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What Will Stop Comment Spam?

What Will Stop Comment Spam?

There is a growing movement to put the “follow” back into blog comment links instead of the nofollow attribute. The reason behind this move is to encourage readers to comment by rewarding their links with SEO credits.

The idea behind the nofollow technique was to take away all the “link juice” comment spammers wanted, thus encouraging them to stop spamming. Google introduced the nofollow tag to discourage comment spam from flooding their search indexes, and blogging programs added it to avoid being penalized and jump on the anti-comment spam bandwagon. and many blogging programs and forums added a nofollow by default for all links within comment areas. This instructed search engines not to follow the link as they crawled the page, taking away the credit search engine page rank gives to incoming and outgoing links. Recently, while late to the party, in an effort to discourage comment spam, Wikipedia has added nofollow to their outgoing links.

As good as the intention was, nofollow didn’t work then, and it won’t work now.

As many serious bloggers started realizing that their blog comments were also being penalized along, grouped as they were with evil comment spammers, a small backlash ensued. Protesting against the nofollow, the No NoFollow group and other bloggers spread the word on the SEO-killing aspect of the nofollow and encouraged bloggers to stop using nofollow. No nofollow WordPress Plugins that removes the nofollow from WordPress blog comments started appearing, as well as WordPress Plugins to include nofollow.

As bloggers debated the issue, including some bloggers taking a public stand on the nofollow issue, declaring their blogs to be “nofollow free”, the death toll is ringing on the nofollow issue.

It didn’t work then, and it isn’t working now.

As more and more bloggers removed the nofollow feature on their blogs, they wanted people to know that they were “good bloggers” and that leaving comments on their blogs meant the commenter would be rewarded with a link back to their site and to whatever sites they linked to in their comments. Many thought that this would free some bond restricting people from commenting on their blogs by offering a reward with a link credit.

This also doesn’t work.

Honestly, do you debate over whether or not to comment on a blog based upon whether or not the blog uses nofollow? Do you only seek out blogs which don’t use nofollow and comment only there? Unless it is publicly plastered near the comment form area, how would you even know? People are going to comment whether or not you use nofollow. A nofollow reward really doesn’t influence them. Does it really influence you to comment?

If it did influence people to comment, then why aren’t we all announcing it in order to get more comments on our blogs? Because our readers really don’t care one way or the other. If they want to comment, they’ll comment.

Still, the the issue here is stopping comment spam. And so far, nofollow isn’t working. So why bother?

What Are Bloggers Doing to Stop Comment Spam

Bloggers have resorted to a wide range of techniques to stop comment spammers. These make many feel great because they work initially, but over the long term, you and your readers are the only ones punished. In addition to the nofollow issue, some of these include:

  • Stopping all comments: This is pretty drastic and certainly stops comments, but takes away one of the biggest reasons to have a blog.
  • Make readers jump through hoops to comment: If you test the person leaving a comment, and they answer correctly, they must be human. Not. CAPTCHAs and other torture tests don’t work. Some comment spam bots can break through easily, hammering away at the post and your database whether or not they can get through. And human comment spammers certainly know how to add up 3+1.
  • Require registration: Many believe that by requiring registration for comments, comment spammers are stopped because they can’t get past the registration access. Not true. There are some sophisticated comment spam bots out there that are experts at breaking registration and password requirements. With the arrival of human comment spammers, bypassing registration is easy.
  • Strip links from comments: By removing all links, you totally take the “link juice” out of comments, right? This doesn’t stop comment spammers. I’ve found blogs which use this technique stuffed with horrible comment spam. No links, but still announcements of sex, porn, and casinos flood their comments. The only ones hurt by this technique are those who want to recommend a site or make a point with a link in the comments. Comment spammers continue to flood obliviously to whether or not their spam links work.
  • Rename the comments template file: This was a hot technique a couple years ago. It’s a temporary fix, though. Comment spammers find the new template file and the onslaught begins again.
  • Separating comments to another page: Comment spammers find comments no matter how far they are separated from the post. The problem with this technique is that your readers have to click through to even see the comments, and click back to read the post, and back to the comments, and back to the post, and…it doesn’t work for anyone.

It often feels like there is a new gimmick out every other week guaranteed to stop comment spam on your blog. People swear by them, but they only test them for a couple weeks before making the proclamation. Ask them if it still works three months from now.

Then ask them what their readers and potential commenters think about their new comment spam stopping technique.

Anything that gets between your blog and the reader and commenter hurts your blog and does nothing to stop comment spam.

What Works to Stop Comment Spam on Blogs?

