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October 5, 2011

How to Recognize Comment Spam in Your Blog

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So you’ve got a nice little blog supporting your business, you’re posting regularly, and you’ve found a balance between being too tame and too controversial for your topics. But your comment threads are full of spam – bland, vague comments that do nothing to further the conversation, and worse yet, link out to untrustworthy sites that can harm your site directly and by association.

Spam

As long as webmasters keep finding ways to identify comment spam, spammers will keep finding ways to evade detection. The comment spamming arms race will likely continue as long as spamming is still profitable (i.e., forever), but here are some of the latest tricks spammers use, and solutions you can employ to fight them. As an added bonus, we’ll include freshly harvested examples of spam from this very blog.

Spammy Content

Vague, Generalized Comments
This is the most obvious sign of a spammer. When evaluating a suspect comment, ask yourself what would change if your post was about something different. Nothing? Sometimes spammers will include a snippet of text from your blogpost to make their comment seem relevant. This tends to be pretty easy to spot, especially if you’re in the habit of replying to comments on your blog.

(By the way, if you’re not in the habit of replying to comments, now’s the time to start. Spam is like graffiti: an abandoned building is more likely to be vandalized than one that looks well-maintained. Regularly replying to your visitors will make your site much less attractive to spammers because it shows that someone’s paying attention.)

Here’s an example of common spammy comments:

“I appreciated looking at your post. I should say that it was the very first article on your weblog I really loved and where I had a sense of agreement, know what exactly I mean? Regardless, continue the blogging and I’ll be back again.”

“After study a few of the blog posts on your website now, and I truly like your way of blogging. I bookmarked it to my bookmark website list and will be checking back soon. Pls check out my web site as well and let me know what you think.”

Posting in Old Comment Threads
Spammers do this because they figure the blogger never checks old threads – or that there are too many old threads to police. The solution is to set up your blog to automatically close threads after a predetermined time – which, depending on your traffic and the regularity of your posts, might be anything from a couple days to a month or more.

Feeding Your Ego
This is probably the most insidious tactic out there right now, because it appeals to the inherent narcissism of blogging.  But while your ego is being stroked, you realize that the comment includes a link to www.thiswebsitewillinfectyourcomputerwithmalware.com.

Remember, the person giving you “praise” doesn’t actually care about you or your ideas; they’re only out to post as many links as possible. Some spammers go one step further and scrape some text from your post to insert into the comment. Here’s an example of what that might look like:

“I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good. I don’t know who you are but certainly you’re going to a famous blogger if you aren’t already. Cheers!”

“I’m just done looking at your post and I quite liked it. Christine Churchill SMX East Keyword Research and CopywritingBruce Clay Blog is good! I had some doubts in the starting of the submit though, but I kept on reading and I’m delighted I did. Good amusing submit, website owner! Keep publishing and I will definitely be back again soon. Many thanks and take care.”

For more great examples of these types of spam comments, check out Blog Spam – 5 Examples to Watch Out For.

Spammy Style

Poor Grammar and Spelling
We all make mistakes on occasion, and there are plenty of folks out there with a tenuous grasp of punctuation. (By my unscientific estimate, around 98% of all semicolons on the Internet are used incorrectly; you probably shouldn’t use them unless you’re absolutely sure you know how.)

And unless the writer completely mangles the language, her message should still be understandable. So what’s the big deal, anyway? Having correct grammar and spelling is basically like a “secret handshake,” letting readers know that the writer knows what she’s talking about and that she cares about the presentation. But spammers don’t care, and this is reflected in their mistake-ridden posts. Also keep on the lookout for nonsensical posts or posts that appear to have been poorly translated like this:

“Very effectively written information. It will likely be precious to anyone who usess it, including myself. Sustain the nice work – for positive i’ll take a look at extra posts.”

“Thanks just like a support to charming the metre to deliberate this, I be informed highly on heart-breaking it and lady-love erudition way more on this topic.” (This one is so bizarre it’s almost poetic)

Very Short Posts
Spammers will often only leave a couple of sentences, because for them it’s about volume, not quality. They know that most of their links will be removed eventually, so there’s no point in putting extra effort into any single post:

“This is such a great site with tons of cool stuff. I’ll be sure to bookmark!”

“Way cool, some valid points! I appreciate you making this article available, the rest of the site is also high quality. Have a fun.”

Spammy Linking

Multiple Links per Post
If you’re a spammer, why would you waste your time with just one link per post when you can multiply your results with minimal effort? To combat this, consider allowing only one link per post, automatically adding rel=”nofollow” to links, or disallowing hyperlinks altogether.

