Bloggers like to look for feedback and encouragement in the comments section. But in their rush to get feedback and build a healthy comment section, bloggers often overlook the need to create blog comment guidelines.
A blog comment policy is useful for bloggers because it sets boundaries on what readers can and can't say. While comments may be a sign of interest and activity in your blog community, you don't want the average reader to be put off by others' bad behavior.
Below are 10 points to include in a comment policy. Use a few on your blog, depending on your audience and niche.
1. No spam. Who wants spam anywhere, except maybe in a sandwich? Use spam filters and let your readers know you will delete spam.
2. No foul language. Most blogs allow up to PG-13 language. Do you really want readers to throw around the f-bomb or other offensive language on your blog?
3. No derogatory or inflammatory comments. Don't allow anyone to use your comment section to pick on or hurt someone else. Require commenters to be civil to each other and not indulge in personal attacks. Everyone must play nice if they want to be published.
4. No bots or anonymous comments. The goal is to ensure that real flesh and blood human beings leave comments. Further, the commenter must identify himself in his comments.
5. No off-topic rants. Comments must stay on topic. If the commenter has something to say on the topic, she should write her views in a short, concise format. This isn't the venue to share lengthy world views and passions.
6. No blog posts that parade as comments. If a person has a lot to say, he should consider writing a guest post or starting his own blog. The objective of the comment section is to have a discussion, not publish lectures.
7. No embedded links to another website. The comment section doesn't exist to help other blogs and websites build their link love. The only exception to this rule is links to information that supports the conversation. Make sure you define this.
8. No anchor text or keywords in a commenter's name. This is an SEO trick picked up from Andy Beal's Marketing Pilgrim blog. Comments are a way to participate in the conversation, not boost blog or Web rankings.
9. No sales pitches. Comments shouldn't be thinly veiled promotions.
10. No affiliates. The comment section isn't a place for people to leave links back to their affiliate programs.
In addition to the 10 points outlined above, here are seven other blog comment elements to consider and integrate into your policy:
1. Encourage commenting and conversation on your blog. Let your readers know you're interested in their feedback. Go one step further and incorporate a call to action in your blog posts.
2. Determine comment ownership. On your blog, clearly state who owns the comments on your site. It's your choice—do you own them or do the commenters?
3. State that your blog isn't responsible for comments. It's important to let readers know that you're not accountable for comments, legally or otherwise.
4. Outline your editorial rights. You should encourage and welcome comments, but let readers know you retain the right to accept or edit comments.
5. Explain how you will handle comments that violate the rules. You can edit or delete the comments, or block or notify the commenter. It's your call, just be clear about your actions.
6. Don't reject comments just because they express an opposing view. You need to have thick skin. You can choose how you respond, but you shouldn't delete different perspectives.
7. Don't write fake comments to make it look like someone's home. This is just poor form. If you want support for your blog, ask your social media tribe to stop by.
What matters most in a blog comment policy is that it provides guidelines for what you and your readers can do in public conversation. Remember that you are the sponsor of the conversation. You want it to reflect positively on both you and your guests.
What would add to this list?
Heidi Cohen is president of Riverside Marketing Strategies. Follow her on Twitter @HeidiCohen.