When choosing a commenting system for your blog, there are some fancy alternatives to WordPress’s native commenting system. When you look at some of the top blogs out there, the majority are using either Disqus or Livefyre. These boast features like social media login, related post syndication, or incorporating social media conversations into the comment stream. They promise real-time conversations, streamlined moderation functionality, and better spam filtering.
But the truth is that WordPress’s native commenting system just might be the best option. I have had both Disqus and Livefyre installed on this blog, each for a significant amount of time. The other day, I uninstalled Livefyre and decided to do away with these 3rd party commenting systems for good.
Do the benefits of using WordPress’s native commenting system outweigh the fancy features of 3rd party commenting plugins like Livefyre and Disqus? Here’s why I chose WordPress’s commenting system (and you should, too):
1. It’s easier for your readers to use
Ease of use should be the top factor in your decision of which commenting system to use. If someone comes to my blog and wants to make a comment, all they have to do is fill in their name, email address, website (optional), and write their comment. Done and done.
Livefyre and Disqus’s plugins are free. This means that they’re going to try to sign up as many of your readers for their service as possible. So when you try commenting via Livefyre, for example, it tries to get people to create a Livefyre account before posting their comment. And they keep making it harder to make a comment as a guest.
Disqus’s UI is a bit more intuitive. They don’t require signing up for Disqus but they do encourage it.
Using the WordPress comment system provides the most simple interface to join the conversation.
In the couple days I’ve used WordPress’s native commenting system, I’ve gotten more comments on my blog than I did in two weeks with Livefyre. Ease of use absolutely makes a difference.
2. It’s easier to customize the formatting
With Livefyre and Disqus, you can’t have complete control over the formatting with your website’s CSS file. While they each let you add some CSS on their backend admin panels, you can’t rearrange the avatar, name, date, etc., or make advanced customizations.
With WordPress and the Thesis theme, I was able to create custom containers and CSS to make my comments as fancy as I wanted to — both the commenting tool and the stream of comments. It requires a bit of CSS know-how, but the point is that it’s possible at all.
3. Frequent updates won’t break your comments
In the past couple months alone, Livefyre had two updates that broke my comments in some way. As part of the first update, they changed the class names in their HTML divs, rendering my custom CSS completely useless. I had to re-do my CSS on their whim. With WordPress’s system, this is less likely to happen — it does depend on the theme you’ve chosen and how often the developer rolls out an update. But for the most part, the comment classes on your theme will stay the same.
The second update completely broke Livefyre — and my site. I logged into my blog one morning, saw that an update was available, and quickly applied it. I then headed to work and didn’t check on my blog until the next day. This was my fault. I should have looked at my blog immediately to make sure the comments didn’t break. But sure enough, the next morning I looked at my blog, and the comments were at the very top of the page above the header, with all this white space in between their comments and the blog itself. It was so bad that when I tried zooming out to get a screenshot, I couldn’t even fit it all in my screen. I probably lost tons of leads and subscribers that day. And the problem wasn’t fixable on my end — their plugin was suddenly incompatible with my theme, and I would have to wait for their west coast support team to wake up, get to work, see my email, and look into it. This was the moment I decided to do away with 3rd party commenting systems for good.
4. Page load speed won’t be reduced
The reason I uninstalled Disqus about a year ago was because it was affecting my page load speed too much. Having a slow page load speed is actually bad for SEO. Google prioritizes sites that load quickly because they provide a better user experience for readers. Readers get impatient when they have to wait for a page to load. So if your site is too slow, it will hurt your Google rankings.
Disqus and Livefyre have both gotten notably better at reducing the load time of their plugins, but with either installed, your site still won’t be as fast as it would with WordPress’s native commenting system. Pingdom has done analysis the effect of comment plugins on page load speed, and they found that these 3rd party systems aren’t too big a drag on site performance, but they do slow things down just a tad. Also, their tests were limited — performance will also depend on what other plugins and scripts you have running on your site and how they interact with the comment plugins.
5. Comments won’t disappear if you optimize the URL
If you learn about the best practices of SEO after writing a few blog posts, you’ll know that optimizing each URL to include relevant keywords will help you get indexed in Google for those keywords, thus helping you get more relevant traffic. As long as you create a 301 redirect from the old URL to the new URL, it provides a seamless user experience for people who click links that still point to the old URL, and it carries over all the SEO juice from the old URL as well. Easy peasy.
However, Disqus and Livefyre both can’t handle when you change the URL. Your old comments will disappear, and in Livefyre’s case the entire commenting widget will disappear as well.
I emailed both Disqus and Livefyre’s support teams about this issue. Disqus has a migration tool that’s supposed to fix this issue — however, their migration tool was broken for two weeks while I tried to migrate a bunch of blog post URLs over. I was frustrated waiting for a resolution, and kept getting generic canned-response emails from their support team when I tried reaching out to them. Of course, it’s a free plugin, so I expected as much. Livefyre’s responses were much more personal, but they couldn’t even figure out what was causing the problem even after one of their senior developers got involved.
Regardless of how helpful one support team is versus another, in either case it just wasn’t worth the hassle. I’ve never had this issue with WordPress’s native system. #win
6. Social media conversations should stay on social media anyway
One feature that drew me to Livefyre was the fact that they detect social media comments on Twitter and Facebook and plug those right into your blog post’s comment stream. Pretty cool, right?
Actually, it’s not. Turns out, if people are having a meaningful conversation on your blog post, those social media updates look really out of place.
Additionally, there are Twitter spammers out there who will reply to any of your updates with a link to a virus or some other spam site. So if they reply to one of those tweets about your blog post, that virus link ends up on your blog post. That’s bad news. So the point is, blog comments should be for blog comments, not for any other social media activity.
What commenting system do you use on your blog? Do you think the benefits of your 3rd party system outweigh these benefits of using the native commenting system?