SIERRA MADRE, CA - MAY 29:  Spam, the often-ma...

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I post something on my Biznology blog each day, and we've got a lot of subscribers so we get a fair number of comments. And I check each and every comment before it is posted, so that I'm not littering the blog with spam comments. But I am finding myself challenged by deciding just what is and is not spam. If you run a blog, I wonder if this has ever happened to you, too.

For those of you that are unaware, search spammers love to target unsuspecting blogs with comments that link back to their sites to try to improve their search rankings. So blogging software has implemented the same kind of anti-spam techniques that e-mail programs have, with the same limited success.

Some blogs use captchas or challenge questions (mine goes that route) to reduce the success of automated spamming software. Some bloggers have implemented a "nofollow" attribute on their comment links to eliminate the benefit of links, but I think that's unfair to the legitimate commenters who deserve the links, so I haven't done that.

But even with what I've done, I still get lots of questionable comments for my approval. Let me show you a smattering of them. These are all real comments that I had to decide what to do with. I'm finding it harder and harder to know what to do with some of them.

What do you do if someone just types, "nice post"? I've decided that it is probably automated spam and I mark it so. So if a few of you liked one of our posts and I made you a spammer, I'm sorry. Next time, say something substantive.

I also mark it spam if someone enters a blatant product pitch with uncertain relevance to the post, such as "if you want to buy the runescape gold or runescape money I think we certainly can satisfy your request.Your choice is our service." (I removed the links before displaying the comment here.)

But a low-key pitch that is on-topic I usually let go, such as this comment on a post about hosting blogs with a link to a Web development company: "Great article post...as of this time.. there are many hosting companies that can choose from. and if you wish to have it free...there are some of them offer a free hosting services." Would you have had a different opinion if that same comment had a link to a hosting company? Or if it had a link inside the comment as well as from the name? Do you just edit out the links and post the comment?

What if the comment is nasty and clueless but somewhat on topic? Here is a comment I got on a post about PR people spamming journalists: "People on the internet do. Journalists in the vast majority are nothing more than worthless distractions to readers, and useful propagandists to whoever feeds them their information." I decided to publish this one, but maybe it is just a clever ranting automated spammer.

If a comment is stupid, short, or dumb, that doesn't make it spam, does it? Now I know that it might be a spammer doing those things, but I am concerned that I might be insulting someone by not publishing their response, and even more concerned that I am tarring them as a spammer unfairly by pressing that spam button.

Maybe I am being too black and white about this, because I tend to either mark comments as spam or publish them. Perhaps I should simply ignore some comments and not publish them, without marking them as spam. It's a middle ground that will make my decision making even more complex, however—three choices instead of two—so I've shied away in the interest of time management.

I wondered if even writing this article is an invitation to spammers to send me short inane comments because I might publish them.

I'd like to hear from you. What do you bloggers do with these kinds of comment decisions? Am I being too lenient? Too strict? I don't want to help spammers but I certainly don't want to punish my loyal readers unfairly. Suggestions are very welcome.

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June 23, 2009





Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, text analytics, and web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.

Mike's previous appearances include Text Analytics World, Rutgers Business School, SEMRush webinar, ClickZ Live.

Mike also founded and writes for Biznology, is the co-author of Outside-In Marketing (with James Mathewson) and the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (now in its 3rd edition, and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.






Comments(31)

I co-author our company blog which is in a very targeted niche, so we don't have a huge readership. Comment spam is definitely an issue even for me. I would say I approve around 25% of the comments that come our way. It is a fine line, but I err on the side of being too strict. If I think there is the possibility of spam I delete it. I may delete some people who are not spammers but if anyone says anything relevant that adds to the discourse and conversation I leave it in. I always check the URL to see if it is a legitimate blog or website. Being a company blog, I would rather be more strict than allow spammers to have their way.

I write a professional blog, and I have a very small readership so far. But Even I get spam. I would say that my percentage is about the same as Peter's, and i approve about 25% of comments.

I don't worry about it. I set clear guidelines that state that if you have a question, (about the topic) or say something substantive, (again about the topic) then I will publish the comment. Otherwise it will not be published. So all of the "Nice posts" comments are deleted. This is not facebook or myspace, only on topic contents gets on the page, even mine.

I always check the links in the name to see where they're going. If someone posts just a simple "nice article" and I see it goes to a legitimate website or blog, I don't delete it.

My blog is a Wordpress blog so it automatically filters the automated spam.

My position is, if anyone took the time to read my post, and even if all they had to say is "nice article" that's enough for me to let it stay.

SEO, linking, spamming is a big, big industry. It may be a nuisance but for a product owner, it is deemed important in trying to be relevant, current and out there. It also is being developed on a regular manner so it is every changing and dynamic.

Wow, you should see all the great content at http://www.biznology.com check it out!

... was that too spammy? in some sites it would be.

I err on the side of leniency for my blogs, but don't hesitate to be strict with a comment if it is too spammy.

