April 24, 2014

3 Ways to Fight Your “War of the Spam” On WordPress

3 Ways to Fight Your "War of the Spam" On WordPress

You can officially consider this post nothing more than a rant, so if you are not into rants you’re more than free not to like it.

However, I will have to agree with my friend Mitch when he talks about the spam phenomenon on blogs like ours, where one-line comments are sent on a regular basis in the hope of receiving our DoFollow link-love with a human-written comment often praising our blogging skills.

When I started this blog, several months ago, it was very easy to distinguish between a legit comment and a fake one.

Fake comments usually didn’t make any kind of sense, they were a list of meaningless links, or just words carefully crafted to promote some spammy service.

However the late trend – partially because of anti-spam weapons getting more and more advanced – has been to write real comments, often bypassing any anti-spam engine, with the final aim to promote the URL linked to it (and not in the body, mind you, that would trigger all the alarms).

It’s something so subtle you’re often led to think it’s maybe not right to block it in first place, but then you realize, visiting the URL, there’s not much room left for doubt. And in most cases it’s some coupon-related directory (coupons are the trend of 2011 it seems, must be ’cause of the ever-growing popularity of Groupon, shrug).

Single-line comments praising my blogging potential, how my blog helped their life, how I should keep on blogging and how cool is my blog to look at. Something that is supposed to make you go “awww how nice” but really just screams of “let’s try to fool this dude”, really.

I’ll suggest the 3 main methods I use to fight spam on WordPress. And yes, this will be another dissertation about plugins, sorry about that!

1. Akismet

Akismet really is your first line of defense.

This awesome WordPress plugin helps you fight automatic spam bots and not-so-subtle human ones in a more than efficient way, making it pretty much essential if you want to be serious about blogging.

What it does is to run each of your comments through a centralized server which runs several tests on it and mark it as “spam” or “ham” (= good to go).

Each “spam” message is put in your spam queue and will wait for your personal move, before being deleted after (I think) 30 days if you leave it there.

Here are some quick statistics on how Akismet affected my blogging experience:

My blog's Akismet stats

Not much to add, right?

You can start using Akismet from here, you’ll need to register an account there in order to receive an API key, and you will have the chance to choose a plan (according to the commercial or non-commercial nature of your publication).

At that point, just install the WordPress plugin (just search for “Akismet” in the Pludins admin page of your blog, it’s the first result), fill in the API key you obtained and you’ll be good to go.

2. GrowMap Anti-Spambot Plugin

G.A.S.P. is a really smart  and relatively new anti-spam plugin using the simple principle (I won’t go into technical details) to put a checkbox in your comment form, asking to confirm you are not a spammer. This checkbox is invisible to bots, therefore they won’t have a chance to post anything on your comments thread.

It works in an ingenious way, and allows you to realize that, if you still get spammy comments, the entire spam-industry is probably a lot less automated than you initially thought and consists of real people writing real comments (kinda shocking, uh?).

I use these two plugins together, they can co-exist without problems and they offer a near-perfect anti-spam experience, even if in the end, you will have to use your real, final weapon of mass spam-struction…

3. Your Brain

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, your brain is the final weapon. Thanks to Akismet and G.A.S.P. you will probably get rid of 99% of your blog’s spam, but you won’t get rid of those nasty one-line comments praising your “madskillz”, especially as your blog grows in audience and becomes more popular.

Your brain will be needed to distinguish between something you want to see on your blog and something you’d rather live without, considering its purpose is just to suck link-love out of you. After all, since your blog has such an important role in your social media strategy (or should, anyway), you really want to nurture it in the best way possible, no?

So I am wondering, did you notice a spam increase as well in the latest weeks? Are you using something different to fight it? Do you have a cool method you’d like to share? Let me know, at this point I am very very curious to hear more news.

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Comments

  1. Thanks Gabriele, and you hit this one on the head. All we want are legitimate comments from people that help the conversation move along in some positive fashion. These one line fly-by comments mean nothing, don’t address anything, and could be posted on almost every article everywhere on the internet & mean nothing. No thanks; we don’t need that. Great job!
    Mitch Mitchell recently posted..What Is “High Quality Content”

    • Gabriele Maidecchi Gabriele Maidecchi
      Twitter: maidoesimple
      says:

      Nah thanks to you, you gave me the idea for this after all, and even if my “high quality content alarm” didn’t go off on this one (after all, many people write about this topic) I still decided to post, maybe it will be of help to newcomers, I sure hope so.

