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How to Identify and Stop Blog Comment Spam

As a follow up to Jonathan Bailey’s great post yesterday, Blogging Pitfalls: Becoming a Spammer, I wanted to talk about comment spam a bit more.  Bloggers are often inundated with comment spam, which can get so bad that they might even reconsider moderating comments.

Unfortunately, there are some forms of comment spam that have gotten out of control over the past year or so, and bloggers need to be aware of these spam tactics, try to identify them, and mark those comments as spam using their comment spam detection tool (for example, Akismet).  Identifying comments as spam helps your spam tool better identify them in the future, so hopefully, they won’t get through to your moderation queue anymore.

But how do you know if a comment is spam if it’s not the usual link-filled or gibberish spam comment that can be identified with a cursory glance?  That’s the problem with these newer forms of comment spam — they often look like legitimate comments, until you take a closer look at them.

These days, there are comment factories that pay people a few cents to leave a comment with specific keywords linked back to a specific web page for the sole purpose of increasing incoming links to that page and therefore, increasing Google search rankings for that page in related keyword searches.  If you visit a freelancing website like oDesk.com, you’ll find many of these “jobs”.  They’re quick and easy, and people snatch them up despite the low payment.

I refer to this type of comment spam as the “nice blog” or “great information” comment, because the comment will usually sound at least somewhat legitimate.  However, if you take a look at the URL entered into the comment form as well as the keyword phrase tied to that link, you’re likely to find something suspicious.  If you follow the link entered into the comment form, you’ll probably find even more evidence of a spam link.  In simplest terms, a link on a blog dedicated to discussing finance that leads to a website filled with ads, no original content, or with a URL like postnasaldriptreatment.com (I got that on one of my posts recently, and I assure you, the post had nothing to do with post nasal drip) is almost always spam.

There are also many comment spambots that find a blog that actually publishes a spam comment through phishing and then continually sends spam comments to that blog.  You don’t want that to happen, which is why it’s essential that you identify and mark spam comments as such to the best of your ability.  In time, you’ll be better able to identify spam comments.  The first step is being aware of what to look for and “teaching” your comment spam detection tool how to deal with similar comments in the future.  Those tools aren’t perfect, but every little bit of information you give them helps them get better.

Here are a few comment spam examples that fit the two scenarios listed above (paid comments for links and automated comments), which might help you to identify similar comments on your own blog.  These were taken directly from the comment moderation queue of one of my own blogs.  Suffice it to say, they have since been marked as spam if they were not detected as such by Akismet first.  Note that these comments were copied and pasted directly without correcting any grammatical errors.

Comment Spam Example #1: Submitted to a blog post written to help women in business

“i am always watching for any product launch on the internet as i am a gadget addict myself.,’”

– Comment linked to electriccementmixer.info

Comment Spam Example #2: Submitted to a blog post written about business thought leadership

“Keep posting stuff like this i really like it”

– Comment linked to pharmacytechnicianblog.com/pharmacy-technician-program with the keyword link text of Pharmacy Technician Program

Comment Spam Example #3: Submitted to a blog post written about the top 10 cities to capture Small Business Recovery Act dollars

“K12 education is always the best..-“

– Comment linked to titaniumearrings.org

As the three examples above demonstrate, if a blogger didn’t take a closer look at them to see what post they were submitted to, what keyword link text was used in the comment form, and what URL was provided in the comment form, then that blogger may have published these comments opening the doors for similar spam in the future.  Don’t let that happen to your blog.  Be diligent about fighting comment spam!

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Comments

  1. Thomas Sinfield ) says: 7/29/2010

    I am pretty strict with my approval of comments for this very reason. But it is usually quite easy to pick out the people who are just commenting for a link because there is no value added.

    My personal rule is:

    Add value to post = approved.

    No value = Deleted

    Reply

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  2. Dean Saliba ) says: 7/29/2010

    This is something that I have found since I switched my blog to dofollow. I can normally spot them pretty easy though.

