Blogging Know-How: Preventing Spam

Hello and welcome to the fifth instalment of Blogging Know How! The aim of this feature is to answer some of your blogging, reading, reviewing, and social networking related questions. If there’s anything you’ve been wondering about, you can’t figure out or just want me to help you out with, you can send it to me via the little contact form I’ll post at the end of these posts.

“How do you protect your blog from spam? I recently got this disturbing email from a follower of mine about an indecent Twitter update on my blog but even though I checked on Twitter for that tweet, I could not find it. I even tried signing out and then viewing my blog but could not find it among the Twitter updates.” – Nobonita

As bloggers, spam is something we have to live with. Getting more exposure for your blog means more spammers as well and it’s not something you can get rid of altogether. It’s quite an annoying business but all we can do is to prevent them from showing up on the blog.

Things you can do to prevent your blog from spam if you’re using Blogger:

  • Enable comment moderation for your comments: This is the most important one. It basically means that you’ll have to review each comment before they go live on your blog and either approve it or trash it. When you have new comments to approve, a notification will appear on your Blogger dashboard and you can sort through them. It may sound like a lot of work but unfortunately, Blogger doesn’t have a built-in spam filter yet so this is the best you can do. How to activate word verification? Just go to your Blogger dashboard, then click on Settings -> Comments -> and set comment moderation to ‘always’.
  • Word verification, aka captcha: Captcha’s main goal is to deter automated comment spamming systems by making your readers enter in crazy jumbled-up letters when trying to comment on your blog. Each commenter will have to go through this additional step before they can actually submit their comments. BUT. (And here comes the tricky bit) If you ask me, captcha is single-handedly the most annoying thing I’ve seen on Blogger. Seriously. The words are extremely hard to read, almost illegible which will put off lots of bloggers from commenting. No one wants to spend ages on your blog, squinting at the computer screen trying to figure out what those tiny mouse droppings stand for. And if you’ve already set up comment moderation, it’s also pointless. You’ll have to moderate your comments before they appear on your blog anyway, then why torture your readers?
  • Backlinks and registered users: Make sure to set the backlinks tab to ‘hide’ and the ‘who can comment tab’ to either registered users or users with Google accounts.

Things you can do to prevent your blog from spam if you’re using WordPress:

  • Activate Akismet: Akismet is a built-in plugin for WordPress which basically blocks spam comments for you. It marks all the suspicious comments as spam and puts them in a separate spam folder. These comments won’t show up on your blog until you approve them and mark them as non-spam. There are times when non-spam comments get caught by Akismet and go to the spam folder by accident and vice versa, but it’s very rare. (In the past 6 months since I’ve been using this plugin, there were only 5 spam comments that Akismet somehow missed, and 41 comments that were marked as spam but turned out to be genuine, non-spam comments – which is pretty good, I’d say.) If you haven’t activated it yet, make sure to do so – Akismet will do the rest for you.
  • Comment moderation: Just like on Blogger, you change your settings so that each comment has to be approved before they show up on your blog but I don’t think it’s necessary. I set mine to ‘comment author must have a previously approved comment’ (which means that you’ll only need to approve someone the very first time they leave you a comment – once you do so, their comments will be automatically marked as non-spam) and I had no spam issues yet.

However, make sure you know the people you approve. Don’t approve anyone you don’t know and if you’re unsure whether they’re spammers or not, always check their names and websites. With such usernames as “china tea”, “lista de email”, or “cheap swatch watches” most spammers are ridiculously easy to spot but some of them are a bit more tricky. Don’t click on anything unless you know the commenter and if you’re not sure if it’s spam or not, make sure to check their website’s URL. Most of these spammers use fake or non-existent websites so if you see one of these, the comment will probably be spam. It sounds a bit complicated but once you get the hang of it, it’s terribly easy to spot spammers. :)

Do you have any blogging/reviewing/social networking related questions you’d like me to answer on the blog? Feel free to submit it below! :) 

17 Responses to “Blogging Know-How: Preventing Spam”

  1. Great advice, Vicky! Especially making sure people KNOW the people they are approving for comments. It’s funny because spam comments seem to be getting SO polite — it’s a good idea to not allow Anonymous comments, or else these could totally be approved.