  2. Adrienne says:

    Hey Gabriele,

    I think at one time or another we have all had our rants about spam. I know I have!!!

    You made some very good points here. I recently downloaded the G.A.S.P. plug-in and it totally got rid of all my spam. Up until last week when “real people” are still spamming my site with their one liners as you said. But I will take a few creeping in any day then the hundreds I was getting on a daily basis. The problem I had with Akismet is that some of my regular commenter were finding their way into my spam folder and I hated having to go through the entire thing just to weed them out.

    I’m sure we will always have to deal with spam in some way or another. But these plug-ins really do help cut this down quite a bit.

    Adrienne
    Adrienne recently posted..Are You Making Any Money Online Yet

    • Gabriele Maidecchi Gabriele Maidecchi
      Twitter: maidoesimple
      says:

      I have the same problem with Akismet as well, but I patiently started to train it and I am noticing an improvement in false positives so it’s not that bad. Overall I think 2-3 comments a week end up as spam while being legit.

  3. William Tha Great
    Twitter: Bomb_hipster
    says:

    Hey Gabriele,

    There is always a everlasting war with spam!

    Thanks for the awesome ways to fight it. I remember the first time I started blogging many of the plugins weren’t out, and besides that I just didn’t know of anything. It was reallly just 100% brain power. I had to physically sit and decide between each comment. Back then I didn’t get to many comments, because I was just learning ha. Now I have all my safeguard plugins in place to stop all the spam, and the awesome thing is that they really do stopp all of it. I have over 900 spam comments blocked in a couple months. I’m happy I didn’t have to go through those myself!

    Wish you the best!

    God bless,
    William Veasley
    William Tha Great recently posted..To Have It All You Must Let Go of a Lot

  4. Hey Michelle, I totally agree with what someone said above – we’ve all ranted about spam sometime before.

    Last time I did it was a long time ago though. Here in Sweden, we don’t have as much spam as you guys do as you’re like, ahead of time when it comes to technology. But we’ve still got some spam and the solution that honestly worked really, really good for me was to simply train Akismet.

    It usually would block legitimate comments. And allow crappy ones to pass. That’s where you’re not supposed to give up. Since Akismet is programmed to learn stuff – you basically have to train it.

    Keep marking the spammy comments as spam, and only allow the valuable ones to go through. Overtime, Akismet will have learned from its mistakes and spam isn’t something you’re gonna have to worry about.

    Practice makes perfect, you know ;)

    /Kimmo.

    • Gabriele Maidecchi Gabriele Maidecchi
      Twitter: maidoesimple
      says:

      Yes I found out training works kinda ok, it takes a bit of time but every user using Akismet is training the system to become more accurate, so it’s naturally fine-tuning itself as time goes on. As I mentioned in a comment above, I get an average of 2-3 false positives a week so it’s not that horrible.

  5. Anna
    Twitter: mysandyda
    says:

    Wow, Gabriele, your post is great! (Are you going to delete it for spamming? Stop! read till the end and do it if you still want!)
    Spammers are the evil of blogs and forums but our software developers have already created some ways of fighting them (you have demonstrated some ot them). But I wouldn’t consider all responses with praises as spamming content. If a person liked your post, he got some useful information, if your post made him think or act, but he (maybe) has nothing to add, why should we consider it spamming? Maybe next time his participation and posts will be bigger and more effective or meaningful.
    Of course, I’m not talking about bots and automated software for comments. They should be deleted at once!

    • Gabriele Maidecchi Gabriele Maidecchi
      Twitter: maidoesimple
      says:

      That’s where the brain takes charge. It’s up to each of us to realize if something is short-but-legit or short-and-spammy. Usually, it’s pretty obvious really. But it’s also a matter of the specific situation to decide the comment’s fate.

  6. John says:

    This is a very similar rant to me Gabriele because all of the blog owners I know can’t stand spam, so I know where you’re coming from. But it’s like you said, spammers are getting more crafty as anti-spam methods get better. I think this will be a never ending battle in the blogosphere.

