A few weeks ago I was thinking to myself that WordPress comments were really a black hole. So I was surprised and intrigued when I received an email from Thrive Themes telling me about their new Thrive Comments plugin. I went over to their website to check it out. In this post I want to share what I've learned by doing a walkthrough.
We all know that enabling comments on your site increases reader participation. It enhances the richness of content and can make the content more useful and interesting, but the "bare" builtin WordPress commenting system is woefully inadequate. Like everyone else, I started out with the basic commenting system that comes built in with WordPress. That lasted all of a few days before I started getting too many comment spam submissions. I installed the free version of Akismet to combat spam, but I've gone back and forth between allowing people to comment anonymously or by requiring some kind of authentication.
I didn't want to require visitors to create an account on my site in order to leave comments, but was thinking it would be nice if they could use their Google, Facebook, or Twitter account to do so. I briefly used Disqus and noticed that sometimes waiting for Disqus would slow the page loading, which put me on edge. When they started adding ads then it got to be too much. Disqus keeps the comments in their database, though they promised an easy option to revert them back to your site's database if you wanted to leave. That "easy option" was not so easy and after the pain I went through to recover site comments, I decided that keeping the comments in my own database was a must.
All of that lead me to JetPack Commets. I realize that for many people they may have started with JetPack Comments and skipped the unsatisfying interlude. I liked JetPack Comments and used them for several years. They were somewhat basic, but reliable and people could login with their social accounts to comment. JetPack also allows people to subscribe to comments and be notified when there is a reply to their comment.
This year I began to sour on JetPack because of the many ads that the plugin spams you with. Its not like you'd see the ad once, dismiss it, and it would be gone. The ads kept coming back, such as every time you did an update. I thought, there must be some better options.
I did look at Postmatic, and it is an attractive option. It goes beyond on-site commenting, includes emailing posts and newsletters, and does a good job of increasing engagement, but I really try to avoid recurring subscriptions. I noticed that Postmatic had a number of free plugins in the WordPress repository. You can install a set of them to piece together a commenting system.
- Epoch extends the native WordPress comments with Ajax responsive comments and took performance into account so that it would not create a server load.
- Postmatic Social Commenting allows visitors to comment using their social media accounts.
- Replyable, which is a subscribe to comments replacement and has a premium upsell.
- Crowd Control lets users report inappropriate comments.
- I also added Basic Comment Quicktags to allow people to use basic editor features like bold, link, and quote.
- Of course, I still needed an anti-spam plugin as well.
All of which meant that it took 6 plugins to put in place a basic commenting system. Holy moly.
There were a couple of things wrong with this setup. One was that the Epoch commenting block was hard to style and place. It tended to overflow the page contents and look odd. More critically, several of the above plugins have not been updated for over 2 years!
So when I went to take a look at Thrive Comments, the bar was pretty low. I wanted to keep the comments on my site, I wanted to have the option to comment with a social account, and I wanted it to be attractive. Boom! Thrive Comments blew me out of the water.
Here is a video walkthrough of plugin interface, which I think helps to give a feel for it.
Here is a list of the main features:
- Thrive Comments uses the native WordPress database for storing comments, so comments aren't lost if the plugin is disabled.
- You can allow people to comment using their Facebook and Google accounts, or allow them to comment anonymously.
- Though there are limited options for styling the comment form, the comment form behaves itself and is attractive.
- You have the option to give commenters badges based on the number of approved comments they have contributed, upvotes received, or replies received. You can also give badges to comment moderators, so they have some flair to indicate their status.
- You can enable comment up and down votes, just up votes, or no voting.
- Thrive Themes has a strong focus on conversion. When someone comments you have an array of options: a thank you message, give them the options to share on social media, show them related posts, or redirect them to another page. If you also have Thrive Leads installed, you have the option to show them an opt-in signup form. These options can be set based on the first comment, or for subsequent comments, which means that you could use one option on the first comment and a different one thereafter.
- You can set it up to allow people to be notified when someone replies to their comment, or to subscribe to comments for the article.
- There are options to lazy load comments and avatars after the page has loaded so displaying your content is not delayed, to assign roles that can moderate comments, and to translate the front-end.
- It has anti-spam features built in.
- There is a modern comment moderation dashboard for managing comments.
On the plus side, the Thrive Comments plugin has a ton of features and everything is attractive. Adding the ability for readers to "upvote" articles is something that I've wanted to add. Things like the "conversion" options to show a user when they leave a comment are very nice touches that show that a lot of thought went into the design. The pricing is very reasonable and I like that you get lifetime updates. I saw a number of tutorials in their knowledge base for helping to configure the plugin options.
On the other hand, while the comment form is attractive, it might be nice to have a few more styling options. I'm also not sure if the email provider list is extensive enough to cover most users. If you want to enable comment notifications then I would check to see if your outgoing email provider is included. You can enable commenting authentication using Facebook and Google. It would be nice to add Twitter as well. Finally, this is "version one" and I expect that there will be some gotchas and rough edges. I was happy to see that support was actively replying and helping users in the forum.
Given that the WordPress comment options is a desert, I'm pretty happy with the plugin and think that it meets my needs for a robust solution. They say that a good marketer will find an overlooked niche to fill. It seems that Thrive has done that with this plugin.
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