Links to Malware/Spyware Sites
Not only will these hurt your blog from an SEO standpoint, anyone clicking these risks damage to their computer and data loss. Even you. So how do you find these links without subjecting your computer to possible infection? In her blogpost, Pro Blogging Tips, How to Identify Spam Comments, Vie mentions this Text Link Checker Tool which you can use to safely evaluate all links from your site.

Hiding the URL
Multiple methods are available to hide a link’s URL from users so they have to follow the link in order to see where it goes. While there are honest uses for this technique, spammers love using it to send users to malware or PPC (pills/porn/casino) sites. This is kind of like an especially sinister RickRoll.

Further Reading

Did I leave anything out, or get anything completely wrong? Does anyone have other tips and tricks for identifying spam? How about examples of especially insidious (or hilarious) comment spam?

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11 responses to “How to Recognize Comment Spam in Your Blog”

  1. Fran Irwin writes:

    I got burned on this myself with my new blog, the very first comment was “I love the site but I think something is wrong with the RSS feed; can you check it out please?” Very well written scam comment I’d have to say!

  2. Bob Meinke writes:

    Wow, that is pretty clever. We could call it “concern spamming.”

  3. Nick Stamoulis writes:

    Here’s one I got recently:

    “glad to know total info it will help me lots my profession life.”

    Really?!

  4. Grace Morris writes:

    HAHA this is great! I get these all the time on my site, and even when some sound iffy there’s always a link and I never post it

  5. Grace Morris writes:

    @Fran! I got a similar one and I was confused. How did that burn you, or did you post their comment because it sounded legit?

    @Nick: here’s some I’ve gotten:

    -Awesome post, where is the rss? I cant find it!
    -Thank you for your thoughtful present of having written this article. The message seems to be given to me specifically. Our son also had a lot to learn from this – though he was the individual that found your site first. Most of us can’t imagine a more superb present than a gift to encourage that you do more.
    -“We are all born for love. It is the principle of existence, and its only end.” ~ Benjamin Disraeli
    – I liked the article, but some disagree
    -Hello there! This submit couldn’t be created any much better! Studying by way of this publish reminds me of my earlier place mate! He usually held discussing this. I’ll ahead this short article to him. Rather positive he’ll possess a excellent study. Thanks for sharing!
    -Its Pleasure to realize your blog.The more than articles is relatively extraordinary, and I very enjoyed reading your blog and things that you simply expressed. I extremely like to seem back over a typical basis,post additional in the topic.Thanks for sharing…keep writing!!!

    They crack me up each time they come in.

  6. Koozai Mike writes:

    Nice post I very much enjoys reading this. When will you post more?

    Seriously though, this is a good set of tips. I’d also recommend getting Akismet or another WordPress plugin to stop spam. That tool saves us hours every day.

  7. Virginia Nussey writes:

    Mike, those rubbishy comments with questionable English are my favorite. Unfortunately they’re getting more clever, pulling frequently used words or phrases into a Mad Libs-style Frankenstein.

  8. Leah Rae writes:

    Glad to know that I’m not the only one that gets hit by these ridiculous comments. I especially love the broken rss feed comment, I always tell new clients that they are gonna get some form of the broken link, picture, rss, etc & to ignore it.

    Along with the Akismet suggestion, I would also recommend renaming & redirecting your wp-comments.php to confuse the dumber bots. The smarter ones can still find it, but less spam is less spam :)

    Blocking spam via your htaccess file is also a good step to take. WordPress has a really good instruction page in their codex: http://codex.wordpress.org/Combating_Comment_Spam/Denying_Access

  9. Laura Faulkner, PhD writes:

    Bob, I so appreciate your clear and thorough post on this “insidious” technique. After having a posterous blog for some years, I thought I knew the ins-and-outs of blogging. In launching new websites recently, though, I instituted WordPress, which seems to be a significant target for these types of spammers. The worst part of the experience, though, was having felt so ‘honored’ to have received the comments, and then to have taken the time to respond to each, as if to a person. The initial discovery of the posts as false was greater than simply a blow to the ego.
    Your write-up here was most helpful in providing a foundation for evaluating the comments with clarity. Thanks for taking the time to write it up so well.

  10. Bob Meinke writes:

    Laura:

    Thanks so much for reaching out. I’m kind of new to this whole blogging thing, so I’m really glad you found my post helpful!

  11. Yohan Perera writes:

    I am using Akismet in my blog and once in a way a comment spam finds its way through to the blog. Therefore it’s important the blogger use common sense when approving comments. Like you said one method of doing this is to check whether the comment relates to the post content…



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