There’s a reason why you won’t see me commenting much at some high-profile sites. They require registration.
Count me among those who feel registration is just another word for “prepare to be frustrated” when it comes to commenting on a story or blog post. Sadly, so many sites still don’t get it…
Here are the top reasons people don’t comment at sites that require registration:
- Time. More often than not, it takes longer to register at a site than it does to type the comment itself, even if it’s a few paragraphs.
- Email. Since the bulk of registration methods require the user to confirm by clicking a link in an email, the email program must be opened.
- One-time visit. If a user isn’t a regular at the site, he/she doesn’t see much value in registering.
- Speaking of value – most sites provide little or no value for registering. The process is often used to better identify humans, but that’s largely a benefit to the publisher, not the user. Where’s the give-back?
- Email lists & notifications. Some registrations result in users getting discussion alerts automatically. Others add them to the site’s email list. Visitors should always have the option to check whether or not they receive notifications.
There are alternatives to requiring registration, which still cut down posts generated by bots and automated spammers. Some of the most popular tools are:
Akismet. This popular WordPress plugin scans comments in real-time, eliminating a significant amount of spam. It’s not 100% foolproof, but it does catch the bulk of auto-generated and inappropriate comments. Using this method requires that you check your blog frequently to remove any bad messages which get posted. In my experience, a six-month run using this feature alone resulted in only one spam post making it through.
CAPTCHA. Users must enter the letters/numbers displayed on the screen to prove they’re not a bot. This feature, however, is becoming less popular. When users have to try several times to get the words or numbers correct, the chances of them leaving increases.
Comment Systems. Systems like DISQUS and Intense Debate automate the process of both posting and moderating comments. Users create an account with the system (or login using other social media accounts, like Twitter) and their full counts of posts and “likes” are tracked across the web. These tools are increasingly popular because once a user is logged in, he can just post a comment at any site using the system and an avatar, email address and web site URL is already linked via his profile.
I prefer DISQUS over Intense Debate for a few reasons:
- Intense Debate links to a WordPress account. Unfortunately, once an email address is linked via WordPress.com, changing parameters on the profile is difficult.
- DISQUS is more widely used by most of the guru bloggers I follow.
- The profile features of a DISQUS account are simpler, and so is the commenting method. Users can click on other users’ profiles to see what else they’ve had to say (you can see my DISQUS profile here).
When choosing a commenting system, make sure your top priority is encouraging visitors to get involved in real discussions. The simpler the process, the more comments you’ll receive, and, in turn, the more loyal vistors. You’ll also generate additional traffic via search engines, as comments themselves become searchable.