How to Identify and Control Blog Comment Spam

If you own a blog, chances are you have encountered a little – or a lot – of spam. The more popular your blog becomes, the more spam it is likely to get. And there is nothing more frustrating than having to spend a lot of time moderating your comments to determine which ones are spam and which ones are legit.

In today’s post, we’re going to look at:

  • How to identify spam.
  • If third-party comment systems control spam.
  • Settings and plugins you can use in the base WordPress comment system to help moderate spam.

Comments, Trackbacks, and Pingbacks

Before we go further, I’d like to define a few terms I’m using throughout the post in relation to what you will see in the Comments section of your WordPress blog.

  • Comments – Comments are created when someone uses the comment form on your blog post to engage with your content.
  • Pingbacks – Pingbacks are automatically created when someone links to your blog post from one of their blog posts.
  • Trackbacks – Trackbacks are manual notifications by one blogger that they have linked to your blog post within theirs. Pingbacks were created to automate this process.

WordPress currently refers to Trackbacks and Pingbacks as Pings when you attempt to filter your comments.

You can recognize the difference between the two visually like this. Comments will have the comment author’s name, email address, optional website link, and IP address listed along with their comment.

Trackbacks and pingbacks (Pings) will only have the title of a blog post, a link, and an excerpt from the external blog post as the comment.

Unfortunately, comments, trackbacks, and pingbacks can all be used as spam. There are ways to even automate the spamming process which adds to the problem. So let’s look at some ways to identify spam.

Why Comment Spam is Bad

Some people, in an attempt to inflate their number of comments, will feel that it is OK to approve comments that they feel might not actually be legit. What is the harm in doing this? Consider these things:

  • Google is cracking down on bad links. This doesn’t just include the sites that buy links, but the sites that allow them. The last thing you would want is for Google to think you’re allowing bad links onto your website, even if they are just in the comments.
  • Comment spam shows lack of moderation. Imagine you’re about to buy a home. You are driving through a neighborhood where the lawns are overgrown and some of the fences are covered in graffiti. This is the impression your visitors will have of your blog if the posts are littered with spam – that no one is actively taking care of it.
  • Your readers might lose faith in you. What if a reader clicks on a link to another comment author’s website and is taken somewhere they don’t want to be. If you wouldn’t link to a website in your content, chances are you shouldn’t let someone link to it in your comments.

How to Identify Spam

How do you know if a comment on your blog is spam or legit? This is a tough one, and it is really up to the blog owner. Some blog owners will read every comment and consider it legit if the comment shows that the reader actually read the post. Other blog owners will dismiss a comment as spam based on the fact that the link does not match the same industry as their blog. Here are some questions you can answer when looking at a comment that will help you determine whether or not you should approve it to go live on your blog.

  • Would I want my blog readers to click on the comment author’s link? If the answer is no, don’t approve the comment. Or strip the link, although you might get a less than positive response from the comment author if they note you approved their comment but got rid of their link.
  • Is the comment author using a real name or keywords? The use of keywords in the name field of a comment without the use of a real first and/or last name is almost always the sign of an SEO spammer.
  • Is the comment specific or could apply to any post? I have actually copy and pasted comments I’ve received into Google search and found them being used, word for word, on dozens if not hundreds of other blogs.
  • Has the same comment author been using several different email addresses or website addresses? If “Jane Smith” comments one day linking to a fishing site, the next to a clothing store, and the following to a pet supply company, they just might be an SEO spammer.
  • Does the comment author use a legit email address? Chances are, you don’t have time to email all of your comment authors. But if you see someone commenting with the email address of email@email.com, then chances are, it’s not a legit email address. Personally, I like to know if the comment author is a real person – I don’t approve comments from people using obviously fake identities.

When it comes to trackback spam, sometimes you just have to check out the link the trackback originates from. Some websites will add several links to blog posts at the end of theirs simply to get the trackback from those blogs. If you don’t feel the actual blog author linked to your blog post for a good reason (such as they liked your post), then don’t approve it.

