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WordPress Basics: Combating WordPress Comment Spam

July 31, 2014 0 Comments RSS Feed

If you have a WordPress blog, you will get comment spam. WordPress comment threads can become a mess of nonsense comments and link spam. Luckily there are tools available that will take care of the great majority of comment spam, although bloggers will still have to keep an eye out, both false positives and false negative can occur.

What’s The Point Of Comment Spam?

The most common motivation for comment spamming is black hat link building. Google and other search engines use the number of incoming links for a page or domain as a signal for ranking them in search engine results pages. More links is better. Comment spammers use automatic botnets to seek out open comment threads that they can use to create a link. This doesn’t really work; Google have become smarter at figuring out what’s spam and what’s not, and WordPress comment links have nofollow meta tags on by default — but that doesn’t stop spammers from trying.

Other motivations include publicizing scammy job offers: “My friend made a million dollars in five minutes working from home,” publicizing related blog articles, and directing users to malware infected sites.

Obviously, we don’t want anything like that appearing on our blogs, so what can we do about it?

Akismet

When you first install WordPress, you’ll have Askimet installed out-of-the-box. It’s a comment spam blocking plugin from Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com. Akismet is an intelligent spam blocker that works by compiling a database of all comments marked as spam among its user base, which is huge. It will catch most automated spam.

Akismet isn’t activated by default, and you’ll have to go to the Akismet site to get an API key, but it’s well worth the five minutes that takes — it’ll save you a lot of time in the future.

Built-in Comment Moderation

WordPress comes with a number of features that make it difficult for comment spammers. They can be found under the “Settings” menu in the Admin Sidebar. Choose the “Discussion” submenu, then scroll to “Comment Moderation”.

WordPress Comment Moderation

Here you’ll be able to limit the number of links that a comment can have before being dropped into moderation. On a low-traffic blog, I suggest that you capture every comment with a link for approval. On a high-traffic blog with active comment threads, that would be time-consuming and annoying for commenters, so I leave it on two links, which is the default. Spam will probably get through, but you have to balance moderation time with the inconvenience to commenters of holding up their posts and the risk of some spam appearing.

Here you can also block words that are associated with spam. This can be useful, but you need to take care not to cast too broad a net.

Restrict Comments To Registered Users

WordPress has built-in capabilities to restrict commenting to logged-in users, but I prefer to use the Social Login plugin, which will allow commenters to validate themselves with their social media credentials.

Comment spam isn’t going anywhere, but WordPress users can limit the amount of moderation they have to do to keep their comments clear with these straightforward techniques.

Posted in: WordPress