Eliminating Comment Spam

A common problem with blogs these days is the huge amount of blog comment spam.

Typically, comment spam promotes sex sites. There’s also a software application out there that automatically posts comments hoping to get backlinks for SEO purposes. An unprotected blog would be overwhelmed with comment spam in short order.

This post is designed to help new bloggers setup their blog so that comment spam is completely eliminated. I’m focusing on WordPress here, but similar techniques may work on other blogging platforms.

Activate Akismet

The first step, once you install your WordPress blog, is to head over to WordPress.com and signup. You don’t want to create a blog, you just want to get your API key for WordPress.com services. The main service being Akismet, their anti-spam plugin. Akismet comes with WordPress, but you can’t use it without an API key.

Once you get your API key, go into the plugins tab in your WordPress dashboard and activate Akismet. You should now see Akismet Configuration as a secondary option in the plugins tab. Click it and enter your API key and click Update Options.

Setup Comment Moderation

Akismet will do a great job of filtering out comment spam. It won’t completely eliminate it, though. To prevent the 1% or so of comment spam that Akismet doesn’t catch from hitting your blog, go into the Options tab of your WordPress dashboard and choose the Discussion sub item.

I recommend setting email notifications so you get email when comments are made or held for moderation.  At minimum, get email when comments are held for moderation.

The last settings provides great protection while minimizing your moderation duties.  You’ll need to moderate everyone’s first comment, but after they’ve shown they can be trusted to not spam your blog, their comments are moderated right away. 

That’s the setting that lets you catch any spam that Akismet doesn’t catch.  When you get an email about moderating a comment, and the comment is clearly spam, don’t hesitate to mark it as spam.  That allows Akismet to get better at recognizing spam.

In that same screen, I also recommend setting the number of links to 2 for holding comments for moderation.  Your regular commentors will often post comments with single links to related websites.  If they post 2 or more, the comment will be held for moderation so you can make sure it’s okay.

A No Spam Blog

These settings help you to run a no spam blog.  You’ll be amazed at the quantity of spam that Akismet catches for you, especially as your blog becomes more popular.  You’ll also be amazed at the extraordinary lack of creativity blog spammers have as you see comment after comment that is all the same.

How about those of you who aren’t using WordPress?  What do you do to avoid comment spam?

6 Replies to “Eliminating Comment Spam”

  1. My blog is on Blogger. I reluctantly moderate all comments manually. I don’t get SPAM, but moderating is annoying, both for me and for the users.

    My sister set up her blog a few months ago. (Alas, she has moved on to other things. It hasn’t been updated in over a month.) Within days, there were SPAM comments masquerading as legitimate, with affiliate links to Amazon products posted as comments with helpful on-topic suggestions.

    I started my blog as a lark, in order to be able to comment on my sister’s blog. When I saw how quickly her quiet little corner of the Internet became cluttered with comment SPAM, I chose to moderate every comment propholactically instead of having to dig out links later.

    Some of those comment SPAMs look very real, and they are being made by real people, not programs. If they get deleted, a real reader might become offended…

    Waiting for comments to be approved gets in the way of lively conversation amongst the readers. Have I mentioned that it’s annoying?
    I don’t want to be in the middle of every conversation, and I don’t want the conversation to wait for my errands to complete before continuing.

    Meanwhile, I’m a Sabbath observer. This means that I can’t moderate comments on Friday nights or Saturdays. Preparing for the Sabbath makes Fridays very busy in real life for me. Thus there is a minimum of 25 hours where I can’t moderate comments – more like 40 hours straight, from Friday afternoons until late Saturday nights.

    Had I let the blog live without moderation, a raging fire could be burning by the time I returned to view the blog on Saturday night. EIther a flame war, or a SPAM attack, or…???

    Many of my readers are not Jewish (or not Sabbath-observing Jews), and not aware the Sabbath. When someone makes a comment on a Friday afternoon, and gets no result for 40 hours, it can make them nervous. They might think that I deleted the comment, or that I had a negative reaction to it, or that the blog is broken….

    Thus, I started the practice of making a quick post every Friday afternoon, announcing the situation. I try to make the post positive, with pictures of the freshly baked breads and desserts, with my scrubbed-clean-for-Shabbat kids smiling, a quick recipe, etc.

    Yet, still, it seems to me like an “UNWELCOME” mat. The Friday afternoon post stays at the top of the blog, until at least Saturday night, often until Monday morning, if we’re busy on Sundays.

    (I haven’t worked out that delayed posting scheme we discussed earlier.)

    So, while moderating every comment has made my blog a ZERO SPAM blog, it has many disadvantages. It encumbers conversation, it takes my time, it annoys me and my readers, and it has made for a 25-40 hour block every week where new readers to my blog are faced with a “GO AWAY” message.

  2. 100% moderation works well to eliminate spam, but as you say is a pain. I did that for a while on this blog in the beginning, before I worked out the strategy described above.

    I did make a comment on your blog on a Saturday, and saw the post you mentioned. It didn’t make me feel unwelcome, in fact I appreciated the fact that you gave me a heads up. I didn’t wonder then when it took time for the comment to be moderated.

    [quote post=”297″]TYPO: “prophalactically” was misspelled. Sorry![/quote]

    Yet more search engine bait. 😉

  3. Hi Jay

    Blogger does not have comment spam filter like Askimet and I don’t moderate comment. Luckily I haven’t been hit with comment spam until now.

    However, some of my posts had received anonymous comments that was sarcastic at best and hateful at its worst. I generally ignore these cowardly acts, but due to comment not moderated, they were still published and became an eye sore.

    Hey, I noticed I’ve made more than 2 or 3 comments on your blog but my ID wasn’t showing in Top Commentators section. Am I caught in comment spam too?

  4. [quote post=”297″]Hey, I noticed I’ve made more than 2 or 3 comments on your blog but my ID wasn’t showing in Top Commentators section. Am I caught in comment spam too?[/quote]

    There’s something going on with the top commentators list…you’re there, at the bottom, but there’s no link. I’ll have to look into it and see what might be happening.

    Sorry to hear you’ve had some nasty comments lately! Some people have nothing better to do, I guess.

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