Ah, comment spam… You know, those annoying (yet, highly entertaining) blog comments that try to sell you erectile dysfunction meds, SEO bots, and really, really cheap shoes? Well, it’s almost as bad as the canned stuff. (Unless you happen to love the Hormel variety; in which case, comment spam is nothing like the edible stuff.)
And, it’s e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e.
Last week, I was checking out some content marketing agencies in town, and yep—even some of those blogs were littered with comment spam. Clearly, this isn’t just an issue for blogosphere newbies.
So, what’s going on here?
Let’s take a look at why blog content spam is so truly awful (and oddly hilarious) and how you can both identify and manage it.
Why comment spam stinks like canned ham
Fact: Spammy content turns off people…and search engines.
First, when you allow comment spam to appear on your posts—complete with bad links, spammy language, and tremendously poor spelling and grammar—the content on your page suffers.
Google is penalizing sites that feature low quality copy, so make sure it’s not on yours.
Second, your moderation-miss leaves an impression on your audience—and not a good one.
No one wants to read a spammer’s poorly written pitch for burial plots or “romantic interludes.” And, they definitely don’t want to be deceived into clicking a link that takes them to those spammers’ sites.
When you moderate blog comments, you create a safe space for friendly, insightful dialogue with your audience.
So, if the comment is relevant to your post and adds to the discussion, great. And, certainly, links within blog comments can be okay, provided they point to safe, relevant content.
If not, kill ‘em.
How to spot a spammer
Really, it’s not all that difficult.
Comment spam will include some—and sometimes all—of these features:
- Keyword rich names or company names, instead of the author’s real-life human name
- A link (often keyword-rich), and sometimes tens of links, that lead to webpages that have nothing to do with the subject matter discussed in your blog post.
- Poorly written copy
- Some pretty serious keyword stuffing
How is spam making its way into comment sections?
Well, for starters, many bloggers allow visitors to comment on posts without moderation.
Poor choice, if you ask me. Do you want this appearing beneath the blog post you labored over all last week?
(If you do go this route, you have to commit to regularly reviewing your comment areas. Otherwise, it can result in a big spammy mess.)
Alternately, the uninitiated may be falling for spammers’ clever manipulations. Let’s take a look at the ole’ comment spam playbook…
Preying on your desire to be liked and respected
Are you getting a warm and fuzzy feeling? Well, cut it out. This little ego stroker wants you to drop a bad link onto your site.
Ask yourself if the comment is uniquely relevant to your blog post. If it reads as though it could be copied and pasted to any number of posts, ranging from auto repair how-tos to personal weight loss journals—it probably has been.
An important note: Some of those innocent-looking Hey-You’re-Awesome comments may not contain links or otherwise appear “spammy.” Don’t be deceived; those are spammers just quietly trying to gain entrance. Many publishing systems can be configured so that after you’ve approved an author’s comment (or a few), future comments will be approved by automatically. That’s when they’ll pounce.
Sucking you in with feigned technical issues
So, here’s the deal: Spammers will come to you posing as good samaritans, helping you identify technical issues with your blog.
Deep breath. Your blog is most likely just fine.
What to watch out for? A whole mess of unrelated, keyword rich links, spammy websites, and, in this case, a keyword-rich user name.
Offering seemingly real & helpful (?) services
Time and budget is tight and you know regularly refreshing your blog is important. What do you do?
Well, you don’t post the comment, for starters—and you take a hard pass on the guest blog and link exchange offer (you don’t owe the spammer an answer, by the way). This is an invitation to engage in black hat SEO and it could damage your search rankings.
Also, take note of the author’s name. It may appear real enough, but on closer inspection, you might find the name appear in your history multiple times, each time associated with a different email address. Suspicious, and for a reason.
Trying to engage as colleagues
Resist the temptation to offer your insight. This isn’t a professional meeting of the minds; it’s a blatant attempt to drop a spammy link onto your page.
The keyword rich user name is a dead giveaway.
Also, watch out for the associated email address. If you notice someone’s posting comments using a fake email address, it’s most likely a spammer.
Easily managing comment spam
Okay, so you can discern the difference between a real comment and a spammer’s. Great. Now what?
For starters, ask yourself if allowing blog comments is important to you.
If you don’t have the time to adequately moderate your blog, turning off comments might be a good idea for you. Why? Spammers target unmaintained and insecure blogs, because they know they can get away with it.
If you want to invite your audience into the conversation and you can commit the time, then do yourself a favor—give yourself more control and update your discussion settings:
- Don’t allow anonymous posting on your blog; instead require the author to provide a name and email address
- Turn on comment moderation, allowing you to manually approve (or trash) all submitted comments
- Don’t select the often-available CMS setting that automatically approves a user’s comments after you manually approve one; this is an option spammers will exploit.
- Either use the “nofollow” attribute for links in the comment field, so that there’s no SEO “reward” for the author or don’t allow hyperlinks in comments at all
With these settings in place, you’ll have more clues into the author’s intentions and nothing will appear on your blog without your approval.
Next up, activate the comment spam plugin, Askimet.
Askimet ships with WordPress, so it’s a pretty simple step. All you need to do is sign up for an API key and activate the plugin. (Well, and toss it some coinage if you’re not implementing a personal blog.)
With Askimet up-and-running, much of your comment spam will be filtered from the approval-worthy comments awaiting your review. Even better, it can clean up old spam that already appears on your blog.
When you’re set there, further fortify your comment spam defenses with a CDN and security layer like CloudFlare. Amazing.
CloudFlare sits between the visitor and your website, blocking comment spam from even making its way to your site in the first place. Not only that, it also protects your blog from other malicious attacks to your domain, even email.
Connecting with the visitors who read your content can be tremendously rewarding. So, moderate blog comments and implement Askimet and CloudFlare. In doing so, you’ll create the inviting environment that allows that discussion to take place—and you’ll save yourself time and headaches, too.