The only thing working currently is using an effective comment spam fighting program behind the scenes such as . There are a variety of other good comment spam fighting plugins and add-ons that also work, but Akismet is currently the most popular and is available for a variety of different blog and forum programs.

Akismet works with the notion of a community of comment spam fighters: bloggers and forum users. If we all work together to mark which comments are comment spam, and the information is passed on to a central database, the comment spam you mark today will be prevented on my blog tomorrow.

When you make comment spam monitoring and marking part of your daily blogging routine, you help everyone benefit by stopping all the new types of comment spam as it arrives. Comment spammers are devious, always coming up with new ways to try to slip by the filters with their comments and trackback spam.

Have respect for your readers so they aren’t assaulted by comment spam on your blog. Care enough to keep your blog comment spam free?

Is there anything else you can do?

What Will Stop Comment Spammers?

All bloggers can do is trap and prevent comment spam from releasing on their blogs and forums. None of these techniques actually stop comment spam. According to recent statistics, spam via email and blog comment spam represents over 90% of all Internet traffic. According to Akismet comment spam statistics for blogs:

As of February 27, 2007
804,559,720 spams caught so far
6,909,637 so far today
95% of all comments are spam

Comment spam has risen dramatically within the past six months. Our blogs are flooded with comment spam and hammered by spam bots not because our blogging programs can’t handle it, but because there is more comment spam attacks out there than ever before. It’s not stopping. It’s growing.

Comment spammers are obviously making money because many are opening up warehouse factories of human comment spammers in low income and third world countries to spam the world.

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Someone’s paying them.

Someone’s paying them and someone’s making money from this. The key to stopping them is to stop the flow of money.

Since Akismet and the blogosphere is taking the fight seriously to stop comment spam from clogging their blogs, aren’t comment spammers paying attention? Don’t they understand that their messages aren’t getting through?

Ah, but they are. Most blogs do not have any form of comment stopping feature. There are millions of defunct blogs sitting on the web right now with no human nor machine to clean out the comment spam. Comment spammers are getting exposure because we are lazy and give up too easily.

If you have a defunct blog, or have ignored yours for too long, go in and clean out the comment spam. At the least, remove all capability to leave comments. Ask the host for help if you don’t know how. At the most, delete the blog. Don’t let comment spammers make money off your blog, whether or not you do.

Put pressure on the business world to not use comment spam as a method of advertising. Make it an ugly technique. Ask yourself, would you do business with a comment spammer? Find out if the company you work for or with uses comment spam for their advertising methods and let them know you think this is an abusive and underhanded method.

Let your opinion be known, even if you support comment spam. Let’s publicly debate about the value of comment spam to get the news out across the blogosphere. Together, we can use our collective voices to let our message ring out, so maybe comment spammers might hear us. They certainly aren’t listening now.

We need to put an end to comment spam. But how? The battle is being fought in the blogosphere but we need to move the front to the businesses so they can get on the defensive. And lose money. Let’s hit them in the wallet. But how?


Lorelle VanFossen blogs about blogging and WordPress on .

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View Comments (27)
  • I never saw nofollow as a tool to stop comment spam from appearing on blogs. I saw it as a way to keep comment spam from tainting search engine results.

    That would explain why Google was so eager to support it.

  • I use a captcha to help with comment spam and things have gotten better. When the human spammers drop by I make sure I delete their “comments”.

    One trend I try to discourage is bloggers using ‘signatures”. For example: Leon – Big Blog Directory [link]. I see this in forums and it is okay there but it isn’t needed in comments and is too similar to comment spam.

  • I’ve noticed on one of my blogs that the comment spammers using automated commenting are using only a few of my old posts as the referrer. So I turned comments and trackbacks off on those posts, and then add those ip addresses to the firewall (iptables). That has helped immensely. I may end up blocking most of Asia, since many many IP addresses are in China and Korea.

    I use Akismet and Comment Timeout. Bad Behavior helped a bit, but I got several reports from real people being blocked.

  • Akismet has been a lifesaver so far, haven’t had to resort to CAPTCHA yet, hopefully it doesn’t come to that.

  • I’m not a fan of Akismet as yes it keeps the spam off your blog, but you still have to plow through the spam to find false positives.

    There are ways to stop spammers at their source, which reduces the amount of spam that you have to check to find false positives. I successfully managed to tame my significant spam problem from 250 spams a minute to around 40 a day

    I agree that adding do follow probably won’t lead to more comments, but I’m going to do this ASAP as I didn’t realise that WP defaulted to nofollow, which I don’t think is fair, even if my readers don’t know.

  • Just a reminder, the size of the blog, the age of the comments, the level of the traffic, and the popularity of the blog has no influence over comment spam. I’ve found comment spam on blog posts 30 minutes old.

