The comments section of your blog can be a valuable space to engage with your audience. Unfortunately, it can also be a breeding ground for spam comments. Here are some tips on figuring out which comments are spam and which are genuine. Plus various ways to keep spam comments under control.
Why do blogs have comments sections?
In your comments, readers can ask you to expand on a point, share their experiences on a topic or answer a question your post may have raised. They give your audience a platform to engage with your content and get the most out of your expertise.
In this way, your comments section is a positive space for interaction, reinforcing a sense of community and helping you to add value for your clients.
Sadly, not all comments sections live up to these ideals in practice.
For many blogs, the comments sections have become a stressful battleground of spam, with just a few genuine comments that are hard to distinguish in a sea of fake engagement.
What is spam commenting?
Spam comments are comments people leave on your blog that are not genuine and have an ulterior motive behind them. Often they’re left by people trying to sneak in a link to their site, or the site of the brand they work for.
Earning offsite links back to a client’s site has always been an aim of SEOs (search engine optimisation professionals). A strong backlink profile sends good signals to Google. Having backlinks from relevant, influential sites can make your site more visible in search results.
A quality backlink should offer the person that follows it relevant, useful information. The site the link takes them to should give them value and enhance their journey online, helping them achieve their objectives.
However, some dishonest and poorly informed people working in this field don’t seem to have realised backlinks are only good for your site if they’re genuine and relevant.
These people are trying to game Google by building links through comment spam.
Why are spam comments bad for your blog?
At first, it may seem like it’s not a problem to have the odd spam comment on your blog – they make your website look more engaging, right? But it is a problem and here’s why:
No added value for readers
Spam comments are bad for your blog because they don’t add value for your audience.
If your readers follow a link in a spam comment, they’ll be sorely disappointed when they land on an irrelevant or poor quality site.
This disrupts their online journey and stops them achieving their objectives. It could also potentially result in them downloading malware or a virus to their computer.
Google penalties from poor quality links
Google views poor quality links in a very negative light. It’s likely to penalise your site for allowing a poor quality (i.e irrelevant and spammy) link.
A spam comment posted on your blog will likely be posted on multiple sites other than just yours.
It could also contain copy scraped from another site – usually the case with those nonsensical comments you’ll get.
Either way, Google is pretty clever and doesn’t take kindly to duplicate content (content on more than one website or page). So it could potentially penalise you for allowing these duplicate pieces of content on your website.
What can you use on your blog to help manage spam?
As a site owner, it’s important to ensure the comments section of your site doesn’t become a breeding ground for spam. But how?
These systems can make managing comments easier, as they offer various built-in features, including spam filters and ban lists.
But they can potentially make it harder for people to comment if a user isn’t signed in, they don’t have an account or they don’t want to display their personal profile on your site.
Alternatively, you can use a spam prevention plugin for WordPress, like Akismet or Antispam Bee. If you’re after a quick overview of the pros and cons of the different antispam plugins available, this handy post from SitePoint is a good place to start.
How can you prevent spam comments from being published on your blog if you’re not using a plugin?
If you’re reluctant to use a plugin to manage spam, you’ll need to take some other practical steps to reduce spam comments. That’s because, without any active prevention measures, you’ll soon find your blog overwhelmed with spam comments.
Google recommend ways you can combat comment spam. But bear in mind you’ll still need to manually reject spam comments from your Dashboard:
- Disallow anonymous posting
- Use CAPTCHAs and other methods to prevent automated comment spamming
- Turn on comment moderation
- Use the “nofollow” attribute for links in the comment field
- Disallow hyperlinks in comments
- Block comment pages using robots.txt or meta tags
How can you spot a spam comment?
When you’re moderating your comments, you’ll need to know how to spot spam among the genuine comments.
Luckily, spam comments are normally fairly easy to spot. In our experience they tend fit one or more of the following criteria:
- Poorly worded
- Full of grammatical errors
- Rather nonsensical
- Very unsubtle in their placement of links
- Irrelevant to the blog post topic
- Generic and applicable to any post
- From a suspicious looking email address, username or IP address
Here are some examples of the types of spam comments some of our clients at Callia Web have received (slightly modified and with those pesky links removed, of course):
Spam example: “I’ve been browsing online greater than three hours today, still I never found interesting articles like yours. It’s good value sufficient for me.”
How to identify this spam: Anything that sounds forced or unnatural when you read it out is likely to be spam.
Spam example: “Stay up the good paintings! My flatmate was talking to me about this information, I will share with them as you could aid them greatly.”
How to identify this spam: If a comment isn’t relevant to your post and contains a link it’s also likely to be spam.
Spam example: “Hey There. I found your website using msn. But it looks like there is something wrong with your page loading on my browser.”
How to identify this spam: Anyone commenting on your blog saying there’s something wrong with your website is likely trying to scare you into clicking a spam link.
Spam example: “This was really great to read. Keep it up!”
How to identify this spam: Spammers often use flattery to try and sneak comments through. If someone simply comments thanking you for your post, or saying how great your writing is, look closer at who posted as it may not be genuine praise.
Ensure your comments section adds value for your audience
An easy option would be to simply remove commenting from your blog – and this is something sites, including Copyblogger, have experimented with. One of their primary reasons was the overwhelming percentage of spam comments they received (96%).
However, removing comments means missing out on the chance to talk directly with users on your blog posts.
In the end Copyblogger brought their comments section back, but they’ve introduced commenting guidelines and now close comments seven days after each new post goes live.
Your comments section is a valuable resource that can add value to your readers, if spam is kept at bay.
Whether you choose to use a third party commenting platform, an antispam plugin, or continue to moderate manually, I hope this post has equipped you to deal with spam comments in a constructive way.
If you’d like to discuss how Callia Web can help prevent spam on your website, please get in touch.