Do Third-Party Comment Systems Help

One way people try to combat spam is by using third-party comment systems. Popular third-party systems for WordPress include Disqus, Livefyre, and Facebook. Third-party party comment systems often offer features such as multiple comment moderators, the ability to find one user’s comments throughout your blog and moderate them simultaneously, a centralized dashboard, and a requirement that visitors login before they comment.

While these things can help you moderate comment spam, they by no means eliminate the problem. In fact, some spammers enjoy the fact that, with some comment systems, they know they will be automatically approved simply because they have an account.

Some other things to keep in mind when it comes to third-party comment systems are the following.

  • The effects of a third-party comment system on your overall site loading speed. Pingdom did a study of four popular third-party comment systems vs. the base WordPress comment system and noted that blogs with the base WordPress system loaded faster than those using third-party systems. Facebook increased load time the most.
  • Who controls your comments. When you consider adopting a third-party system, be sure to find out what happens to your current comments and what will happen to comments made on that system if you decide to change it down the road.
  • How user-friendly the comment system is. Will your regular readers want to register with a third-party system just to leave a comment? Sometimes adding a third-party comment system does nothing but reduce the number of legit comments.

Settings to Help Control Spam

So what can you do on the base WordPress comment system to control spam and moderate your comments effectively? First, let’s look at some basic settings to use.

Moderate Comments from First Time Comment Authors

Not only will this prevent your blog from becoming a spamfest, but it will also allow people who have been approved once to be approved for future comments, leaving less to moderate. Comment authors who change the way they enter their name, email address, or website link will be placed into moderation again. This keeps someone from being approved once with a good website link from coming in and using one you would not approve of in future comments.

Note that you have to keep an eye on previously approved comment authors – some know the system and will leave a few awesome comments, then slack off for future ones just because they know they are being automatically approved.

To hold a first time commenter author in moderation, go to your WordPress dashboard > Settings > Discussion. Under the Before a Comment Appears section, check the box for comment author must have previously approved comment. Make sure the checkbox above it for an administrator must always approve the comment is unchecked.

Turn Off Trackbacks

Trackback spam is sometimes worse than comment spam. So you have to consider whether or not having it on is even necessary. You can still find out who is linking to your blog by looking at the Incoming Links portion of your WordPress dashboard.

You can also keep track of them by subscribing to the following RSS feed in your RSS reader.

http://blogsearch.google.com/blogsearch_feeds?hl=en&scoring=d&ie=utf-8&num=10&output=rss&partner=wordpress&q=link:http://domain.com/

Just change the URL at the end to match your own blog or website. This way, you will see new links from blogs in your RSS reader.

Turn Off Comments After 30 – 60 Days

People who comment for link building purposes (aka SEO spammers) typically look for blog posts with high PageRank – Google’s 1 – 10 scoring of authority. Typically, blog posts start out at a PageRank of 0 and only gain PageRank after a few months. This means that SEO spammers are going to be targeting your older blog posts.

Typically, the height of popularity for a blog post is within the first two weeks. That will also be when you get the majority of your comments (unless you don’t update your blog that often). Hence, if you close blog comments after 30 – 60 days based on your preference, you will have a lot less comments to moderate.

To close your blog comments after a specified number of days, go to your WordPress dashboard > Settings > Discussion. Under the Other Comment Settings Section, check the option to automatically close comments on articles older than __ days and fill in the number of days you want comments to be open.

Plugins to Help Control Spam

Now, let’s look at some plugins that you can use to reduce spam comments or at least make them easier to spot.

  • Akismet – Akismet is a plugin built into the WordPress system that will filter what it presumes are spam comments into a specific spam folder. To activate it, you will need to sign up for an API key from their website. It is free for personal blogs and anywhere from $5 to $50 a month for non-personal blogs. Keep in mind that you will need to check your spam folder often as some legitimate comments sometimes get mistakenly filtered as spam. You can mark them as not spam and then approve them on your blog.
  • G.A.S.P. – The Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin is a free plugin that allows you to add a simple checkbox captcha to your comment form. Comment authors must check the box to confirm they are human and not using an automated commenting system to submit their comment. This will cut down the amount of automated spam significantly to your blog.
  • CommentLuv – CommentLuv is not a spam-related plugin. It allows comment authors to leave a link to their latest post with their comment. This can be helpful for blog owners to spot non-relevant websites as it will show them the latest post on the comment author’s blog.