    I am now more concerned with trying to weed out the dodgy web urls that people leave when commenting.

    Reply

  3. Jhay ) says: 8/3/2010

    I’ve been experiencing this kind of sneaky spam since last year. And it has only gotten worse this time around. It’s a good thing I’ve developed a quick eye for such spam comments that look legitimate.

    What’s kind of annoying though is it seems that Akismet is slow in learning about this, a few comments still manage to get through.

    Reply

  4. Todd Durell says: 8/4/2010

    When I started my blog about a month ago, I wasn’t even aware this existed, but what a lesson! I screen every comment and I’m concerned about the amount of effort this will take if the volume increases substantially.

    When it’s not clear, I’ve googled the comment verbatim, and it normally shows up in dozens of other blogs’ posts. As you say, they’re typically generic comments with links to (sometimes bizarrely) unrelated sites. My personal favorite example so far was a glowing appraisal of my reasoning skills, which was submitted to a post of a picture of a monkey, and linked to a site discussing the dangers of lasik eye surgery.

    Reply

  5. John Bottom ) says: 8/17/2010

    Really useful post, Susan. I wanted to comment because I am getting a lot of comment spam on a blog that I manage for a client but I noticed a wonderful – and genuine – comment from one of them recently. I quote:
    “When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get four emails with the same comment. Is there any way you can remove me from that service? Thanks!”

    The comment was linked to a site that sold ‘square bathroom rugs’. My blog has nothing to do with bathroom rugs, square or otherwise.

    But I take great comfort from the fact that he now understands the pain of having an inbox filled with unnecessary comment alerts.

    Thanks

    John

    Reply

    • Jean | Delightful Repast ) says: 3/11/2012

      John, that’s a good one! I’ll have to give it a try. I’ve been inundated with comment spam lately; fortunately, 99.9 percent of it is caught by my spam filter. And I moderate all comments. So I don’t know why they bother!

      Reply

  6. John Bottom ) says: 8/17/2010

    And here’s a follow up. I just followed the advice of one of your fellow commenters and Googled the phrase verbatim. Sure enough, the spammer has been using it everywhere, so maybe not as satisfying as I first thought.

    Not sure what they wanted to gain from it. Would it help them if I acted on it somehow? I’m still not publishing it.

    Reply

    • Susan Gunelius ) says: 8/17/2010

      John, The commenter is trying to get links back to the site that is used in the URL field of the comment form. Sounds like it’s probably an automated comment spam bot. The best thing you can do is flag it as spam (if you’re using a comment spam detector like Aksimet). If it persists, you can copy the IP address the comments are coming from and input those in your comment blacklist in the discussion settings of your WP dashboard. Hope that helps!

      Reply

      • John Bottom ) says: 8/18/2010

        Thanks Susan. They’re quite sneaky these chaps, aren’t they?

        Reply

  7. HRJ TAPS says: 8/20/2010

    useful article on spam

    Reply

  8. EvilEye says: 8/22/2010

    I can appreciate someone leaving a post on my blog to get a link or something but what gets to me the most is when what they say has absolutely nothing to do with my blog or the article they are posting on. At least challenge me to figure out if it is spam or not.

    Akismet does get rid of a lot of them though. I used to get at least 8-10 spam posts a day to the blogs I manage and now maybe one will slip through the cracks and that is one a week if that. Save yourself some time and hassle by using it.

    I guess my main question is… does it really help the google rankings? It is so unfair if it is where I am adding content to climb up rankings and some guy is spamming everyone to get ahead of me

    Reply

  9. krishnakant sonakiya ) says: 9/2/2010

    Till now, Akismet is working great to stop any spam comments to my blog. But some of them do feel like legitimate comments and I have to take a closer look in order to judge them as spam or not.

    But I also do as the Susan says, I look for the relevance of both post and comment and judge them. Not too time consuming because Akismet does a pretty good job in filtering out spam comments.

