Syed.
I find that the default WordPress system works just fine provided you’re using captcha. I’ve always found blogs that go overboard with widgets have just detract from their content. What’s the point?
I’m a confirmed Disqus aficionado.
I write three blogs and host a community discussion all on Disqus. I’ve used most of the systems, This is the one that fosters engagement and community best IMO.
Well, I find those third-party commenting things annoying. It hassles me to login every time I comment on a blog. Also, there are tons of ways for removing spam without scaring away those users that “backlink”. Personally, I’d go for those.
I am still new of blogging so i am not sure i will use it or no. But if its make a great impression one day i will try it. Since i am still making a way how to boost my blog.
I prefer to use Disqus commenting system because of it’s easy log-in or anonymous commenting features, social media integration, and new live real-time comment feed.
I’ve just released Social Gallery, which is a plugin that add’s Facebook-style image viewing to WordPress, on the image viewers sidebar there’s a comments section much like that of Facebook – to start with I used Facebook’s own Facebook comments – but users wanted an alternative, and by far the most mentioned was Disqus. v1.2 was just released, adding Disqus.
I think there’s a lot of good gained by using Disqus, though I would prefer to see a WordPress solution rise up (batman style) – because even though Disqus lets you get your data out, their future seems unsure, at least compared to WordPress. I am happy using Disqus in the plugin, but I look forward to an even better solution, which I think will be available without a third party like Disqus.
I use CommentLuv for the same reason that everyone else mentioned. I’m in love with think ability to see what my commenters have posted. It makes it easy for me to know at a glance, whether I want to go check out their site or not. And it returns the love to them. I’ve followed commenters on other people’s blogs, when I see what they’ve listed.
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Once I intergrated Facebook commenting system in my WordPress blog as I thought my readers would find even more easier to engage in comments and discussions. It worked well but for me it became harder to control all comments and became unable to moderate comments. Therefore, WordPress default comment sustem is better and simple.
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Iam using disqus as third party comment system. Its really working well and help me lot to fight against SPAM.
I have used a few different ones but like you have come back to WordPress. It just works better all the way around. I did hear Disqus has improved since I last used it but I think I want to stick with WP.
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