What is comment spam?
Comment spam is content which is placed on your site that has no relevance to you or your readership and is only there to benefit the person providing it.
These comments can be added manually, but are very often automated, meaning that many such comments can be added in a very short space of time (or repeatedly over a long period of time).
Why do people do it?
It’s mostly about links, and a little bit about traffic.
You will have noticed that most of your spam comments arrive with a couple of links (usually to a site selling Ugg boots, other forms of clothing or shoes, or other products not suitable for a family-friendly site such as this one!). The aim of the spammer is to have their comment approved on your site so that it then displays underneath your post for all to see (including search engines).
Search engines can attribute importance to a web page based on the number and quality of links coming into a page. Although there are moves afoot to lessen the value given to links (or rather to increase the value attributed to other factors such as social media engagement), comment spam is still a cheap and effective way for perpetrators to artificially boost the ranking of their websites.
If you approve these comments you are not only devaluing the readership experience and potentially reducing your own website rank (you may leak some pagerank to your spammer’s site and search engines may penalise you for linking to a spam site), but you could be improving the ranking of the spammer’s website. So, in your WordPress dashboard comments section you need to mark these comments as spam…
Although I haven’t seen anything documented about this, I believe that you will increase the volume of spam comments you receive if you start to approve (and especially if you reply to) those that appear. This makes sense, because spammers are likely to double their efforts (and sell your details to other spammers) if they see their comments getting through.
How can you control comment spam?
There are some options in your WordPress settings panel that allow you to control the comments that are allowed on your site. Look for them in ‘Settings’–>’Discussion’ and check out the official WordPress page to find out what these settings mean and how to use them.
However, these settings on their own are unlikely to be enough.
In an article I wrote a few years ago I mentioned Akismet. This is a plugin written by the people that run WordPress, which is free for non-commercial use (and $5/month if you run a commercial site or blog). It is fantastic at filtering out spam before it even hits your site. If you have any budget at all for spam control I recommend using Aksimet, which is automatically installed as part of WordPress but which needs to be activated with an API key.
If you don’t have a budget (and you don’t want to turn commenting off in your site and don’t want to add a captcha to your comment forms) there are a few plugins you could take a look at to help you reduce your spam. In my opinion they are not as effective as Akismet, but they might help a bit.
One such plugin is called Comment Spam Wiper. Although there is a paid version of this plugin available to process large volumes of spam on your site, the basic version is free. You’ll need to install the plugin into your site and then go to the plugin website and get an API key. This API key should then be pasted into the settings field (as shown in the image below)…
You might also like to look at the following plugins. I haven’t used them all, nor am I recommending any of them in particular, but if any of them work for you please drop a comment (not a spam one) below…
Anti-Spam by Webvitaly – this appears to be particularly successful at controlling comment spam in WordPress
ReCaptcha (I don’t personally like Captcha’s as I think it switches the burden of proof onto the person leaving the comment)