Comments on my Blog: When is it Spam?

You have your business blog and you’re getting your groove on.

Excellent!

As you begin to generate a bit of a following and you’re seeing “community signs” such as increased repeat visitor numbers, higher page to visit ratios and also comments on your blog; you may notice the ubiquitos spam.

Some spam is so obvious, if this was 1972, we’d have eaten it. Other spam can be a little harder to detect, and it may get past the spam-catching plugin that you use. Getting comments feels great, particulalry as you launch your business and seek to establish networks and communities so I understand it can be hard to draw that line and work out what is a spam comment and what is a real genuine comment, when perhaps you would rather approve more than you disapprove.

Let’s have a quick definition and then look at a few quick and easy ways to tell spam from the real thing!

Spam is a lot of things in a lot of mediums, but from email, to Twitter to blog comments there are common elements:

1.The route to “spam” is electronic.

2. The “spam content” is most often disguised as a genuine communication

3. There is an attempt to deceive you, for the benefit of the “spammer”.

When it comes to blog comments, the reason for spamming, is to drop a link on your site, to the spammer site. Most of the time the reason for posting a link isn’t so much about getting traffic, but about the spam site, increasing the number of links to it. Some of the most important of the two hundred or so ranking componants of the Google algorithm look at number of links to your site, relevance of such links to your site, the quality/authority of the site linking to you and even more link related factors. If done well and undetected, link spamming via comments can help a spam site achieve a falsely high ranking that does not reflect the tru quality of the site.

So that’s why they do it!

Here’s a few thinks to think about when deciding if a comment may actually be spam.

1. Links in the comment/commentor details: do these links lead to good quality legitimate sites with such signifiers as clear business details in the Privacy Policy, About Us or otherwise legal footer links.

2. Links in the comment/commentor details: are these links relevant to the post, the comment or the general theme of the blog?

3. Does the comment add any value? comments such as “that was a great post – thanks”. Might make you feel great for a second, but if the comment adds no value, or makes no real reference to the content – chances are it’s deliberate spam.

4. Does it read well? Most spam comments are not made by humans, but by spambots. Such spambots crawl the web looking for blog platforms, crawling and following links to activities such as “add comment” then drop the auto content in the bot program.

5. Is it duplicated? If a comment is very vague and adds no value e.g. “A good article and thank you for the information. I will bookmark this post” then you could try searching for that phrase on Google, to see if it is a bot comment. Make sure you use the quotation marks around the phrase to only get results with the exact phrase, with words in that order.

One final point on blog comments in general. Many blog platforms give you the option to automatically approve all comments that are not identified as spam, malicious or otherwise by your blog software. If you work in a litigious or highly competetive sector, it may be an idea to allow automatic approval anyway, reason being if you have manually seen and approved these comments, you then as a publisher are responsible for this content.

More on dangers and legal pitfalls in social media here: Social Media 101

You nearly always did not ask for it.

About the author

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Nichola Stott

Nichola is Founder and Director of theMediaFlow; with over 10 years experience in online marketing, over six of which in search. Nichola learned all about search at Yahoo! as head of UK search partners.

13 Comments

  1. Dean says:

    We all know a high ratio of commenting attempts are spam and few and far between are those either loyal to the brand/topic/discussion.

    Some of these comments are brief one liners in the guise of having Yahoo/Bing (YaBing?) bots crawl their “look at me links”.

    There is of course the one liners of those that have been hovering on the fringe of your blog and maybe testing the water for fear of being singled out for their reaction.

    Some may never comment and that`s fine too, as long as they take value away because in the long run that word of mouth or link drop on their travels elsewhere may bring more readers.

    For the scummy end, the lazy arse spammers with “buy [insert product name here]“. WTF? At which point in your dilluded little minds gave you the brainfart to think that creating or signing up to an automated commenting system?

    I am a big advocate of “dofollow” in blog comments mainly because i know i am capable of moderating those comments enough to know who adds value.

    I best shut up or create a post on the subject otherwise i will get no work done.

    This was supposed to be a “hello! just popping in to read the latest” comment.

    • Nichola says:

      Hi Dean,

      You’ve touched on one of my favourite activities and a really important point. Once a new blogger/small business blogger gets a feel for the borderline spam, reviewing and trashing spam comments can actually be quite a fun activity. As Dean has said some of the comments can be so irrelevent and ridiculous, you have to raise a chuckle.

      We recently got some rather well crafted spam on an all female blog that I write for. The comment itself was difficult to call, but the comment bot/spammer had started off with “great post bro’” – to an all female blog crew!!!