How Do You Moderate Your Comments?

Now that we’ve looked at how to identify spam, whether third-party comment systems help with spam, and what things you can do in WordPress to moderate spam, we open the floor to you. How do you moderate your comments and determine what is legit vs. what is spam?

About the Authors: Kristi Hines is a freelance writer, professional blogger, and social media enthusiast. Her blog Kikolani focuses on blog marketing for personal, professional, and business bloggers. You can follow her on , Twitter, and Facebook.

  1. Great post Kristi. I just recently found out that using keywords in the name field is spam. Your post is very informative on how to control comment spam. Nowadays with Google’s updates, it is always important for bloggers to have such information at hand.

    • Thanks Walter! Some blogs do allow keywords in the name field because bloggers want to help other bloggers build links while commenting. But usually it’s under the condition that you add your name too like John Smith @ My Keywords and those blogs also specifically state that they allow this. But some people will try to get away with it anywhere regardless of whether it’s allowed which is when it is a big no-no.

  2. Very helpful post, I’ve had a lot of questions about comments and how to determine the difference between legitimate and spam. Askimet has so far been great. I might add that if the syntax and grammar are atrocious in the comment, it’s a good sign that it’s spam, lol.

    • Yeah, I feel bad when I don’t approve a comment just because the English is off. But then again, I look at it like this: I wouldn’t publish a post that was poorly written, so why would I publish a comment that was?

  3. Kismet not Akismet Jun 22, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    First of all a confession, a few years ago I blog commented for SEO for a few clients and it worked reasonably well – however, I’d be very surprised if it’s still effective these days.
    Did/do I consider it spam – no, I only ever commented on posts which I’d read, digested and (IMHO) had something to add to the discussion.
    Did I use nom de plume, nom de guerre – yes; were they obviously, gratuitously optimised keyphrases – no; do I regard what I did as parasitic – no.
    No, because I always aimed to genuinely add something to the discussion; if I couldn’t genuinely contribute to a post I left without comment.
    Now, let’s look at one of the proffered solutions – Akismet – if you value free speech and democracy please, do not use their service.
    There’s lots of talk about negative SEO, it may or may not be possible – getting somebody blacklisted by Akismet is blindingly easy; and remarkably effective – you effectively rob them of their freedom of speech across a huge swathe of the web that trust Akismet to be their eyes and ears.
    And getting off Akismet’s blacklist… now there’s a trial!

    • Blog commenting for SEO is not all bad, but it depends on how it is done. This post was mostly to help people realize it is OK to not approve a comment that is only meant for SEO. If someone writes a great comment on my site that shows they read the post and are responding to it beyond “great post” or something else that doesn’t apply, I approve them, even if they are simultaneously promoting their legal or fishing website.

      Akismet – yes, it’s a double-edged sword. But for many bloggers, it’s either use something that is going to pull false positives or stop allowing comments. Some blogs do stop allowing comments, and I’d guess that in some cases, it is because they are tired of dealing with hundreds upon hundreds of spam comments. And if blog owners stop allowing comments because they are too time-consuming to manage, then everyone (instead of just a few) will lose their freedom of speech on those sites.

      • I agree. I have read all your post. I think it´s really interesting. I thought you said that comments for SEO were a bad thing and I don´t agree with it. If people read your content, participate and is interested on it, i can´t see any problem on leaving a link. But with the comment i am replaying now i have found out i was wrong and you don´t think so. Good job Kristi!

    • Freedom of speech? If you want freedom of speech then comment on social networks or post a response on your own blog. Akismet users are not robbing you of anything.

  4. I use and recommend Askimet (and yet still support free speech @kismet) to catch 99% of comment spam. Social sign in is growing in acceptance and functionality, with Janrain being my go to. Disqus is good also.

