Blog Spam: The TP-ing of the Internet
Last week, I discussed what to do when you realize your website has been hacked. Less sophisticated, but almost as spooky, is spammers posting links to cheap Rolex sites and Viagra stores in the comment section on your blog. Think of blog spammers like teenagers toilet-papering your house on Halloween. Sure, there are worse things that could happen to your home (for instance, finding graffiti on your fence), but you still need to clean up the TP as soon as you can because you don’t want visitors to think no one is taking care of the place. You should take care of your website in the same way.
Here are some ways to avoid falling victim:
- Use Akismet: Akismet is a plugin for the WordPress system that automatically filters out spam comments into a spam folder. Keep in mind that you will need to check the spam folder periodically because legitimate comments get flagged as spam occasionally. You can mark them as non-spam and approve them to be posted on your blog.
- Moderate comments: If you do not have a robust audience that regularly comments, change your settings in WordPress to require administrator approval before publishing comments from first-timers. (Go to your WordPress dashboard > Settings > Discussion. Under the Before a Comment Appears section, check the box for comment author must have previous approved comment.) You still should keep an eye on previously approved commenters because many spammers know the system and will leave appropriate comments at first, then post spam once they have been approved. But using this setting is an easy way to catch some spam.
- Turn off comments after 30-60 days: SEO spammers target blog posts with high PageRank. It turns out that most blogs only gain PageRank after a few months though, so turning off comments before you get there keeps your blog from being targeted. Typically, the height of popularity for a blog post is within the first two weeks of publication anyway. That’s when the majority of comments will be posted too. So, shutting down comments after a month or two shouldn’t block quality comments from appearing. (Go to your WordPress dashboard > Settings > Discussion. Under the Other Comment Settings section, check the option to automatically close comments on articles older than __ days and fill in the number of days you want comments to be open.)
If blog spammers attack your blog, just be grateful that you aren’t Steve McQueen being attacked by The Blob (I mean, what could be scarier than an alien resembling a giant blob of jelly that consumes everything in its path? It eats you alive!). Fortunately, avoiding becoming the victim of blog spam is a lot easier than avoiding the indestructible Blob.