Comments: Edit, Delete, Leave Alone?

At some point all of us who write blogs and get comments sometimes get one that’s not quite the norm for one reason or another. Depending on your topic, demeanor, or just the people who happen to show up on a particular day, you never know what you’re going to get from day to day. As a blog owner, you have to deal with this issue, or at least should. The question is “what exactly do you do?

I tend to scribble a lot
Nic McPhee via Compfight

This was the topic we discussed in our Sunday Hot Blog Tips Live Google Hangout, and it was the topic I brought up. The issue came because in the last week I received two very long comments on two separate blogs. On one of them I knew the person. Both of them weren’t just long comments, but didn’t have any breaks, which means they were very long comments, no break for paragraphs, and not necessarily following what some might consider a proper story format, as in starting with an idea and following it in a logical sequence.

Both of these left me in a mental quandary. On their own they weren’t very easy to read. So when I did was edit one, on this blog, by breaking it into paragraph chunks. On the other blog I left it alone because it was just too hard to figure out how to break it up.

I didn’t really have many qualms about either one, but it got me to thinking about editing comments in general. It’s not something I’ve had to do all that often… well, that’s not quite true. Since I know almost no one reads the brief commenting policy above the comment box, some people put links into their comments that aren’t adding to the discussion. They end up in spam, and if I decide to okay them I then have to go in and remove those links before approving the comment. Those links that do add to the comment I don’t mind, but they’re still going to the spam filter.

I’ve only once in 5 years, which is very good, had to edit a comment because of a bad word. Nope, not allowing it here since I don’t curse (or cuss; folks not familiar with Southern dialects hate “cuss”), and if there was more than one word I just might have to delete the entire thing. I like to think that’s people treating me well in my own space; I appreciate that.

Some comments have no spaces or punctuation between the sentences. I’m always ambivalent about that, so I’ll admit that if those comments end up in the spam filter, I go ahead and delete them. If they make it through, I almost always leave them, but I’m starting to reconsider that policy because I’ve never once returned a visit to a blog and saw that they write that way on their own blog. If you don’t do it in your own space what makes it right in my space? Could be a paid writer who could care less, right?

Then there’s some links that are, well, suspect. I don’t mean suspected of having malware, although that’s a consideration. I mean a relatively short, borderline comment with a link going back to dental implants or garlic supplements or junk like that. In the video below you’ll hear the others saying they’ll either delete the links or the entire comment; I’m going to have to think about that one a bit more, though I will admit that there are times when I do delete links, but it’s mainly when I start getting a lot of bounced email based on what the commenter put in, which of course means it’s either fake or was typed in wrong. If you can’t get your own email correct you don’t deserve the link.

There are so many possibilities in having to edit that it warranted the video, and now it’s warranted the conversation. I put it out to y’all then. I hope you watch the video, but I doubt almost anyone will because that’s just how most people are, even if it’s my own video (folks, we see the view numbers, so 25 people certainly didn’t watch my last video if I see only 10 views on the site). However, I’ve written enough here to give you an opportunity to comment on the topic; let’s see what you believe.

Now, the video:


33 thoughts on “Comments: Edit, Delete, Leave Alone?”

  1. I moderate comments on all my projects. Basic rules similar to yours. However, comments are not approved automatically, I am sure that readers would get angry, if comment is approved and after a while deleted. Honestly, don’t mind what kind of link is used for comment, just look for real names and no keywords and link in comment body. I just saw that you have deleted my comment on “certification” post, but I guess you haven’t like some of the points I’ve mentioned.

    1. Carl, I would never remove a comment of yours because I disagreed with anything you said. On occasion I will remove a comment of yours that’s not on the topic that I wrote about, as in I think you missed the point and are commenting on something else entirely, which I do with other people as well. Your comment talked about certification programs; that post I wrote wasn’t on that at all.

      You wrote this: “Almost all online certificate programs fail or doesn’t mean anything to anybody, including those that are related to Google professionals.” If you actually read the entire post, you’ll see that it wasn’t close to commenting on what I actually wrote about. That’s why I removed it; never anything personal, but I know you write lots of comments for some of your clients and every once in awhile it seems like you don’t read an entire post and your comment doesn’t equate with it. Not a big deal; when you do that I just remove it. Nothing personal, since I know it’s been a rare thing you’ve done over time. I’m actually surprised it’s the first time you noticed it.

