Spam – don’t let it damage your website’s health. In the beginning, emails were the main carrier however as soon as internet users were allowed to contribute comments (do sites still use guestbooks?) businesses potentially fell victims to “comment spam”. Whether you run a blog, forum or even Facebook page; if you allow user comments and hyperlinks you will almost certainly have received comment spam. And for a variety of reasons this should not be ignored.
The spammer, or spambot, includes hyperlink in the comment with the aim of increasing the linked site’s search engine rank or gaining visitors by internet users clicking on the link (although we have also had spam comments where the spammer has included no link and just the name of their company or product that is being “promoted”). The comments tend to be positive in nature and praising the quality of our writing, but they are just being nice to improve the chance that we’ll publish it and their link.
The way that Web Analytics World works doesn’t allow for profile spam (not posting but creating a user profile which features a link to the site) but we do get our share of comment spam. I’ve grouped it into three types:
- Single post – the most common one for us
- Multiple – adds comments against a range of blog posts all pointing to a single site, or more often linking to all manner of sites from car maintenance to concert tickets
- Serial – hadn’t seen this one a lot on Web Analytics World until early summer when a spammer/bot decided that our readers would really appreciate links to gaining false identification documents! ….and now the same comment regularly appears in our spam catcher.
I’m surprised that spam comments still happen, given the advances in technology on sites and search engines. What’s even more surprising is that some businesses actually pay for this “service”! On occasion the companies are unaware that their internet marketer has included comment spamming under the activity of improving traffic. There are others that see this as a valid tactic so if you allow user comments you should have a plan for handling spammers.
Approaches to spam comments
- You shall not pass! – Not allowing any comments is a drastic step to take and it cuts out the opportunity for user interaction however this can be a suitable approach for older posts or if you provide a discussion area on your site and it will reduce the time you spend on moderation.
- Everything in moderation – Manually approving comments before they are published on your site and spot checking older comments (when you allow users to log in and edit what they’ve written) are all time intensive but do help to protect the integrity of your site.
- “There’s an app for that” – User registration, CAPTCHA anti-spam plug ins, no-follow links, blacklisting IPs, URLs or keywords, auto-moderation on comments with 2 or more links. Isn’t technology great? Just be sure to monitor your comments once you’ve activated any automated tools as you may find the number of valid comments drops through false positives or an unfriendly/time consuming posting process.
What do we do?
At Web Analytics World we use a mixed approach with human moderation and technology. We use Askimet to catch comment and trackback spam and all comments are approved by the team before they are published on the site. The downside on this is that comments don’t instantly appear, but if it is a genuine and valid comment it will be published.
We may alter our tactic in the future but so far we’re happy with how it’s working. How about you? – We’re keen to hear about your experience with comment spam and any hints or tips that you can share with our readers.