Trend Tuesday: Comment SPAM gets Tricky

We’ve all come across email SPAM, but that is only where the annoyance begins. If you have a blog, a website that takes comments, or even a contact form, then you have probably seen some SPAM there, too. It used to be easy to identify, but spammers are becoming craftier at their game. Learn how you can fight back.

SPAM stacks up
SPAM can pile up in your blog. Learn how to get rid of it.

Why people Spam

Before diving into the problem of comment SPAM, I’d like to answer this question: Why do people SPAM? The biggest purpose of comment SPAM is SEO-related. One of the things Google and the others factor into their algorithms is linkbacks. A linkback is any link from an external site back to your website. In many comment forms on blogging platforms there is an option to include a website, which is then linked to your name when you leave a comment. This is a way of telling people who it is that is leaving the comment. Spammers use this opportunity to link to trashy SPAM websites that make pennies per visitor. If they rank higher in the search engines for keywords like “free viagra”, they can drive more traffic and make more pennies. Pennies turn into dollars which turn into Benjamins, and you get the picture. However, this doesn’t work very well for the spammers.

While most of the blogging platforms include comments and do send links, they include a little piece of code that prevents linkbacks. It’s called a “nofollow” link. It tells Google not to count a link as a linkback. Google doesn’t follow the link, so that website isn’t given any benefit. It’s an optional setting, but it is turned on for professional blogs as well as Blogger.com and WordPress.com hosted blogs. We don’t use nofollow links on this blog so that we can pass along benefits to our commenters. However, spammers don’t know that we do this, and they don’t seem to care much either way. Even with nofollow links, the spammers will still attack your site. Now that we know the why, lets look into the “what” of comment SPAM.

What Comment SPAM looks like

Most people can identify the obvious SPAM very quickly. It is riddled with links to ED drugs or other pharmaceuticals, or in some cases it is written in Russian. This kind of SPAM is automated by the spammers and can be caught by filters. The other types of SPAM are much harder to identify. They look more like real comments. Here is an example (the link doesn’t work):

From Investment Ideas: Great Post! I stumble by this blog from Google and your content really speaks to me. You are an expert in your field and this post is proof. I am now subscribing to read more.

At first glance this looks like a very nice comment. It is probably one you would be proud to have at the bottom of your posts. Unfortunately, it is SPAM. The “name” of the commenter is used as a keyword to create a linkback to the URL, which in this case is also about investment ideas. The text sounds very nice, but it would probably sound very nice on any of your posts. These types of comments have a few things in common, and you can become a pro at identifying it and removing it.

How to Identify and Stop SPAM

Unfortunately, this kind of SPAM is not caught by the filters because it looks genuine. In many cases it is even entered by a real person (often overseas). They copy/paste a snippet on many sites as fast as possible. But, you can spot it when moderating your comments. Here is three-item test to identify the tricky SPAM:

  1. The name looks like a description and not really a person’s name. In the example, it is Investment Ideas.
  2. The link goes to a site very similar to the name. It may also include several hyphens, which are sometimes used in spam URLs.
  3. The text of the comment is very generic. It doesn’t reference anything in the post and can probably apply to almost any of your posts.

Those three quick tests can help you to identify most comment SPAM. After reviewing the fake comment above, you will see that it includes all three of the regular pieces of SPAM comments. You may come across some comments that just say “Great Post!”. To determine if these are SPAM you should pay close attention to the name and link. If it is a person’s name and goes to a personal site or blog (like JMO), then it is probably not SPAM.

You will have to use your own discretion when deciding which comments are SPAM on your blog. Comments are great places to have a bit of further discussion about posts. They can add to the “conversation” in many cases, so blocking SPAM is even more important to keep the conversation fluid. While comment SPAM can’t hurt you directly, it can look ugly on your blog.

While some sites have turned off comments all together to prevent this, you may still want to keep comments on your site. Using nofollow links can help prevent the spammers from gaining anything with their garbage, but it will still pile up in the back and can clutter your real comments. Moderating your comments regularly and having a keen eye for SPAM can protect your site from the evils of comment SPAM.

UPDATE:

I have decided it to let the SPAM comments show up on this post so you can see some examples of what we get. I will neuter them by removing the link, but the text and name of the commenter will be left alone (unless it’s profane). Our first winner is “Affiliate Network”.

UPDATE 2:

Many more SPAM comments have rolled in to the mix. I’ve removed links on all of them, but the text gives you an idea of what they may look like on your site.

Awesome SPAM creative commons image thanks to freezelight.

30 Replies to “Trend Tuesday: Comment SPAM gets Tricky”

  1. I came across your site and really think you make some great points! Sorry, I couldn’t resist. I figure if it take spammers to boost my ego, then bring on the spammers. I hardly ever get real people to tell me how good I am. Thanks for this post. It is something I have noticed and wondered if there is anything I should do.

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  20. Thanks for teaching how to identify spam comments. Going through the comments you received, I am now better "trained". The tip about nofollow links in the URL was an incredible insight. Sigh, now i realized so many of the comments on my blog are not genuine. Sad and ego bruised too LOL. Thanks for sharing and have a blessed day!

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