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What’s the Deal with Spam?

There’s a certain parasite that infects every blog, no matter how big or small, no matter how prolific or deserted:…

Spam

Image courtesy of Flickr user AJ Cann.

There’s a certain parasite that infects every blog, no matter how big or small, no matter how prolific or deserted: spam comments. Spam will find you when you’ve barely begun blogging, and if you abandon your blog, spam will still be around long after you’ve left. Like roaches in a New York apartment, it’s simply a nuisance that everyone has to tolerate.

But also like roaches, some blogs have a worse infestation problem than others, and there are steps you can take to keep spam from reproducing and overrunning your comment section. 

All blogs hosted here at WordPress.com have the Akismet spam fighting service built in. Akismet automatically runs every comment, trackback, or pingback left on your site through hundreds of tests to ferret out the spam and send it directly into your spam folder, so that you don’t have to bother with it at all.

However, spammers are continually developing new ways to get around spam checks, so it’s likely that from time to time, a spam comment will still slip through. What to do?

First of all, learn to recognize spam. Spammers want to fool you, so it can be tricky sometimes to tell the real comments from the garbage. This article has some good tips for spotting spam comments. Basically, if a comment is vague and has nothing to do with your particular post, it’s probably spam. Also, does the username link to a real blog? If it links to a spam blog, then there’s your answer.

This is yet another reason why when commenting on other people’s blogs, it’s polite to include something specific to their post. Then they don’t have to spend time wondering if you’re a spammer.

Once you’ve decided a comment is spam, don’t approve it! Sometimes beginning bloggers think there’s no harm in approving benign-seeming spam comments — after all, it makes that comment count number go up, right?

Actually, if you approve spam comments, spammers will target your blog as an easy “in” which will lead to more spam. Plus, it’s rude to your real commenters if you give spammers equal space in your comment section. And finally, you are the company you keep: eventually, if Google notices a lot of spam on your site, it will assume your blog is spammy and your search rank will suffer.

Instead, you should mark the comment as spam:

Mark as spam

Akismet “learns” when you do this, and by marking spam that slips through, you can help teach it to recognize and flag those comments.

If you find that you’re having a particular problem with spam or other unwanted comments, there are a number of options in Settings→Discussion that will give you more control over who can comment. You can require that your commenters fill out their name and email, or that they be logged into WordPress.com to comment.

You can choose “An administrator must always approve the comment” if you want every comment on your site to be held in moderation, or “Comment author must have a previously approved comment” if you want to approve each commenter’s first comment:

Comment moderation

(Ben shared some thoughts about these particular commenting settings earlier on the Daily Post.)

Many times spammers will target older posts, with the assumption that those posts are not as carefully moderated, so you can choose to close comments on your posts once they reach a certain age:

Close comments

Finally, you can add certain terms, usernames, or IP addresses to the Comment Moderation text box (to hold any comment containing that text for moderation) or to the Comment Blacklist text box (to send it straight to spam):

Blacklist

Be aware, however, that those lists match internal terms, so for example, if you add the word “SEO” to your blacklist, any comment containing the word “Seoul” or “paseo” will also be caught.

Don’t be overly stringent with your commenting requirements — you want to keep spammers out, not real commenters! Personally, I’d rather have to moderate 10 spam comments than accidentally miss one real one, but that’s for every blogger to decide.

Luckily, all comments marked as spam are held for a time in your Spam folder, so you can glance in there occasionally if you’re afraid something valid might get flagged.

By following these simple steps, you can keep spammers from infesting your blog . . . and you won’t even need to hire an exterminator.

Has spam ever become more than a nuisance for you on your site? How did you deal with it? 

You might also enjoy these related posts:

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    1. Are you speaking of spam-followers? I’ve noticed some people simply follow your blog so that you would follow them back and drive up their numbers – they never actually comment on anything so it’s safe to assume they don’t read. Many of those are part of viral blogging platforms – if their blog promises you can make tons of money blogging you’ve found one of them and they earn commission of sorts for every new person they can get to take part in the scam – but I’ve noticed legit WP bloggers doing the same.

      1. I think some just reckon it’s good etiquette. I’ve noticed the same on Twitter as well. I’ve in fact had someone unfollow me when I didn’t follow them back, and a few weeks later the same person followed me again.

