How to Identify & Reduce Comment Spam on Your Author Website/Blog

Removing author website spam 300x300 How to Identify & Reduce Comment Spam on Your Author Website/BlogIf you own an author website that offers a blog, or a standalone author blog, you’ve no doubt encountered spam, or questioned if a comment you’ve received is spam. The more popular your blog becomes, the more spam you’ll get. We get at least one email a day from various clients asking if a particular comment is spam, because the spam creators become ever more creative in their “gotcha” attempts. So, let’s learn to how identify and reduce some spam on your site!

But first, why is spam bad for your author website? In case you assume it’s okay to approve comments – even if they’re spam – to make your site look busier, DON’T:

  • Dumb comments don’t impress. Think of your blog as a polished manuscript. Letting it get littered with bad blog comments is like presenting a page full of typos. And while an average reader may not know the difference, other bloggers with influence (the ones you want putting links up to your blog!) will know… and go.
  • Google will punish you. Spam comments contain bad links. The last thing you would want is for Google to think you’re allowing bad links onto your website, even if they are just in the comments.
  • Your readers will abandon you. What if a reader clicks on a link from a spam comment and is taken somewhere they don’t want to be?

We get it. No author wants to spend time moderating comments to determine which ones are spam and which ones are legit. So let’s see what we can do to better identify and reduce the nonsense.

How to Know It’s Spam

Some authors will read every comment and consider it legit if the comment demonstrates that the reader actually read the post. Other blog owners will dismiss a comment as spam based on the fact that the link does not match the same industry as their blog.

Here are some questions you can answer from blog marketing guru Kristi Hines when looking at a comment to help you determine whether or not you should approve it on your author website.

  • Would I want my blog readers to click on the comment author’s link? If the answer is no, don’t approve the comment.
  • Is the comment author using a real name or keywords? The use of keywords in the name field of a comment without the use of a real first and/or last name is almost always the sign of an SEO spammer.
  • Is the comment specific or could apply to any post? I have actually copy and pasted comments I’ve received into Google search and found them being used, word for word, on dozens if not hundreds of other blogs.
  • Has the same comment author been using several different email or website addresses? If “Joe Smith” comments one day linking to a fishing site, the next to a clothing store, and the following to a pet supply company, they just might be an SEO spammer.
  • Does the comment author use a legit email address? Chances are, you don’t have time to email all of your comment authors. But if you see someone commenting with the email address of email@email.com, then chances are, it’s not a legit email address.

Here’s a look at some recent spam from our WWW spam folder (click to enlarge):

Spam Nonsense How to Identify & Reduce Comment Spam on Your Author Website/Blog

Notice that none of the subjects have anything to do with writers or authors. The links are to places we wouldn’t send any of you (and why we took a snapshot of them rather than copy/paste them here). And they all have to do with an old post or page. The text is often nonsense (with poor grammar and spelling to boot), and again, has nothing to do with the post it refers to. Even if flattering, it’s “general” flattery with no reference to anything specific.

Reducing Spam

If you use WordPress, which is what we use and what we recommend for clients, it begins with your settings:

  • Moderate comments. A lot of folks only do this for “first-time” comments. Don’t. It only takes a day (from our graphic above you’ll see that this is just a snippet of this morning’s spam fodder!)
  • Turn off trackbacks. Trackbacks let you know who’s linking to your blog, but you can still do this a number of other ways (like on the Incoming Links right in your WP dashboard) and these days trackbacks can be more prolific than comment spam.
  • Turn off comments after 30-60 days. People who comment for link building purposes (aka SEO spammers) typically look for blog posts with high PageRank. This means that SEO spammers are going to be targeting your older blog posts. But an author’s blog post is most popular within the first two weeks, so that will be when you get the majority of your real comments. To close your blog comments after a specified number of days, go to your WordPress dashboard > Settings > Discussion. Under the Other Comment Settings Section, check the option to automatically close comments on articles older than __ days and fill in the number of days you want comments to be open.
  • Install spam-preventing plugins. These aren’t full-proof as spammers are clever and – like cockroaches – constantly finding new ways through the cracks. But these two for WordPress do prevent a lot from getting in:
    Akismet is built into WordPress that filters what it assumes are spam comments into a spam folder. To activate it, you need to sign up for an API key from their website, and it does carry a small fee. Note: Legitimate comments sometimes get mistakenly filtered as spam. You can mark them as not spam and then approve them on your blog.
    Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin is a free plugin that allows you to add a simple checkbox captcha to your comment form. Comment authors must check the box to confirm they are human and not using an automated commenting system to submit their comment. This drastically reduces the amount of automated spam to your blog.

Have a unique way of battling spam on your author website? Share it with us!

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Comments

  1. Writing Services says:

    hmmm. Writing Services

  2. I’m thinking of learning how to read chinese…. while hanging a Louis from my arm!

  3. JACQUELINE GUM says:

    Hmmmm. I’ve been thinking that Louis Vuitton was seriously pursuing my followers. Frankly, it made me a little afraid for them. Now I recognize this as spam…and I’ll deal with it in the proper manner.

    • Shari Stauch says:

      We keep getting one called “hotshot bald cop” – commenting with nonsense on various posts and always to a different link. Think I’d prefer Louis at this point :)

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