Understanding the WordPress Configuration Settings – Discussion

December 28, 2012

Discussion is an important part of any blog, and can generate rich and unique content and connections between people and websites. Knowing how far to allow discussion on your website is important not only for your users, but for search engines as well. A post with many comments and good discussions is seen as more favorable with users when compared to a post with little or no comments, and is more likely to rank highly in search results.

Default article settings

“Attempt to notify any blogs linked to from the article” is used when you link to another website from one of your posts. WordPress will attempt to tell the other website that you are mentioning something about that website. Enabling it can lead to visitors traveling between the two websites, while disabling it prevents you from appearing to be a link spammer if you link to many, many other websites.
“Allow link notifications from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks)” allows other websites to let you know that they are mentioning you. This controls the opposite end of the conversation from the previous option. Enabling this lets your visitors know that this website is being talked about by others, but disabling it is safer when trying to avoid other sites looking for a quick and easy link back from your website (for blackhat or greyhat SEO reasons).
“Allow people to post comments on new articles ” sets the default for every post made in the future. Enabling this allows for people to comment and post their reactions to your posts, and can be a great way to earn new subscribers. Disabling this may deter some people that want to express their opinion on the content being discussed, but will prevent most comment spam from occurring.

Other comment settings

“Comment author must fill out name and e-mail” is an effort to prevent anonymous comments. While there is nothing forcing visitors to use their real name and email, checking this setting can help in the effort to reduce the amount of spam you receive.
“Users must be registered and logged in to comment” should only be checked if you have many users, or allow any visitor to register with your website. Checking this setting will even further help to reduce spam by forcing visitors to create an account to talk, but it can also limit the amount of discussion if most users do not want to create an account with your site.
“Automatically close comments on articles older than [number] days” will disable comments on posts that have begun to age. If your content in relevant to a specific time frame, this option should be set to that length of time. If your posts remain true most of the time, then there is no real need to automatically close comments on them.
“Enable threaded (nested) comments [number] levels deep” relates to comments that are responses to other comments. This enables certain features to become enabled, such as the ability to reply to a specific comment and to target a comment’s replies with CSS styling.
“Break comments into pages with [number] top level comments per page and the [last/first] page displayed by default” helps with readability and the loading time of a post with many comments. Instead of displaying every comment in a very long list, you can tell WordPress that you want it to display several pages of comments, with each page displaying the number set by you in this setting. The “first” or “last” setting is determines whether the oldest or newest comments should be displayed by default.
“Comments should be displayed with the [older/newer] comments at the top of each page” pertains to the order comments should be displayed in. Similar to the “first” or “last” setting of the previous option, it determines whether or not to display the freshest or oldest comments at the top of each page of comments.

E-mail me whenever

“Anyone posts a comment” means that a post’s author will receive an email whenever any of his or her posts receive a post or a trackback. Good for small sites, not good for large sites.
“A comment is held for moderation” means that an email will be sent to the author of a post only when a comment is held for review. This is better for medium-sized sites, where the author is not spammed with emails from your site and not buried from the spam a large site can attract.

Before a comment appears

“An administrator must always approve the comment” should be checked if you want someone to have to read every comment to verify that it is not spam. Again, good for small sites that want control of their discussions, not good for large sites that receives hundreds or thousands of comments on every post.
“Comment author must have a previously approved comment” will only limit unknown comment authors. This way means that an administrator can still check to see if someone is a spammer, but not have to check every post after the author’s initial comment. Most comment authors that don’t spam on their first comment are likely to not spam on further comment, so this option is good to enable.

Comment Moderation

Spammers trying to paste links to their site in your comments? Send those comments into moderation if they have either more than the number of links than the number indicated in the first sentence or a word contained in the line-delimited list in the large text box. Be careful, as the words in the text box goes through a search that filters every single instance of that word, even if it is in the middle of another word. If you enter “male” into the box, then it will send comments that include words like “malevolence” or “dismaler” to be moderated.

Comment Blacklist

Similar to the text box above, words entered here will not be automatically approved, but instead immediately marked as spam. If you continually receive spam containing one word that no other comment uses, then place it in here. Curse words, derogatory words, and words that are gibberish or the names of a well-spammed product can be placed into this test box.


An avatar is a picture that can be used to identify a comment author, and when using WordPress is either the default picture or the comment author’s Gravatar.

Avatar Display

If your theme allows it and you want to let your visitors see pictures of who is commenting, then check this option. Just know that you cannot control what someone’s Gravatar may be, and that loading many images will slow down most websites.

Maximum Rating

If someone with uploads a Gravatar, they have to rate it for content. Anything that may be offensive or inappropriate will have a higher rating. Keeping the option set low will make your site (hopefully) more family-friendly, but setting it higher will allow less of the default image be displayed.

Default Avatar

If a comment author does not have a Gravatar already set, or their avatar is blocked by the option above, then this image is what will appear next to their comment (if you have enabled the display of avatars). The first three settings are static image, and this means that a lot of the same image may be displayed on your site. The remaining settings are generated for each comment author, and provide more color to a site with many comments but few Gravatars.


  1. Atul Kumar - September 22, 2013 1:16 pm

    Thanks a lot to you…

    My all the problem about WordPress Discussion and Comment section is just solved out. I hope you written whole thing in simple term that we newbie can understand it simply…

    Atul Kumar Pandey

    • Chris Ellison - September 22, 2013 5:44 pm

      I’m glad I was able to help you solve your problem!

      I tried to write these posts so that anyone could understand the WordPress settings pages, so hopefully more people will also find these useful.

  2. emme - July 28, 2015 4:50 pm

    Your post has helped me to understand which box to check and the post has also clarify the meaning. Thank you for helping.


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