How To Say NO To Spam Comments In Your WordPress Blog

How do you define spams on the web? It’s difficult…because there is no single type of spam that affects us and there is no single yardstick to measure each spam’s effectiveness.

Spam is an old phenomenon on the web. Its prevalence was recognized way back in 1996 when Eric Conway, a Boston Herald columnist, first coined the phrase, spamdexing, which he termed as porn sneaking its way on to the web.

In today’s web-world, spam has many hues – spam emails, social spam, search engine spam, spam comments, blog spam, and what have you. In short, there is no life – imagined or real – without spam on the web.

With that in perspective, in this video article we will look at the top ways to reduce – or maybe eliminate – spam comments in your WordPress blog, proceeding from the easier ones to those that are comparatively difficult.

The following video briefly describes the different ways of stopping spam comments in a WordPress blog..


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Changing Discussion Settings

This is the easiest to do. Head on to the Discussion Settings of your blog (Dashboard > Settings > Discussion), and in there you can tick the relevant checkboxes to prevent spam comments.

For example, you can check the box, Users must be registered and logged in to comment, to filter out unwanted comments. But remember, this will also discourage genuine commenters.

So a good alternative would be to tick the 3 checkboxes that say (refer image below):

1) Comment author must fill out name and e-mail,
2) A comment is held for moderation, and
3) An administrator must always approve the comment.

You may also consider ticking the checkbox, Comment author must have a previously approved comment.

When you do all of that, be assured that spam comments won’t appear in your blog posts. But there is still no respite from them crowding the Comments section of your WordPress blog. And now you must manually deal with them…which no doubt is a tall task.

 

Changin discussion settings in WordPress

Changing discussion settings suitably (shown by red arrows) is the most easy to stop spam comments

 

Modifying .htaccess file

The second effort will be to identify and prevent the spambot comments. Spam comments are posted not only by flesh-n-blood humans, but also by spambots that are unleashed by the humans. Spambots are relentless in the persuasion of posting spam comments, and at times these could be huge in numbers clogging your blog.

Spambots don’t leave trace for the comments made, and so an easy solution to prevent them is to ensure that no comments are accepted without their referrer IP addresses. To do this, include the following piece of code in your WordPress blog’s root .htaccess file. In the code below, replace ‘yourdomain.com’ with the actual domain name.

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_METHOD} POST
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} .wp-comments-post\.php*
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !.*yourdomain.com.* [OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} ^$
RewriteRule (.*) http://%{REMOTE_ADDR}/$ [R=301,L]

Once you stop the spambots, you’ll have neutralized a bigger source of spam comments. But you still have to counter the deliberate submissions of comments that have no relation or value to your blog.

Using .htaccess presupposes that you’re comfortable modifying the file and also using the FTP programs like FileZilla to access your website on the server. If you’re not, then the best option would be to use one or more anti-spam plugins in your WordPress blog. Read on.

 

Anti-Spam WordPress Comments Plugin

Assuming that .htaccess file modification is not your preferred choice, here are some WordPress anti-spam comment plugins you may consider using in your blog. As you’ll notice, these plugins vary widely from one another in their functions. So study them before deciding which ones to use.

 

Akismet

Akismet API Key

Picture shows how to get Akismet API Key to let the plugin work

 

Akismet comes pre-installed with WordPress. But to activate it you need an API Key which you get for free here. Akismet is a popular anti-spam plugin, having been downloaded more than 12 million times as of this writing.

On the flip side, Akismet is a mild plugin in the sense that it does not stop spam comments being posted. It only segregates the spams and holds it in your dashboard which you have to then check manually and decide whether to accept or trash them or mark them as spams. In other words, the pain of unnecessary time spent on sifting the spams remains with Akismet despite its effectiveness.

 

Spam Free WordPress

Spam free WordPress plugin

Spam Free WordPress also needs a free license key to use the plugin

 

Todd Lahman’s Spam Free WordPress (SFW) is a better comment spam blocking plugin than Akismet in that it blocks 100% of automated spams with zero false positives, and without using CAPTCHA. This is equivalent to modifying .htaccess file as described above.

This blog uses SFW and I can tell from my experience that it is a really effective plugin against spam comments. There is a small downside here. Like Akismet, SFW also needs a key for activation since a recent update. The key is called a License Key and is available for *free* purchase.

 

Quiz

Quiz anti-comment-spam plugin

The image illustrates important information of using the helpful Quiz anti-spam plugin

 

An interesting option to control spam comments is to use the Quiz plugin. It enables the blog writers to introduce a question and answer for each post, or have no question at all. He may however have a default question common to all or selected posts.