    Reply

  10. Jen Phillips April ) says: 10/26/2010

    Love this, I was wondering what the deal was with all these spammy comments on my new wordpress site. I’ve used SBI for years with nothing like this and I was thinking I was going crazy.
    It took me a few days but I then I realized I was getting the same comment almost verbatim from different urls. Hmm….

    Some are more creative though, my personal fave so far is “say thank you for this instruction superb analysis….( keyword phrase unrelated to my site) ….”I am constructive I’ll be back again and can ship out a couple of my associates” . Huh? Great, now the spammers are sending unwanted houseguests…..

    Reply

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  13. G says: 12/11/2010

    I’m getting increasingly frustrated by Askimet – there’s a fine line between stopping spammers and eroding principles of freedom of speech.
    I also think bloggers have become overly paranoid about spammers, after all no-follow is pretty effective at minimising any loss of juice.
    There’s so much more info about how to stop spammers than there is about the definition of a spammer… I think it’s good that people like Thomas Sinfeld that understand what I consider the true definition of spam/not spam.

    Reply

  14. Alan Rogers says: 12/12/2010

    I am getting comments being picked up by Akismet as spam but they are actually coming back from sites I have submitted articles to. They quote my article title – and the URL is the article directory followed by my article title. Being new to blogging I’m not sure if these are actually “links” coming back to my site and whether I should be approving them or not? The main reason for submitting the articles is to get the links back, but approving them and having them showing on my blog, will appear pretty “spammy” to the reader? How should I be interpretting and actioning these “comments”?

    Reply

  15. Gillian says: 12/17/2010

    Thank you that is very helpful for me, as a new site has been inundated with comments that seem OK at first glance but then get repeated with a slight change of wording. I have something concrete to go on now and will delete quite a lot of them.

    Reply

  16. iş makinaları says: 1/12/2011

    My personal rule is:

    Add value to post = approved.

    No value = Deleted

    Reply

  17. Rent-A-Site says: 1/26/2011

    What I think is the most hilarious is that I spotted two such spambot comments in this very comment strip! Hilarious! I wish I had a list of the most overused spam comments, that would make it easier to blacklist on all my customers sites… Thanks for good article though.

    Reply

  18. Mark says: 1/28/2011

    @iş makinaları I agree.

    If it adds value and is on topic then allow it.

    It’s the sheer volume of spam that saps the soul. It’s like a battle against an unseen enemy that you can never win.

    It’s v frustrating that the standard WordPress installation doesn’t allow you to disallow a href tags from comments without having to hack into the kses.php file too.

    Reply

  19. birdnranath ) says: 3/5/2011

    This comment starts by stating that the commenter has read all the comments, a statement made in the belief that this will increase the likelihood that the commenter will be seen as Serious and Thorough instead of just someone with nothing better to do for an hour. This sentence will use the phrase “the marketplace of ideas.” This sentence will pompously chastise the OP for being incendiary and for criticizing other commenters for not seeing the OP’s entire thesis. This sentence will have no relevance to the the OP because the commenter can read but cannot think. <a href=”(http://www.forsharedarticles.blogspot.com’’)spot .com

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  21. Tony Payne ) says: 6/17/2011

    I have been getting a lot of spam like this on my blogs, as well as on my Squidoo lenses, and I am always careful to check the URL of those who seek to add comments to my sites.

    I also often take things one step further, and rate their site for leaving “Link Spam” using WOT (Web Of Trust). I created a page to explain how to do this, if you will permit me to leave a link http://www.squidoo.com/fight-back-at-spam and at least I get some satisfaction out of knowing I have denied them some traffic.

    Blatant spammers, scammers and plagiarizers also (if I have time) get reported to their hosting company, and if they use Adsense for example, get reported to Google as well.

    Vengeance can be sweet sometimes :)

    I did create a Squidoo lens about some of the funny spam comments that I have received (which are many), but won’t leave the link here as I already left one – don’t want to be seen as spamming myself!