    I hope that bloggers are aware of the spam that comes through Twitter, like the “Someone is saying mean things about you!” Those seem to happen ALL THE TIME. I wonder if newbies are aware to NOT click on the links.

    Thanks for sharing!
    Kristilyn (Reading in Winter) recently posted..Discussion: Vampires vs. ZombiesMy Profile

    • Vicky says:

      I know!! I received a comment on one of my reviews a few weeks ago and it actually looked like a proper non-spam comment. It mentioned that the commenter liked the book – but the email address looked very suspicious. But thank goodness most of them are much easier to spot :)

      Yes, I forgot to mention the Twitter thing – but that could be said about Facebook as well! There are so many scams and such – I just hope people don’t click on them.

  2. Melissa says:

    CAPTCHA is the worst invention ever…in my humble opinion! Moderating comments is the easy solution if you want comments!
    Melissa recently posted..I’m Joining R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VII !!My Profile

  3. I cannot stand captcha! I cannot read it, and sometimes have to do it two and three times..it makes me feel like an idiot. I have Disqus and love it, it marks questionable comments in spam, and I get all comments sent to my email, so i can screen them and approve them. I even have the ability to pre-approve commentors. Great post Vicki!
    kimbacaffeinate recently posted..The Reckoning by Alma KatsuMy Profile

    • Vicky says:

      Same here! The last time I commented on someone’s blog, I got it wrong 5(!!!) times. It’s so annoying!

      Disqus is great, though – I’ve been using it for a few months before I finally moved to WP and I’ve never got spam. Not once. (Although I had some issues with Disqus itself in the last few weeks before the move but all in all, I liked it.) And it’s v. easy to use as well!

  4. ack! blogger has a really good spam filter, so there really isn’t any reason to turn on captchas! word verification, maybe, but that’s just a pain after a while. Really, trust blogger’s spam filter–sometimes I have to go in and fish out real comments, but I have never had a spam comment slip through!
    ashelynn hetland recently posted..Guest Review: The Last Princess by Galaxy CrazeMy Profile

  5. Alexia561 says:

    Totally agree that capcha is horrible! After the second try, I give up and don’t comment. I just get an email whenever someone leaves a comment and delete it if it’s spam. Guess I’ve been lucky as I haven’t gotten very many (knock wood).
    Alexia561 recently posted..Review: Quest inc. (Can you buy a new life?)My Profile

    • Vicky says:

      Me too! Although when I’m about to leave someone a fairly long comment I feel bad about giving up and try to be patient. But I got it wrong 5 times the other week, which is insane… :S

  6. Rachel says:

    I despise Captcha! I try and catch up with blogs in between work on my phone and trying to do this with Captcha is a nightmare. I just won’t comment if it comes up because it’s too difficult. :(
    Rachel recently posted..Review: Demons of the Sun by Cindi MadsenMy Profile

  7. [...] Vicky posted some great advice on preventing spam on your blog. [...]

  8. I’m still very lucky. I did have some spam on my blog, but it isn’t so much that I can’t take it away. I didn’t know about backlinks and the use of registered members, I might take a better look at that. Thanks for sharing!
    Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted..Showcase Sunday (14)My Profile

  9. Good advice, Vicky! Thank you for discouraging people from using Captcha. :)

    I wouldn’t use comment moderation unless my spam got really bad, though. I find moderation mildly annoying, but of course it would be worth it if you got a lot of spam. At the moment, I only get one spam comment a month or so, so I can easily just delete them.
    Lianne @ The Towering Pile recently posted..You Are Microscopic by Edward PackardMy Profile

  10. Karen says:

    Am new to blogging and have been reading through your tips. the ones above have been especially useful and I’ve now changed some of my settings. I hate Captcha too and always have to take several goes to work what on earth the letters are! Love the blog.

    • Vicky says:

      Exactly! Once it took me at least 6 attempts to figure out what the hell it was supposed to be – and sometimes people just give up. Comment moderation is a lot more effective and less irritating for readers, that’s for sure. :)
      Thanks!

  11. […] How to Prevent Spam on Your Blog by Books, Biscuits and Tea […]

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