Quiz prevents spam comments by the bots but cannot ensure 100% compliance as in the case of SFW. As for deliberate comments misuse by actual humans, Quiz is an excellent deterrent.

You may post a question that can only be answered when someone reads the post. It thus reduces the incidence of what is called troll comments and keep your blog free from deliberate spam comments.

 

Anti-Spam SI CAPTCHA

SI-CAPTCHA anti-spam plugin

This plugin uses CAPTCHA image

 

SI-CAPTCHA is a useful anti-spam plugin created by Mike Challis. It is popular too, considering that it has been downloaded more than 1.3 million times, and is rated 3.3 in 5 out of 444 ratings.

SI-CAPTCHA supports images for captcha codes. And it supports trackbacks and pingbacks, both of which are unfortunately sources of spams. Seen from all angles, I’d say SFW is better in spam protection than SI-CAPTCHA.

 

Disqus Comment System

Disqus is a 3rd-party comment management system

 

Disqus Comment System (DCS) is a third-party utility that replaces WordPress’ own comment system with its own hosting of comments. A commenter needs to enrol with Disqus, and once he does that he can seamlessly write comments in all the blogs that use the DCS.

This is a win-win situation for both the blog owner and the commenter. For the commenter, a centralized collection of all comments he makes in different blogs helps him establish credential. The blog owner is reprieved because he has no spam comments to deal with.

In a study on social media adoption by online publishers it was found that DCS commands almost 75% usage among websites that prefers 3rd-party comment provider.

DCS has competition in the form of IntenseDebate Comments and Livefyre Realtime Comments. But going by the ratings and download figures (given below as of this writing), DCS seems to be ahead of the two.

DCS
Downloads: 847,470
Ratings: 4.2/5 (116 5-stars, 28 4-stars, 8 3-stars, 4 2-stars, 23 1-star)

IntenseDebate
Downloads: 445,862
Ratings: 3.3/5 (54 5-stars, 19 4-stars, 20 3-stars, 9 2-stars, 39 1-star)

LiveFyre
Downloads: 47,782
Ratings: 4.1/5 (28 5-stars, 6 4-stars, 1 3-stars, 1 2-stars, 7 1-star)

There are 2 more factors that weigh heavily in favor of DCS:

  1. DCS is compatible with and works across the blogging platform, including Drupal, Joomla, Blogger, tumblr, etc.
  2. Its user-base includes the who’s-who of online publishing, and that includes CNN, Time, The Next Web, World Economic Forum, Wired, Entrepreneur, PC Magazine, and so on.

 

Facebook Comments Box

Facebook Comment Box

Facebook comment box, a 3rd-party utility, can be installed in any URL

 

Finally, let’s look at Facebook Comments Box. It is unlike any other simply because it is a powerful social plugin tool backed by the might of Facebook.

The concept is like this. After you install it in your blog, the Facebook Comments Box appears in all the posts and even in the pages of your blog. Readers post comments that stay synced in threads across Facebook and on the Comments Box on your site regardless of where the comment was made.

To use the Facebook Comments Box in the posts of your blog, you have to first get the piece of code from Facebook, and then make suitable changes in the single.php file of your WordPress blog. This I’ll discuss in detail in a coming tutorial.

 

Conclusion

Comment spams, as explained above, come mainly from 2 sources – the bots and actual human intervention. If you can stop the bots by either modifying the .htaccess file or using the SFW plugin, your problem will be mitigated to a large extent. Alternatively, you can use a third-party comment system like the DCS or Facebook Comments Box.

The other source of spam emails is the contact form, but this is not preferred by the spammers because the comments don’t automatically appear in the blog posts. In any case the versatile secure contact form plugin is good enough to keep the spammers, if any, at bay.

You’re welcome to share your tips, suggestions below.

{The image above is titled, 4 Days of Spam, courtesy Alan Levine adapted for this post.}

About the Author


Partha Bhattacharya is the founder of HubSkills.Com and a content solutions consultant for SMEs. Partha also owns and writes for the lifestyle blog, Kolkata Musing. Join Partha at Google+ to discuss more on this post.

Comments

  1. Great to see somebody promoting so many ways of preventing spam without using CAPTCHA all the time! I love Akismet, it is really effective and doesn’t annoy your readers. CAPTCHA is a particular bug bear for me because I simply find them so hard to read and frustrating, I have started using CAPTCHA bypass software called RUMOLA to get by them all now so that I dont have a stressful time trying to read them while blogging (this is meant to be a hobby after all!)

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