    2. Spam followers have become a real clutter source over the last year. I don’t even know how many actual subscribers I have, because many of them lead to strange blogs full of scraped garbage or blogs that have been shut down for violation of terms.

      It’d be fantastic if the spam user accounts got deleted as well… just sayin’. I’d like to be able to use the followers list to interact with real people, but I lose a ton of time digging through it to find them.

      1. It’d be awesome, then, if users were given the power to boot followers from our own blogs, especially given what some are saying about spam followers using the “like” button to try to generate click-throughs.

        We used to have the ability to unsub email followers, but that went away in late 2010 with the new follow system. The legit users really do want to fight the spam war, but fully adequate tools haven’t been built in to the follow system yet.

      2. The only problem with that would be if you manage to upset someone whose blog you really enjoy you can suddenly find yourself unsubscribed from that person’s blog (and with some bloggers upsetting them can be something as trivial as respectfully disagreeing with them). It could seriously damage the social aspect of blogging if following were dependant on a mutual approval model as on Facebook.

      3. Personally, my feeling is, if a person reacts easily over trivial things then I don’t need to pursue a conversation with them… IRL and online both, keeps my life a lot simpler. ;) And if they decide to dislike me that strongly I wouldn’t want to stay in their face, it’s not nice. So I’d still rather have the spam control.

    3. I used to follow back because I was followed but now I check out the blog that has followed me and on follow in return if it is something that I think I would enjoy.

      I think most of the people that have followed me haven’t commented, some haven’t even clicked like on anything I’ve posted so I assume that they do not read. I wish there was some kind of statistics available that showed you your followers and the number of times they have comments / liked a post. I think it would make interesting reading.

    4. All the blogs from Cuba do the same,they place you in spam whenever your comments are not agree with the Communist system , they give you the same treatment that they give to Cubans,they not allow comments against their ideas, they don’t like free press, but they use these free blogs for the regime’s politic propaganda .

  1. Spam – in English for me – are like horoscopes. They say something so general -”this post was really informative” – it could apply to anyone. Spam not in English, I don’t bother to translate. But they do go on and on.

  2. What I don’t understand is what the spammers hope to accomplish. Is there money in it for them? Do they hope to send a virus to your computer to then hack your information? And I have the same question as shoutabyss . . . why do some spammers follow our blogs?

      1. I don’t considerate myself a spammer, I do follow Cuban blogs (all are actually paid by the government)I follow Cuban blogs just to write the truth, they are trying to give a not true version of their system to the foreigners , the ones that live over there or use to live in Cuba knows very well .The people in Cuba wants a real change ,the people want real freedom they want to read all newspapers, ,see all TV stations,Independent unions,Real elections with more than one candidate

    1. If you click on the links they invariably contain they often take you to websites promising to drive traffic to your site for a small fee. I regularly get spam from people trying to sell medicine for kidney disease. I wonder if they know something I don’t ;-) I’ve not come across spam on WP so far that contained viruses or malware.

      As for spam-followers: many of them form part of viral blogging platforms – the blog-equivalent of a pyramid scheme. If you visit their site and end up subscribing to the scheme they make money out of it. You’ll instantly recognise them by their claims of making lots of money by blogging only a few minutes a day. It’s actually really funny to see a twenty-year-old describing how he worked in the corporate world for years before he got into this.

      Legit WP bloggers also spam-follow, unfortunately – they follow you merely hoping that you’ll follow them back but they never actually read your stuff.

  3. Thank you. I inadvertantly approved a couple of posts that turned out to be spam and haven’t figured out how to get rid of them. Also: what do you do when spammers “follow?” You can’t reject followers and I know I’ve got at least half a dozen spammers who are followers. Any suggestions?

  4. Good article. As some others have said above – why do some spammers follow your blog and like everything you post? As far as I can see there is no way of blocking ‘likes’ or is there?

  5. When I moderated two commenters, under “Comment moderation” rather than “Comment blacklist”, afterwards I found all their comments were in the spam folder. I found them irritating, but they were genuine bloggers not spammers. Another man who is combative on blogs he finds irrational but not a spammer ended up in my spam folder, but with him releasing one comment was enough to let him comment freely on my blog.

