The last word (I hope!) on comments and spam


Thanks to everyone who made suggestions in response to my earlier post about how to manage the spam comments menace. There were some very useful ones from people on all sides of the issue.

The problem that I faced was that people sometimes use the comments feature of blogs seemingly purely to insert hyperlinks to their commercial interests in order to gain visibility for some product or service and to drive up their website rankings, and these pointless comments were cluttering up the boards and wasting the time of people who were trying to follow a discussion.

As the always highly knowledgeable Heidi Cool said, this blog server software already has a filter that flags some comments (using some algorithm) as suspected spam and sends them to me for approval, which may explain to some puzzled readers why their comments sometimes take a long time to appear whereas other people’s seem to appear immediately. My problem was that it was getting harder and harder for me to decide which published comments to delete and which unpublished ones that were flagged as possible spam to approve, and I was spending far too much time agonizing over it.

One solution would be to make the comments board entirely moderated so that I would have to personally approve each comment before it appeared. This would take a lot of time (at least initially) because it would still require me to read all the comments but over time the volume should decrease as it should discourage spammers from posting in the first place as they would realize that the chance of it being approved would be small. I don’t like that solution because that would cause delays in genuine comments appearing.

Another brutally simple solution that was suggested would be to get rid of the box where people can insert a URL. That would definitely solve the problem but I hesitate to do that because I see no real harm with people who are genuinely interested in the blog’s content and want to add something to the discussion also giving a little boost to their own site along the way, even if it is a commercial site. I am sympathetic to the needs of such entrepreneurs and small businesspeople. I have on occasion discovered some genuinely interesting websites because of those links. It is the professional spammers that I want to get rid of.

I think that I have arrived at a policy that manages to achieve a balance and makes it easier for me to police the site. Here are the new comment rules that I am thinking of imposing that will not cause genuine commenters any inconvenience or require them to change anything. I will defer implementing them for a week to allow for knowledgeable people to point out any potential flaws.

  1. The comments will continue to be unmoderated, so almost all genuine comments on recent posts should continue to appear almost immediately, just as before. If your comment does not appear immediately or even after a few minutes, it means it has been flagged as potential spam because of the appearance of some words that trigger the filter (words which in isolation can be quite harmless but in combination with other words can cause the filter to sit up and take notice) and it will appear only after I have got around to checking in on the filtered comments board.
  2. In the comment box that says ‘Name’, you must insert a person’s name only. The name can be a pseudonym but inserting the name of a product or company or service is grounds for deletion. So ‘Ann Jones’ or ‘Joe’ or ‘Genghis Khan’ is allowable, but ‘Acme Roofing Company’ or ‘Diet Coke’ or ‘essay writing services’ or ‘Joe the plumber’ is not. Heidi says that putting a commercial name does not add to your site’s search engine rankings anyway.
  3. You can continue to insert a link to a company or product or commercial service site in the URL box and this will make the name in the name box into a hyperlink to that site, which does contribute to your rankings. This will be the only means by which to advertise or drive traffic to a site or product.
  4. Any link inserted in the body of a comment is also grounds for deletion of the entire comment unless the link is pointing to information relevant to the post.
  5. Even if a comment meets all these criteria, I still reserve the right to delete it if I think its chief purpose is to advertise and not advance the discussion. So comments like ‘Great post!’ and ‘I would like to read more on this topic’ will also get the boot.

I hope this new policy will make the site better and my life easier!

As suggested by commenter HP Bryce, here (I hope) is the last word on spam from what triggered the idea of adopting the name of a meat product for this ubiquitous feature of electronic communication.

Comments

  1. says

    Hi there thanks for the informative post and tips on spam comment moderation. I’ve recently started my own blog and ever since I keep getting at least 2-3 spam comments a day. I like your honest approach to allowing some self-promotion, allowing genuine comments to be accepted, and “rewarded” with a link to their site.

    I’ve learned recently that if all you do is take take take, and never give then you won’t be successful in whatever you’re doing. Unfortunately these spammers don’t realize that.

    I think I might adopt this policy as well and see how it works out. I went ahead and put my site link as directed in your post and I look forward to reading some more of your posts.

  2. says

    I like how the rules are spelled out. Sweet and simple. Just had to delete five comments on my blog from people named after replica products and trying to promote SEO services. The rules I think will take care of some of the problem. Those who want to use tools like xrummer or scrapebox will continue since they are 100% automated.

    Even as bad as Spam is; it can not compete with my mailbox when I lived in the US. I ask the post office to stop delivering unsolicited mail. They flat refused. I then issued a “cease and desist order” drafted by a lawyer I was friends with at the time. He informed me it had no real legal grounds but it worked until I moved.

  3. says

    Hi

    I have recently read some advice from the SEO authority figure that in order to get your site ranking high in Google, you must find some .edu and .gov sites and post comments there. Apparently those sites have much higher authority than .com or .net sites .I think that is the reason you guys are getting spamed so much.

  4. says

    I think you’ve got it about right. Excellent to see you took time to consider all sides of the issue.
    Spam comments is a problem all though the net. It’ll be interesting to see how the ‘real name only’ movement goes. Blizzard (makers of World of Warcraft) tried it, Facebook may be achieving something there – but that will bring a new set of problems.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *