A couple of weeks ago I was on an author’s blog and noticed a series of comments that sounded oddly familiar. In each case the commenter had paid a flattering if somewhat vague compliment to the blogger about how good the piece was and, in each case the blogger had responded.
The problem was, as I realized a moment later, that the poor blogger was having a conversation with spam comments. There was no interested and grateful reader behind the comments. I know because I had seen them before, trapped in my spam filter.
After thinking about it for a minute, I left a note for the blogger to let her know what was going on. I have to say I felt a bit guilty because new bloggers—yes, I remember this quite clearly—are really, really grateful for anyone who will comment on their posts.
Then they can practice all that reader engagement they’ve been reading about, treating commenters with grace and appreciation.
Oh well. Had to be done, I told myself. Better off in the end.
Not Your Big Brother’s Spam
Spam is generally considered to be unsolicited commercial messages, typically emails from online pharmacies, Nigerian princes trying to recover their vast fortunes, or announcements that you’ve won a free trip to Dubai.
Spam blog comments are the work of automated programs that deposit identical messages on blogs wherever they can, hoping that one person in a thousand, or in ten thousand, or maybe one person in a million will click the link behind the commenter’s name and end up on a sales page for Viagra or whatever the craze of the moment happens to be.
Lately we’ve been getting a lot of spam for Louis Vitton luggage. Go figure.
What’s interesting is that as the tools we use to keep spam under control continue to improve, the spammers try to stay a step ahead.
For instance, here’s a spam comment that made it through the spam filter on my blog the other day:
Definitely believe that which you said. Your favorite justification appeared to be on the internet the simplest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I certainly get irked while people consider worries that they plainly don’t know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and also defined out the whole thing without having side-effects , people could take a signal. Will probably be back to get more. Thanks
This was linked to a site offering sushi delivery. Here’s another one:
I do consider all the concepts you have introduced for your post.
They’re really convincing and can certainly work. Still, the posts are too short for novices. May you please extend them a bit from subsequent time? Thanks for the post.
This one leads you to a site that my browser refuses to load for “security reasons.”
You seeing the pattern here? I don’t want you to get fooled by these people and start responding to these comments like they are real.
Here’s one more that managed to elude the spam filter:
Hey excellent blog! Does running a blog like this take a large amount of work? I’ve no expertise in programming but I was hoping to start my own blog in the near future. Anyhow, should you have any ideas or techniques for new blog owners please share. I know this is off topic nevertheless I just needed to ask. Cheers!
This one linked to a site selling supplemental Medicare insurance.
How Bloggers Prevent Spam
If you value your readers and the interactions you have with them, you’ll want to have a strategy for dealing with spam..
There are 2 basic approaches I’ve seen bloggers use, and each has its advantages.
- Make commenters prove they are humans and not spamming robots—You can do this in a variety of ways. For instance you can use the Facebook comments system on your blog, and that means anyone who wants to comment will need to be logged into their Facebook account first.
Other systems use third-party commenting systems like Disqus to authenticate readers while also providing more tools for social media engagement.
And, of course, we’ve all seen the blogs where you need to answer a question or type in a Catpcha code to get your comment posted. Each of these choices put hurdles in front of commenters and, in the case of requiring logins, discourage anonymous comments. It’s up to you to decide if that’s a good thing for your blog or not.
Lastly, you can use the ability built into WordPress to moderate comments before they appear on your site. This solution is probably the most time-intensive for the blogger but ensures that nothing you don’t want on your site will get through.
- Use a plugin to catch the spam before it goes live—This is the approach I’ve taken on The Book Designer, and it has worked out pretty well.
Akismet is updated constantly and made available free of charge for individual bloggers, although commercial versions are also available. It simply moves suspicious comments to the spam folder. It’s then a pretty simple matter to scan through them just to make sure no legitimate comments have gotten caught in there.
Because they will. There are regular commenters here whose comments almost always end up in spam, or with a request for moderation, simply because they contain a few links. It’s a small price to pay to keep the vast majority of spam comments off your blog.
Akismet amasses statistics for you as well. Here’s what it reports for this blog as of the writing of this post:
Akismet has protected your site from 238,859 spam comments already.
There are 326 comments in your spam queue right now.
Web-wide, the Akismet site today notes that:
This chart shows the extent of the problem, too: over 13 times as many spam comments as real (“ham”) ones. If you’re going to blog, you have to deal with this issue one way or another.
When I set up a new blog or website, the first plugin I install is Akismet, and you might think about doing the same.
If you’ve never installed a plugin, watch for an upcoming post on plugins that will walk you through it.
In the mean time, keep emptying your spam, because the spammers will keep trying to trick all the defenses we’ve put up to stop them.