Spam, one of the darker sides of the Internet, is a multi-billion dollar business, built on the backs of countless honest website owners that sometimes don’t even realize that their work is exploited. There are many types of spam in the wild and spammers seem to keep up with the newest technologies by creating new and ingenious ways to abuse the system.
One of the most prevalent forms of spam is web spam, a practice that aims to artificially increase the PageRank of a site, by creating numerous backlinks to the respective page. There are many ways of creating web spam, but perhaps the most common is comment spam. Comment spammers take advantage of the comment section of publicly accessible websites to create links to their own web properties. Most comment spamming is automated as specialized bots roam the Internet to find targets and automatically post prefabricated comments.
The effects of comment spamming go from simple nuisances to a complete disruption of the functioning of a website. Spam messages pollute discussion boards, waste server resources, and take time and effort to remove. Read on to see what you can do to prevent annoying spam from flooding your comment sections.
First step – make your website a less attractive target for comment spammers
Comment spam exists for one main purpose – to provide “link juice” to the spammers’ websites. The more links that point to a page, the better position it will be in Google’s results. Therefore, to make your website less attractive to comment spammers, you should stop the “juice” from flowing by using the “nofollow” attribute on the links in your comment section. The rel=”nofollow” attribute prevents search engine robots from crawling a link, rendering the link useless for SEO purposes. Most major content publishing platforms, including WordPress, Blogger, forum platforms, etc., use the “nofollow” attribute by default, and you should use it on your website to deter spammers.
Unfortunately, simply using the “nofollow” attribute is not enough to stop comment spam. Another way to protect your site is to make it less visible to bots. Spammers sometimes simply search for a common phrase that is found on websites that accept comments. For example, WordPress blogs often use a phrase like this one to let users know that they can post comments: “You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.” You can try changing the default text with a custom one, which will decrease your website’s exposure to spammers.
Step two – get proactive and use active protection methods
As a rule of thumb, avoid using intrusive methods of stopping spam, such as manual approval and CAPTCHAs. Comment spam is your problem and your readers should never suffer from it. Manual approval takes away a lot of the spontaneity of the discussion and may prevent users from engaging in the discussion. CAPTCHAs – tests that can be easily passed by a human, but are highly unlikely to be passed by a piece of software, can also discourage genuine commenters from posting their opinions. Additionally, ingenious spammers have found ways of beating CAPTCHAs, for example by using the trackback system.
A better idea is to use anti-spam solutions that use a shared database of known spammers to block their access to websites. Probably the best-known solution of this type is the Akismet WordPress plugin, but there are many other services that do the same thing, for other platforms (Joomla, Drupal, MediaWiki, etc.) and even for custom-built sites. Akismet is free for personal use and is integrated by default on all new WordPress installations.
A good alternative is Disqus, a discussion platform with integrated anti-spam capabilities. Disqus replaces the comment section from your website (WordPress, Joomla, etc.) with its own commenting system, which supports profiles, social integration, sharing, and many other features. Not only does Disqus improve the discussion system on your website, Disqus also has built-in anti-spam features. Each time a comment is marked as spam on a site that uses Disqus, the information is uploaded to a known spammers database. When a new comment is registered from that address, it is automatically labeled as spam.
Disqus integrates well with Akismet, so you can use the two systems simultaneously for extra protection. You can also use custom blacklists and whitelists to decide who can comment on your site. And the advanced moderation tools make it easy to approve or reject large numbers of comments at a time. For these reasons, Disqus is an ideal solution for the sites that have active communities and deal with spam on a frequent basis.
Getting rid of comment spam is easier than you think
As you can see, there are many solutions for fighting comment spam, no matter what type of site you are running. A simple Google search will reveal plenty of plugins, extensions, and third-party services that can help you get rid of the useless comments that pollute your website. You can experiment with a combination of solutions, or maybe one simple configuration is enough to protect your website.
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Tuesday, February 18, 2014