Blogging and Writing

Managing Blog Comment Spam in WordPress

Spam, including blog comment spam, is inevitable in the online world.  Some spam detection algorithms are better than others, but none of them are perfect.  Any spam filter, including filters for blogs, has to find a balance between making sure spam is caught and making sure legit messages get through.

WordPress’s spam filter is called Akismet.  My experience is that it tends to lean too far in the direction of making sure spam gets caught.  Comments including GIFs or somewhat sketchy-ish links are most likely to get diverted to spam.  However, it is what it is, and all we can do is make the best we can of the situation.

Where to find your spam

To find where your blog’s comment spam lives, go to your WordPress dashboard for My Sites, and under the Site section, click on Comments.  There will be tabs for All, Pending, Approved, Spam, and Trash.

I’ve noticed that Akismet seems to go through spurts of mistakenly marking legit messages as spam.  During those spurts, I’ll check my spam every day or two; otherwise, I check about once a week.  In the last couple of weeks I’ve been getting one or two comments a day mistakenly sent to spam, so I’m checking more often.

Human spam vs spambots

Blog comment spam can come from two potential sources: humans navigating to your site and commenting, or bots that are sent on an automated journey out into the blogosphere.

The vast majority of the spam comments you’ll get on your blog will be from automated bots.  Their goal is to spread their links far and wide with the hope that a few people might click on it and be taken to their site.  They don’t care who you are or what your site is about;  they’re just crawling along and dropping their link.  Sometimes the comments left by these bots are clearly spam; other times, they’re written as though they’re a legit comment to try to fool spam filters.

Then you have spam left by a human.  It’s not necessarily easy to tell the difference though.  I recently got multiple, identical long spam comments about how ECT is torture.  That was presumably a human wanting to spread his message far and wide.

I also consider it spam when individual bloggers will leave a comment along the lines of “Great post.  Please read and follow my blog [URL].”  Unless I think the person is legitimately a doofus and doesn’t realize that’s uncool, I will mark the comment as spam.  I’m more willing to tolerate links if the person makes an actual comment on the content of my post beyond just the generic “great post”.

Blacklisting effectively

WordPress allows you to blacklist commenters so their comments go straight into your trash.  This is useful because it can make it a lot easier to go through your spam folder to find legit comments.

Blacklisting is done under My Sites > Manage > Settings > Discussion.  You’ll need to be careful because if, for example, you blacklist “press”, then anyone commenting from a address is going straight to trash.

Have a look at some of what’s ended up in your spam folder.  Ignore the names associated with the comments; those change each time.  Instead, look at the URL.  The exact URL will vary, but you’ll probably notice a lot of common domains.  I get a ton of comments from various addresses.  I’ve blacklisted extraproxies, so those are no longer clogging up my spam folder.

Differences based on WordPress plan?

Since I’ve upgraded to the WP business plan, I’ve stopped getting spam (although I’m having more legit comments go to spam).  It’s still the same Akismet spam filter; it’s just the form for leaving comments that’s changed.  I’m curious if people who’ve moved over from to self-hosted have noticed a change in the spam they’re getting.

I guess the last thing I would say is to try not to take spam personally.  It’s an irritation, but it’s an irritation that’s directed at everyone, so chances are no one is picking you out for special treatment.  And if they are, blacklist, blacklist, blacklist.  And spam can even be good for a laugh sometimes.

Does anyone else have any spam management strategies that they use?

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24 thoughts on “Managing Blog Comment Spam in WordPress”

  1. I’ve seen some spammy comments that have slipped through when commenting on your posts before. This was an informative read!

  2. I don’t check mine that often. When I do, every few days, there are usually about 30 comments, all legit spam except maybe one or two. I fish those out and dump the rest. I used to go to the trouble of banning every IP that spammed me, but that’s pointless because they shift every time. I have banned keywords like casino and amoxicillin, so those comments go straight to trash. Mostly the WP filter works well imo.

  3. I fortunately haven’t yet gotten spam comments, just weird followers following me. I wonder if it’s because my site settings discourage search engines.

    Thanks for sharing WHERE to find spam comments!

  4. 🙂 I made the observation that spambots were attracted to my older blog posts.

    What did I do?

    I went into “Discussion Settings” and I placed a tick in the box that was in front of, “Automatically close comments on articles older than 30 days.”

    By the way, a blogger has the option of changing the default 30 days to any amount of days that they desire; I thought about setting it at 21 days but decided to leave it at 30 days because I thought that time-period was enough for people to comment.

    I no longer receive a huge volume of spam.

    From day one, I made it a habit of mine, to look for innocent comments that were wrongfully identified as spam by Akismet.

    Great topic, Ashleyleia.

  5. I’m not terribly bothered by spam. I do get the odd comment (one or two bloggers in particular) that falls in the bin. I notice those comments have a lot of emoticons on them usually. My management consists of setting my blog as ‘do not find with search engines’. That seems to discourage the spam-bots.

  6. I have my settings for comments set so that I have to approve every comment anyway. I check on my spam tab every couple of weeks. Some weeks there are only a couple of spam comments, other weeks there are scores. I don’t know why. And of course occasionally I find a comment from a blogger who I know, so I approve it.

    I don’t find the spam too much trouble, in fact sometimes it is very amusing.

  7. Woo hoo! This title was truncated in my email and read like this: “Managing blog spa” and I was thinking, “Oh boy, Ashley’s having a spa!” Awww, oh well. Maybe next time? 😀

  8. I went through mine the other day… I get loads for amoxicillin and cbd oil which always amuses me… no idea why they target me with these things! I also, curiously, get a lot of spam that is seemingly from people (though I’ll never know) telling. Me to check out their site and then give the apple store website (though I never click on the links left..) xxx

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