CommentLuv has been one of the most prominent comment modification plugins available for WordPress. It’s a unique idea in many ways, and no other plugin really does what it does. This post isn’t helping you choose between two plugins that do the same thing, CommentLuv and something else; rather, it’s aimed at helping you decide if you want to use it at all. It has some very interesting and potentially useful features, but it’s something of a risky tool; used poorly, it will destroy your search ranking.
So what is CommentLuv, what does it do, and is it worth using on your site?
First of all, you need to know that CommentLuv is a plugin that only works with WordPress. It has two versions, a free and a premium, and they’re both limited to the one platform. This isn’t usually a problem – most blogs run on WordPress anyhow – but it’s something to know if you’re using Blogger or another CMS.
Obviously, the free version is free but lacks many of the features that come along with the premium version. Let’s go over what the free version does first, so you know what else the premium adds.
The base level of functionality for the free CommentLuv plugin is simple. It adds a new field to your comments. This field is automatically filled with the most recent blog post made by the commenter on their own site. The commenter has to link to their site through the comment account from Gravatar, or just through the field provided. While the commenter writes their comment, the plugin fetches the most recent blog post from that user’s site and displays it at the bottom of the comment field. That user can then choose whether or not to include the link.
In addition to needing to use WordPress to run the plugin, you also need to use the WordPress default comments system. You can’t be using Disqus, you can’t be using Facebook comments, you can’t be using JetPack, or any other comment modifying plugin. So, that right there also limits who will want to install CommentLuv.
Those of you who are somewhat experienced with SEO, or at least aware of comment spam and Google Penguin, will have a red flag raised in their minds. Unfiltered comments, with links, left from random users? That’s just begging for trouble! You’re right, of course; CommentLuv encourages users to leave comments, but it doesn’t have a minimum quality level for those comments. People can come in, leave “Great post!” in a comment, and get their link on your post.
There are a few things that help protect your site while using CommentLuv. One of them is using any traditional anti-spam system, like Akismet. This will blog the worst of the spam comments, but it won’t stop people swooping in and leaving incredibly basic but “legitimate” comments thanking you for your post or telling you how great it is. Those comments are obviously not valuable, they’re just being used to get that link in place, but they aren’t straight spam.
There are some features with the premium version of CommentLuv that further help alleviate the problem, but I’ll discuss those more in a moment.
You can also establish comment rules. Make it clear that basic, unhelpful, “great post” or “first” or other worthless comments can and will be filtered from your posts. You can use word filters if you want, though they can catch legitimate posts as well. There’s no real solution to the problem; you just need to moderate your comments carefully. For a small blog, this isn’t necessarily a problem; just set your comments to require approval and check them out once or twice a day. For larger blogs, with a lot of content, it will be a lot harder to keep up with the volume.
CommentLuv is designed to encourage a lot of comments from people by providing an incentive to post. If you combine it with rules and moderation, it can do a lot to build a good community. On the other hand, it doesn’t do anything to help encourage comments from regular readers. It doesn’t benefit anyone who doesn’t have a site they want to promote. If your readership is primarily site owners, great! If it’s not, well, CommentLuv won’t do a lot for you.
So, what do you get for your money buying the premium version of the plugin?
First of all, once this post gets older, you might want to check with the main CommentLuv download page to verify what I have to say. The developers of CommentLuv do like to add features from time to time, and the price could always change. Most of what I have to say, though, will be accurate unless something major changes.
First of all, the price. There are two versions of premium, but the only difference is the license. One – the cheaper one – allows you to use it only on one site. That’s the $67 version. The more expensive version, for $87, allows you to use it on as many sites as you want, so long as they’re all owned by you. No sharing licenses, not that doing so is a common problem. If you have more than one site, it makes sense to buy the larger license; the additional cost isn’t really all that much.
So what do you get with the premium version?
CommentLuv Premium also gives you access to several other bundled plugins that go along with it.
The company also offers a number of bonus apps and courses, like WPMailAds, WP Auto Links, and an ebook of 15 ways to generate traffic. They’re all questionably useful, though, so I don’t necessarily consider them benefits unless you’re trying to heavily automate your blogging experience.
Honestly, there’s a couple of features that are basically essential. CommentLuv’s free version just doesn’t have the control you want to use it properly, but the premium version adds those controls and makes it much better.
