Spam comments and how to deal with them.
Right now, I’m having my usually weekly wander around various WordPress blogs and websites, updating plugins and clearing out spam comments. I thought now is a good time to explain what they are and what you can do about them.
WordPress is an increasingly popular platform for both blogs and building websites. They recently reported that WordPress powers 14.7% of the top million websites in the world – that’s quite an achievement!
Such popularity brings its own issues, from increased hacking attempts to spam comments.
A problem many small business owners have – and please don’t take this personally – they tend not to be internet savy and manually approve comments that can cause more harm than good.
What Are Spam Comments?
Any comment left that not on topic of the original post can be classed as spam. Don’t mistake people disagreeing with you as a spam comment – not everyone will love you and the world would be a boring place if we all had the same views.
Most spam comments are automated and people use programmes to blast a similar versions to 100’s if not 1000’s of blogs in the hope that they get through.
The main reason…
… Google rankings.
Links pointing back to your website help to increase your ranking in the search engines. Blog commenting is a great way to get links back. There is a whole industry around blasting these comments out, whether it is buying software to do it or hiring a search engine optimisation “expert” to do it for you.
So what is the problem?
Once you let one of these automated spam comments through, it’s not long before your site is inundated with them. It may seem that it’s better to have any comment on your blog than nothing, but really it isn’t.
Now, it’s no secret that Google likes websites that like other sites. The internet is a sharing place, some links pointing out to relevant and useful sites is good.
What happens though is these spam commenters leave their link often to totally unrelated sites, which have no great value to anyone. And before you know it you are linking out to 100’s (or even 1000’s!) of unrelated websites, draining all the hard work you have put into your site.
What do spam comments look like?
Spammers are usually very easy to spot, once you know what you are looking for…
Spam commenting usually follows a fairly common set format.
Typical Spam Comments
- The author name will usually be the targeted keyword.
- Email address will be free email – often Yahoo as that is used to set up automated email accounts with several of the link building software. But you will also see AOL and Gmail a lot too.
- The actual comment will be vague and not mention any points you have brought up in your page or article.
- Quite often the spammer will go down the flattery route in an effort to gain approval.
Some real life examples…
The common “flattery gets you everywhere” commenting technique
Commenters “name” – pampers new baby
Website – thewebsite/pampers-new-baby/ (notice how the keyword is in their “name” and website address.)
Comment – How-do-you-do, just needed you to know I have added your site to my Google bookmarks because of your extraordinary blog layout. But seriously, I think your site has one of the freshest theme I’ve came across. It really helps make reading your blog a lot easier.
Commenters “name” – Eating Right To Lose Weight
Website – website.com/eating-right-to-lose-weight (again, notice how the name and webpage have the same keywords – a sure way to spot SEO – usually spam- commenters)
Comment – This is an excellent example of quality article content. It’s well-written, interesting, intelligible and uncomplicated. If I were a writer, this is how I would write this content. You have a lot of writing talent.
The “Huston, we have a problem” technique
The alternative is to mention that there is some sort of problem with your website or blog.
Commenters name – Acne Skin
Comment – Your website is not showing well in internet explorer it would be wise to check it
The “I want 2 links” technique
Often spammers will try to put an actual link in the comment too. What I have noticed they use almost normal user names and leave the keyword linking to the actual comment body.
Commenters name – langchamp
Comment – Buy cheap beats by dre headphones online at (website link) ,keep you happy,excellent design and terrific quality.Top rated customer service With Fast & Free Shipping.
The “I will get through by mentioning your post title” technique
As fast as the anti-spam software improves, spammers will try and find a way around it to get published. Comments that mention the topic in the post will often get approved. Don’t be fooled! It’s automated and you can tell – it has the complete post name including the tag line or website name if you have included this in the URL
Commenters name – hyip
Comment – Thanks for sharing [post title – website name] with us keep update bro love your article about [post title – website name].
Now you know what to look for, how do you stop it?
- Set up your blog so that commenters need to have at least 1 manually admin approved comment before more can be auto-approved. This keeps your admin time down and real life commenters will understand.
- Close commenting on old posts. The length of time is personal preference. In the screen shot I have chosen 14 days as this particular blog is a spam target.
- Hold comments for moderation that contain any links. What you may find is if a spammer actually gets through, they will up their game with more comments this time containing extra links.
- WordPress comes with Akismet – a WordPress comment spam plugin – already installed. You do need to activate and register it. It is well worth it, it stops the majority of spam getting through.
- If you are having problems with spam, make your comments “no follow”, a dreaded word for most “SEO” spam commenters.
- Use this with care – if you huge problems and notice comments are coming from similar sources, block the ip address. The IP address is listed with each comment and can be added comment moderation or comment blacklist box on the discussions page shown in the image below. This runs the risk of blocking any legitimate comments too.
- If a spam comment does get through, be ruthless – unapprove it as soon as you spot it and click the spam link. It really is better to err on the side of caution, if in doubt spam it and ask questions later.
Just in case you are wondering whether letting just a couple of spam comments through will lead to an avalanche, here’s a screen shot from an older blog…
That isn’t photoshopped, it really does say 44,013 spam comments blocked in 6 months. Imagine clearing those manually! You can see the huge leap after a few spam comments were approved earlier in the year.
The result? A smack by Google, loss in page rank (from 3 to 0) and really slow loading times which I do believe is the main reason for loss in search rankings.
If you have a WordPress site, maintain it! Keep everything up to date, moderate and control your comments too.
Don’t want to do that? Make sure all comments are off – but still pop in at least monthly and update all plugins and security patches.
Still too much effort? Then hire someone to do it for you. You really cannot leave WordPress sites (or any website!) unattended for months on end, the risk of having your hard work ruined is not worth it – not just from spam comments, but from those who use automated tools to breach out of date security too.
Over to you…
What are your experiences with WordPress spam comments? Do you have any other techniques to stop the spammers? Please share them in the comments below.WordPress Spam Comments and How to Win the Spam War by Jan Kearney