If you own a blog, chances are you have encountered a little – or a lot – of spam. The more popular your blog becomes, the more spam it is likely to get. And there is nothing more frustrating than having to spend a lot of time moderating your comments to determine which ones are spam and which ones are legit.
In today’s post, we’re going to look at:
How to identify spam.
If third-party comment systems control spam.
Settings and plugins you can use in the base WordPress comment system to help moderate spam.
Comments, Trackbacks, and Pingbacks
Before we go further, I’d like to define a few terms I’m using throughout the post in relation to what you will see in the Comments section of your WordPress blog.
Comments are created when someone uses the comment form on your blog post to engage with your content.
Pingbacks are automatically created when someone links to your blog post from one of their blog posts.
Trackbacks are manual notifications by one blogger that they have linked to your blog post within theirs. Pingbacks were created to automate this process.
WordPress currently refers to Trackbacks and Pingbacks as Pings when you attempt to filter your comments.
Unfortunately, comments, trackbacks, and pingbacks can all be used as spam. There are ways to even automate the spamming process which adds to the problem. So let’s look at some ways to identify spam.
Some people, in an attempt to inflate their number of comments, will feel that it is OK to approve comments that they feel might not actually be legit. What is the harm in doing this? Consider these things:
Google is cracking down on bad links. This doesn’t just include the sites that buy links, but the sites that allow them. The last thing you would want is for Google to think you’re allowing bad links onto your website, even if they are just in the comments.
Comment spam shows lack of moderation. Imagine you’re about to buy a home. You are driving through a neighborhood where the lawns are overgrown and some of the fences are covered in graffiti. This is the impression your visitors will have of your blog if the posts are littered with spam – that no one is actively taking care of it.
Your readers might lose faith in you. What if a reader clicks on a link to another comment author’s website and is taken somewhere they don’t want to be. If you wouldn’t link to a website in your content, chances are you shouldn’t let someone link to it in your comments.
How to Identify Spam
How do you know if a comment on your blog is spam or legit? This is a tough one, and it is really up to the blog owner. Some blog owners will read every comment and consider it legit if the comment shows that the reader actually read the post. Other blog owners will dismiss a comment as spam based on the fact that the link does not match the same industry as their blog. Here are some questions you can answer when looking at a comment that will help you determine whether or not you should approve it to go live on your blog.
Would I want my blog readers to click on the comment author’s link? If the answer is no, don’t approve the comment. Or strip the link, although you might get a less than positive response from the comment author if they note you approved their comment but got rid of their link.
Is the comment author using a real name or keywords? The use of keywords in the name field of a comment without the use of a real first and/or last name is almost always the sign of an SEO spammer.
Is the comment specific or could apply to any post? I have actually copy and pasted comments I’ve received into Google search and found them being used, word for word, on dozens if not hundreds of other blogs.
Has the same comment author been using several different email addresses or website addresses? If “Jane Smith” comments one day linking to a fishing site, the next to a clothing store, and the following to a pet supply company, they just might be an SEO spammer.
Does the comment author use a legit email address? Chances are, you don’t have time to email all of your comment authors. But if you see someone commenting with the email address of [email protected], then chances are, it’s not a legit email address. Personally, I like to know if the comment author is a real person – I don’t approve comments from people using obviously fake identities.
When it comes to trackback spam, sometimes you just have to check out the link the trackback originates from. Some websites will add several links to blog posts at the end of theirs simply to get the trackback from those blogs. If you don’t feel the actual blog author linked to your blog post for a good reason (such as they liked your post), then don’t approve it.
Do Third-Party Comment Systems Help
One way people try to combat spam is by using third-party comment systems. Popular third-party systems for WordPress include Disqus, Livefyre, and Facebook. Third-party party comment systems often offer features such as multiple comment moderators, the ability to find one user’s comments throughout your blog and moderate them simultaneously, a centralized dashboard, and a requirement that visitors login before they comment.
