In this post you’re going to learn how I put a stop to spam on one of my websites that was getting abused with 800 spam comments a day. Read on to find which WordPress plugins worked for me and which plugins didn’t.
A while back the level of spam comments (mostly about ugg boots and nike trainers strangely enough) left on not only a few of my sites but also some WordPress based sites belonging to clients reached an unmanageable level.
Something had to be done, and it worked, in one swift (and easy) move I killed the spam comments dead!
In this post I’m going to tell you what I was doing before and what I’m doing now – so pretty much what works and what doesn’t work.
Please note that all of my sites are running WordPress so if you’re using a content management system like Joomla or Drupal I can’t guarantee that the same will work for you, but I am sure that there are similar options out there for you.
What was I using before?
From a bunch of posts from some well-respected bloggers I had narrowed it down to two different plugins originally.
Growmap Anti-Spam Plugin
I started with GASP because it was something that I saw everyone use and usually I hate using something just because everyone else seems to use it; but I went ahead and it did the job great until I discovered it was conflicting with the theme one of my websites which was stopping 100′s of legit comments from coming through. It’s a shame that I could never get to the bottom of the issue because GASP has some great features.
I couldn’t carry on using the plugin unfortunately.
Oh dear! What now if I can’t use GASP?
Enter “Block spam by math reloaded”
The idea behind the plugin is great; well at least it was – as the methods we use to block spam get better so do the methods the black hatters use to get around them.
If you’ve not heard the term black hat before, then I’ll give you a quick definition; it’s a set of SEO tactics that you would never want to tell your mum or Matt Cutts (head of Google webspam team) about.
All was great at first, but then the comments about Ugg boots and Nike trainers seemed to sky rocket within a few months; I struggled to understand why in a turbulent time within the SEO industry after Google penguin, panda and a bunch of other updates that crack down on rubbish sites with spammy link building methods that the number of comments seemed to go through the roof.
What about Akismet? Why I wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole
Some of you may be thinking something along the lines of – “Akismet is right there in WordPress, why not use that? It blocks spam!”.
Sure it would have been easy to turn on Akismet and severely reduce the amount of spam comments but there is a HUGE problem with this plugin.
The problem is that the plugin relies on site owners reporting comments as spam to determine which comments to mark as spam.
In principal this is great, but in reality; not so great. The sad thing is that there are both ignorant and downright malicious people out there who mark comments as spam when they are not.
What I perceive as spam is different to how other people perceive it, we all perceive things in different ways which is understandable.
So this opens the door for a load of false positives and that isn’t even the worst of it.
The flaw with Akismet is that it’s actually deleting peoples comments and not sending them to spam so you could be getting a bunch of really great thoughtful and engaging comments from your sites readers and never even see them – chances are that when someone goes to the effort of leaving an engaging and detailed comment that doesn’t go live then they’ll think twice about doing it again.
What am I using now that managed to stop 800 spam comments a day?
The answer is a WordPress plugin called BotBlocker, which surprisingly hasn’t had too many downloads in comparison to other plugins that don’t actually work.
The beautiful thing about this plugin is that it doesn’t hinder your users by adding horrible CAPTCHAS or any other type of input – Brilliant!
All you need to do is install and activate and it works straight away – you can customise settings to determine how it deals with spam though.
It works by using a trap that tricks the bot into identifying itself utilising Honey Pot technology (Thanks Project Honey Pot!).
You can find the plugin by searching “BotBlocker” within your WordPress dashboard or you can find it listed here.
There are lessons to be learnt here that can be applied to the way we handle things in future.
So always remember –
- Don’t base decisions on what others are doing; in this case it was the use of a plugin, but don’t always assume that just because someone is doing something one way that it will be the right way for you – it could be, just don’t let it be the deciding factor.
- Just because something works now, doesn’t mean it always will; spammers have a vested interest in getting around whatever new spam blocking methods we implement because the unfortunate truth is that they make a living from this.
- There’s always another way; you may think you’ve tried everything and there’s just no other way – but there is, there’s always another way, you just haven’t thought of it yet.
Have you had any bad experiences with spam lately? And how exactly are you stopping spam from coming through on your blog? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.