    • The only thing I worry about with social sign is when it comes to people who don’t want to publicly use their personal Facebook profile to comment. I know that when I comment somewhere, I usually get some odd friend requests and messages shortly thereafter, and I know several people who say they won’t use it. If Facebook allowed you to sign in as your page to comment, that would help because most have a business page they wouldn’t mind using, but not a personal profile. Having Twitter as an alternative is also a definitely plus.

  5. A very informative post, thank you Kristi! For the past 6 months I’ve been blogging I used and still use Askimet. It catches all spam comments (so that’s good) but some legit comments make it into a spam folder. Generally I get emails from the readers who find that their comments aren’t getting published. But I check it weekly so that it doesn’t accumulate and I can fish out those that are legit.

  6. As a newbie blogger really appreciate insights like this article on controlling my spammers. I am always struggling with comments to make that spam not spam decision. Follow up from Karen’s comment about horrible syntax, grammar, spelling (usually ONE word misspelled). From the spammers standpoint what is the point in making sure one obvious word is misspelled or incorrect punctuation? I don’t understand the point in that error.

    • Supposedly, if you have one misspelled word in a post or comment, it makes you look more “human” than if everything is perfect. Maybe that holds true if you are commenting on a blog where the majority of the audience is lacking in their English skills, but for most blogs, it just makes the author of the comment look like a goober. :)

    • Your comment “. I am always struggling with comments to make that spam not spam decision” left me slightly mystified. Do you really struggle? I can spot SPAM a mile off. The usual give away is that the comment says nothing specific, and coiuld have been posted to just about any blog, on any subject.

      Failing that the presence of an unsavoury link, or an absurd user name are strong hints that the commetn is not legit

  7. I use Akismet on my sites and it seems to filter out most of the spam. Occasionally a few get by but akismet does work well. Another way to stop spam is by removing the url section so that people don’t have the option to leave their website, this deters spammers from even trying.

    • You know, I’ve seen blogs that remove the URL. While it deters spammers, it also deters me from being able to find out more about a person who left a comment on the site. Sure, if you have access to their email, you can contact them that way. But what if you were reading a comment without a URL and you thought “Ooh, I love that perspective that John Smith has, but now I’ll never know who he is or if I can learn more about him.”

  8. One thing to watch out for with CommentLuv is CommentLuv spammers. These people will not put a URL in the comment form field and will often use a normal-seeming name, but when you check the CommentLuv URL they provide, it’s to a very low-quality or spammy site.

    • Very true – CommentLuv can lure in the spammers too. But I find the spammers are so much easier to spot because they do things like not linking to a website but having a CommentLuv link. That sends the red flag up immediately for me because if they weren’t doing something suspicious, they would leave their link in that field.

      Plus, I find that it helps me get to know the comment author and their website easily. Take a blog like mine named Kikolani. Just by glancing at the URL, I would have no clue what it was about. But by seeing that my last post was about how to create better video blogs, now I would have a better idea about my interests.

  9. Yes, one thing I don’t like doing every though is turning off comments 30-60 days later. Surely people can still read your posts that are older than that. So, what about if the reader wants to get a question answered by the author that wrote the post, but they can’t. This is why I would never disable comments after a certain time period has passed because it is always good to encourage interaction on your blog.

    • I honestly didn’t like turning my comments off either. In fact, I’m sure I complained about sites that do that. But moderating my comments was just too much – by making that one change, I went from hundreds of comments pending approval and hundreds more in the spam on a daily basis to just that many per week. Now I don’t have to fear going on vacation for a day or two and coming back to a dashboard where all I want to do is delete everything in moderation and starting from a clean slate.

  10. recently i got a pr 1……and now a days my blog has become a destination for spammers……..its very annoying…….:/

    • Unfortunately, the more traffic / Google PageRank / domain authority you get, the more spammers will come along with it. Of course, I have sites that have barely any traffic and 0 PageRank and they still get spammed too.