While these things can help you moderate comment spam, they by no means eliminate the problem. In fact, some spammers enjoy the fact that, with some comment systems, they know they will be automatically approved simply because they have an account.
Some other things to keep in mind when it comes to third-party comment systems are the following.
The effects of a third-party comment system on your overall site loading speed. Pingdom did a study of four popular third-party comment systems vs. the base WordPress comment system and noted that blogs with the base WordPress system loaded faster than those using third-party systems. Facebook increased load time the most.
Who controls your comments. When you consider adopting a third-party system, be sure to find out what happens to your current comments and what will happen to comments made on that system if you decide to change it down the road.
How user-friendly the comment system is. Will your regular readers want to register with a third-party system just to leave a comment? Sometimes adding a third-party comment system does nothing but reduce the number of legit comments.
How to stop comment spam on your WordPress website
The following six solutions are all smart ways to stop comment spam on your website. You can try all of these methods, or pick and choose the ones that are most relevant to your needs.
Reduce the number of links allowed per post
As we mentioned earlier, most comment spam is designed to add links in your comment section and trick people into clicking on them. Therefore, one way to combat spam is to permit fewer links in your comments. Legitimate visitors will also be prevented from posting many links, but slowing down the spammers can be worth that potential inconvenience.
From your WordPress dashboard, you can navigate to Settings → Discussion to make this change. Look for the Comment Moderation section:
Here you can decide how many links will be permitted in a comment before it is flagged for moderation. You can even reduce the number to zero if you want to require moderation for any comment with links.
Create a list of ‘blacklisted’ words
Many spam comments contain a lot of recognizable keywords. This makes it easier to spot them and to stop them from appearing on your website. You can simply create a ‘blacklist’ of words, and your site will flag any comment containing one of them.
To do this, return to Settings → Discussion in your WordPress dashboard and find the Comment Blacklist section:
Here, you can enter your list of words. When any comment is posted that contains one of those words, it will be sent straight to the trash. Of course, it’s important to choose the words in your blacklist carefully, so you don’t delete comments by legitimate posters. For suggestions, you can check out the recommended comment blacklist for WordPress on GitHub, The biggest spam comments come from Asian countries (India, China, Iran, Indonesia, Pakistan, Vietnam) you can see it at Top 20 Worst Countries this requires advanced settings to block bad IP addresses from these countries. Use cloudflare to protect your site.
Restrict comment privileges to registered users
The goal of most spammers is to post on as many pages and sites as possible. This means if you can make it more challenging for them to add their comments to your site, they may just move on to the next target.
You can achieve this by restricting comment privileges to people who have registered on your site. This puts an extra hurdle between spammers and your comment section. As a side benefit, it encourages visitors to sign up for an account or a membership.
This option is also available in the Settings → Discussion section in WordPress. You’ll find it under Other comment settings:
Simply check the box labeled Users must be registered and logged in to comment, and save your changes.
Set up a comment moderation system
In a nutshell, comment moderation is when you require some or all comments to be approved by a person before they are permitted to appear on your site. If you have the time and resources to spare, this can be a smart strategy.
In WordPress, you can enable a comment moderation system very easily. Simply go back to Settings → Discussion, and check out the Before a comment appears section:
By selecting Comment must be manually approved, any comments made on your site will be held as Pending until they are reviewed. You can then check out each one, and decide whether to let it through or trash it. You can find more advice on setting up a comment moderation system in the WordPress Codex.
Use an anti-spam plugin
Finally, we would be remiss not to mention anti-spam plugins. These tools can present a powerful way to stop comment spam and can take care of sorting the good comments from the bad for you.
Top anti-spam plugins you can use on your WordPress site:
Akismet is one of the most popular and longest running WordPress anti spam plugins. Automattic, the team behind WordPress, developed this plugin. If you’ve done a default installation of WordPress, then this plugin comes atomically installed.
However, to use this plugin you’ll need an API key, which is free and easy to setup. However, if you run a large commercial website, and need to moderate over 50,0000 comments per month, you’ll want to upgrade to a paid plan.
