Recently, my mother started blogging. I created the blog for her, but didn’t turn on a spam blocker, thinking that I would do that later. I have been blogging forever (feels like), so I honestly wasn’t thinking about the fact that she might not know what a spam comment was.
Then, she got a few legitimate comments – followed by many spam comments. Some of them were clearly SPAM. Others, though, were pretty clever.
She responded to one that she thought was very legit. She told me that the person had asked her if they could submit an article for her blog because they found it interesting. Cool, right? Well, no. Because, it was a comment from a SPAM bot.
The Let Down Once You Discover You’ve Been SPAMMED
You’re right to get excited about those first comments as they come in. It’s validation – you’re doing something right!! You’ve been writing and writing and FINALLY people are starting to comment on your blog.
But once you find out they’re SPAM, it can be depressing and a let down.
You can avoid the let down by learning how to identify SPAM comments and by installing an anti-SPAM plugin.
Confessions of a Former SPAMMER
Confession time. Many years ago, for a brief period of time, I was a SPAMMER. That’s how I know how these people work. I will explain to you, step-by-step, how I used to do it. And why.
It boggles my mind that people are still using these techniques – we’re talking 10 or so years ago that I was doing this. But they are, for whatever reason.
Here’s how automated SPAM commenting works:
- An Internet marketer, bright-eyed and bushy tailed, buys a domain. Something like “homeandfamily.eu” And yes, I am using that URL because they’ve been caught in a SPAM cycle and I want them to pay for it.
- They pay some guy a bunch of money to tell them how to build a blog in an hour and install Google AdSense or some Amazon.com affiliate thing – or some other affiliate thing.
- Now, they need links. Lots and lots of links. They believe that getting scores of links is going to make Google think their site is the best site for a chosen keyword phrase. In this example, it’s “home and family recipes.”
- So, they download an install a tool that will do a number of things.
- The tool will create a Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo account (or many other types) literally instantly. The tool will even do the necessary validation required to set up these accounts.
- Then, they will enter a URL, and a list of keywords they want linked to it.
- They will tell the program that they want it to leave comments on WordPress blogs.
- Next, they’ll tell it what email addresses to use, URLs to use, and keywords to associate with the names (the names are hyperlinked to the URLs).
- After all this it set up, they’ll press “start” or “go.”
The program will go out and leave hundreds of comments on blogs. Some will be approved, and some will not. The program can leave hundreds of comments per hour. They can even use virtual machines so that the IP addresses are varied.
SPAM Bots Are Trash
These programs are friggin amazing. They’re also tragic and have trashed the purpose of an Internet search tool. Trying to game the system and put your own website on top with no real reason for that, other than your own selfish need to make money on the Internet, is gross. It’s embarrassing to those of us who work to make content better for consumers, and is a detriment to real Internet marketers who put out valuable products and services.
How To Tell If Your Blog Comments Are SPAM
All of that said, here’s how you can tell if your blog comments are SPAM.
1. The comment’s name field is a bunch of keywords.
Do people legitimately use keywords in the Name field? Yes, sometimes. Does that mean it’s not SPAM? No, it means it’s SPAM. SPAM is not only from robots. Unfortunately, humans can leave SPAM comments, too.
Let’s just use this rule of thumb. If someone is trying to use your blog as a way to get a back link through comments with keywords as anchor text, it’s SPAM. They don’t get to do that. They should put in the work and submit a guest post, or ask you to link in the body of your post. That’s it. Case closed.
2. The email address looks suspicious.
If the email address is a mashup of weird names and a bunch of numbers, and it’s associated with Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, Mail.com, Ymail, or some other free email site, proceed with caution. This is a clear indication of an “instant” email address that is literally the concatenation of a list of names and a list of numbers.
Unfortunately, this is common in fraudulent activity beyond blogs, to identity fraud. If you see something like Brosh75953@hotmail.com, it could be SPAM.
3. The website address doesn’t end in .com.
First of all, let me explain that this factor alone doesn’t indicate SPAM. Instead, it’s a weight. Meaning, if you have other factors PLUS this factor, the likelihood is that the comment is SPAM. In my mom’s case, she had 7 different comments linked to a .eu website.
4. The IP addresses are duplicated.
When you see multiple comments with the same IP address, you’ve been duped. Unless these people live in the same house and use the same Internet connection, you’re being SPAMMED.
5. The comment is incredibly generic.
Please realize something: most people are not out leaving blog comments anymore. Especially not on small blogs that are brand new. Heck, even Forbes has trouble getting people to leave comments.
So if you’re getting comments, awesome. But be careful with comments that are super generic. Does it sound like something that could apply to your blog, specifically? Could it apply to everyone’s blog?
Is the commenter saying something about your design (“I just love this blog. Your colors are SO pretty.”)?
Comments that are specific to your blog and not the post are red flags. People should be commenting on the topic at hand. The reason SPAM bots can’t do this is because these are random comments. They don’t know where the comments will land. So the content has to be generic.
And tricky. Look at the comment left on my mom’s blog. It sounds extremely legitimate. But, with all of the other criteria, I’m sorry to say, this comment is SPAM.
Please let me know if you’re looking for a article writer for your blog. You have some really great articles and I feel I would be a good asset. If you ever want to take some of the load off, I’d love to write some articles for your blog in exchange for a link back to mine. Please blast me an e-mail if interested. Regards!
Sorry, Charlie. But the fact that
- You’ve left the name “home and family recipes”
- Linked it homeandfamily.eu,
- Your email address is Brosh75953@hotmail.com, and
- Your IP address was used three times on the same blog post with three different names, links, and email address…
…says, “You’re SPAM.” The comment was great. But a legitimate guest blogger is going to use a contact form or your email address to ask you about it.
A Message of Encouragement for New Bloggers
I’ll end with some ways you can protect your blog against SPAM, and an encouraging word: Many people will visit your blog and never tell you about it. That’s okay. It does not mean your blog is not worthwhile, or your writing sucks, or people don’t like you.
Many, many people are not accustomed to leaving comments on blogs. Because of that, there’s no reason to be discouraged. There are lots of ways to encourage more comments on your blog if that is your goal. But please know that the absence of comments doesn’t mean what it used to. Instead, look for social shares and for engagement in your social networks around your posts. Use interesting, catchy titles, and focus on traffic. If traffic is growing, you’re doing something right.
Ways to Protect Your Blog Against SPAM
- Install Akismet (it costs money, but it’s worth it) or any other anti-SPAM plugin.
- Turn on the approval requirement (slows down the comments, but it’s worth it)
- Be careful about where you promote your blog.
- Use a comment plugin (like DISQUS or Facebook Comments) (**There are pros and cons to this, coming in another post.)
- Mark comments are SPAM when you realize that they are.