Dealing with Spam

What is “Spam”

On your blog, visitors may have the ability to post comments to your posts or pages. Some people create programs that automatically post fake comments to blogs, often in order to promote links to other sites – sometimes malicious sites. Comments that don’t come from a real person are known as comment “spam”.

Be forewarned – some spam comments look like real comments! Please read on for your responsibilities, and actions you can take to prevent comment spam.

My Spam Responsibilities

We have a spam prevention plugin enabled on the entire blog.ryerson.ca network that attempts to block various types of spam. That said, there is really no perfect way to totally get rid of spam, while allowing “real” comments through.

As the administrator of your blog, you are responsible for comment spam.

There are three main areas to consider:

  1. Stop spam comments from being published to your site (preventing your visitors from SEEING the spam).
  2. Prevent spam from being posted to your site in the first place.
  3. Clean up spam comments from your comment inbox.

The most important thing is to stop spam from being published – nobody wants their visitors to see the spam on their site. It is the responsibility of EACH blog administrator to prevent and/or remove spam from their site.

Recommended Settings

The following options can be found in the Dashboard > Settings > Discussion section of your blog:

UNCHECK ‘Allow link notifications from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks)’

Pingbacks and trackbacks sound like a really useful thing – they’re supposed to let you know when someone has linked to your blog from their blog. In my experience, they haven’t been all that useful, and it’s a nice open doorway for spam. Turn this off, and you limit the ways that you can be spammed.

CHECK ‘Comment author must fill out name and email’

CHECK ‘Automatically close comments on articles older than xx days’

The default number of days is 14, but I think I have this set to 30 days on my own blog. It lessens the volume of spam because there are fewer pages on your site that actually CAN be spammed.
In addition, you can turn off commenting on any pages or posts that you don’t want people to comment on (not all posts/pages are made to encourage discussion – close the ones that aren’t!).

CHECK ‘Comment author must have a previously approved comment’ AND be careful about which comments you approve!

Some that sound like nice, flattering comments are actually spam – and if you approve them, you are basically opening the door to spam from the same “person” down the road. One sign that the comment is spam – check the URL that they add with the comment, if it’s something unrelated to your site, it’s likely spam. Spam comments can be very sneaky, and sound real. If you would prefer to be even MORE strict, then instead check the option “An administrator must always approve the comment”. One of these two options should always be checked.

CHECK ‘Hold a comment in the queue if it contains 1 or more links.’

Spam almost always contains a link in the body of the comment, so this moderation feature is really useful. The default setting on this is to hold a comment if there are 2 or more links — but holding a comment with just 1 link will be more effective.

Carefully Consider Comments

Some of the spam you get will look like a real comment. Spammers are getting trickier, even posting spam comments that appear relevent to your site topic! Here are a couple of things to watch for BEFORE you approve a comment:

Comment Links

Is there a link in the body of the comment – look at the link address (don’t click on it!) and see where it would go. Similarly, look at the website URL that the comment has listed for the user (and the email address). Spam addresses often look suspicious. Be wary of addresses to sites that you don’t recognize, or don’t sound like they are in the same topic as your blog.

Comment Text

Does the comment explicitly refer to something in the post/page it is commenting on, or is the message vague? Some real comments will say things like “this was a great post”, but most commonly people will refer to something that you wrote about.

Be careful – some spam will even be relevant to your site topic!! For example, someone who writes a food blog may get spam that mentions food specifically… but in a vague way.

Turn Off Comments

What if you don’t want users to comment on your posts or pages? Turn them off!

Turn off commenting on NEW articles (posts and pages)

  1. Go to Dashboard > Settings > Discussion
  2. Uncheck  “Allow people to post comments on new articles”
  3. Scroll to the bottom and click the “Save Changes” button.

Turn off commenting on all EXISTING Posts and Pages

  1. Go to Dashboard > Posts
  2. Look for the checkbox at the top of the list of posts, to the left of the ‘Title’ heading. Check it – this will select ALL of the posts on that page.
  3. Click on the “Bulk Actions” dropdown menu, select Edit and click the Apply button. This will allow you to change options for all of the selected posts.
  4. In the Bulk Edit interface, find the ‘Comments’ dropdown menu, click it and select “Do Not Allow”. Click the Update button to process this change.
  5. Look at the upper right-hand corner of the list. Here, you will see how many pages of posts you have. You will have to repeat the above steps for each page of posts.

Do the same thing for all of your pages by going to Dashboard > Pages, and proceeding with steps 2-5.