In the world of online blogging, the likelihood of encountering spam comments is inevitable. It’s a problem for everyone and unfortunately, there’s just no escaping it. If your blog is popular, the chances of it receiving spam comments are higher.
In this blog we will discuss:
- Types of comments in the WordPress platform
- Why spam comments are bad
- How to identify a spam comment
- How to reduce the number of spam comments you receive
Types of comments in the WordPress platform
Comments and Pings: What are they and what’s the difference between the two?
There are two types of comments within the WordPress blogging system: comments and pings. Let’s take a look at these and explain the difference between them and how to identify them.
We will start with Pings.
A ping consists of two types – pingbacks and trackbacks.
- Pingbacks are automatically generated when another blogger links to one of your posts (which is something you want to encourage) or if you yourself link from one of your blog posts to another one of your posts on your site (also a very good idea).
- Trackbacks are manually generated from one blogger to another to alert you that they have linked to your content. Pingbacks were created to automate this process.
You can tell the difference between a comment and a pingback fairly easily.
Pings, (both trackbacks and pingbacks), will have the title of the post that was linked to, a link to that post, and an excerpt from the external blog post that the ping is coming from.
A comment will have the comment author’s name, email address, website URL if they have entered it, their IP address and their comment.
Now that we know the different types of comments and how to identify them we will discuss why having spam comments on your blog is bad.
Why spam comments are bad
Why do you need to pay attention to spam comments?
While spam comments are annoying, it is important to spend a little time monitoring them. In an effort to increase the number of comments present on their post, some bloggers will approve all their comments regardless if they are spam or not. This is a bad idea. Why?
Google pays attention to bad links.
The safety and security of the user are high on the list of priorities for Google. If you allow bad links on your site, you are telling Google, and your readers, that you aren’t too concerned about the quality of content on your site even if it’s just blog comments.
Lack of moderation demonstrates apathy and indifference.
As we mentioned above, the safety and security of your visitors are important factors to pay attention to. If your blog is littered with spam comments, it shows a lack of maintenance and care. Would you want to live in a neighborhood where no one maintains their lawns and the streets are littered with trash? This is the same impression that spam comments give to Google and your readers.
Spam comments affect your trust and authority.
In addition to security and safety, trust and authority are also important factors for staying high in Google rankings. Taking the time to moderate your blog comments and ensure your content is safe for visitors says you care, which instills trust, which goes a long way in establishing yourself as an authority on the topic you are writing about.
How to identify a spam comment
So how can you tell which blog comments are legitimate and which ones are spam?
This can be tricky at times, but don’t worry. You’ll be a pro at identifying spam in no time! Here are some things to look for when deciding if a comment is spam or not:
- Commenter’s name looks fake
- Email doesn’t look legitimate
- Comment contains a weird link or the website URL is bad
- The comment itself is generic and could apply to any post or topic
Sketchy author names
Check the name of the author of the comment. Is it a legitimate name that a person might use like Susan or Mike? Or does the commenter’s name show up with keywords in it like “best Hawaii rentals” or “cheap designer handbags”? If its the latter, this is a sure sign of a spam comment as this is a typical tactic of SEO spammers.
SEO spammers use the comment fields of blogs to generate backlinks to their own blogs or their clients’ blogs. This is frowned upon by Google and is considered “black-hat” SEO techniques.
Email does not look legitimate
If the author’s name is showing up as Susan but the email address says Judy, you should be wary. Comment spammers often create fake profiles to make their comments with. Additionally, if the email address is something weird or uses seemingly random characters like this email@example.com, it is almost a sure sign that the email is fake.
NOTE: Even if the email comes from a legitimate domain like gmail.com, it doesn’t mean the email address exists. Luckily, you can use this very useful tool for checking if an email actually exists or not.
Dodgy website URLs and links
If the author included a website URL with their comment, check it out. Does it look like a real and active personal or business domain? Or does it look like a spammy shopping site or something worse? If it’s clearly a questionable domain, it’s spam and you can mark it as so and move on.
Similarly, blog commenters will often place hyperlinks directly in the comments themselves. Be careful with those as well as they can also take the user to a spammy site.
CAUTION: Don’t automatically click on a URL to see if its a legitimate website or not. These sites can carry malware and other undesirable outcomes.
WordPress comes with a built-in spam filter called Askimet, (more on this in a moment). Askimet has a cool feature that allows you to hover over a website URL and get a preview of the site so that you don’t necessarily need to click on it to make a determination about the validity of the site.
Here are some other tools that can check if a URL is safe or not.
- Sucuri SiteCheck
- If the URL has been shortened, use this tool to check shortened URLs: http://www.getlinkinfo.com/
REMEMBER: Select, copy and paste the URL into these services. (Don’t click!)
Generic or unrelated comments
So now we have checked out the email address, the website URL and any links the commenter placed in the comment. Now let’s look at what this person has to say.
If the comment is generic such as “Great article! Thanks for posting!” It is highly likely that this person did not even read the post and is just trying to generate as many backlinks as possible or it is a bot making auto comments.
What you want to look for are comments that are relevant to the topic of the post and if possible even reference something in the article. Additionally, pay attention to how the author of the comment uses words. Are their sentences grammatically correct? Do they use the language properly? Are their words misspelled? All of these can be a sign of spam.
How to reduce the number of spam comments you receive
So what can you do to reduce spam comments on your blog?
We highly recommend using an anti-spam plugin such as Askimet. Askimet does a really good job of filtering spam comments. However, some do get past the filter. The plugin is free to use. Simply install it on your WordPress website, obtain an API key and you’re all set.
Trust your intuition
If it looks like spam, smells like spam, tastes like spam, it’s probably spam (OK, maybe not tastes like spam). Even with all the proper filters set up, things will still get through and it’s something you’ll want to stay on top of.
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