I love getting comments on my blog, but managing them can be a pain.
A friend called me recently saying, “Lisa, help me! Help! My blog is full of spam!”
Sure enough, she had about 2 dozen comments on one of her blog posts, and every single one of them was spam. She didn’t know how they got there, and more importantly, she didn’t know how to get rid of them.
What’s the key to managing spam?
One word – prevention. It’s really not that difficult. Here are the three key things you can do to stop spammers in their tracks.
Akismet is a plugin that is built into WordPress. It’s very effective at blocking spammers – it marks suspicious comments as spam and files them away in a spam folder. I still go through my spam comments occasionally and make sure that a valid comment didn’t get filed there by mistake – but 99.9% of the time Akismet does it correctly. If a spam comment happens to get through the filter, you can still mark it as spam, and Akismet won’t let that commenter through again.
Once you activate the plugin you’ll be prompted to go get an API key. Just click on the link and follow the instructions. It’s really very simple. There are plenty of other plugins out there, but I find Akismet does the job quite well.
Keep the door to your blog locked by setting things up so that you screen all first time commenters. In your blog’s settings, go to the “comments” section, and set it to require moderation for first-time commenters. That means if someone comes to your blog and comments for the first time, you need to actually approve the comment before it will show up on your blog. By choosing this option, you keep control over the comments – and after someone has been approved once, you won’t have to approve them again.
I don’t recommend requiring moderation for every comment all the time, because that just discourages people from posting. Remember, comments encourage discussion among your readers, so don’t put an unnecessary barrier there.
Know who you’re approving
Once you’ve activated Akismet and set up moderation, this is the most critical piece to stopping spammers. Because you’ve chosen the “moderate once” option, that means that if you approve a comment from a spammer, you’ve opened the door wide open for them to flood your blog with spam comments. This is what happened to my friend.
Be very careful about who you approve. Don’t just blindly approve every comment that gets through Akismet, assuming it’s ok. You still need to pay attention.
How do you tell the difference between a real comment and spam?
Spammers are smart – sure, you’ll see a lot of junk that’s obviously spam, but often you’ll see something that’s not so obvious. It looks like it might be legit…but you’re not sure.
In this case I look at the URL – if it’s something like bestdomainsearch.us, that’s most likely spam – but I might go visit the site to be sure (just be careful that you don’t open your computer up to a virus by clicking on something you shouldn’t). You can usually tell pretty quickly if the site is legit or not. If it has lots of ads and not much real content, it’s a scraper site and you don’t want to approve that comment. Look for an “about” page, or a contact page. Most of these types of sites won’t have one – or if they do they’re junk.
Still not sure? Remove the URL
Spammers post to get links back to their sites, so if you remove the URL that removes the link. Just edit the comment, remove the URL and you’re done.
With a little practice, you’ll get really good at spotting spam comments
Don’t ever be afraid to mark a comment as spam if you’re not sure. Sure, you risk blocking a real commenter, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Questions? Comments? Post them below!