    I have used all the anti-spam tools you have listed here, but the one I depend on the most is my brain. It’s important to train your brain to be able to easily distinguish the difference between spam comments and genuine ones. Thanks for sharing Gabriele, I haven’t noticed too much of an increase in spam comments but maybe it’s because I’ve just gotten used to them.
    John recently posted..How To Search For an Email Address For Free – Free Search Methods You Can Use To Get Results

    • Gabriele Maidecchi Gabriele Maidecchi
      Twitter: maidoesimple
      says:

      I agree, the war will go on forever, no matter what.
      It’s up to us to find the best weapons to fight it, and our brain will still be needed, if you want to do a perfect job.

  7. Brankica@Blogging for beginners
    Twitter: liveurlove
    says:

    Hello Gabriele,
    I love GASP and my brain but not a big fan of Akismet. GASP blocks all bots I had problems with before and there are only a few comments every week I need to deal with.

    Akismet tends to send genuine comments to spam and the worst thing is that you can end up in spam by mistake on one blog and then end up on many of them because of that plugin. Very frustrating.
    Brankica@Blogging for beginners recently posted..140 blogs worth hopping

    • Gabriele Maidecchi Gabriele Maidecchi
      Twitter: maidoesimple
      says:

      That’s true, and sometimes I do see legit comments in my spam queue, but I check it daily and make sure to unmark the false positives. It gets better as time goes so it doesn’t cause that much of a problem to me, but I can see your point nevertheless.
      I probably should try to experiment by disabling Akismet for a while and see what happens, but I noticed that sometimes I end up with spam comments in my Akismet queue which obviously passed the GASP check, so I have mixed feelings on that.

      • Brankica@Blogging for beginners
        Twitter: liveurlove
        says:

        I disabled Akismet and not using it any more. Sometimes (I don’t know how) a comment will end up in spam but I unspam it is as soon as I see it.

        If I am curious about the comment, if it looks too generic, I just Google it and see if it has been posted elsewhere. I had a person do that on 25 blogs and wrote a post about it that was a blast.

        And just the other day I found a comment that was posted on 99 other blogs!!! I actually left it on the post, removed all the links and replied saying “this comment has been posted on 99 other blogs”. I hate when someone disrespects me in my own house (blog), lol.

        But the point is that I am not using Akismet and hardly ever need to delete spam comment.
        Brankica@Blogging for beginners recently posted..Wanna play a game The contest is ON

        • Gabriele Maidecchi Gabriele Maidecchi
          Twitter: maidoesimple
          says:

          Ok that’s a very good idea, Googling suspect comments, I never thought about this, I will be sure to do it next time it happens.
          I agree with you, lack of respect deserves some sort of retaliation, you did the right thing.

  8. Merchant Cash Advance
    Twitter: huntingtonlive
    says:

    Akismet is a very good spam detector. But I’m really frustrated about not being able to comment on WordPress Blogs AT ALL! I had this “wp-comment.php” error always coming up every time I do comment on WP pages. Sigh*

    • Gabriele Maidecchi Gabriele Maidecchi
      Twitter: maidoesimple
      says:

      You mean WordPress.com blogs? I commented on some of them, well not recently mind you, and I never had that problem, so not sure really.
      Tried recently?

  9. raymund
    Twitter: rfcamat
    says:

    I think using GASP is enough. I am not using Akismet because it has the tendency to block spam comments. GASp is the best!

    • Gabriele Maidecchi Gabriele Maidecchi
      Twitter: maidoesimple
      says:

      True, Akismet sometimes does block legit comments, but they are just put in queue, and the time it saves me is still not to be underestimated, especially taking a look at the stats, which are still pretty impressive.

  10. Amsoil says:

    Wow, I did not think that people were still manually posting one-liners. I thought only those lame spambots being run out of India, Pakistan, China, Koren and Vietnam were doing all of the dirty work. I administrate a lot of blogs at my company and I hate having to turn off blog comments. When people post blog comments, it adds content to the site and drastically boosts the rankings of the site as a whole. Comments are great to have but not when these people are flooding you with their posts for getting rich or popping pills. I would rather turn off Askimet and just let GASP do its best and filter out what little spam gets through GASP.

    • Gabriele Maidecchi Gabriele Maidecchi
      Twitter: maidoesimple
      says:

      I guess I leave Akismet running out of habits. It offers another layer of protection and it doesn’t damage anything to leave it there I guess.

      • Amsoil says:

        Yeah, but then you can block potential people. I would just remove AKISMET altogether and see how it pans out.

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    [...]This awesome WordPres plugin helps you fight automatic spam bots and not-so-subtle human ones in a more than eficient[...]…