Whenever a new comment is submitted to your site, Akismet runs through their cloud-based algorithm, and filters out any spam comments.
Antispam Bee is a simple and free spam protection plugin. It doesn’t require you to register or setup an account, just install the plugin and you’ll be set. To filter out spam this plugin compares spam requests to an existing spam database, uses IP address checks, and Gravatar validating.
Plus, this plugin will show the statistical data of spam requests blocked and filtered. There’s also a feature that will delete any stored spam every couple of days, so it won’t slow down your site. If you’re looking for a simple spam solution, then this plugin is worth trying out.
WP-SpamShield is a very effective way to automate spam protection. It offers two levels of protection to help protect your site from spam. The first layer of protection works to block most automated spam tools, while the second layer uses an algorithm to filter out any spam requests that have made it past the first layer of protection.
You’ll also be able to protect your site against spam via comments and contact form spam. The plugin even integrates with other commonly used plugins like Gravity Forms, WooCommerce, and Contact Form 7.
If you’ve been struggling with a ton of bot-created spam, this this is a great tool to use.
AntiSpam by Cleantalk operates in a similar manner to Akismet, using a cloud-based system to evaluate spam comments. However, you can also create blacklists that will block requests from certain locations, IP addresses, emails and more.
With this plugin, you’ll be able to monitor spam comments and registrations across your comments, contact forms, registration pages, checkout pages, and much more. Basically, you’ll be protected across any area a spam comment might occur.
This plugin is currently offering a free trial, along with an $8 per year commitment.
WordPress Zero Spam is an anti spam plugin that’s very easy to setup. There’s no need for any APIs or a complex setup process. It’s not quite as feature heavy as the other anti spam plugins on this list, but it’s free, quick to setup, and will get the job done.
This plugin helps block spam comments and spam account registration. Plus, it also integrates with Contact Form 7, BuddyPress, Gravity Forms, and Ninja Forms, so your site will be spam free regardless of which contact form plugin you’re using.
Spam comments can quickly clutter up your site, making it look unprofessional and driving real visitors away. Cleaning up all that spam after the fact is challenging. This means you should strongly consider putting a little upfront time into developing a strong anti-spam strategy.
Common Spam in blogs
Didn't find what you were looking for? Here are some of the most common questions about spam in blog:
What is blog spam?
Spam in blogs (also called simply blog spam, comment spam, or social spam) is a form of spamdexing. (Note that blogspam also has another meaning, namely the post of a blogger who creates posts that have no added value to them in order to submit them to other sites.)
How do you know if comment is spam?
A genuine comment is fairly easy to spot, as it is personable, on subject, continues the discussion, refers to people within your company by name, etc. Spammers are getting good at seeming like quality comments, so here are a few things I do to verify if a comment is spam: Look for a real name and gravatar
What are spam comments?
A spam comment is one posted by a machine which automatically posts irrelevant comments. These may contain advertising or links to other websites. ... This will send a report to the people who deal with spam, who will review it and then take action to block the spammer if appropriate.
What spam post means?
Spam involves contacting people with unwanted content or requests. This includes sending bulk messages, excessively posting links or images to people's timelines and sending friend requests to people you don't know personally. Spam is sometimes spread through clicking on bad links or installing malicious software.
Why do I get spam comments on my blog?
Why you're getting spam comments. The whole reason why spammers leave spam comments on blogs is to link back to their own websites, so they can rank higher in the search results and get more traffic. Basically, people that are shamelessly and shadily promoting their websites.
Should blogs have comments?
Yes, some blogs may receive a slight boost in search traffic due to the comments section. But you'll need a good amount of high-quality, keyword-rich comments. Since blog comments don't have a huge effect on your traffic, they don't have a huge effect on your revenue either.
Is Akismet anti spam free?
Akismet is one of those WordPress anti-spam plugins which is not only essential, it's also highly recommended. It's an official free plugin by WordPress parent company Automattic and, if you aren't using it, you should be. Spam comments are nothing new
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