    Reply

  22. michael stephan says: 6/21/2011

    this is a problem I have been having, but since my blog is new and I would like to have some comments so if they are nice comments without any info about their business (like their username), I have just been deleting their links before approving.

    Reply

  23. Isla Pergola says: 7/2/2011

    Askimet can do a pretty good job, but if you want to create conversation on your blog, then you need to have people placing comments. I´ve made it clear on my blogs that if the comment is on topic and adds something to the conversation I am happy to accept it and perhaps one or two links, but nothing more than that.

    Reply

  24. Anthony Taylor says: 7/7/2011

    This is something that I have found since I switched my blog to dofollow. I can normally spot them pretty easy though.

    Reply

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  32. pergola designs says: 10/18/2011

    I run many blogs and getting lots of spam comments on it. I had used some plugins but was still getting many spam links so i decided to disable comment section instead of any other decisions. I don’t know what my readers are feeling BUT i will have to find out something which can fully stop spamming.

    Anyways, I got one idea which is shared by “Isla Pergola” to use Askimet plugin but it requires API so can you tell me where I can get API?

    Reply

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  36. Mike says: 2/1/2012

    You can try Comment SPAM Wiper. It has a high rate of detection and has an API that works with the majority of platforms.

    Reply

  37. Kelley says: 2/3/2012

    Thanks for the article. I am really new to blogging and so those spam comments definitely stroked my ego, until I realized that they are basically just parasites. I’ll be more vigilant from now on thanks to your info.

    Reply

  38. StephenD7 says: 2/3/2012

    Thank you Susan for this timely post. Like Kelly, I am a new blogger and my ego enjoyed the massage of comments. I noticed a lot of comments are Spun (not specific, flattering, identical with a few words different). I thought they are SPAM but did not realize the dangers.

    Reply

  39. Howard says: 2/4/2012

    Great post! lol..

    (wonder if you’ll delete this comment because of the first line)

    Anyway, I think Akismet does a good job in screening spam comments. What I did though was to install the FB social plugin which enables my readers to comment using their FB profiles. This way, any comment posted using WP is definitely a spam and I just let Akismet delete them in time.

    Reply

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    • Howard says: 2/8/2012

      Comment by “Things to do in Melbourne” sure looks spam-ish! lol

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    We unable to stop spamming on our website http://www.techrecur.com and we already installed akismet plugin and its working good, and we want to know another way to stop spamming comments on our website/blog.

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  44. Abby says: 3/19/2012

    I’ve been getting spammed ever since I made my blog last year! My blog is a personal account of my life, and I get comments about Zunes vs. Ipods and stocks and whatnot, all on the same post. You see, I know it’s spam, but I don’t know how to stop it. I consistently mark the comments as spam, but they still come up every now and then. However, I didn’t know that comments like “Great blog” are spam! Thanks for the information, now I can recognize spam more once I get it! :)

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    I have several blogs, some of which have a lot of traffic. The amount of spam I get is unbelieveable. I have been searching for software or a plugin to control it, but it doesn’t seem to be good enough. Most software catches the blatent spam, but I try to restrict comments that don’t add any value, like the “good post” comments. Is anyone aware of software that is able to restrict those type of comments?

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  49. Earl says: 7/10/2012

    Even if I know it’s a spam comment, I’d approve it if it brings a relevant point to the post. Should I stop doing that, seeing as it “encourages” spamming in some way?

    Reply

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  52. Anna Allen says: 8/29/2012

    I just started a blog and have noticed that the comments submitted are in a broken english with very poor grammar. I had no idea spam content looked like that these days. I’ll be marking spam right away.
    They are pretty humorous to read though. I thought about giving them to my 3rd grader to improve his proof reading skills!
    Thanks for the article. By the way just this morning I read the comment you have dated 6/19/12 on my blog. Yep word for word. Oh, how they get around.

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