When is it good not to approve comments on your blog?

I found a bunch of comments that I hadn’t been alerted about. They were stuck in the queue and I worked my way through them, approving and deleting. The exercise got me thinking about comments and when it’s better not to let them through. It’s not just about whether or not you like what someone has to say.

I don’t want to create an echo chamber with only people who share my views being allowed to speak. But equally, my blog isn’t a free-for-all and I do moderate all comments before they go live.

Generally I let most comments through. Most of the time people are just commenting on the posts, sharing their own experiences, asking questions, or joining in with a discussion. But here are the times when I spam or delete comments.

1. When people don’t play nicely!

Probably the most obvious one – you don’t have to agree with me, but if you start writing things that are discriminatory, offensive, or rude in some other way – why should I have that up on my site? This includes people who think that snarky comments are the same as having a discussion. Fortunately I’ve only had one or two of those in my time as a blogger on both my business and my personal blogs.

2. When people add links to sites that I don’t want to endorse

This is a tricky one. The comment may be fine, but it also includes a link to an organisation that you wouldn’t necessarily support. The waters are muddied even further if you generally support what the organisation stands for, but not how they are going about raising awareness for or promoting their cause.

It’s something you just have to decide. Delete the comment? Let the comment through, but amend it to remove the link? Let it through, but also note your concerns in a comment underneath?

The only problem with the last suggestion is that by providing a back link – a link from your site to the other site – you are giving it credibility in search engine optimisation terms, and if that’s not something you want to do, it’s best not to have the link at all.

3. When people are posting spam comments for back links

This includes companies that can’t be bothered to pay for advertising “hey I thought you’d like my product – find out more here!”, and people who just want to bring readers to their site “Great post! Check out my latest post here!” In both cases, it just feels like spam. It’s obvious what they’re doing. They aren’t really interested in what you’ve written – they just want more eyes on their products or posts which might not even have anything to do with your article. It’s rude, and most of the time I bin them! If people really want someone to engage with them, they should put a bit more thought into their comment and not spam people’s blogs. The point about back links is relevant here too.

4. When people post innocuous comments with links that point to questionable sites

Most of these comments are sent straight to spam if you have a spam filter. The comments themselves usually look fine and often just say how great and educational your post was. The problem is with the rest of the form and the URL which they entered, which often leads to some dubious site that you wouldn’t want to visit. When the comment goes live, the person’s name becomes a link to that site. It doesn’t matter that the comment itself was not offensive in some way – you don’t want to be sending traffic to sites that contain malware or that are pay per click links generating income for someone else (also see point 3). In some cases it’s not even clear where the traffic will be ultimately redirected

5. When the trolls come out to play!

A troll is generally someone who starts arguments or upsets people by posting inflammatory or off-topic comments – usually to get a reaction. Often they become easier to spot, the more time you spend in online forums. Sometimes you may want to give people the benefit of the doubt because they may have a genuine question or just not know how to express themselves properly – but usually if it growls like a troll and stomps about like a troll – it probably is a troll! The best advice is to not feed the trolls – and an online troll’s favourite food is attention and other people’s time.

It is hard though. Some you can spot a mile off. But there are people who have been written off as trolls who were just struggling to know the rules appropriate for that particular social situation. I can think of times when I have had perfectly reasonable conversations with people whom others had written off as trolls – so it’s not as easy as some of the other points. I usually listen to my intuition first, but it’s not completely fool-proof.

But sadly there are some people who just want to sew negativity, stir people up against one another, or say the things that they know will get an angry or otherwise emotional reaction.

In a business sense, if you think there is a discussion to be had, it’s often better to take it out of the public arena sooner rather than later. Private messaging is always an option, as long as you feel the person isn’t just trying to get attention for the wrong reasons or waste your time.

How about you?

For those of you with blogs, what have been your experiences of deleting comments? Let us know in the comments!

If you liked this post, you may also enjoy the one about 15 things that I wish people would stop doing on social media!

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