New Type Of WordPress Spam And How To Get Rid Of It

It has been a few months when we started getting a new kind of spam. We have been using Akismet along with Anti-Spam Bee for a very long time. But when testing the new feature of Jetpack comments, Anti-spam Bee had to be disabled because it was not compatible with Jetpack plugin.

There was no spam even after disabling Anti-spam Bee plugin owing to the fact that Akismet was doing its job perfectly. It was all nice and easy until November that we started getting spam comments which were passed by Akismet.

Akismet spam comments stats

This seemed to be a new type of spam that Akismet doesn’t seem to be aware of. This type of spam seems to be written by real humans instead of bots. Almost all the spam comments have nothing to do with the actual articles. They are so generic that they can fit on any kind of article.

Another characteristic of these spam comments is that they usually include links to user profiles of different forums and social media websites instead of linking to legitimate sites.

New type of spam Akismet can't catch

It used to be a couple of comments like this which was easier to manage but in the last few days, these spam comments have risen to hundreds. It is almost impossible to go through each comment and see if it’s spam or not. It becomes difficult for our team to actually concentrate on replying to legitimate comments.

Why are spam comments bad for SEO?

Since Google is always cracking on bad links, you should always be careful about the content and outgoing links on your site. This should be the case even if you have no-follow enabled for your comments. The main reason behind this is that spammy comments ruin the users experience and provide a way to exit the site to a spammy destination. So it should always be avoided even if it takes some time to moderate the comments.

Google has clearly stated in one of the blog posts about comment spammers:

FACT: Abusing comment fields of innocent sites is a bad and risky way of getting links to your site. If you choose to do so, you are tarnishing other people’s hard work and lowering the quality of the web, transforming a potentially good resource of additional information into a list of nonsense keywords.

FACT: Comment spammers are often trying to improve their site’s organic search ranking by creating dubious inbound links to their site. Google has an understanding of the link graph of the web, and has algorithmic ways of discovering those alterations and tackling them. At best, a link spammer might spend hours doing spammy linkdrops which would count for little or nothing because Google is pretty good at devaluing these types of links. Think of all the more productive things one could do with that time and energy that would provide much more value for one’s site in the long run.

If you are using Adsense on your blog, spam comments will probably lead to a disabling your Adsense account.

Most importantly, if you are not moderating comments aggressively, your readers will lose trust in you because you are recommending or providing them with bad links to play with.

Most importantly, spam comments will destroy the relevance and usefulness of the page and ultimately Google will penalize this behavior.

Identifying spam comments

  1. Is the comment useful for the readers of the article? If yes then you should probably approve the comment. Otherwise, disapprove it so that your readers don’t get affected.
  2. See the comment author’s name and avatar. If the commenter is using a proper name, the comment should pass this spam check. If the user is using OpenID or custom avatars, it is almost certain the the user is legitimate. If the commenter is using keywords rich name, don’t allow it to be published.
  3. Especially look for generic comments. These are new types of spam which have no relation to the article in question. They will just praise a certain aspect of the site and nothing else. See if any comment can apply to any article in the site, mark it as spam.
  4. See if there is a link embedded inside the comment. You should go through the link and see if the link target is discussed in relevance to the article or not.

Stopping spam comments

Akismet is the most popular plugin used to detect and delete spam automatically. Since it is provided by Auttomattic, the creators of WordPress, it is ever reliable and will not slow down your site to an extreme extent.

Anti-spam Bee is another great plugin for detecting and deleting comment spam in WordPress blogs. A combination of Akismet and Anti-spam Bee will be able to keep almost 99.99% of spam out of your way automatically. Sometimes these two plugins will not get compatible with eachother. So you will need to disable one of these if there is a compatibility issue.

Using these plugins can be quite useful and you can get a lot of moderation done automatically by these plugins. But these plugins will also catch some legitimate comments too. You will need to go through your comments marked as spam regularly to catch those legitimate comments.

If you don’t get a lot of spam comments, you can always enable moderation of all comments or at least the author should have one approved comment to comment again freely. These options can be accessed in WordPress admin –> Settings –> Discussion.

Discussion settings

You can also use plugins like SI CAPTCHA Anti-Spam but I don’t recommend using a CAPTCHA plugin because it presents a bad user experience which may cut the overall commenting rate on your blog.

You can also use third-party commenting systems instead of using WordPress built-in commenting functionality. The third-party commenting systems include Disqus, Facebook comments, IntenseDebate, LiveFyre etc. The most popular among these is Disqus which is used by more than 75% of the sites using third-party commenting systems.

We have been using Disqus on this blog in the past but all third-party commenting systems seem to slow down the site. This is why we only use the built-in functionality of WordPress comments.

At the moment, to fight the new kind of spam that I have discussed in this article, I have enabled Akismet along with Antispam Bee. I have also enabled moderation of all comments. This has increase my work of moderating comments but I want to make sure that this blog remains clean from spammy links and comments so that the users get a smooth experience of the site.

If you are a blog owner, are you getting spam comments? If yes then what is your strategy to get rid of comment spam?

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