WordPress Build | WordPress Maintenance

How to deal with spam comments on your WordPress blog

Many clients who come to me for a WordPress spring clean have got Askimet installed in their plugins. That’s no surprise considering the Askimet plugin comes as standard (but it is not activated) with every new WordPress installation. You may be forgiven for thinking it’s the best tool for stopping spam but I have a few reasons why I don’t recommend it and if you keep reading you will find out what I do recommend instead.

What is comment spam and why do people leave it on your website?

Mostly, people leave spam comments so they can get a link from your website to their website. It’s a really low quality tactic in link building for SEO purposes. It’s no wonder Google doesn’t give much value to blog comment links anymore!

What is Askimet?

Just incase you didn’t know what it was. It is a WordPress plugin that filters spam comments so they don’t appear on your WordPress blog.

Why is Askimet automatically installed on my WordPress website?

The guy who founded the company behind the plugin also co-founded WordPress. He’s a smart guy and understandably biased about his products. The same company also build JetPack incase you were wondering why that is sometimes found automatically in your WordPress installation too.

How do spam filters work?

When a spammer starts to leave spam comments on blogs, the blog owner will flag them as spam and the IP address gets stored in a database. When enough owners flag the same IP address as being spam, the spam IP address gets blacklisted. Any future comments made from that IP address will then either go straight to the spam folder or will not even get through to your website.

What are the downsides to spam filters?

Some spam filters cause ‘false positives’, that means they can treat legitimate comments as spam. This might mean you never get to see your real comments because they are in the spam folder or they never even made it to your site.

Spammers are always finding news ways to bypass the spam algorithms, because spam is evolving some spam filters can’t keep up. This means that is is very difficult to catch all spam. You can’t really rely on one form of spam filtering if you do find yourself with a big spam problem.

Why I don’t recommend Askimet to my clients with low traffic sites

Most of my clients are local businesses with small blogs. While they are equally prone to spam comments as the big blog sites out there, they generally get a few spam comments here or there. I’ve yet to see huge spam problems (in the range of hundreds of spam comments per month) for any of my clients. For many small businesses, Askimet just isn’t necessary. It’s a premium plugin that costs £4 per site and there are a few very good FREE alternatives around. Also, for a premium plugin, I would expect very high standards but from my quick research I see that Askimet has it’s fair share of problems and can’t catch all the spam.

What I recommend instead to stop spam

First, you need to identify the potential areas on your website where spam can appear.  This can be;

  • Spam blog comments
  • Spam website registrations
  • Spam form submissions
  • Spam content uploaded

Then take action to set up your website to limit these WITHOUT using a plugin first, there are a few things you can do to limit spam before relying on plugins.

How to stop blog comment spam

Check your WordPress discussion settings

The WordPress discussion settings can be used to limit some spam. I recommend starting with them. Here is an article on How to configure your WordPress discussion settings to get you started.

Comment links to be nofollow

By default WordPress sets all comment links to nofollow. That means you are not passing link juice to anyone that leaves comment spam. But, in some situations, blog owners like to set their links to dofollow, mainly to get more comments. Once the spammers realise this they will attack your blog with lots of spam. If you are suffering from too much spam check your site to see if you have changed the links to dofollow.

How to check? Find a comment on your blog. Use the Chrome browser and do a right click then click on inspect to open up the inspector tool. Find the link in the left hand window and look at its HTML. If it is a nofollow link you will see “Rel=nofollow” in the link. If it is dofollow you wont see any rel tag.

Moderate your comments

This may sound obvious but many blog owners don’t moderate their comments and this is what spammers are looking for. You can set up moderation by checking out the article about WordPress discussion settings above.

Use a third party commenting solution

Plugins like this one from Disqus might help but they will slow your site down. https://wordpress.org/plugins/disqus-comment-system/

How to stop form submission spam

Use a captcha on your forms. I use Divi theme for the websites I built at the moment and the form has an inbuilt captcha function. This might stop some automated spam but not manual spam.

How to stop site registration spam

Use a captcha on your registration form.

Conclusion

To combat your spam, break it down into steps to identify where the spam is coming from. Once you understand that, it’s easier to plan how to fix it.

If you would rather someone else take care of it, give me a shout. I add spam protection to all the sites I look after. Each month I clear out the spam and look for ways to improve it.

Contact me to find out more!!

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