If you have a WordPress website, then chances are you have dealt with SPAM comments. It is very frustrating having to spend time, every day, moderating your comments to determine which ones are spam and which ones are legit. And, unfortunately, as your site gets more popular – the more spam comments you will get.
First, I would like to define a few important terms that are used concerning WordPress and the different comment types.
Comments, Trackbacks, and Pingbacks
- Comments – When someone uses the comment form on your blog posts to share their thoughts or comments about your content
- Pingbacks – Automatically created when someone links to your blog post from one of their blog posts.
- Trackbacks – Notifications by a fellow blogger that they have linked to your blog post within one of their blog posts.
WordPress currently refers to Trackbacks and Pingbacks as Pings when you attempt to filter your comments.
Here is an example of a “Ping” from my site’s comment section:
You can recognize the difference between the two visually because comments will have the comment author’s name, email address, optional website link, and IP address listed along with their comment. A ping is slightly different and usually includes the post title, website link, ip address, and a small excerpt from the post with dots before and after.
Unfortunately, comments, trackbacks, and pingbacks can all be used as spam.
Do Not Approve Spam Comments
Some people, in an attempt to inflate their credibility and increase the number of comments on their blog posts, think it is OK to approve spam comments. That is a No No people!
- Google does not like bad links. The last thing you want is for Google to think you’re allowing bad links onto your website, even if they are just in the comments. When your site is crawled by the search engines and they are taken to bad links, this can have a negative affect on your ranking.
- Shows lack of moderation. It gives a very bad impression and shows that you are not actively taking care of your site when the comments are loaded with spam.
- Lack of Care for your Readers. What if a reader clicks on a link to another comment author’s website and is taken to a porn site? If you wouldn’t link to a website in your content, chances are you shouldn’t let someone link to it in your comments. Always check the website link first before approving a comment.
How to Identify Spam Comments
How do you know if a comment on your blog is real or if it is spam? That can be a tough one, especially for those who are new WordPress users. It is really up to you as the blog owner to identify spam. 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 is a screenshot of a few spam comments that have come through on my site to give you an idea of what to look for:
Here are some important points to consider when looking at your comments and figuring out whether or not they are spam or legit.
- Comment Author Link – Is the link something you would want your readers to click on? You do have the option to remove the link altogether.
- Comment Author Name – Are they using a real or fictitious name? 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.
- Post Specific Comment – Is the comment specific to your post content? I have had some crazy irrelevant comments come through on my site and that is definitely a tell-tale sign that the comment is spam.
- Multiple Comments from same Author – Has the same comment author been using several different email addresses or website addresses? If “Amy Brown” comments one day linking to a sports site, the next to a baby store, and the following to a hardware company, they just might be spammer.
- Legit Email Address – Is the commenter using a REAL email address? Of course, you probably don’t have time to email all of your comment authors. But if you see someone commenting with the email address of firstname.lastname@example.org, then chances are, it’s not a legit email address.
With trackback spam, sometimes you just have to check out the link included in the trackback. 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.
There are several ways to help with WordPress spam comment prevention. First, you will need to make sure you have some basic settings taken care of within your “Discussion Settings”.
Moderate Comments from First Time Comment Authors – You do not want comments to automatically post from first time commenters because you want to be sure they are not spammers. To hold a first time comment author in moderation, go to your WordPress dashboard under “Settings” and then “Discussion”. Check the box for comment author must have previously approved comment. Make sure the checkbox above it for an administrator must always approve the comment is unchecked.
Here is a screenshot:
This allows people who have been approved once to be approved for future comments, leaving you with less to have to moderate. Comment authors who change the way they enter their name, email address, or website link will be placed into moderation again. This keeps someone from being approved once with a good website link and then coming in again and using something different.
You really have to keep an eye on previously approved comment authors – some know the system and will leave a few awesome comments, then slack off for future ones just because they know they are being automatically approved.
Turn Off Trackbacks – Trackback spam can sometimes be worse than comment spam. You may want to consider if having it on is even necessary. You can still find out who is linking to your blog by looking at the Incoming Links portion of your WordPress dashboard. You can also keep track of them by subscribing to the following RSS feed in your RSS reader.
Turn Off Comments After 30 – 60 Days – SEO Spammers typically look for blog posts with high PageRank. Typically, blog posts start out at a PageRank of 0 and then gain PageRank over time. This means that SEO spammers are going to be targeting your older blog posts.
You will normally get the majority of your comments within 2 weeks of your blog post being posted. So you may want to consider turning off comments on posts that are over 30 – 60 days.
To close your blog comments after a specified number of days, go to your WordPress dashboard under “Settings” and then “Discussion”. Under the “Other Comment Settings” section, check the option to automatically close comments on articles older than a specified number of days.
WordPress Spam Prevention Plugins
If you have everything set correctly and you are looking for some additional options in helping prevent spam comments on your WordPress blog, then check out these great spam prevention plugins:
- Akismet – Akismet is a plugin built into the WordPress system that will filter what it presumes are spam comments into a specific spam folder. To activate it, you will need to sign up for an API key from their website. It is free for personal blogs and anywhere from $5 to $50 a month for non-personal blogs. Keep in mind that you will need to check your spam folder often as some legitimate comments sometimes get mistakenly filtered as spam. You can mark them as not spam and then approve them on your blog. If you are interested in reading further about Why Akismet is Essential for a WordPress Site, check out the link.
- Anti Spam Bee – Antispam Bee protects blogs from digital rubbish. It is made up of sophisticated techniques and analyzes comments including pings. Also, for reasons of data privacy, the use of Antispam Bee is a safe solution, as it is anonymous and registration-free.
- G.A.S.P. – The Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin is a free plugin that allows you to add a simple checkbox captcha to your comment form. Comment authors must check the box to confirm they are human and not using an automated commenting system to submit their comment. This will cut down the amount of automated spam significantly to your blog.
How Do You Moderate Your Comments?
Now that we’ve looked at how to identify spam comments in WordPress and what can be done to moderate and prevent spam, I want to hear from YOU! How do you moderate your comments and figure out what is SPAM and what are actual REAL comments? Are you getting better at identifying spam?