How To Protect Your WordPress Blog From Spam

If you have a blog then you will attract spam – it’s just a fact of life. The only way to guarantee no spam on your blog is to not allow comments at all but for an Internet marketer comments are a desirable thing. While spam is a major irritant there are some simple things you can do to greatly reduce the amount you have to actually manage.

We are all familiar with e-mail spam… you know those rubbish e-mails that are unsolicited and that clog up your inbox. Spam on your WordPress blog is similar but has a different aim. Its purpose is to establish a link (or multiple links) on your site that point back to another website, one that is usually completely irrelevant to your niche and often of very poor quality. As a WordPress blog owner you are likely to be presented with two different types of spam.

The first is comment spam generated by spambots. These are comments that are automatically generated by these ‘bots’ that search the Internet looking for suitable targets. These are completely automatic with no human input at all and as such are generally very easy to spot and therefore very easy to deal with.

The second type of spam is that generated by people, manual comment spam. These are comment placed by people hired to do one thing… place comments on blogs. Most of the time these are easy to spot because the quality of the comment or its relevance is debatable but these are the comments that present the biggest challenge for the blog owner.

So how do you prevent, or at least reduce the amount of spam on your blog? I have to be honest here and say that you will not be successful in eradicating all the spam on your blog but it is possible to reduce it so significantly that what is left is not too difficult for you to deal with manually. So let’s look at how to deal with spam…

The first thing to do is to set up your WordPress installation to deal with comments using the best practice. To do this it is a matter of configuring the Discussion Settings, which you can find in the Settings section of your Dashboard. If you don’t want any comments at all it is just a matter of clicking the checkbox beside the “Allow people to post comments on new articles” option and you are done. However, most of us want good comments and so there are a number of other settings you will want to enable that will screen all first-time commentors.

• Click “Comment author must fill out name and e-mail”. I would not allow a comment that the authour does not fill in a name and e-mail address. This is quite standard practice on most blogs so should not put off genuine commentors.
• Click the “Comment must be manually approved” selection. There is no way I would allow a comment to be posted without me manually approving it first. You will also want to set the “E-mail me whenever anyone posts a comment and a comment is held for moderation” This will make sure you are aware that a comment has been posted and you need to take action.
• Click the “Show avatars” option. Spammers generally don’t have avatars set up and so if you are in doubt about how genuine a comment actually is this might ‘tip the scales for you’.
• You will also want to hold a comment if it has more than 2 links in it, so set this in the “Comment Moderation’ section.
• Click the “Save Changes” button at the bottom of the page and you are done with this section.

The next thing to do is to use WordPress plugins to help in the fight against spam. Plugins give the real power to WordPress and used wisely can make your job so much easier. The first plugin to use is Akismet. It generally comes pre-loaded with every WordPress installation so all you need to do is activate it and click on the link “Sign up for an Akismet API key” (it’s free) and then enter the key…. done. Akismet is pretty good at capturing spam however you will find occasions when a comment gets through but if you have set up your discussion settings it will still need approval. Akismet will also, on occasion, trap a legitimate comment. I think that losing the occasional valid comment is an acceptable price to pay for maintaining a good quality blog.

There are other good plugins available as well. Many of them will add a checkbox that the commentor needs to tick or a Captcha to interpret. Personally I don’t like making things any more difficult for my commentors than I have to so I don’t use them. However, if you have a real spam problem you might like to consider plugins like Growmap Anti Spambot or WP-reCaptcha.

When it comes to manually approving comments from first-time commentors here are some tips to help you identify if a comment is spam or not. Often it is pretty obvious if a comment is spam but those that have been manually generated can be harder to spot.

• Firstly the comment should add real value to the discussion around your post. Comments like “Great post” and the like doesn’t count as a good comment as far as I am concerned.
• The comment should not be about blatantly promoting the commentor and more about your making agenuine comment on the content of your post. The comment author gets a link to their main website and their latest post if you use the CommentLuv plugin (I wrote about it in my last post). Those links should be more than enough to keep any commentor happy.
• The comment should be written to a good standard. Obviously you need to take into account the fact that English may not be the first language of some of your commentors.
• Any links shouldn’t go to websites you wouldn’t want your readers and visitors to click through to. Obviously, this means you should check any link that looks at all questionable.
• The comment author should be a real person that you can connect to a website or social media account. As I mentioned before the presence of an avatar helps with this as well.

Spam is a major irritant for any blogger and it is something that you just have to accept as a ‘fact of life” however, by taking the steps I have outlined here you can greatly reduce the number of comments that you have to manually approve and in doing so make the job of controlling spam manageable. I do hope that this article has been of value. Please feel free to leave a comment (remember, if you are a first time commentor, my WordPress setup will hold your comment for moderation and alert me that it is there). I would love to hear of your experiences. As always feel free to share this with your own readership… just do me the courtesy of being credited as the original author.

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