PR and marketing pros responsible for managing corporate and client blogs can often easily identify spam comments, but some are difficult to spot. Many comments may not actually be spam but add no value. They may be irrelevant to the post or even nonsensical. Culling through scores of comment submissions can become a time-consuming chore.
Comment spam plug-ins such as Akismet for WordPress can catch the bulk of spam, but much still escapes, as spammers continually become more sophisticated. The automated spam catchers are not sufficient to eliminate all spam comments. Human review is needed.
Considering comments is a subjective skill. Some webmasters and bloggers approve comments if they believe the commenter has actually read the post – with little regard to the comment’s content. Others trash comments if the link indicates it’s from a different industry.
Risks of Allowing Spam Comments
Some blog managers may approve all or most comments in an attempt to increase the blog’s apparent popularity. Visitors and perhaps their managers may perceive more engagement. Blogging experts say approving spam comments can hurt a blog.
Publishing large numbers of spam comments can hurt its SEO. Google lowers the page ranks of sites with inferior links whether they’re in the comments section or other website pages.
Publishing spam comments can also decrease readers’ opinion of the blog. Readers seeing numerous comments that look like spam or add no value to the discussion may think no one cares about the blog. Ten or 20 comments such as “great post” or “useful post” discourage legitimate readers from contributing a valuable comment, warns Harsh Agrawal, blog expert and CEO of ShoutDreams Media.
These are some tips to spot spam comments and decide if other comments are worthy of approval.
Too general. Comments that are so unspecific that they can apply to any post indicate possible spam. Those that mention something specific in the post, ask a question or express an opinion are likely legitimate.
Link quality. Would you want to click on the commenter’s link? Would you want your readers to? If not, delete it, advises professional blogger Kristi Hines in a Kissmetrics post.
Their name. Keywords in the name field without a real first or last name signals a spammer.
Email addresses. A fake email address is a clear red flag. Some, such as firstname.lastname@example.org are obviously fake. Email addresses that look like they were created by a computer rather than a human are probably spam.
Different emails and websites. The same author linking to different sites in different industries in different posts on different days is another red flag.
Search for it. Place the comment in quotes in a web search field. A spam comment will appear scores or hundreds of times on different websites.
Solutions to Excessive Comment Spam
Spammers tend to prefer older posts because older posts build more SEO credibility and tend to rank higher. Conversely, real readers typically comment most on newer posts. Automatically closing comments after 30 to 60 days will block spammers but lose few legitimate comments, says Beth Hayden at SmartBlogger.
Deleting the “Website” field from the WordPress comment form is the best solution, believes Mike Wallagher at Start Blogging Online. That requires adding PHP code. “If there is no link option in the comments section, a lot of spammers won’t post anything at all,” he says.
Another option is to turn comments entirely off and converse with audiences on social media. Most business websites don’t require the audience engagement that blog comments provide and customers can reach the business through the website’s contact form.
More corporate blogs will probably shut down comments this year, predicts communications consultant Arik Hanson, principal of ACH Communications. Most blogs, including both personal and business blogs, attract few or no comments. Besides being time consuming to moderate, comment sections can reflect poorly on brands if comment fields are empty.
At CyberAlert, most comments we receive lack any value. Many show no sign the commenter read the post and many are filled with grammatical and spelling errors, making them practically nonsensical. Sometimes, however, a PR marketing professional contributes an insightful observation. That’s why we continue to review all comments and publish those with merit.
Bottom Line: Spam comments can overwhelm a blog. The challenge is filtering through the multitude of submissions and deciding what is authentic and meaningful and what is useless rubbish. These tips can help blog managers separate the comment wheat from the spammy chaff.