      As to moderating comments beforehand, you know I don’t do that. If folks miss the comment policy & do something that lands them in the spam filter, that’s not on me. It would certainly be a way of sculpting comment overall, but I don’t see the overall need for that, so I’ll never go that route.

  2. Hey Mitch

    Interesting topic and one I’ve been thinking about too.

    I have my blog set up so that I always have to moderate the first comment but after that one has been approved, all others by the same person get approved automatically.

    That has come back to bite me on a couple of occasions where people either have terrible English or just cannot write a sentence without a spelling or a grammatical mistake.

    I haven’t, in general, deleted any comments that I’ve already approved but lately I’ve been considering it as I’ve let some comments linking to sales pages get through and that’s concerning me.

    I don’t tend to edit comments either but when I ran my site through a spell checker a couple of weeks ago, the majority of spelling errors were in the comments.

    I see you have a comment policy as many people now do and maybe it’s time I did the same!

    1. Tim, I find that having a comment policy gives you a lot of leeway. For instance, I say don’t put any links in your comment unless you know me & it’s pertinent to your comment that’s pertinent to my post. Violate that and I can decide to just delete the post. Funny thing is that none of those people ever notice or ever come back, so you feel that maybe they were fake to begin with.

  3. I’m still getting use to this blogging stuff. I still don’t understand the whole ‘back linking’ thing. If you put your website link in the ‘website’ field, does that count as a back link? You say about putting links in the comment body… I’m guessing this is a no go? Does the website field have to be to a blog as it sometimes says ‘a feed could not be found’ Sorry for the noob questions! Its taking me a while to understand so any pointers would be appreciated! Many thanks.

    1. Good questions Stuart.

      A backlink means you’re in someone else’s space and you get a link back to yours, whether it’s a blog, a forum, FB page, etc. So, your putting your link in above gives you a backlink to your site.

      Links in comment body is generally a no-no because most people who do it link back to their site, but by putting your link in under your name you already have a link back to your site. It irks bloggers to no end, unless you already know the blogger & it actually contributes to the post, which it almost never does. If it’s to another source, like a newspaper story, that’s something different, but we can all see what the links are if we’re in our admin area.

      Third, you don’t have to use a blog link, but if you’ve noticed in looking at some of the comments here some people have a link that’s going back to their blog with a topic linked to it. That’s taking advantage of a blog plugin called CommentLuv, and that’s a great way to show what your blog might be about. However, it only works with blogs, thus you don’t get the benefit of it if you link to a website; that’s why you get that “no feed” message.

  4. A very interesting post, Mitch, and a topic I quite understand. I’ve edited comments myself, though I don’t edit context. I’m with Sheryl (in the video) on that one – if someone has said something, they own it. However, I will sometimes edit glaring spelling mistakes or typos, particularly if I know the person and know they’d have wanted me to (sometimes they ask first and, as I moderate comments, that makes it easier). I haven’t yet had to edit out any swear words, but I would if there were too many or if they were used inappropriately. (Unlike you, I don’t regard all swearing as inappropriate). I also edit out links that go to inappropriate sites. I did one just the other day that went to a shopping site – which is no great problem in itself but as I blog on a hosted site, it’s against their TOS to have links like that. I explained to the commenter what I’d done and why and she was fine with it.

    I agree with you that there is particular difficulty when one is dealing with people one knows. I lost someone’s friendship when I pulled an incredibly long comment one person posted to my previous blog. It had no punctuation, no capitalization and went all over the place. It also contained what I regarded as gossip. So I deleted the comment but because I had known her for years, I emailed her privately about it. She was upset and that was that. Since then, I’ve thought long and hard about this sort of action. I don’t know if I would or wouldn’t do the same now, but I do try to step back and look at it more objectively than I used to. I’ve changed a bit as a blogger over the years and I’m not as judgemental now as I used to be.

    Textspeak in comments bugs me but not as much as it used to, it depends how much there is of it. Ditto lack of capitalization, but I do tend to let a lot of it go now.

    Generally I prefer to delete comments rather than edit them. My two major no-nos are comments that are completely out of contenxt, and ones that are nasty to me or my other readers. They don’t get a look in.

    By the way, I’ve had a few of my own comments deleted, in particular by people who’ve not been familiar with my sense of humour, but I’ve considered that my own fault for not commenting in a more ‘straight’ way in their blogs first. Hopefully nowadays most people can tell the difference between when I’m being straight (like in this comment) and humorous.

