Spam Comments and how to stop themIt seems that no matter what new online communication tools we come up with, there are going to be those who want to abuse them. Let’s face it, email has revolutionised the way in which businesses and individuals communicate (and the genuine commercial opportunities it offers) but has also been notoriously blighted over recent years by the avalanche of spam messages we also receive.

Likewise, blogs are open to abuse from individuals looking to exploit them at the expense of others, primarily through the use of Spam Blogs (Splogs) and Comment Spam. For now, let’s concentrate on Comment Spam and see why it exists and how we can go about stopping it on our blogs.

What is Comment Spam?

Comment Spam is where a spammer leaves comments on blog posts that have nothing to do with the post itself but merely contain multiple links back to the spammer’s commercial website. Most Comment Spam is now carried out automatically rather than by individuals and its goal is simply to create links back to a target site (and so improve its Search Engine ranking), though it may also attract a small amount of traffic as well.

If the contents of my Comment Spam filter is at all representative, then the subject matter will be familiar to all of us using email, since the same types of subjects and messages tend to crop up in both.

How do we stop Comment Spam on our own blog?

So what are our options when it comes to avoiding having comment spam swamping our blogs, other than turning off comments all together of course – something that I’m certainly not advocating!

  • Comment Moderation
    The most time consuming way is simply to moderate out all of the spam comments – that is to say, you look at each comment which has been left and allow genuine ones to appear on your blog while deleting the spam comments. This can become very time consuming (not to mention frustrating!) because once you are “found” by the spam commenters, you are going to be receiving a lot of these. Rule of thumb – the more successful you are, the easier you are to find and the more you will receive – I imagine with such a high profile blog, Darren Rowse over at ProBlogger suffers more than most, as he comments here.

  • CAPTCHA methods
    CAPTCHA is actually an acronym (ok, since you asked – Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart – there, now wasn’t that interesting!) but you’ll know it as a distorted series of letters and numbers which appear on the page and that you have to type in. This is designed to prove that you are a human and not an automated visitor – or, in this case, spammer. Typed in correctly, it allows you to submit your comment, but will stop most forms of automated comment spam getting through.

  • Specialist Software Intervention
    Just like with email, there are also providers of specialist software which can help us and here, in my opinion, the leader in this respect is called Akismet. Here, the software identifies the comments that it believes are spam and impounds them – it’s also provided free of charge, except for commercial use, which is an additional bonus. Although it was developed by the company involved with WordPress, it has been modified to work with many other types of blog software so it’s worth checking out. Another plug-in for WordPress is Spam Karma which also comes highly recommended.

  • Getting commenters to log-in
    You can of course elect to only accept comments from people that have already logged in to a registration system which you run on your blog – this way you can be fairly sure that they will be leaving real comments because you have effectively “pre-vetted” them.

Which method is the best?

All of the methods above work well from a functional level and will help to avoid the vast majority of comment spam from arriving in your posts. Therefore, when deciding which method to use, I was personally swayed by the impact that it would have on readers wanting to leave genuine comments. Basically, I wanted to make sure that it was as easy as possible for them to do so.

Therefore, I elected to go down the specialist software route which has no impact on readers leaving comments and nothing additional for them to do – I therefore use Akismet on my blogs and those that I set-up for the businesses and individuals I work with. The results? Well, so far so good. It stops 95% of spam and also learns from all the blogs using it, so keeps up with (if not stays ahead of) the comment spammers and their methods. Overall, a big thumbs up from me.

BTW - to make sure that you have all the information at your finger tips to make your own decision, no matter which blog platform you use, I’ll be doing a second post on the subject of comment spam next week where I will try to lay out the different options available for each platform. In the meantime, any thoughts you’d like to share on what has worked for you, then please leave a comment – a real one preferably! :)

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

Comments Off 
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Recomended Reading:

  1. Spam Blogs or Splogs: muddying the waters
  2. Business Blog Design: Comments
  3. Comments – BBB Quick Guides
  4. Help people to want to read your Blog
  5. Promoting and Marketing your Business Blog (Blog specifc methods)