We’ve all seen the blogs that have been taken over by spam comments. Whether it’s the “My best friend’s sister makes $6,000 every month working online” spam or the even more insidious “Great blog! I really like your writing, discount golf clubs” text, spam comments quickly degrade the appearance of a blog and may even discourage reader interaction.
These types of spam comments are also the kiss of death for professional bloggers; if you can’t control the spam on your own website, people soon stop taking you seriously.
How do you stop the spam? You need a two-pronged strategy: vigilance and software. We’ll look at software first.
Start with general security, then get more specific
If the only security software you have installed on your computer is basic antivirus software, you need some additional protection. Since so many spammers, phishers, hackers and other annoyances come in from the web, you need a full suite of internet security software. This type of software literally protects you from web threats, including people who want to steal your personal information or infiltrate your social media or web properties.
Then, you need some website-specific protection. For WordPress users, Akismet is still the gold standard. If you’re using a hand-coded website, you need to implement some type of comment spam protection on your own.
Making users register accounts before commenting only stops part of the problem; as we’ve learned, spammers are just as quick to register accounts as any other internet commenter. Even captchas are no longer effective against spammers. In 2013, programmers developed a software called Vicarious to solve captchas without human assistance; spammers also often just solve the captchas themselves.
Once your security is set up, begin practicing vigilance
As you know, even the tightest security won’t prevent a dedicated spammer from getting through. This is where good old fashioned vigilance comes in. If you are blogging or publishing online, you need to take the time to read and monitor all of your comments.
Some bloggers choose to approve comments before they go live on the website; this practically guarantees that spam comments can’t get through, but prevents your true fans from engaging in real-time interaction. People expect to be able to contribute and respond to comment discussions immediately, and if you are not on the ball with your comment approval system, your users will quickly learn that your website is not a good place to have an online discussion.
Other bloggers choose to let all comments go through and then delete the spam comments as they appear. This method also helps ensure that no spam comments make it onto your blog, especially if you watch your comment site carefully right after every new blog post.
The drawback to this method has to do with old blog posts. Unless you watch the comments on your old posts as vigorously as you do the comments on your newest material, your old posts will slowly become clogged with spam. You see this often on popular blogs; the newest posts are all moderated, but at some point bloggers do not have time to moderate old posts, and the spammers quickly take over.
(Why do spammers comment on old blog posts? Because their goal is to leave behind as many links as possible. Luckily, new Google algorithms are making this a less-popular spam tactic, and it may become eradicated within the next few years.)
Vigilance + Software = a Spam-Free Website
If you take the time to practice daily vigilance and keep your security software updated, you’ll keep the spammers off your blog or website, create a safe space for commenters to discuss ideas, and maintain your professional reputation.
It takes a little extra work and a little extra money, but that’s what distinguishes the serious bloggers from the amateurs. Try putting these two strategies into practice, and see how much nicer your website looks without all that spam.