    1. Great sharing Val, and you’ve given me lots to think about. You know, blog commenting is an interesting thing across the board. Bloggers want comments yet need to guard against bad ones and strange links. A blog like mine, which isn’t niched in any fashion, could bring any and everyone from all sorts of places, so I end up checking out sites sometimes to see if it looks legit, putting myself at risk and hoping that my antivirus protection holds. But do we require at least 3 lines, 5 lines, 3 paragraphs? Kind of unrealistic most of the time.

      I let a lot of stuff go, and there are some things where it’s not even a question, good or bad. But there’s lots of borderline stuff, and that’s where the challenge comes. As you’ve seen from some of the comments, there’s a lot of different behaviors associated with it. Confused across the board! lol

  5. Great topic, Mitch!

    I can see how the situation you mentioned can cause a quandary. The readability of others people’s comments is important to me in that I think we all hope that a reader leaves a comment to further the conversation.

    Sure, we all want the back links and hope others will stop by our site. But, most of us leave comments to get involved in the conversation and the back link is simply an added bonus.

    I generally don’t edit comments except for something that’s an obvious typo that the person didn’t mean to do. I’ve only done that once or twice and for the most part have left them since. And in the ones I fixed, I didn’t change the meaning or context of their comment at all. It was just plainly obvious they made a quick typo and didn’t catch it in their proofread.

    I do have to approve comments before I’ll allow them to post simply because I’ve had the random comment here or there get through my spam filter and I just don’t want those on my site. Plus, I try to write a response to each one and them approve them at once. I don’t know if it’s the best way, it’s just my way. πŸ™‚

    I hope you have an outstanding week, Mitch!


    P.S. I watched the video simply because you said I wouldn’t. I guess you showed me. πŸ™‚

    1. LOL! Glad you watched the video Barry, because you could see that even we didn’t have a great consensus on it. I’ve never changed grammar either, but a couple of times I have gone in to space sentences apart; nope, not going to do that anymore. To me, that smacks of laziness, not bad grammar, and I can’t say that anyone who’s actually left one of those comments has left anything that the NY Times would call “great”. lol

      I don’t worry about a spam comment showing up on the blog here and there. Actually, because of how I’ve set up my admin area there’s tons of comments that go directly to the spam filter, so there’s little I have to deal with that goes live. Still, it’s a tough issue to have one specific policy on unless you’re looking for perfection with every comment, in which case your road would be pretty smooth. I just don’t want to be that guy, if you know what I mean.

  6. I did watch the video, so you at least got one view! (you guys definitely have a lot of fun in those) πŸ™‚

    But to the topic, when commenting myself, I believe in respecting the space you are in. For example:

    I might be a lot more free with my language on a video game site, where f-bombs are dropped without hesitation or remorse, and things get heated quick, no matter how reasonable you think you are.

    But on other sites I don’t have a problem tightening up the whole process so as to respect the site and not detract from the discussion with out of place vernacular and attitude.

    When it comes to my own site, I will usually only edit a comment when the person feels like they have to leave their link within the body of the comment.

    They already have the site link and commentluv, but then they want to add in yet another link? Sheesh! Talk about greedy. I even had a guy come back and email me in all caps, mad that I “deleted his link” and “censored” him.

    I responded that he had TWO links already, and never heard from him again, but if he would have responded with anything but “sorry” I would have deleted the entire comment.

    Like others here, the first comment is moderated, then the person has free reign to comment at will. It hasn’t come back to haunt me yet, so it seems fine to go with that.

    1. John, folks seem to have this interesting concept about “censorship” that, since you read the blog, know I don’t fully agree with. No one minds disagreements; it’s how you decide to disagree. No one minds long, as long as it’s on point with the article.

      It’s those comments that are borderline, or those links that get you questioning authenticity that get you going. For instance, about 10 minutes ago I brought a comment out of spam, answered it, then responded to a few other people who’d written on the same post. Checked email and got 5 mail returns from that post. Went back and moved it to spam because of the fake email address; ugh. Sometimes, Akismet does know better.

  7. If a link is obviously commercial I’ll delete the comment unless the comment has really good content. I’ve yet to have that be the case.

    To edit a comment means I’d have to cut and paste it under my name which also means I’d have to state that I’d done that. So far I’ve never received a comment where I’ve had to do this. I’ve received some oddly worded comments that I’ve left intact. I’ve also received some comments with a certain amount of questionable content (such as language or a reference to another commenter) that I’ve let stand. On a couple of rare occasions–and it’s been awhile–I’ve deleted comments that were blatantly rude attacks on another commenter since I don’t want to run off my regular blog visitors.