What we need is a little widget for our blogs which would post "comments for review" and let visitors vote on which ones are legit and which aren't. Crowdsource the spam control.

That would be particularly useful if the voting mechanism was linked across sites so that a commenter db was kept which could be queried to block commenters who had a poor rating. (And "poor rating" would be a variable level defined by the subscriber to the service.)

We have the technology. Just not the motivation, but the more that people/orgs adopt blogging the market will be there.

Your post made me smile.

I have the same problem, and am finding that the majority of my comments are now falling into what I would consider "blog spam". Aside from the regular spam filtering of Wordpress Akismet, everything else is manually approved, so like you, if the comment isn't substantive in nature, it's out.

All my links are "do follow", so those with real problems, add to the story, or spur a discussion are awarded with that little bit of link juice. Much of what I'm seeing nowadays are what I would call "aggregator" sites that simply copy portions of a post and trackback, also meaningless.

C'est la via, I guess.

I would never build a blog without some kind of captcha facility. It's become an absolute essential.

I learned this lesson after building my daughter a wordpress blog and within days it was littered with spam comments.

However, I would never put in 'no follow' tags on comments because UGC is vital for most of my web projects and I insist that there should be at least a small incentive to making a comment.

Happy hunting,
Karl

You also have to look out for blog commenting services. People paid to post comments on blogs. I figure if you approve too many of these you encourage them to keep doing it.

Thanks for the feedback, Karl.

I've got a challenge question on my blog (like Search Engine Guide does), but I've shied away from an actual capcha where you are typing in the letters in an image, because I find them too annoying. I know that I sometimes don't comment on blogs that require a capcha and I don't want to discourage real comments.

I agree with you completely on nofollow being a real disincentive for real comments.

Hi Brent,

I have heard about blog commenting services but have no idea how to spot those kinds of comments. I tend to dump things that are really simple and off-topic, but should I be more aggressive? What do you do?

Mike,

Depending on the blog platform that you are using, you may have different opions. I use WordPress, and there is a plugin called Akismet that is pretty good at spotting and nabing spam posts.

I know there are many other options. Mostly it depends on your style and activity level you have on your blog as a moderator, and what you are comfortable doing.

Everybody who comments has an agenda: a reason to comment.
A hidden agenda or a very obvious agenda.

One of the reasons is to attract visitors to their website.
What works to get clicks:
a) Controversial comments
b) Plain straight forward advertsing comments

Of course we never do this ;)

We have a regular commenter that goes by Hanna @...... She represent a wide variety of companies from web hosting to manufacturing. She uses the same first name and the same email address. So she is easy to spot. I don't mind providing a link as long as she is relevant to the conversation, but often she is not.

It was been our experience that these spammers use the email address and that how I often catch them... However, it can be tough. Lately, I have seen some really great comments being used on specific topics such as Do Follow links. I have even approved these comments to have the same comment appear the next day.

We always check the site that we are linking to this also helps a lot.

Interesting subject. As a relatively new blogger (marnsmarket.wordpress.com) I am trying to get a feel for the "right" balance when I comment. I do read many blogs, and enjoy participating in discussions. At the same time, I admit that I AM proud of my blog, and would like to interest people in checking it out themselves. It's not the REASON for my comment, but I would hope if someone LIKES my comment, they will be inspired to read more from me.

SO....if I reference a post on my blog that is relevant to the discussion, does that brand me as having that as an agenda and discredit my comment?

By the way, on a company blog I used to post for (the B2B Marketing Blog at Proteus B2B Marketing) we would occasionally get those ridiculously obvious spam posts. It was downright fun to ignore those.....

nice post.

jk!

The internet is fun that way, that people can post whatever they want in a comment post. But ignoring short/dumb posts is just censorship...

It reminds me of the movies in the 1960's in Russia, where censorship ruled, so the guy added some stupid segments just so there would be something to censor, so the next episode, or in this case maybe, the next post, would not look so stupid and You, the blog owner will decide to post it anyway. Thus i get my opinion across.

Cheers

Hi
I write a regular blog and regularly receive what may or may not be spam comments. My rule of thumb is to publish if they are making some kind of thoughtful, relevant comment and delete them if they are simply making a comment that doesn't carry the debate any further, like 'nice blog' or whatever. I don't mind whether the comments are pro or anti but I see no poiint in wasting my readers' time with inanities, spam or not. At the end of the day, it is my blog.
P.S. The Engago Team may be surprised but I have no hidden agenda. This is simply a comment on something I happened to be interested in. More fool me you may say but I haven't even included my URL.

For me, one of the killers of some comments is when people use obvious keyphrases as their name. Even if the comment is relevant and tailored just to my post, if their "name" is stuffed with keywords, I will often regard it as spam.

If the blog post is about how to get better rankings in Google, and the comment poster uses "cheap laptop memory" as their user name, they are just trying to get links, and not commenting solely based on the original blog post - hence, their comment probably will be deleted by me.

