At Newfangled, we talk a lot about content. The importance of a content strategy is at the core of Mark's book "A Website that Works" and you can even find a breakdown of the different types of content that can be used to fill out your own content strategy.
One of the most popular types of content currently is blogging. Writing 400-500 words four or five times a month to show your expertise, get fresh content on your site and hopefully attract new business through SEO - this all sounds great.
One of the best aspects of a blog, however, is the interaction it provides with your audience. A comments area gives the user the ability to reach out to the author of the blog, ask a question or give an opinion. Comments also give the blog author the ability to write back and build a relationship with the users. And beyond all of that, with each comment that is written, more indexable content is being added to your website. It seems like a win-win.
But then there's spam. And not just the robot-generated garble, but the commenters trying to link you to their site to buy a bigscreen TV and get a free iPad. And beyond the spam, there can often be negative, rude or even inappropriate comments that you don't wish to be shown on your site. These are all danges that you face when you start letting any average Joe post content directly to your website.
I have been asked by clients several times recently what our recommendation is for moderating comments to help avoid the spam and inappropriate posts. Realistically, you have two options and both have their pros and cons.
Option 1: Require Admin Approval
The first solution that comes to mind is requiring adminstrator approval. By that I mean that when a comment is submitted, it goes into a "pending" state (in our CMS, it's in "preview") where it will sit until one of the website administrators logs in and reads it. Once read, the admin can decide if it is publish-worthy or not.
While this option may sound perfect for the site owners, it is often not the best experience for the user. You will effectively be able to assure that no spam or otherwise unwanted comments show up on your blog. However, the users may become frustrated because when they submit their comment, it may not show up on the site for a length of time.
The average web user has become accostomed to instant gratification on the internet. When they post something, they want to see it. Which brings us to option #2:
Option 2: Moderate after Publishing
NOTE: This option may not be possible if you don't have a good spam filter in place. The NewfangledCMS comes with a built-in spam filter. These filters will block a lot of the blatant spam and robot-generated stuff, but they often can't detect a "spammy" comment that was written by a real person.
Assuming you already have this in place, the second option is to allow the user comments to be published immediately. If you do this, I would encourage you to set up a notification system where an admin gets an alert whenever a new comment is published so that they can check it for spam and remove it immediately if it doesn't pass the test. Most modern content management systems include this capability.
The benefit of this option is that users can comment in real-time. They see their comments appearing on your site as soon as they are posted. The down-side is that you, as the site admin, are giving up a layer of control. Without the ability to selectively choose what gets published, you have to monitor what gets published and be ready to remove it quickly if it is spam.
At Newfangled, we take the second approach and it has served us quite well since we began blogging in 2006. We are able to control the flow of spam without putting up a hurdle for the average user.
I feel that, if possible, this is the better of the two options because it is a better user experience. While every situation is different, and it is not the best solution for every site, typically what is best for the user is best for your website.