Tackling Comment Spam

Commenting is a great way to connect with your blog readers. Your readers can question, suggest and offer feedback on your writing in a simple manner. But Spammers have turned a blog commenting area into a literal war zone. And its a problem which has no fool-proof solution. Every blog face the problem of Comment spam. Some blogs have even turned off commenting to keep the spammers at bay while some switch to 3rd party solutions.

I have myself tried numerous ways to tackle it by using captcha (yes I had to use it initally), lots of plugins and even shifted to Disqus for some time. But even now I receive probably 20 spam comments for 1 genuine comment on this blog.

Closing Comments

From what I have observed you need to identify your blog reader and even the content you offer before implementing some anti-spam measures to tackle the spam. For example some blogs have timeless content for which comments should be left open always the topics in those posts are always up for discussions. But for some blogs especially technical blogs, its contents age after a certain time and it would be no harm if the comments on old posts are closed. Keeping this in mind I have closed the comments for all posts older than 90 days. This duration should be set keeping in mind the type of posts you write and how often you write. I am not writing much here so have kept the duration a bit more lest I want my blog’s front page to show posts with closed comments. I will decrease this duration once I start writing more here.

Using Plugins

Most people think that using more than one anti-spam plugins would definitely get rid of the comment spam. Its not about the number of plugins you are using but about the quality of the plugins you are using that will decide how much effective your techniques are. WordPress ships with Akismet plugin by default which is fairly good in fighting comment spam. But for some blogs it has not been that much effective. You can always use plugins on a trial basis and check during the use of which plugins the spam you got was the lowest. Trust me that there is no plugin which can get rid of 100% spam. There are few good plugins which you can try like AntiSpam Bee and Bad Behavior. They both have proven to be good on my blog. As of now I am using only AntiSpam bee plugin. Have disabled Akismet from quiet some time and the results have been good.

Third Party Commenting

Disqus, IntenseDebate, Livefyre and Facebook Comments are your best options if you want to let a 3rd party handle commenting for your blog. Each service has its plus and minus points with some unique features to offer. They allow your readers to comment using their social website credentials and without the need to enter their personal details on your blog. But even they are not free from comment spam. I tried Disqus for some months and still got lots of spam. Spammers are indeed getting clever. Facebook Comments is one service which is differnt from others because its main focus is on making the users their Facebook login and general opinion is that spam reduces once you implement them. But for a tech blog like mine I did not think it would be wise enough to ask people to comment using their social network logins. I have shifted now to WordPress native commenting over which I have full control. Though I think they work better on personal blogs because there you would prefer people to use their social network logins to comment.

Disabling Pingbacks/Trackbacks

At present I see no point in leaving trackbacks/pingbacks open on your posts. Rather than passing genuine links they have become a spam magnet. You should turn them off for all your posts and see the result.

In this post my focus was to discuss the strategies to tackle comment spam and not go into the details of how to do it. To learn how to do it you can always google for plugins and anti-spam techniques. You will find lots of good tutorials on sql commands to close comments/pingbacks, best plugins for tackling spam and .htaccess tricks. And before I end this post, one last tip: Never ever ask your readers to solve captchas/math problems or do anything of this sort to comment. This is a big price you pay as a blog author for a very small convenience in the form of getting rid of comment spammers. Also spammers can bypass these tricks easily so if you think putting captchas is helping you get rid of spam, you are wrong. Instead you are getting rid of readers who wanted to comment but didn’t.