Its really a case by case thing though, but stuffing key phrases into the name field, irks me.

When I comment on a blog I try to make it relevant to the blog subject and add something to the conversation, and if I can I ask questions. I never post one word replies or a small sentence because it just isn't worth it.

Well I really face the same problem with my blogs. It may depends on the platform of service. Most people use Wordpress as I do and it has good options to identify spam.
The same issue can involve the degree of your live activity with eh blog as well. I used to delete coments I recieve bit irrellivent and does not consists substative stuff in it.

I


I write a blog too and I haven't been spammed yet. I've received two comments so far; after the first one I called three people I was so excited. Now I just get a kick out of writing about randomness.

Thanks for the blog; I've heard about blog spamming but didn't really know what it meant, so I've been careful to only comment on blogs when I really have something to say.

I've been considered as a spammer few times asking something irrelevant from a blogger. Off-topic, yes. But not for just linking. It was a really upsetting.

But in my own blog I'm really strict and I delete all questionable comments in a blink of an eye. I have 'do follow' blog and I do not need any link weight to be divided between some doubtful and irrelevant comments.

i change my blog dofollow become nofollow.. and activate my anti spam plugin and its works. i got no spammer anymore in my blog

Well I really face the same problem with my blogs. It may depends on the platform of service. Most people use Wordpress as I do and it has good options to identify spam.
The same issue can involve the degree of your live activity with eh blog as well. I used to delete coments I recieve bit irrellivent and does not consists substative stuff in it.

I

It sounds to me like you're being way to harsh. Many of those people don't deserve to be marked as 'SPAM.' You should simple delete their comments.

Most people, in my opinion, don't understand what SPAM really is. Of course, I understand that everyone has their own opinion, which they are entitled to. Along those lines, I consider SPAM to be 30 links to WOW gold or such with not a single credible word contributing toward the discussion. SPAM is NOT a comment that is self-promotional. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, who is commenting on a site has a motive for doing so. You can't expect someone to write great content for you (in the form of a comment) and not provide a return. Some commenters are just better at masking their motives then others.

I can't tell you how many blogs I see that have little or no comments. The blog looks dead. And why? Because their moderating their comments with a stiff arm. And consequently, there's no conversation going on. Just look at this page as an example. Every comment is from people in the industry, and I would say most, if not all, are looking to promote their business in some way, just as I am. And more power to the page! It has a PR 3 and I'm sure it probably ranks for some keyword phrase. This is pretty common from what I've seen--many pages that have many comments seem to do well in the search engines. So you may want to consider the positive effect of all those comments too, whether you deem them intelligent or not.

Opinion of every person is very important while commenting a blog..Honesty is the best policy, that's what I'm doing right now..It may depends on a platform services..

Ha. That's surely a major question. I mean if you think about it so many people looking for things like SEO optimization, backlinks, anything simply go to random blogs, read through the article and then post a comment that sounds somewhat relevant.

Believe me, I read through your entire article. You make a very valid point. I mean what if someone types something that is totally on topic, but just out of the blue? Like someone commenting to something relating to mp3 players saying, "I love the touch screen mp3 players". Now obviously if a link is there, they would be considered spammers... but what if they had a lot of knowledge about mp3 players and just like a websites that relate to mp3 players?

Get's your mind thinking for sure xD

P.S. I have received over 100+ spam messages in 2 weeks on my motorcycle website.. so I understand where you're coming from.

Your method of determining spam comments quite effective, but, in my opinion, requires much time and effort to check every comment.
But, unfortunately, if you do not want to blog has become a cesspool, you have to work hard.

Sad but true, Aleksey. If anyone has an easier way to keep their blog comments clean, I'd love to hear it.

Hi. I have often had the same spam dilema as you with my blog. Spammers seem to be more clever nowadays, for instance targeting certain keywords with particular comments. They can target blogs with the word 'tutorial' in the title and leave a spam comment like 'thanks! great tutorial' - which makes them much harder to seperate from legitimate comments.

My advice in this situation is always to look at the commenter's URL, if someone leaves a fairly generic comment and the URL seems to be a spam blog, etc. then I dont publish it.

I also use Askimet which blocks thousands of spam comments automatically...

I also encounter this problem in my blog. Everyday, I got 3 - 5 spam comments that really annoys me.

This time, I want to block their IP's so their comment won't be publish on my blog post.

Some of the spammers are those medical products, insurance and others. I hope this people would feel shame to themselves.

I am just curious, are those spam comments are robot made comments?

- Felix

Felix, I think some of them are robots, but others are lowly-paid workers that churn them out all day.

Either way, they are annoying and I think that they are less and less useful even to the spammers. But even though it works less and less each year, I am not sure the spammers know what else to do, so many of them keep at it, slathering more and more spam links are in an attempt to stay afloat.

Comments closed after 30 days to combat spam.


Search Engine Guide > Mike Moran > Just what constitutes a spam blog comment?