If you have a blog, especially one that ranks within the search engines, you know all too well how annoying spam can be. Knowing how to identify and block spam comments in WordPress is an important thing to know when managing a blog. You could otherwise spend hours (literally) filtering through spam trying to find the real comments!
These pesky comments exist because people are looking for a way to gain backlinks (links on other sites that point back to their blog). Backlinks are a general part of the ranking algorithm by Google and other search engines. The general school of thought is the more backlinks your site has, the higher you should rank. However, in the past couple of years these have become significantly less of a factor within the ranking criteria, and while they are still somewhat important, it’s the quality and relevancy of such links that really matter.
Spamming thousands of websites is probably the worst way to gain backlinks as search engines are no longer stupid. They know the difference between spam and relevant, quality links. (But to be clear, you actually don’t even need backlinks to rank a blog).
In general though, people are very ill informed on the metrics of ranking in search. There’s still people out there paying for “backlink packages” or buying software that will automate the process of backlinking for them, which essentially is the source of much of your spam comments. Even real humans will visit blogs and drop innocent looking (albiet insincere) comments with the intent of gaining a backlink.
This can be tricky if you’ve never owned a website before. Looking back, I remember being confused when I got my first spam comment… but it’s rather easy to catch on once you’ve seen enough of them.
These are probably the most common types of spam you’ll see:
They try to tell you something is wrong with your blog, like your website isn’t ranking well enough in Google or that Internet Explorer isn’t displaying your blog properly. Be careful though, if you look closely you’ll find they left a link that is to some totally irrelvant, bizarre website.
They’ll shower you with compliments on how wonderful and amazing your blog is, how they read it daily with their morning cup of coffee, or how amazing your writing style is. But these comments are always very vague and never say anything specific relating to your blog. Plus, they contain that irrelvant link!
These ones are much more clever and indirect. If you didn’t know any better it would appear to be genuine.
And then there’s the ones that blatantly try to sell to you…
These are completely random combinations of words or sentences, put together by a bot!
Sometimes people will leave a link back to their blog when dropping a legitimate comment, so I wouldn’t use that alone to identify spam. Remember to keep an eye out for vague comments that don’t directly reference your blog post but may sound helpful or flattering, as those are the trickiest to decipher.
Most of the time it’ll be pretty obvious whether the commenter has read your post or not, so you just need to use your best judgement.
There are several plug-ins within WordPress that you can use to stop the vast majority of spam. The more popular and ranked your blog is, the more spam you’ll get and the more important it becomes to take measures against spam. Although, I find that even my blogs that aren’t ranked very well still get spammed on a daily basis… so it’s something every website owner needs to watch out for!
Akismet -This is probably one of the strongest spam fighting plug-ins available. There’s both a free and paid version, but when starting out you can simply drag the price slider to “0” and it won’t make you pay anything to use it. You’ll have to gain quite a large audience before it’ll make you pay.
While there’s no doubt Akismet blocks spam, many people claim it goes a bit overboard and blocks real comments too. I’ve even heard people go so far as to claim it blocks more legitimate comments than spam, but that really makes me wonder what those people consider real comments. Personally I don’t find this is an issue… it’s blocked hundreds of thousands of spam comments for me and I’ve rarely found a real comment marked as spam. (I will weed through the spam folder every once in awhile to make sure it’s doing it’s job)!
Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin (GASP) – This free plug-in makes users check a simple box to confirm that they’re actually a human and not some spam bot. I’ve never used this plug-in without the use of Akismet, but many people use it as an alternative and find it works well for them.
I use it in combination with Akismet and find very few spam comments make their way through.
Si Captcha – Everyone who has been on the internet for any length of time should be familiar with Captcha verification. It’s those annoying combinations of letters and numbers you need to type to verify you’re human.
This is probably the worst way to filter spam on its own. If you choose the Si Captcha plug-in you’re going to need to use it in combination with another spam blocker (such as Akismet) in order for it to be any sort of effective (it will help catch some spam).
My major pet peeve with Captcha is that it actually prevents people from commenting since it can be a pain in the butt trying to decipher some of those codes!
This list is by no means all inclusive, but these are my top recommendations. I find using Akismet with GASP is the most effective solution for me, but you can experiment to find what is the best method for you and your blog.
As a website owner, you’ll need to decide whether you’ll moderate comments or automatically approve them. It may seem like a good idea to have them automated as it’d be less work, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Even with spam blockers, some spam still tends to slip through the cracks and you don’t want it showing up on your blog. Not only does it look unprofessional, you’ll be helping the spammers as it’s they’re hope people aren’t moderating what comes through on their websites.
Have you tried any of these spam plugins? Leave a comment down below and tell me your experience with blog spam!