    However, if it’s been an attack on me or my beliefs I let those stay because, though inconsiderate and rude, I accept them as part of the dialog. If I do receive a personal attack I try to politely point out the misguided tactic and correct the commenter.

    1. Great stuff Arlee. I know you have to do things differently with a Blogger blog, yet you still have the same issues with credibility of comments.

      One of the edits I do often, which goes against what I’d said in my full comment policy, is change names from keyword names to initials if they haven’t given me a real first name, or just remove everything after that @ sign (what is that thing called anyway?). That’s why I hate this thing called “keyword luv”, another plugin some use to encourage comments, because it gets those people thinking they can do it everywhere, and I like having a name to call someone.

      In the long run I guess it comes down to personal choice, which is almost always dicey at best.

  8. Great information here, as a small business owner who has started blogging on our website I feel this is something I will have to contend with in the near future. I feel that as long as the comment is constructive and on topic and not obvious spamming or keyword stuffing then I would let it slide, however if my site becomes a notice-board for amateur SEO companies then I guess I would reconsider!

    Cheers, Richard

    p.s. I’m looking forward to visiting your blog more often, some invaluable viewpoints! πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks Richard, and you obviously know that your blog would make many people have to take a second look. lol

      The problem is trying to figure out what you think constructive is. My main criteria is that the comment has something to do with the article. If someone writes a comment based on the title but didn’t read the post, I can tell and thus it goes, unless I know you, then I call you out. However, some comments are borderline. For instance, if I write a post on good SEO principles and someone leaves a comment saying “Good SEO principles are what you need to get more people to come to your website or blog”, is that constructive because it’s true, or is it garbage because you just said that and someone’s kind of repeating what you said? For me it’s garbage, but for someone else they might thank the person for backing them up. That’s when it gets tough.

  9. Okay I watched the video too – I try to each time. Cheryl wouldn’t touch it with a 10 foot poll? I don’t edit comments, either it’s spam or I leave it. Actually I never thought to edit them or knew I could. I also get some spammy ones from financial type sites that have nothing to do with my topics. Those are easy to delete. And of course those without their photos are more apt to be spam. I do check out the links first to give the benefit of the doubt. We must have been thinking about the same thing this week Mitch πŸ™‚ Have a great day.

    1. We were in some fashion Lisa. πŸ™‚ You know, much of what I get does have photos of young attractive ladies, and thus you never really can tell what’s real or not. Well, not quite true; if it’s a man’s name in the email or the name & email don’t match up, you have a good idea. lol

      I go back to what Barry said and I said in the video. You hope that comments will help stimulate conversation in some way here and there, and if someone wrote a comment that’s not bad but is one paragraph that goes on for 300 words or so, it just feels like it bogs everything down, and people might decide not to leave a comment based on how it’s formatted.

      So it becomes an interesting call by the blog owner, make it readable even if all you do is space things out, or delete it even though it was a pretty good comment, or just leave it alone and take your chances with the rest of your audience? Just not so clear cut in my mind.

  10. I think that it all depends on how many comments you need to handle. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately?) I usually get 5-10 comments a day, and most of them is spam. I’m not disappointed, I’ve just paunched my blog a couple of weeks ago. Valuable comments mustn’t be deleted.

    1. Hanna, I did take a look at your blog but it’s not in English so I can’t read it. Dealing with spam is always a major issue and yet I think you already know that you have to get rid of that stuff. It might not be an issue you have to deal with now but at some point it’ll come up in your mind if you blog for a long time.

  11. Mitch, I’ll delete the comment entirely when it’s obviously junk or contains language and content I don’t want in my blog. Occasionally, I’ll do very light editing when the comment is from someone I know and it has a misspelling or other typo that I know began to drive them crazy as soon as they sent it. I’d never try to change the meaning of a comment, or even the writing style. And as you said, when it’s a person whose first language is not English, then the effort to communicate seems more significant than any verbal clumsiness. But certainly, if it’s someone just trying to slip in a link or sell something, I trash it — I believe I learned that from you, way back when.

    Great post, and I enjoyed the video, too.

