Spam! We all hate it, yet marketers continue to inundate the average with spam at every turn. You likely get spam emails, spam popups and, if you own a WordPress site, spam comments posted to your blog. While Akismet and other spam stoppers do a pretty good job of filtering out this annoying comments, they are still…well, annoying.
What exactly is comment spam? This is when a third party posts to your site and includes unwanted links or promotes a product without checking with you first. Spammers tend to use automated software, so they might try to post 100 times to your blog within a matter of minutes.
I'll admit that during my busy time of year I might not check my blog's comment folders as often as I should. Still, it had only been about 30 days and when I liked in, I had over 6,500 comments in my spam folder. No problem. WordPress lets you delete them with a click of a button, right?
Normally that is true, but in this instance my database kept timing out before it could delete that massive amount of comments in bulk. Instead, I had to go in and manually select about 20 posts at a time and delete them. I repeated this about 100 times before my database would let me delete them en mass. Your experience may be different, depending on your web host and space on your server, etc.
Stopping Comment Spam
Fortunately, there are a number of ways you can stop these annoying spammers. I've already mentioned Akismet. Most WordPress installations come with this plugin already installed. You can set up a free account at Akismet to get what is called an API key. You then plug that key into the plugin on your WordPress dashboard and it will begin to filter comments that are posted and meet certain criteria such as:
- keyword triggers
- links within the post
- strange usernames
- rapid-fire comment posting
Akismet is free for personal sites or charges a very small monthly fee for business sites of $5. It is well worth the cost.
WordPress offers you the ability to set up the way your site handles discussion. You can stop any spam comments that Akismet doesn't capture with specific discussion settings. You can require that people register before posting (this might limit the number of comments you get on your site, though). You can also set it up so that if someone has a previously approved comment they can automatically post without waiting for moderation.
Here is the best thing to do if you find you're being overwhelmed with spam comments on your WordPress site:
- Open your Dashboard and navigate to “Discussion” under the “Settings” tab.
- Under “Before a comment appears”, check the box next to “Comment author must have a previously approved comment”. Alternately, you can also set the site to force manual approval of all comments.
- Under, “Comment moderation”, you can set up the number of links you'll allow in a post before it automatically goes to moderation. I have mine set to 2 links. I don't mind someone sharing a high quality link or their own (non-spammy) link. You may choose zero or any number you desire.
- In addition, you can create a comment blacklist. A blacklist has a set selection of words or URLs that if the poster tries to link to them, the site will go into moderation.
Remove the Ability to Post URLs
There are times when you may want to prevent anyone from even adding any type of link to your site. This is actually not a bad strategy because it gives you complete control over all links on your site. This can be done with the simple use of a plugin. Some of the plugins that work for this include:
Another plugin that you'll see utilized by a lot of sites is the WP-reCAPTCHA plugin. This is a free service that requires users to type in the words they see to prove they are a real person and not a bot. Remember when I mentioned above that spammers can post hundreds of posts to your site in minutes? reCAPTCHA shuts them down because they are using software and it cannot read the words and type in the matching answers.
Another option is to use Disqus to manage the comments on your site instead of your ordinary WordPress built-in comments. This has a couple of advantages to website users.
Disqus is similar to Akismet in that it learns your preference on comments and will start to help you moderate over time. You can specify when comments need to be approved, if you allow links and you can also set up blacklists of words and links you absolutely will not allow.
Should You Worry About Comment Spam?
You may wonder if some of the links offer value to your readers and perhaps you should just leave them and not worry so much over comment spam. There are a number of reasons to remove this spam.
- Some readers absolutely hate spam and will not return to your site if you allow it.
- Search engines, such as Google, have begun to penalize spam and that includes sites that allow spam to be posted. Don't risk it.
- It gives the appearance that you don't really care who posts what on your site. If people see that you aren't really moderating comments, they may not think through their responses. You may notice some flame wars starting on hot button topics. People may not be as polite as if they worry you won't approve their comment.
Of course, the final choice is yours, but a well monitored site is a professional looking site.