    Comment spam bots flow like search engines following incoming links from one blog to another. The only characterization I can find on all of my blogs that “attracts” comment spam is the number of incoming links to the blog. When one new blog went four months comment spam free, within 40 minutes of making my first link to it, comment spam appeared. Whenever a new group of incoming links come to any of my blogs, comment spam levels grows, hitting posts of all dates and types.

    Akismet and a combination of Bad Behavior and Spam Karma do the job on all of my blogs, but we need to do more to stop comment spam than just what we do with tools on our blogs.

    What can we do outside of our blogs to stop comment spam?

  • Electro-shock therapy for spammers? No. That probably isn’t a practical solution.

    You’re are right Lorelle. Until the money flow to the spammers is somehow stopped this problem will only get worse for us. I haven’t paid much attention to how they make their money. Is there something that can be done in the marketplace to cut off their revenue streams?

    Is it even in an advertisers best interest to stop doing business with a spammer if they are producing eyes on their ads through their underhanded practices? It should be. But is it?

    How about an advertising company like Google? Where is their incentive (I mean aside from the fact that it is Evil) not to do business with folks who are getting eyes on their ads via spam?

    I’m not sure how it can be done. But only by disrupting their cash flow will we deter them from spamming. Until then it is obviously working and will keep getting worse.

  • Seems to me that as long as its cost effective for spammers to spam they’ll keep doing it. In addition to spammy comments on my blog I also deal with spammy emails. Somebody must be clicking on these spam links or emails or why would they bother? Otherwise, I’m thinking it’s a numbers game – spammers blast so many blogs and a small handful of comments get through, that’s enough.

    Is there any way to have a catchpa for spammers that repeatedly spam? Can something be done with the information on spam that Akismet has collected (IP addresses, public shaming)?

  • Hi Lorelle, you do raise a valid point on trying something outside our blogs, but unfortunately, it isn’t as easy.

    I like shutting down comments on old posts. Infact, that is something I do on my self-hosted blogs. But, hasn’t provided a way to do that, or am I missing something?

  • In the past I have stolen comment spam and re-furbished it into a “Spammer Wanted Dead or Alive” poster. Perhaps it is time to create one again.

    This is one way artists can fight back. We can take and re-mix the spam into art.

    The original post I wrote can be found on the Blog Herald Lorelle.
    Spamart 001 – Wanted Dead or Alive

  • Ajay: Shutting down posts is not available on blogs, and it doesn’t work. As I mentioned in my comments, comment spam hits new posts equally. In fact, posts on Blog Herald here often get hit with comment spam within an hour or less after posting. They do a great job stopping it with heavy duty comment spam fighters like Akismet and Bad Behavior.

    Jessica: Wonderful idea!

    What we can do is publicize the need to DO something about this. Let’s work together with artists and writers to spread the word that this needs to stop. Make it grass roots or bigger. Somehow, somewhere, someone knows how to trace the money sources and can help us put an end to this, if we spread the word that we want comment spam (and email spam) stopped. It can be done.

    Let’s see how big a difference our blogs can make when we all work together for a single cause, and I think this one is a good one that impacts everyone, no matter what they blog about, nor what language they blog in. It’s the universal evil on the web.

  • You can’t stop it. Period.
    Nofollow is needed. Nofollow was not meant to stop spam. Nofollow was meant to take the link weight away and prevent spam to show up in SERPs.

    Dearest Bot, do not follow this link because I do not trust the content offered at that link.

    Lets ridiculize nofollow a little. I do nofollow links to Google SERPs. I do nofollow links to Wikipedia. Why? Because the content I see and trust today when I link to those pages might have become totally different in the next weeks, months.

    I defend dofollow for comments. Why? Because I monitor my comments. So do you. So does 5% of the other bloggers.
    All automated WP installs and scraping blogs, don’t. Millions of blogs are abandoned.
    There is a need for nofollow as standard (eventho I’d love to see the possibility to opt for no nofollow in my WP settings, I see no need for a plugin).
    I like SERPs clean as they are today. They have improved significantly over the last 15 months. Nofollow is one of the reasons.
    Another one the duplicate content penalization.

    But fact is, no matter what new rules land, criminals will always be ahead of the law. Imagine SEs and services such as Akismet were to build an internetwide blacklist service/database. Would it solve the problem?
    No. Spammers would find an automated process to install new proxy services on their servers aso.

    It’s a never ending battle. The more domains get registered, the more domain possibilities will be created.
    The more people go online, the more IPs there will be and the more IPs can be abused by spammers.
    And will be.

    All we can do is monitor actively.

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