    1. I have always moderated my comments, I dont trust people after all the years in IT and spending hours righting wrongs done by bored teenages who have nothing better to do then being silly buggers. The most serious offenders I have gone through their ISP and had them banned. But for blogging switch your defence on so its moderated posts only and ignore the spammers they are not worth the hassle.

      1. If you moderate, you have a choose to allow it or delete it gefore it gets on publuc show. I never delete any post that is not spam, I know the difference betweennthe two, but moderating also allows you to moderate abusive or posts that contain foul language, you can also edit tjose posts by removing the foul language or replace it with a *
        People like you and I put a lot of hard work into our blogs so we have a right to protect it from spammers and those who would like to ruin it for everyone else.

      2. I know this, and I have deleted offensive comments, or let them stand believing that they discredit the writer’s views. I have also deleted where I could not be bothered continuing an argument.

        The thing is, though, these people are not spammers. I think of one, whose right wing opinions I find distasteful, whose attempts at writing I find silly, but who is a genuine blogger and not a spammer. I do not want him unable to comment on new blogs. Another is just at the edge of mainstream opinion, but, well, so am I in some people’s views, so I do not want him censored by a tool whose primary purpose is to bin links to counterfeit designer goods sales.

      3. I agree with you but if you use the antispam software or the one included in jetpack. The posts that are classed as spam go into the spam folder and then you can decide whether in your opinion its Spam and deal with as you seem fit. Everyone is given a fair trial and you get a spam free blog. :-)

    2. Hi Clare – did you delete or spam the comments? If you spam comments, Akismet will eventually “learn” that that person is a spammer, so if you want to remove (or not approve) comments that are not actually spam, you should just trash them instead.

      In the same way, if you notice non-spam comments in your Spam folder, marking them as ‘not spam’ will also ‘teach’ Akismet.

      1. I marked them as “not spam” repeatedly. It was very slow on the uptake. I know how it is supposed to work. I had never spammed Spookchristian’s or Quiavideruntoculi’s comments, only moderated them; and Arkenaten was in my spam folder though I had never even moderated him.

  6. Here is what spam commenters get – links back to their sites (or, more precisely the sites they are trying to promote). Their link may be in the text f the comment, but mostly it is in their profile link. The more times their comments appear in other blogs, the more times their link appears on the internet, the higher their ranking in search engines (they hope).

    Also, people click links. “Here is a helpful link! You should click it!” “Oh, really, let me check it out…” Sometimes it is difficult for people to tell when a link they are about to click is someplace they shouldn’t go. Pay per click schemes benefit from these clicks.

  7. Whenever I participate in the WP photo challenge, pingbacks start rolling in within minutes from bloggers I don’t recognize who (as far as I know) have NEVER visited or commented on SLTW.

    I clicked on a few of the links and saw String Pings with as many as 150 pingbacks.

    I decided to stop approving them UNLESS the blogger has commented on the post in question AND does more than create a cyber strand of links.

    1. I agree totally about pingbacks. About 1 in 20 might be someone who’s selected a few blogs to recommend. However, it’s not helping me to be no. 47 in a list of 120 on someone’s page. I’ve noticed that almost no one clicks on the pingbacks on my page… so it’s not helping them either. Sadly, with the edit process, it’s too easy to include ‘related articles’.

      1. I have one rule when it comes to pingbacks

        ‘no comment no pingbacks’

        If you can be bothered to leave a pingback, you should be able to leave a comment. I have the pingbacks moderated so there is no getting around it. Leaving just a pingback alone is rude and unpolite using my blog to promote theirs for free (without a comment) I have already upset a couple of people by removing there pingbacks and telling them why. I allow ping backs as long as ping backer leaves a comment. :-)

  8. Thanks – this is really helpful. I didn’t realize that by simply having their links appear, even if they aren’t clicked on, they will get a higher ranking in search engines. That explains it. It’s the followers that bug me. Since I got Freshly Pressed a few months back, I have no idea how many of my followers are real and how many are spammers, and there’s nothing I can do to have them un-follow anyway. So their links are there, like it or not.

    1. I have a similar issue with spam followers after being Freshly Pressed at the beginning of July. I am still getting 10-15 new “followers” a day, but my sight views, comments, and likes are staying consistent, which means only a few of those new followers are actually new readers. I know there are real readers mixed in with the spam followers, but it’s hard to tell the difference without individually clicking and visiting each link, which I don’t want to do.

