Spam
Creative Commons License photo credit: dok1

If you run a blog of any kind then sooner or later you’re going to start receiving your fair share of spam comments. The main purpose of these comments is in the hope that you publish them on your blog, leading to an additional link to whatever site the spammer is trying to push. More links equals better search engine rankings and so more traffic to their site.

Why Are Spam Comments Bad?

Spam comments exist purely to try and convince you to link to another website. The kinds of people who participate in this kind of low-life marketing technique and the kinds of sites they are typically trying to market are typically often not the kind of thing that you really want to be associated with.

Spam comments quite simply make your blog look less professional, they benefit those who do no benefit to you and encourage them to continue their antics. Lastly there have been suggestions in search engine optimization circles that if you link from your website out to websites that Google considers spam (or at best poor quality) then you may even find your own site being associated with them, leading to a penalty in your rankings. This means less traffic and less profit for you which can only be bad.

In short there really is nothing good about comment spam. You don’t want it appearing on your blog; you want it deleted immediately as soon as the spammers try leaving the comment and you want this process to be as quick and easy for you as possible so you don’t spend huge amounts of time each day just sorting through and deleting comment spam.

Identifying Comment Spam

After a while identifying spam blog comments becomes second nature but when you first start a blog you may not realize what is and is not spam. So I thought it might be useful for us to take a look at some typical spam comments to see what many of them have in common, thus helping you to tell the legitimate comments from the spam ones.

Short Comments

One common type of spam comment is the short, one-sentence comment that simply says something like “Nice post” or “Thanks – I will come back soon” and so on. These quick, valueless sentences really add nothing to your blog (apart from flattering you) and so are one of the most common types used.

Unrelated Comments

Another common sight is a spam comment that really in no way relates to the article on which they’re commenting. For example their comment may talk about how they got their ex-girlfriend back or rid themselves of back pain in the comments of your article about cooking the perfect steak.

Again – the comment should make sense, add value and be closely related to the theme of your article. If not, it’s almost certainly spam.

Keyword-Stuffed Name

We know that links back to our site help in our search engine rankings. However if this link also contains the keywords that we are trying to rank for then we will get an even bigger boost up the rankings.

Another tip-off then that a comment *may* be spam is a keyword-rich name. So rather than calling themself “Sam” for example they call themselves “best mortgage rates”.

Now, some people still use this when making genuine comments so you need to be a little more careful and look a little deeper when you see a keyword-rich name like this. Check out the content of the comment before deciding one way or another but appreciate this may at least give you an idea that something is up.

Dodgy-Looking Website Address

Another potential hint, like the one above, is if the website address linked to looks less than professional. Perhaps it is in a country known for spam and hacking like Russia. Perhaps the URL is in a foreign language you can’t understand. Maybe rather than linking to their main homepage (www.site.com) they link to a deep page of their site (www.site.com/page/spam.html).

Links In The Comments Area

Some really bad spammers even try to include further links in the body of their comment. So rather than just trying to link the “name” section to their website they also try to include a hyperlink at the bottom of their comment to try and get two links for the price of one if you publish it.

No Avatar

An avatar is a small image that you can use online to identify yourself. One example of this is the Gravatar service. If you have set up a freeĀ Gravatar account with a photo of yourself then any time you comment on a site which uses the gravatar technology (like this one) then your image will automatically appear.

Not everyone uses avatars of course so this is one element where you need to be a little careful and thoroughly read the comment to see if it is spam but you can use the presence or absence of a gravatar almost as a reverse spam-spotting technique. Generally if someone has an avatar that they use when commenting then their comment is almost certainly valid and from a read reader rather than a spammer.

How To Control Spam Comments

So now you know how to identify spam blog comments the next issue to concern ourselves with is exactly how to ensure that they don’t appear on your blog and how to go about this as quickly and easily as possible. After all, ideally you don’t want to spend hours each day just filtering through comments and deleting the junk.

WordPress Discussion Settings

If, like me, you use WordPress to run your blog then you may have seen the “discussion” options in your dashboard.

If not, you need only to go to the “settings” menu and from here you should find the “discussions” area which controls how readers of your blog can leave comments.

Personally I like to change the default settings so that no comment appears on my blog until I have read it and authorized it. Certainly this can increase your workload a little as you really want to check into your blog every day to activate any legitimate comments that have been left but on the other hand it means that spam comments won’t get published on your blog without your knowledge.

Install Anti-Spam Plugins

There are a number of WordPress plugins designed specifically to help you identify and delete spam comments. I find the default plugin called Akismet that comes included with the basic install of WordPress does a perfectly acceptable job of fighting comment spam.

So far I have been lucky on this blog and 90% of the comments I receive are genuine (thank you for that, dear reader!) but I have other WordPress sites where I literally get 500 spam comments to every 1 genuine comment and without Akismet these sites would be almost unmanageable with the daily deluge of spam I receive.

Incase you’re not using Akismet yet, just activate it in your “plugins” section then follow the simple 2 minute set-up and you’ll be fighting spam in no time at all.

IP Block Persistent Spammers

Worst case scenario if you keep on getting hit hundreds of times a day by the same spammers you can actually try blocking them from your website altogether. By doing this you literally stop them being able to access your site and in doing so make it impossible for them to spam you any more.

Here’s how to do it, assuming you use web hosting which can a cPanel control panel (as most hosts do these days).

Firstly log into your WordPress dashboard and locate the “comments” section where you can view and manage comments that have been left on your website. You should find a section which shows the IP address of your commenters, and you can look through this to find persistent spammers.

Jot these numbers down as you’ll need them in just a minute.

Next, log into your web hosting control panel and locate the IP blocking option. Then simply click it and one by one enter the IP addresses of the spammers you no longer want to be able to access your site. Next time they try to visit they will be simply told they are not authorized to access your site and will be unable to leave you any comments.

Does your blog suffer from comment spam? What works for you in ridding yourself of junk comments? Why not leave a comment and let me know?



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