Everyone Hates Comment Spam, So Why Are We Drowning In it?

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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  • Paloma González

    Thank you very much for this post. It’s exactly what I was looking for as most of my posts seem to be just that. I’m not sure whether this is the right place, but I’ve been having a lot (for me) of registrations to my blog lately and, nice as it is I was just wondering whether it might be somebody trying to steal my identity or something. I have just installed a Si Catcha anti-spam plug in. Would that be OK? Thanks a lot

  • I have word press genesis so I don’t get any comment spam on my blog. I get plenty under the hood which I clean out but nothing shows up to the readers. I also rarely see any. But maybe that is because I tend to be in places with Livefyre and Disqus?

  • I’ve removed the comments functionality from my site, I share the articles on various social networks and have a growing community that comment and visit using these networks (I’ve not see much spam this way, yet).

    As you mention there must be people that click on the links in comments, but it’s not surprising that there are people that still appear to be pretty naive when it comes to distinguishing spam, probably the same people that click on .exe files in emails 🙂

  • Melanie Deardorff

    I started my blog in early 2014, and it wasn’t long before I began getting those frickin’ spamments almost daily. It took me awhile to notice that it was just one of my posts getting all the action … but I let the madness go on for a few more weeks and continued to feel joy in repeatedly hitting “Spam” on the WordPress dashboard. Then I decided to take comments off that one post only — and that did the trick! It’s been crickets for a few weeks now, but I’m sure spammers will pick another post or two to glom on to and share with one another. (Wonder how they do that — probably a private Facebook group. Ha!) For now, I’m enjoying the peace and quiet and the fact I don’t have to read the stoopid “I am much enjoyment of your excellent blog” messages every day.

  • I had not thought of limiting comments on a specific post. I’d been trying to figure out how to stay ahead of the comments flooding my spam catcher. Great idea. I don’t want to lose comments because I’m trying to build my network on real estate I own. Thanks for the post!

  • A lot of it depends on what blog system you’re using. The built-in WP comments are horrible, they aren’t any good at filtering anything, and the Facebook comments system is way too slow as well.

    I’ve found that using Disqus, the system is able to very easily catch out spam and not display it on your post unless you actually go into the spam filter and approve it. Because someone needs a profile on Disqus to comment, profiles can be severely downvoted and marked as spam and therefore Disqus catches on.

    You’ll notice, however, that even though Copyblogger has moved to Google+ for their comments (directing traffic to their G+ profile) – they still get the ridiculous comments and spam in there that they still have to deal with.

  • Drowning.. think it’s all relative. A top read and therefore top SEO-target site might see a few high volume attacks; I’ve worked on a few blogs, one small one that did get a barrage of spam one week. But all it took was modifying w/ a few WP plugins and .. gone. I’m in the camp that the work and vigilance are worth it for any blog or community focused site, and w/ the right tools it’s not that difficult.

    I’m w/ you Kerry, I really don’t see the point. Even some of the junk I get.. there’s no keyword name, no link in the comment or URL w/ the name.. so why do spammers bother? I also don’t understand the social spam, as it’s often an incoherent jumble w/ no link or anything. I guess people click the name of the commenter, IDK. That said, there needs to be better, easier ways to block it. I’ve noticed that I have to go on the website/desktop version of FB to X and hide a comment, not sure it flags it as spam. Plenty of other times, other sites I’d love to do the same but it’s not an option. Think the ‘flag as spam’ needs to be easy to spot, even in mobile. FWIW.

  • Mack Collier

    I just checked my stats, according to Akismet I got almost 10K spam comments in April. TEN THOUSAND! And Akismet claims to have blocked 99.7% of spam comments on my blog, but I still have 5-15 a day that get through. Take a site like Copyblogger that’s dealing with literally hundreds a day and I can totally see why they would turn off comments.

    Spammers ruin everything.

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  • “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”

    They do it because they believe the search engines don’t ignore the “rel=’nofollow'” and they buy software that is either not sophisticated enough to filter out the blogs that automatically add “rel=’nofollow'” to the comments or they don’t know how to configure their software to run with those filters.

    For a comment spammer it’s as simple as pay $25 for the software, set up their links and keywords, and turn it on. Then they walk away.

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  • Wendy Robinson

    This article is very interesting and informative. I enjoyed reading every details. Thank you for sharing this wonderful ideas of yours! Keep it up!

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