    2. Same thing here. My follow spam peaked about five months ago, but I still get at least one or two a day, some of them tied to really spammy-sounding pages that I’m guessing violate the TOC. I’ve also been having problems with like button abuse – it’s a bit fishy when a 1500-word post gets likes within seconds of being posted, or when I receive a half-dozen likes on a post that’s a link to something I wrote elsewhere and no one clicks the link.

      I realize that it’s a consequence of WP being more interconnected than most platforms, but there has to be a way to disincentivize this sort of thing.

      1. If the link is in the first few words, it will also appear on the Read/following or read/tag pages. Often I click the link or play a video there, not on the blog itself. So not having a click does not mean it was not read, necessarily. But non-reading likes- well, they swell my likes, and I don’t need to click back.

  9. The best way to know whether to click or not, moderate all posts and if what you are reading does not fit in with your blog, delete, look at the username or email if it doesnt make sense, delete, if you feel uncomfy with it as first impressions tell, delete. If your not sure put into the spam folder until you can get help with it or till you have time to look at it properly
    You really have to just use common sense, we as humans are build with a survival instinct, you wouldn’t allow someone to convince you of something over the phone, at your door or via snail mail, yet you get caught out via email or blog.
    But don’t feel bad if you have been caught out, I did a afternoon talk to a room to some of Britains smartest people and it was hard work, they were smart but thick at the same time. Please if you have any questions please ask away or via email using my contact form on my blog. :-)

    1. Yes, but-

      as I was saying before, I want the spammers, with links to porn or drug-sales or whatever sites, but not the idiots, because I am an idiot to some.

      I moderated a Catholic, who posted that gays will go to hell, on my blog. Later he said some more constructive things, but kept getting sent to the spam folder even though I had included his user name under “Comment moderation” rather than “Comment blacklist”.

      This really bugs me, because
      oh well, I might as well come out with it-
      I write, no gays will not go to hell on conservative Christian blogs, and last year found that my comments were spammed. So I could not comment on any blog for four months unless they had commented on mine and I had their email address and could ask them to check their spam folder. My traffic went right down, and I could not connect with blogs with common interests. I noticed a Rationalist blogger, who said pungent things on Christian blogs, in my spam folder- he shows no respect to beliefs he finds ridiculous, but that is no reason to censor him.

      So, yes, get rid of the spam linkers, but not the idiots. Akismet filters out legitimate bloggers, even if it tends to be those of us with bees in our bonnets.

      1. Have you checked in your blog settings that the foul language settings have words which are being used by the good spammer so being rejected…..there are words I would never use together good and spammer. I look after a business blog for a outdoor clothing and equipmemnt company http://www.outdoor-action.com and they send me a list of items and I put them on. I had not been on for a few weeks and Akismet and listed 16 posts as spam, each one was a link away from the blog to another company that supposedly sold the same gear and outdoor action. Checking out one of the links the site was on a blacklisted site for fraud. The way the spam was written it made out that the spam site was owned by outdoor action. If I had not set the moderation on the whole thing could have landed OA in a legal wrangle because a site can be held lible for what they allow to be written on on their site. So with it being annoying, it can end you in a civil or even criminal court, even more so if the poster cannot be traced. So I would be extremely careful by allowing some spammers access to your blog.
        As for your earlier trouble I have more than one email address for just that reason, I have been on many forums over the years and you would be surprised how the older members have influences on the moderators and if they don’t like what you say they get you band. Then you just rejoin with your other email address lol. I think spammers were born in the bowels of forums.
        The moderation you did on the anti gay guy, I know he was wrong in his thinking as hell is not just the domain of gay people, straight people also can go to hell……. :-) but surely you should have left his comment as to allow debate on idiots, did God make them or do they learn the skill. :-)

        But back to being serious, you have to remember that WordPress software can only do so much, this is why its better to moderate all posts and separate the good spam from naughty spam. :-)

        I wish I would get more traffic, I try everything but I must just be boring, I have pretty picture taken by me and on my other one rainbow-photography.net :-)

    1. Unfortunately not and most of them are on self-hosted sites so you can’t even report them to WP. Best thing is to just ignore them and brag about all the new followers you’re getting ;-)

      At least they never leave snarky comments on your posts as, after the initial follow, they’re highly unlikely to ever visit your blog again.

