Don’t Let the Spammers Win

How to Identify Spam Comments Submitted to Your Website

I’ve written several posts about blog spam, but most have been light-hearted ditties turning spam comments I’ve received into silly poems. So today, let’s take a more serious look at comment spam, to help you keep it from getting posted on your organization’s website.

Even if your readers have to fill out a captcha form to submit comments, you’ll still get spam submitted. And even with the best anti-spam plugin around (I absolutely swear by Akismet for this, by the way), it’s still possible that an occasional spam comment will sneak through the filter. So you’ll want to be able to recognize spam and take it down. And if you think you can beat the spammers by holding comments for approval before they post, think again. You’ll still need to know how to identify the spam. (By the way, I really don’t advise people or organizations to require moderation before posting comments; doing so can disappoint people who expect to see their comments post immediately and also discourage lively conversation on your blog.)

So how do you know if a comment is spam?

Usually there are some tell-tale signs:

  • It’s completely off topic, unrelated to the content of your blog post. Sometimes this is really obvious – for example, comments about designer handbags or watches on a post about the work you did that day. But quite often it’s more subtle – a comment about search engine optimization, for example, on a post about email. If the comment doesn’t clearly reference the content about your post, be suspicious. Here’s one of my recent ones (not one of the most subtle), with the linking URL hidden:
  • The comment lists names of retail products, usually with links either in the body of the comment or attached with the user’s name. Here’s an example:
  • The content is very vaguely worded praise. For example:
  • It contains foreign characters and/or extremely badly written English, usually in combination with links (one or more) either in the body of the comment itself or attached to the user’s name. For example:

As a general rule, if it looks or feels like it isn’t a legitimate comment, it probably isn’t. Not sure? One option is to remove any linking URL from the commenter’s profile, to prevent the comment from linking back to a spammer’s website, and let it through. If you want to be more thorough in your investigation, you can use an IP lookup service such as to check the IP address from which the comment was submitted. I’ve traced spam comments back to marketing pay-per-click vendors this way; it’s actually kind of fun.

Do you have other suggestions? Please share in the comments.

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