  11. Great post Kristi. I use Askimet, and 9/10 it gets it right in terms of deducing what is and is not spam. I don’t approve trackbacks because I don’t see them as really adding much to the discussion on-site and would rather people focussed on my own content than away from it. Maybe I should allow trackbacks from other bigger sites – I’m not sure if there are hard and fast rules on that one.

  12. I use Akismet, and I have been successful at weeding out most of the spam. Disqus is my commenting system and it’s also user friendly with plenty of options to sign in- including using name and email address like plain WP comment system.

    I won’t ever install Facebook comments or use my Facebook sign in details to comment. They don’t need to get all that juicy data on me

  13. For a more robust solution to controlling blog spam you should also look at Impermium. Our system combines advanced technology and broad, Internet scale threat information to provide cost-effective, real-time protection for more than a million sites across the globe, including CNN, Digg, Pinterest, Sugar, and Tumblr

  14. Great post Kristi. I use Askimet, and 9/10 it gets it right in terms of deducing what is and is not spam. I don’t approve trackbacks because I don’t see them as really adding much to the discussion on-site and would rather people focussed on my own content than away from it.

  15. Third Party comment systems do increase the load time a bit. They are a plugin and any plugins added to a WordPress site will slow the site down. It is a question of tradeoff.

    Personally I prefer a comment system and I use Livefyre. The support from the Livefyre group is amazing. A comment system does drop the amount of spam on my blogs dramatically.

  16. I prefer CommentLuv with GASP and moderate all comments before displaying them. Akismet sends too many legit comments to spam IMHO

  17. Like most people, I also use askime. For me this is best product for finding and blocking most spam. Great article by the way.

  18. I am very frustrated with spam blog comment and with your this piece of info i now able to less nos of spam comment on my blog

  19. Third Party comment systems do increase the load time a bit. They are a plugin and any plugins added to a WordPress site will slow the site down. It is a question of tradeoff. I won’t ever install Facebook comments or use my Facebook sign in details to comment. They don’t need to get all that juicy data on me

  20. Usually seo people search for high pr sites for commenting
    but I have noticed that these high pr sites do not allow you to comment or don’t approve your comments.No matter how good my comment is ! but now everything change after the penguin update…

  21. I am just fade up with spam comments and this is why I had to stop accepting any more comments in my WordPress blogs.

  22. Excellent info. I just recently started my own blogging site and had been plagued by comment spams. I implemented several of your suggestions and it’s been 2 days and zero spams. You are a life-saver!!

  23. Blog commenting is one of the most effective strategy in SEO marketing. I have learn so much from this article. Good job

  24. I get tons of spam I must filter out on my blog. One thing that mystifies me is most of it has a strange shaped letter “w” that stands out from the rest of the other letters. Any clue why? I didn’t even think there was a way to control the font in comments — this looks more like an option key was used. I was wondering if it was some kind of tracking code.

  25. Hi Kristi,

    Thanks for your great post.

    I got to your post while looking for answer that I see a lot of facebook URL commenting to my blog. Have you encounter this? The comments look normal as how you will comment on someone blog but the feeling was just not right.

    I click on their URL and was brought a facebook page that really don’t look normal.

    Since Google will think I am allowing bad links onto your website when I approve these comments, my question is that how will Google think when they link to my blog which I can’t control that?

    Thanks.

  26. Blog commenting is most important part in seo and i have learned some good tips from this article.

  27. I agree with prince many people search high PR websites for commenting. But penguin had updated and everything going to be changed.

  28. Kristi, I just received a couple of trackbacks on a relatively new blog. It contained only urls
    [ IP: 5.135.30.152 , 5.135.30.152 ] so I “trashed” it. Did I do the right thing?

  29. This writing helps me a lot. I’m a newbie on blogging. I didn’t know enough about spam until I read this. Yesterday I just unspammed two normal-looking comments which originally had been marked as spam by WordPress. I was thinking they aren’t spam at all, while they actually are. Thank you for sharing!

  30. As I continue to add pages to my furniture restoration website – I notice an increase in spam. The average was growing to 25 per day.
    It’s been a week since reading your article and thought I’d give you an update.

