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.
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.
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