So this is the dilemma, we all love to see comments on our blog posts. If you are saying you don’t then I don’t think you are being completely honest either with us or yourself. The reason is pretty obvious, blog comments mean attention, interaction with an audience and evidence that you are getting traffic to your blog. But you can’t throw your blog comment policy out of the window just for the numbers.
The temptation then is to accept any old rubbish that is placed in your blog comments box and leave it in place. Looks good if every post you have published is showing multiples of comments; or does it? There are problems with allowing comment spam to sit on your blog posts.
The first obvious one is that they drown out the real comments by real people that are actually trying to interact with you and establish a sensible dialogue on the subject being discussed. Anyone visiting your blog and finding the comments filled up with comment spam are highly likely to assess you as someone who doesn’t care about their visitors or have a real interest in discussing the topic content. End result of that type of conclusion is that they leave your site never to return and all the hard work you put in getting them to read your post in the first place is completely wasted.
A second not quite so obvious affect is that the search engines spidering your site are likely to get a few mixed messages, the most significant of which being a lack of clarity as to what is your site all about and what keywords identify your content. If there are hundreds of spam comments linking back to sites that are completely unrelated to your subject matter and more often than not to the same domains time and time again, this can make your site look a little like a link farm. Google really does not like link farms, I can find no documented evidence or reports that say they will penalize you if you don’t sort out comment spam, but I think common sense dictates that if there is a question mark they will err on the side of caution.
You may also find that, since the ‘Penguin Algorithm Updates’, that you could be penalized as a result of where your blog comments link out to. So make it your business to ensure they don’t link to spammy sites, non-relevant sites or even worse bad neighborhood sites.
Now you can cry that Google or other search engines should be able to determine that it wasn’t you that placed all these links on your site and that you shouldn’t be the one being penalized. You could cry that, but the bottom line is that it is you who is responsible for the content and links on your site and you that should be moderating and removing the rubbish. Google is actually pretty good at identifying and discounting comment spam in a sites blog comments, but that does not mean it is their responsibility; or the responsibility of any other search engine for that matter.
What Google has to say on the subject of a blog comment policy!
Recognizing comment spam
It is pretty easy to identify comment spam if you stop and think about it:
- Does it actually discuss the topic? Typically the comment will be very flattering but also completely generic, something like ‘really great post man, definitely going to bookmark this and return’. Nice but could be posted on any post on the Internet with the same level of relevancy
- Watch out for the medicinal, gambling or cheap shopping blog comments as well
- A more recent trick is to quote your post title and blog name, this is highly likely to be an automated robot that is pulling the data from your site and regurgitating it in the comment spam. On first impression you may think they are covering your topic but actually they are not.
There are lots of other examples but this gives you a general idea. The other clue of course is when the same comment linked to the same domain, or different comments linked to the same domain occur time after time. They may even on occasion leave a comment that appears sensible and relevant, but if it is done several or tens of times it is still comment spam.
What to do to stop comment spam on your blog comments
There are ways to head off comment spam:
- Use a plugin that takes care of comment spam on your behalf, a good one is the Askimet plugin which you will be able to find easily by searching for a plugin, of course this assumes you are using the WordPress platform
- Make sure you always moderate comments, this may seem like a lot of work but it will pay dividends
- You can use a ‘no follow’ default for your comments. Not a personal recommendation because it penalizes genuine commentators as well as the comment spam brigade.
- Don’t allow anonymous comments, that’s inviting the spammers in
- Use a captcha to make the commentator prove they are human
- Strip out html so that hypertext links don’t work
Now the problem with establishing a blog comment policy is that it can alienate your real audience and often if they want to make a genuine comment for which they can receive some sort of credit, they aren’t able to. This is the price you can pay for making life difficult for the comment spam variety. It becomes a judgment call as to whether you are prepared to do that in order to stop the spammers but there is a halfway house, use spam protection and set some time aside to go look for the genuine comments and moderate your comments. Askimet has proved to be very effective and it is rare to reverse a decision made by the plugin for a genuine comment, but if it happens you can reinstate a comment. So implement your blog comment policy now, it’s better late than never.