How Can I Tell If Comments On My Site Are SPAM?

If you have a website that uses popular blogging software such as WordPress, you probably are bombarded with comments that you assume are JUNK and other comments that you can't help but wonder if they are legitimate or not. The following is designed to act as a guide and tutorial to help you better identify SPAM comments and prevent them from occurring in the first place.

How and Why Do You Get Junk / SPAM Comments?

Unethical internet marketing companies and professionals are willing to do about anything to get links back to their sites. One of the easiest ways to get a link to your site, from some other credible site, is to leave a comment. When leaving comments, most site publishers allow the visitor to leave a name, website, email, and text comment. So, there are a variety of programs and companies that will send an automated script (robot) to scour the web looking for places they can leave comments. Thus, these programs stumble upon your site and auto-fill the first comment box they can find.

Aren't There Ways to Filter Out the Junk?

Yes, there are a variety of WordPress plugins that are designed to identify SPAM comments and send them right to the junk folder. Think of this in the same way your email works. Your Email Service Provider (ESP) identifies Junk mail when it comes into your inbox. They recognize Junk mail based on other SPAM reports given by other users of that ESP. WordPress plugins designed to do the same job are always using SPAM reports from users like you, to identify when the same SPAM comments are left on other blogs. When identified they are filtered out and you do not need to moderate them.

The most popular WordPress plugin for this purpose is Akismet. It comes pre-installed on most WordPress installations and can be activated when you obtain a WordPress.com API key. The API key is critical for the plugin to be able to communicate with the source file to index SPAM comments as they are happening.

You can also make sure your WordPress settings are setup to correctly handle incoming comments. For example I recommend that you moderate every incoming comment, not just first time commentators. Often time Spammers will send an innocent comment with no link so that after your approval, their future comments will publish without moderation.

Check your “Discussion” menu under WordPress Settings.

Should I Assume Then That Any Comment I'm Asked to Moderate is Legitimate?

No, just like in your email inbox, someone has to receive and flag as junk a new SPAM comment when it first hits the web. After a few users have flagged it as SPAM, future users who get the same comment will have it filtered as JUNK. On occasion you will be one of those who needs to mark it as SPAM.This creates the need that you really check every comment as it comes in.

When Moderating Comments, What Things Should I Look For to Identify SPAM

Check the Name:
Often SPAM comments will use words or phrases that are obviously not names. These can also be often disguised by words that you don't recognize as names.

Vague or Generic Comment:
Spammers also use very generic comment text that they think will work if pasted onto every blog post in the world. Something like, “I've been looking for this for a long time,” or “Thank you for this post,” or “I've never thought about this topic that way.” Here is an example of a comment with a lame name and generic comment.

Check the URL:
Normal site visitors who leave comments will often not have a website and will leave that field empty when leaving a comment. Those who do have websites will almost always include the URL to their sites home page and not an internal page of their site. So, when you look at the URL in the comment and see that it is a long URL to an internal site page it is probably SPAM. ALSO, if they include a URL in the actual comment area you can almost be sure its SPAM.

Flattering Words:
Spammers like to play on your ego. Often comments with vague compliments that seem unrelated to the blog post are SPAM. Examples may include, “Your site is so awesome,” “You understand this topic so well,” or “I have been looking for this information forever.”

Poor Grammar and Misspellings:
Often Spammers try to misspell words and use poor grammar on purpose to try to get past some of the filters. Anytime you have to read the comment twice to understand it, its probably SPAM.

Here is a great example that shows a URL in the comment and some bad grammar.

Hopefully this has given you some insights into how you can prevent and identify SPAM comments on your WordPress blogs.

As a last thought let me also suggest a WordPress plugin called InComment Referral. This plugin will add a line at the bottom of your comment notifications so you can see from what website the user came to your website when leaving the comment. This is also a helpful way to identify SPAM comments.

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2 Responses to How Can I Tell If Comments On My Site Are SPAM?

  1. GoMommyGO October 10, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

    Thank you, Jacob! You echoed my suspicions exactly. I have been bombarded with spam ‘comments’ and wondering if there was some way to get rid of them. Now I have them held for moderation first, anyway, and can multi-select and DELETE, DELETE!  🙂

    • Jacob Paulsen October 10, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

      @GoMommyGO Glad this helped!!