spam comments

By Kerry Gorgone, {grow} Contributing Columnist
Comment spam is bewildering to me. Readers are thwarted in their attempt to glean additional insight from legitimate blog comments because these are lost in a sea of “I am much enjoyment of your excellent blog” spam posts.

Spam comments range from nonsensical to effusive in their praise, and they are nearly always unrelated to the substance of your post.

The motivation of nearly all spammers is to profit, directly or indirectly, either through better SEO or converting traffic. Theoretically, sprinkling links across the web will boost search engine rankings (links in to their site are good for SEO), or to generate clicks from inside the comment thread itself.

Only links in comments are often nofollow links, which means there is no SEO benefit, and you might even get penalized by Google if you leave too many similar comments on too many sites, or use a “keyword heavy name” instead of your real name.

Moreover, most sites approve comments before they post, and have some type of spam prevention in place to block spam comments from coming through. Site owners might even blacklist your IP address, which is often captured when you leave a comment.

I personally don’t know anyone who’s actually clicked one of those spammy links in a non sequitur blog comment, but someone must. Otherwise, why would the comment spammers continue spamming?

And some people do: in the context of e-mail spam, spam generates 15 responses for every million emails sent out. It seems spamming can be profitable, provided you spam in bulk.

Some spam commenters are fishing (or “phishing”) for people’s personal information, so that they can steal their identity or sell their personal data.

So the spamming continues, and the practice even seems to be growing. (Akismet has a fun graph depicting “Spam vs. Ham” comments on its “About” page.) Spammers have had to change tactics a bit, with some using nofollow links in their posts, so they can avoid the Google penalty while still garnering referral traffic.

Eliminating Spam from Your Diet

Some spammers will post a seemingly legitimate comment, with no link, in the hope that you will approve that first comment and they will thereafter be pre-approved to post more (which will be spam).

If you have a comment you suspect might be this type, check the IP address to see if it has spammed your site before.

There are tools and plug-ins available to help combat spam: Akismet is free for individuals, and paid plans are available for commercial use. In most cases, a combination of approaches works best. In this Search Engine Journal article, Charles Floate described the mix he’s used for his site that’s helped him to eliminate spam comments altogether.

So… No Comments Then?

You could eliminate blog comments from your site, as Copyblogger has done. This will save you time and effort otherwise spent culling through comments to weed out spam, but it will also have ramifications for the community you’re trying to build.

Some people will assume that, because you don’t allow comments, you don’t care what they think of your content. Social strategist Nick Westergaard of Brand Driven Digital wrote a post making the case for not removing blog comments. Mark Schaefer as also written extensively about the economic value of blog comments.

As an alternative to on-site comments, you could encourage people to comment on your posts via social media. Be aware, however, that a Mashable study found that social media spam increased 355% in the first half of 2013, and continues to rise, so relying on social won’t entirely protect you from spammers.

For more tips on reducing comment spam on your site, check out Google’s Help site: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/81749.

Kerry O’Shea Gorgone is a writer, lawyer, speaker and educator. She’s also Instructional Design Manager, Enterprise Training, at MarketingProfs. Kerry hosts the weekly Marketing Smarts podcast. Find Kerry on Google+ and Twitter.

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