  2. Dean says:

    I am actually in the process right now of setting up a stable platform within a WP blog for a client.

    I won`t drop a link because that defeats the object of the discussion (did you see what i did there Mr Spammer? I am back on a site that holds topic discussions that have an interest to me but i still chose not to post a link!)

    Now i am guilty as the next man/woman for not commenting often enough on the blogs that i care about, but for the purposes of my travels around the blogosphere i wander far and wide.

    But as a small business owner it is all about getting to know the community for your industry that you are in and participate.

    Sooner or later you will find that you will be sought out/blogged about/referenced or even get a highly coveted link “within the content” of your competitors site, ok they may be rare but you see where i am going with this.

    If you disagree with me blame Nichola, she started this, no seriously if you disagree with me say why.

  3. Rhys says:

    Spam is a huge problem on my blog! I’ve got about 100 comments (10 in mod queue, 90 in Akismet), almost all of which are spammy comments. I am a huge Nazi when it comes to spamming/not spamming comments though, and here’s two more I’ll add to the list:-

    1. Is the commenter commenting on an old post? Often spammers target an older post, particularly if their keywords match up with the keywords of the post.

    2. Little of a plug here, but I’m putting some finishing touches to a plugin I call InComment (there’s a version of it on my actual blog, but I’m making it compatible for WordPress 2.9). Basically it drops a cookie when people enter the site based on the referrer. It’s not perfect (if somebody’s using some software such as Comment Kahuna it won’t show as such), but you can see if people search on Google for phrases such as keyword +”Top Commenters” + “wordpress” +”Leave a Comment” -”Comments Closed”, or using search engines such as comment hunt (which I change one letter when referring to it in not so polite public ;)). Anyway, it helps finding out true intentions of commenters :)

    • Nichola says:

      @Dean – much as I’d love to kick off a blogstorm, I’m with you.
      @Rhys – you’ve raised a good point here and I agree with you that old posts are often the target.

      To you both, when the respective platform and plug -in are ready, by all means come drop some links as it sounds like both exercises will be extremely relevant and useful; plus that is what building online relationships and blog communities are all about!

  4. Ritz says:

    Just as a side note, the link at the bottom of your post to the Social Media 101 has 1 too many http:// and is currently showing up as a broken link . :)

  5. Ritz says:

    Happy to help!

  6. Miles says:

    In my previous blogs I got hit by so much flipping spam that I decided to remove comments altogether. Most of the crap came from either India or Russia. Having read this blog I might turn the comments back on and have a go at building a community.

  7. @tokyito says:

    Lol. saw the title of this on your homepage and in the recent comments is a nice little keyword rich anchor text of “cheap true religion brand”. I guess know these guys or Akisment (or similar) is giving out some false negatives.

  8. Stuart says:

    Hi bro, so I am commenting on an old post, am I spam? I am afraid not… :)

    First tip everyone, remember you can disable comments on posts over a certain age such as a month old etc. This will reduce a huge amount of spam.

    My second point, or rather a question. Is well crafted comment spam (by real people) a good or bad thing? One of my blogs gets a number of comments, let’s say 15 per day on average, and I would put 10 of them down as spam. However I am actually considering making that particular blog comments a do follow. here’s why…

    My site is geeky / tech stuff, the majority of my traffic comes from referring sites and social media (over the past month approximately 17% has come from google). I have a weird thought in my head that IF I made my blog comments do follow (with strict guidelines of not crap anchor text and a constructive comment) I would actually increase my blog views (people specifically coming to my site to post), increase my page views per visitors (browsing for the subject they wish to ‘spam’) and I would actually end up with the type of user I want on my site (an SEO geek bored in their job creating links, and loved finding my content to pass the day away…). Now yes I may lose some ‘link juice’ but the extra links I would get from people listing me as a ‘do follow’ blog would outweigh this.

    Thoughts?

  9. Nichola says:

    Oh so you’re the one that keeps leaving the “bro” spam on SEO-Chicks?

    My view on closing off comments is that despite the age of the post, the discussion and debate may still be entirely relevant.

    I agree with your line of thinking on making your blog comments followed. You can deal with any blatant spam yourself and agree that you will probably entice the right kind of commentor.

    Also – I don’t really subscribe to the concept of “equity leakage” or pagerank hoarding; though I wouldn’t think if the value of allowing follow links as being the potential to be listed on dofollow blog directories. I would see the value more in the additional UGC and the opportunity to grow a true community.

  10. Stuart says:

    No afraid not, I was just merely making a point.

    Great point RE the content still relevant, and this is a prime example.

    Thanks for the thoughts on comments, will see how it goes… :)

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