In SEO, there’s an attribute you can add to links called NoFollow. Links, normally, are DoFollow links. What does this all mean? Well, when Google indexes a page, it looks at the links on that page. When you link out, you pass a little bit of authority to the sites you link to. It’s sort of a vote of confidence in the quality of that site. That’s why it’s not typically a good idea to link to spam sites.
NoFollow removes that vote of confidence, making it safe to link to a page you wouldn’t otherwise want to promote. It’s typically used in comments by default, to eliminate spam issues, for example. Spammers don’t bother spamming pages they get nothing out of, unless they’re using mass spam bots that don’t care one way or the other.
That’s one reason I think the premium version of CommentLuv is so important; you get a lot more direct control over the follow or not follow nature of the links added to your page. If all the links were NoFollow, you wouldn’t get as many people posting, because your incentive is too thin and doesn’t give any real value.
The premium plugin gives you very nice controls over NoFollow. You can specifically require that a commenter have at least commented X number of times before the links they post become followed, as an incentive for return visits and repeated comments. You can also set it so they can get a followed link by socially sharing your posts, which gives you an added benefit in exchange for a minor followed link. You can also reward specific users for good comments, and remove the functionality from specific users for repeated bad comments.
So, the question is, is CommentLuv valuable for SEO? Well, I’d say it can be, but you really have to use it properly. If you’re using it poorly – or just using the free version without any moderation – you’re just as likely to tank your search ranking as you are to find any benefit from it. It’s just another case of a risky tool that can bring great reward or great ruin.
One issue is the relevance of the links in the comments. You’re providing a link-based incentive to get people to comment, so you have to concern yourself with two things. The first is the relevance of the comment, and the second is the relevance of the link. How valuable to you is a comment from a closely-related blog owner with a highly relevant post, possibly even a response post, linked in that comment? Probably pretty valuable, as it can start audience sharing and a good working relationship between both of you.
On the other hand, what happens if the owner of a cake decorating blog comes and leaves a thin, bland comment on your post about marketing? It’s probably not very useful at all. The post linked doesn’t have any relevance, and the comment is thin at best.
If the links and the comments aren’t relevant, you’re not gaining anything by attracting those people to comment on your blog.
Another issue, as mentioned, is the NoFollow and DoFollow control. With the free version, you don’t have much control, and it’s very possible all you’re doing is opening yourself up to spammers. You’ll probably find your blog on lists like this if you allow followed comments. On the other hand, if you make everything NoFollow, you’re removing most of the reason links are an incentive in the first place.
That said, savvy marketers will still comment, because they know that even NoFollowed links are potentially valuable to their site. You just won’t get quite as many people, because those marketers are rare.
This is more of a selling point for the premium version than it is a criticism of the plugin as a whole, though.
Good comments are great; bad comments are harmful. If you’re allowing a lot of thin or spammy comments to sit on your blog, you’re liable to hurt your search ranking. This is even worse if you have a lot of followed comments. NoFollow is a protection against Google’s Penguin algorithm, which will penalize a site with a lot of spammy links. Followed links to thin, irrelevant, or spammy sites will hurt your site, moreso if you have a lot of them, which you will if you’re using a widely-used plugin that makes it easy for spammers to accumulate those links.
There’s one other minor concern, and that’s page speed. CommentLuv adds data to the page, and it runs when the user loads the page, which means it can slow down page loading times. Chances are this won’t be significant, and you can lazy load the plugin to save a bit of time, but it’s something you need to be aware of.
There’s one other aspect to CommentLuv for SEO, and that’s using it as a commenter. When you have the plugin, it gives you added features when you’re commenting on the blogs of other users who also use the plugin. You can use some of those features to your advantage.
Essentially, this comes back to link building. Link building has a lot of rules, and one of the most prominent among them is to make sure your links are as relevant as possible. Therefore, you can get a lot of value out of CommentLuv as a commenter, specifically if you’re using it the right way.
Bonus points if the blogs you find use DoFollowed links, though this isn’t strictly necessary to receive some benefit.
Overall, I would say that CommentLuv can be a very good, useful plugin that gives you some SEO benefits, but you really need the premium version to use it to its fullest.