    1. Charles, there are lots of posts I delete, but there are more that I’m just not as sure about these days, and that’s kind of weird. In my scenario, I wanted anyone else who stopped by to be able to read it, so my intentions were good, like yours. The things we do when we care about our blogs & those who visit, eh?

  12. Hey Mitch,

    I understand where you’re coming from but I’m going to agree with Sheryl on this one. I wouldn’t touch it because whatever they wrote, that will reflect them. If the comment is too hard for me to read in the first place then I’ll just delete it. I rarely get comments like that though so I really haven’t had that issue.

    My commenting policy specifically states that if you leave a comment on my blog then you must link to your blog. If they link to anything else, the majority of the time I just won’t approve their comment. If I know them I might remove the link and let them know in my reply to them why I removed their link.

    I also agree with Brian, I hate all the lower case typing. Those people think they’re texting and they’re just being lazy. Once again, that’s a reflection on them.

    I know what you mean about do you delete the comment if it’s someone you know but look at it this way. If their comment doesn’t really address what your post was about, whether you know them or not, I wouldn’t let it slide. I’ve had no problem deleting comment from some of my regular readers but it was obvious to me that they were either in a hurry and didn’t have time to read the post but wanted to be sure and comment. Personally, I’d rather they just didn’t comment. I delete it anyway.

    Wrapping up what you said though Mitch, I think it’s up to each individual how to handle this because it’s your blog, your piece of real estate and a reflection on you and what you will or will not allow.

    That’s all I’m saying on that topic.


    1. Is that all Adrienne? lol

      You know, I always go back to earlier conversations we were having about comments and the like, and I adopted some things you said and not others. I hadn’t been deleting comments to regular websites because not everyone has a blog. I probably will stick with that one, but I’m probably going to be more circumspect on the types of sites being linked back to. And to make it easier on myself, if I don’t approve the site then I won’t approve the comment either; saves me time, it’s fair to the people since I don’t want to moderate links, and I won’t have those instances of bad emails and the like anymore. Well, I might, but I’ll know it was unintentional.

      See, you’re always teaching me stuff.

  13. Mitch, I had to get in on this one. I made the mistake of allowing a comment that was not too pleasant and it started a war between two readers.

    I let it go on for too long and the reason I did was too allow them as adults to come to their senses, but they never did so I pull all comments.

    I learned a lesson not to believe that just because people are adults does not mean they are civil.

    1. Michael, I had the same thing happen here last year when the guy who created SiteSell got into a verbal beef with a local guy, and the comments were extremely long & getting nasty, enough so I ended that conversation and my next blog post was about it, indirectly but they knew what was going on. Truthfully, on some subjects I’ve been as bad on other blogs; I don’t suffer racism or intolerance all that well, if you know what I mean. Still, I never edited any of those comments, though at some point I worried that I might have to start.

  14. Of course you should edit your blog comments.

    Its your blog after all, commenting and placing a link in the name/comment is really a privilege and people should act accordantly.

    I personally hate censorship, as you said people might interpret such action as bending the truth. But yeah, its a matter of choice and depends from case to case.

  15. Most bloggers moderate comments. To edit comments posted in your blog or not, it’s up to you. It’s your blog so you have all the rights to whether accept or delete a certain comment.

    As a reader who post comments, I would feel kind of bad if I posted a comment related to the blog and it won’t get approved. It depends though. But still, you own this post so it’ll be all up to you. πŸ™‚

    1. Arianne, it does bring up an interesting issue. If you read Adrienne’s comment, she doesn’t allow any links on her blog that don’t come from blogs, so she wouldn’t allow your comment. I at least take a look at the links, and if they look spammy, scammy, or totally like a sales page I’ll delete the links and leave the comment, because overall I don’t believe everyone who comments on blogs has a blog, thus I don’t want to penalize anyone who actually puts through a legitimate effort in writing a comment, which you did.

      I don’t moderate comments; at least not beforehand. Lately this blog seems to be moderating a lot of comments, which I’m trying to figure out, but for some links it’s proven to maybe know some things that I don’t. πŸ™‚

  16. Well, Back links are good, but only if the actual site is relevant to your content – otherwise its just a pr back link – and one day – boom, the big SEO Spammers like the ones in my mainstream, will suffer immensely.

    Write good content – be creative with titles – grow up

    1. You mean like the backlink you left in your comment Brian? lol Truthfully, there’s nothing wrong with PR backlinks as long as you’re not overdoing it. That’s when the big G gets on people, when it looks like it was a coordinated effort to game their system.

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