If you own a blog, people will try to spam it. Sadly, that’s pretty much inevitable these days. But there are a number of different ways you can help minimize this issue, but just before we get to that, perhaps you’re thinking:
Why bother allowing comments at all?
Well, the first thing I would say is turning comments off has the potential to make your blog look a little sterile, even perhaps a bit of a ghost town. And also, you may have found that on some blogs the comments are the most amusing, or even most interesting parts of the entire page.
They often can create a discussion that goes far beyond the scope of the initial article, and that also goes far more in depth, offering far more value to readers than just the article itself does.
However, if you’re simply looking at publishing articles and aren’t that interested about instant feedback or having other view points presented, then it takes just a click to turn off comments, and problem solved. I would say it’s a minority of blogs that disable comments entirely, but some definitely do that and are happy with that choice.
But one further point to keep in mind — more comments means more content on your site, plus it also means people spend more time on your site on average, plus it demonstrates that your site is involving your visitors. These are all things it’s commonly suggested that Google takes into consideration as part of its algorithm — basically the more time people spend on your site, the more high quality the site is, so the more likely Google is to reward your site with a higher ranking.
So for those reasons too, allowing comments with the extra work it may bring, can actually be very beneficial for your site and help drive more visitors to your site, as well as encourage repeat visitors.
Why (And How) Does Comment Spam Exist?
Comment spam exists for two reasons:
- Building links to a website, so that Google ranks the website higher up the listings.
- It’s just another way to promote a site.
So you’ll find comment spam is often used to simply promote something. This is a very tacky (and ineffective) way to promote anything, and reflects very badly on the product/business being promoted in this way.
And also these comments are used to create links pointing to a site — often hundreds of thousands of links, all from different blogs.
Such link spam used to be a very effective tactic for ranking a site, but Google’s getting more intelligent, and such tactics are thankfully becoming less and less effective, although that hasn’t killed comment spam outright, or even close to it.
And you’ll find most comment spam is automated. Software and services exist purely to post automatic comments to thousands of blogs. For this reason most comment spamming ‘bots’ can’t cope with anything out of the ordinary, which is the main reason the tactics listed below should get rid of most spam automatically.
And such automated spam can range from short generic comments:
To simply the link to the website included in the comment again and again.
Or – some automated comment spam even submits a paragraph long comment that is so generically written (applies to almost any blog) that it almost passes for real.
And then there’s human comment spammers (people who often get paid per comment, or are using this tactic to promote their own site) that publish comments on people’s blogs, and make sure to link to a site.
Now, submitting a high quality relevant comment on a blog, and only including a link to your site where the blog asks for ‘Your Website Address’ gives a link to your site from someone else’s blog, but I wouldn’t call it spam as it’s adding genuine value to the blog in question.
What no blog owner wants however is junk comments, and especially where it gets to the point where the comment spam seems to take over the blog, so any legitimate comments get lost in the noise.
However — the main reason for this article is to demonstrate that your blog doesn’t have to simply be a choice between no comments, and comment spam galore, there are actually options that can allow you to have a thriving community on your site, without all the headaches, and especially without you having to spend much time moderating comments.
Let’s go through a few of these options now, and cover the pros and cons of each, to help you decide which might be the right fit for your blog:
Enabling FaceBook Comments on Your Site
Blogging platforms like WordPress have a multitude of ‘plugins’, which are effectively software add ons you can use to increase the functionality of your site.
One such plugin allows you add Facebook comment functionality to your site, which means people can only comment on your site if they’re logged into their Facebook account, and then their real name appears above the comment.
This doesn’t solve the problems of spam, comment arguments, and things like that entirely but I think you’ll find it has a massive impact because:
- You need a Facebook account to comment, which stops most automated blog spamming software in its tracks.
- Your real name (and often face) appears next to your comment, which is often enough for people’s behavior to suddenly start improving dramatically, especially compared to when they may be posting anonymously.
Many people have said that if no one was anonymous online, the internet would be a very different place, in good ways, and bad. There are of course benefits to anonymity in some cases — whistle blowing is one such extreme example.
So as regards your blog, people who like hiding behind anonymous comments may not like your approach with Facebook comments and this may cause the quantity of comments to die down significantly, but once your visitors get used to the new approach, it can make your community look quite welcoming since you can see everyone’s face, plus of course it also has the effect of almost entirely getting rid of comment spam overnight and even helping to elevate the discussion.
One site that took this approach to initial significant criticism is TechCrunch.com. But now over a year later people have accepted that the blog has Facebook comments, and this reportedly solved a lot of the spamming and argument issues that existed in the comments for that site.
So there’s definitely pros and cons to this approach and if you’re not sure whether this is right for you or not, why not spend some time browsing different blogs and notice which ones use Facebook comments, how it looks, and what their community is like with this comment type enabled.
Adding ‘Disqus’ to Your Site
Disqus is software specifically designed to add commenting functionality to your blog, far beyond the basic commenting features of most blogs.
It’s another ‘plugin’ that you can easily add to WordPress, or other types of blogging platforms. It’s entirely free to get up and running with, requires very little technical know how, and offers you a huge amount of features which you and your visitors will probably appreciate.
And you’ll also find that it will stop a huge amount of comment spam automatically (you won’t even see much of the spam, it will just be gone before it’s even arrived), plus it gives you a huge amount of power over the type of comments you allow on your site, who can comment, and how those comments appear.
Disqus in a way is placed in the middle between the total anonymity (and potential spam chaos) of a regular blog, and the “Everybody knows your name” approach of Facebook since it offers a much wider range of options about how visitors can and can not comment, when compared to Facebook comments.
With Disqus, commenters can still be anonymous, but its sign up process and functionality make it incredibly difficult for people to spam your blog, since it’s specifically designed to make your life easier as a blog owner, while increasing the functionality of your site too, and also not making the commenting/sign up process too arduous for visitors so that it puts them off entirely.
Although you may still find some users try to spam your site, Disqus does give you a wide range of moderation features that make it easy to automatically block a lot of spam, and also choose which comments get through.
Making Commenting ‘Members Only’
Some blogs don’t use any of the plugins listed here, but instead use the built in blog functionality that allows only registered members to place a comment.
The process for becoming a registered member is usually:
- Enter your name and email
- Wait for a confirmation email to be sent to your email address
- Click the confirmation link
And even then, new comments, or especially comments from new users, may still be moderated.
So this entire process makes commenting on your blog beyond the reach of most automated software, and also most human blog spammers aren’t going to bother either.
The downside of course with this approach is since your visitors have to jump through so many hoops to comment, most aren’t going to bother. So unless your site gets a huge amount of traffic, blog comments are likely going to drop to zero.
Whereas if you do get a lot of traffic, a small percentage of your traffic will register to comment, so you may end up with a core group of regular readers who also regularly comment. This is good in a way since you have an active community, but having just a small group of regular commenters can end up making blog comments a little insular over time since you don’t get a wide range of views.
Using Spam Databases
There’s “Blog Spam Databases” like Akismet which are designed to automatically filter out the majority of blog comment spam, without you having to resort to any of the tactics detailed above.
If you don’t want to add any extra hurdles for your visitors when it comes to commenting, but also want to drastically reduce the spam your blog receives, this may be the approach to take. But do be aware it’s not 100% and the occasional (or more than occasional) comment spam is likely to still sneak through.
But on the plus side, this approach could help keep the community on your site very active, whereas the three tactics listed above can all impact significantly how many people comment on your site.