    I installed one of the plugins you recommended (G.A.S.P.) and have not had any spam comments since.
    Amazing what a little check box can do.

    Thank you for your insight and resources on how to deal with annoying comment spam.

  31. Very insightful Kristi. Thank you very much. What about comments that contain content that is related to your website but that look to be like spam? I get alot of these and, rather than delete them outright, I strip the URL and go through and clean up the content (spelling, grammar and relevance to the post) in ways that make it more Google friendly. WordPress allows you to do all this and I do it because I figure that more comments on a post helps with SEO. Do you think this is worth the effort?
    JR

  32. First I would like to thank you for this post.

    On my blog I received today my first human typed comment and I approved it but now after reading your article I am not sure if I made a mistake.

    I know it was human commentator as I have StatCounter on my Blog and noticed that someone found my site and then posted a comment. With those automated spam there is never any record of their IP in the StatCounter.

    Aksimet identified it as a spam and the comment only said “Thanks for sharing”.
    The link of the commenter points to Web Hosting Company so the comment was probably just for link building purposes.

    But as I really wanted to have at least 1 comment on my blog I approved it.

    Later I decided to check IP of the commenter against http://www.stopforumspam.com Database and the IP was present in the list.

    So now I am not sure if I should identify the comment as a spam and delete it or just leave it approved.

    Does anyone has any experience with stopforumspam.com?

  33. Hi Kristi,

    Thanks for the informative post. I need to add two more plugins apart from Akismet. However, some of my friends are hesitant to login with their e-mail ID in the comments form. Will there be a problem if e-mail is not required to be submitted?

    Would appreciate your feedback.

  34. Thank you for the information….it helped me identify a comment as spam that I wasn’t quite sure of.

  35. Really?! It amazes me that this keeps going on in this day and age. This news was well received as I was not jogging. I would love to have wondered about the future. I will want to know what is going on .

  36. Even today it amazes me how much comment spamming still goes on. I have few blogs that accumulate 100s of comments per month and it does get difficult to manage. Thanks for the tips.

  37. Spam can be really irritating.. we get like 300-400 dud comment messages a day after we were featured on BBC last year :( We haven’t tried turning off comments after a certain period as you suggest though Kristi – I think that would definitely help since a lot of our spam seem to appear on older posts.

  38. Many thanks for the information, I get loads of spam to my ‘Real People – Real Stories’ blog and now I think I can spot it better.

    Many thanks K

  39. Super helpful article; I never thought to try searching for the comment and see how many times it has shown up elsewhere. Cleared up a lot for me!

    I agree with others who’ve mentioned liking disqus; I haven’t used it with my company’s blog but I’ve seen it many other places and it seems to help a lot.

  40. I really found this information useful. Thanks for posting it.I have been having the same problems that you described in your post. I was naive at first, and approved many comments that I shouldn’t of, before I figured many people were just taking advantage of me.

    I did find one more way to make sure a comment is not spam. I received one where someone wrote, “Greetings from California!” They had in their link title their city and state they were from. To bad it was not California because it sent me a red flag. I checked the IP address and they were not from California but from where the link said. Not to bright on that persons part, but it does give people one thing to think about when deciding whats span and whats not.

    Also I wanted to know if you received any less spam after you wrote this. I imagine you probably didn’t because many of my spam goes to specific posts. Then when people comment it has nothing to do with the post. So many people probably might not even see this post and then they will try to spam you anyway.

  41. Apart from turning comment off, charging for comment review is a best way to stop comment spam. Most spammer will simply stop spamming your blog, leaving only person who re legitimate.

  42. Got my first spam comment on this blog – linked back to an advertiser – not happy with it.

    How did I know?
    Got a feeling but also did a Google search on a phrase in the comment and realized that the same phrase came up many times with a small change to make it appropriate to my site. So marked as spam and moved on.
    Cheers for the blog

  43. Thanks for the information (hope my post doesn’t get flagged as spam). I know many friends who have been dealing with lots of spam through comments and email.

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