WordPress and Comment Spam

WordPress is a great platform with so many advantages.  One of its beneficial features is its ability to allow users to interact with the blogger through comments.  However, this feature is often exploited by spammers seeking to hijack your readers and drive them to their own websites for personal profit.  

image of a can of spam with red "x" drawn through it.Comment spam happens when these online marketers submit comments (laced with hyperlinks back to their websites) to your article posts for the purpose of selling their “wares” to your readers.  The comments they post are disingenuous and rarely relative to your topic.  In fact, most of these comments are generic in nature and posted by spambots – automated computer programs designed to assist in the sending of spam. 

Spambots create fake accounts and post spam comments using them.  It isn’t very hard identifying their work.  Their comments say things like, “I have searched the whole Internet and have found you.  You are the greatest writer… Your knowledge of this subject is amazing… Keep up the good work”.  Comment spam takes flattery to an all new level.  If allowed to go unchecked, comment spam can flood your website with irrelevant, meaningless content.  It can quickly become a full time job sorting through the spam comments and deleting them. So, how do you prevent spam comments from degrading the quality of your website and hijacking your time?

If you don’t want people commenting on your articles, the first thing to do is turn all comments off.  Log in to your dashboard, navigate to “Settings” and select “Discussion”.  At the top, under “Default Article Settings” make sure the box beside “Allow People to Post Comments on New Articles” is unchecked.  To be on the safe side, be sure both “A Comment is Held for Moderation” and “Comment Must Be Manually Approved” are checked (These two measures are critical to keeping things of an “ugly” nature from showing up on your website).  Save your settings below.  I try to remember to do these things with every website I build. 

If you do want certain sections of your website to allow comments, then you will have the option to check a box to allow comments that is located just under the page or post composition editor. 


Another means of slowing down comment spam is to install a captcha plugin which requires a person posting a comment to identify numbers in a graphic or do a simple math equation.  Typically, spambots are not sophisticated enough to successfully complete the captcha challenge.  Therefore, most comment spam is stopped dead in its tracks.  This is why I routinely install captcha programs with WordPress websites.


Another plugin that greatly reduces comment spam is Cookies for Comments.  This is a plugin used and recommended by Matt Cutts of Google.  This plugin adds a stylesheet or image to your blog’s html source code. When a browser loads that stylesheet or image a cookie is dropped. If that user then leaves a comment the cookie is checked. If it doesn’t exist the comment is marked as spam. The plugin can also check how long it took a user to enter a comment. If it’s too fast it’s probably a spam bot. After all, how fast can a legitimate user enter their name, email, web address and enter a well thought out comment?  You generally set this between 3-6 seconds. 


There is one more annoying element of spam comments:  fake “new user” registrations.  These new user notifications can flood your email inbox and before long you spend considerable time just deleting them.  I am currently experimenting with a plugin (Graphic Captcha) that is designed to require new users and anyone logging in to your website to complete a captcha.  On the website that I have installed it, it has completely shut down new user registrations.  If you would like me to install it on your website, let me know. 


There are other possible measures one can take to stop comment spam, but these seem to work pretty well.  There is always going to be an industrious spammer who finds a way to submit a comment, but if you have the option “Comment Must Be Manually Approved” selected, nothing inappropriate can be published to your website without your approval (short of malicious hacking).  If you find yourself experiencing any of these kind of problems, be sure to contact me and we will fix the issue ASAP.