  10. After reading through all of the comments, it sounds like we could use some information on how these scammers make money (more detailed information) and who they are (AWOL? guvsource? any others?). Also, I am wondering why pingbacks are allowed. They seem lazy and spammish to me. But, I know I probably just don’t have a good understanding of their purpose yet. Thanks for the information you did provide!

    1. There are a few ways that the spammers work, most are just bored teenagers who enjoy winding people up or people who have a mental illness…… yes I am serious….Then we get those who are ‘employed’ by companies that employ people to post links, if you look at many email address of spammers and the may look like ddfres@ghgf.com many sites dont allow to post without email addresses so they make them up. The thing is that the people who are employed to spam, don’t pay so the spammers get spammed themselves. Then you have far eastern companies, like the one who is spamming at the moment trying to tell us that they sell wonderfull health giving pills, the email address is like the previous mentioned but there is a link to a wonderful website which you can order from with the ability to contact them via a form and live chat which gives you a telephone number. So you order and you never see anything or the pills contain talc or worse. These sites may seem innocent but the people behind them are funding large scale drug gangs, terrorism, people trafficking.
      So some spamming are from innocent idiots and some are from seriously dangerous people. Currently I am getting 2 to 3 emails a day from what seems like real companies telling me that they have forms for me or a delivery needed to be sent to me and I need to send them the attached form filled in the all contain a zip file, which is the most convenient way to send a virus to get through the antivirus. Now the email is coming to my logging email address, which no company has, no delivery company has, next I am not dealing with anyone about anything with my blogging address. I have one personal address which I use for all my personal and business needs.
      So think before you click, before you reply, before you open. Do not reply to spammers or any emails that you don’t trust. Don’t put your email address in punlic view as there are bits of software called email havesters which troll the net collecting exposed email addresses and after they have collected tens of thousands they are sold to a company who then send out the spam to hook you in. Last type is Phising, were emails are sent to random addresses saying thatbthere has been a security issue with your bank and variations along those lines, they look very real, there is a link taking you to the banks site, but in fact a mock up asking for all your banking details. Three things to check, if there is not a padlocks either in the address bar or the status at the bottom, the webaddress doesnt look like or you don’t recognise and thirdly looking at the general layout if they ask for personal details such as pin numbers or password along with everything else don’t do it. If you are still unsure phone your bank. Common sense.

    2. Pingbacks are helpful in that they let you know when someone is linking to you and discussing your work on their own blog. However, like comments, sometimes a pingback isn’t very substantial. You can moderate individual pingbacks in the same way you can comments and you can also turn off pingbacks altogether if you don’t find them useful. More about this here.

  11. I (sort of) get the spamming thing. And WordPress does a bang up job of eliminating most of it. However, what’s the deal with blogs that contain only re-blogs? Are these real people? Sometimes I’ll follow a like back to a blog that appears to be a messy soup of posts from the rest of us. Why do that?

    1. Personally I use a Reblog blogs (cjmoseley.wordpress.com. Cjmoseley.tumblr.com) to feed my actual blog (cjmoseley.com), where I post my actual content (and where I want real non-spammy comments and followers).
      This is because my real blog is a wordpress.org site and so it can’t directly Reblog from either.
      That will probably not be the case for everyone of the reblog only sites though.
      (C:

  12. Spam is irritating, although some are pretty funny. I wrote a post about Wunderkammer (a show at the Fringe past) and I received a comment about George Osborne’s cut to child benefits. Some are definitely more obvious than others.

    One I’m not understanding is the motivational-style bloggers. Like others are saying, some are genuine, but for the most part I’m not getting the point. The internet’s a weird and wonderful place.

  13. Every now and then I’ll get one that says “You have some interestings thoughts and insights that are very like me. We have very in commons Check me out.”
    Yeah, just the kind of blog I’d like to follow.

  14. So far I’ve found it pretty easy to get rid of unwanted comments – but what I don’t find so easy is getting rid of unwanted followers who are obviously into adult content and worse… By the way thanks for all this good advice.

  15. Akismet does a great job of sending spam to the spam folder.

    I check it occasionally and sometimes use the funnier spam to write a blog post from “Shakespeare, the Spam-Chimp” in which I have arguments with the spammers. It’s fun, especially when I haven’t blogged in a while and need something easy to get the writing flowing again.

  16. One suggestion I’d like to make regarding spam is that you should go in and look at the comments Askimet has caught and sent to your spam folder. Occasionally I’ve found legitimate comments that have been filtered out as spam. It doesn’t happen often, but it has happened often enough that I check at least once a week before I delete them all. The last thing I want is a comment from one of my subscribers to not be read and replied to.

      1. What’s really odd is that on very rare occasions someone who has previously commented on my blog, therefore being approved for future comments without moderation, will get picked up by Askimet.

  17. I’ve rarely had Askimet miss a spam comment, though it has on one occasion marked something legit as spam. Either way, Askimet is a life-saver; I don’t even have to think about spam, I just head over to the spam page every few days and hit delete!

  18. What do you do of the spam is always going to one specific post. This has been happening for the last several months and it
    Is always the same post. I always spam it and the attacks come from different spammers. Any thoughts?

  19. Great post! I haven’t dealt with spammers on my blog site but I guess that’s because it’s pretty new, but I’ve definitely dealt with them in other accounts like Vine, in which I actually ended up deleting the accounts because all the comments I would get were spam. IT WAS RIDICULOUS!
    So, I’m actually glad that I’m not dealing with them right now but Akismet will definitely become my new best friend!

  20. Frankly when I saw this post my first thought was of the Spam scene from Monty Python’s Flying Circus. HA!!! I know you might not have intended it that way, but thanks for the laugh. I needed it today.

    In response to your post, spam is a cheap way to advertise. Most companies are pulling out of sending junk mail with snail-mail because it’s not as cost efficient as having a computer shoot out thousands of ads at a moments notice. Also it’s an easy way for hackers and data thieves to gain access to someone’s computer. You click on the spam message and it releases a virus which copies your key information and sends it back to whoever sent the message. At least I think that’s the deal with spam.

  21. I am a new blogger to word press and have got a few comments (one in Japanese) in my spam folder. This post has helped me understand a little more about spam, so thank you for sharing this

  22. I’ve been asking the “What’s the deal with spam?” question ever since I started my blog. I have a couple of posts on my blog that get way more comment spam than other posts. I wish I could figure out why they have been singled out. Thankfully, I learned a lot of the tricks you’ve mentioned here fairly early on; but I rarely get a lot of comments on my blog anyway. Great post!

  23. Thanks for this. I’ve noticed the same situation that many others have commented on: the spam followers. I get 5 – 10 new followers per day, and most are foreign-language or “make money” scams. I know it’s harmless, but it’s also discouraging to realize that I can’t look at my number of followers as an accomplishment. I’d rather have zero followers than 400 who are just spammers.

  24. I find a get a lot of spam comments that are not even in English, often Chinese (I think) and therefore have no idea what they are saying. Then I get the ones offering me higher ranks and SEO etc plus a load of babble which makes no sense at all

  25. I wish akismet was also used on the survey form thing, I forget the proper name, but it’s the one which shows up under the feedback section of comments. I put up a silly survey thing using it after reading how to do it on one of your posts and as well as the responses I wanted I keep getting disgusting spam ones of an unpleasant sexual nature. I report each time as spam and I asked on the forums but all the response I got was that it happens to everyone. I find it quite distressing and regret putting it up. Every time I get one I think I should take it down, but I would rather not as the real responses I got amused me. It makes me very glad akismet filters that sort of thing from the regular comments!

  26. I would like to see more tools in WP to determine who are the spam followers. and then have the ability to remove those followers from your list so you can see a more accurate indication of how many followers you have… It would also be nice to see how many like/comments you have from your followers.

  27. I would estimate that 99% of my spam is caught and stuffed in the Askimet trash bucket.
    Those that do get through are apparently written by someone who does not speak English, or their post was run through Google Translate. Some of them are just hilarious to read. I never approve any of these messages.

  28. Spam seems to be a necessary evil in the world of the Internet. Most out there trying to earn money from some idiotic affiliate program never take the time, nor make the effort to actually LEARN how to advertise and market. All they want to do is spam their crap out there.

    Spammers are not needed, and NOT wanted. Go away!