Ask Doc: Control Spam Comments

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We’re starting something new, called Ask Doc: We’ll be running it every Monday, as a weekly Q&A style feature, where people can ask a specific question and get our take on it. That may be a how-to on some technical issue, our interpretation of a Google statement or simply our opinion of which of two or three techniques is most effective.

If you have a question, just send it to us via our contact form. Each week, we’ll select one question from those submitted and respond to it here on our blog. Unless you specifically say otherwise, your name will be withheld.

Since we’re just launching this, we don’t have any questions yet, so I came up with one to start the ball rolling:

How can I reduce the spam comments on my WordPress blog?

Unfortunately, spam comments are a thorn in the side of nearly every WordPress blogger. Unless you take Michael Gray‘s no comments approach, which certainly isn’t ideal for everyone, you’ll need to take some precautions.

While you’re not likely to be able to stop all attempts of spammers that just want to drop some crappy link on your post, there are a number of things you can do to minimize the number of them you have to deal with.

WP admin backend First of all, I highly recommend some basics which can be set in your admin backend under Settings – Discussion.

Ensure that these two boxes are checked:

Comment author must fill out name and e-mail
Comment author must have a previously approved comment

Under Comment Moderation, I also set 1 as the maximum number of links a comment can have, or it will be sent to the moderation queue.

G.A.S.P. I also recommend a few plugins, one of which is the Growmap Anti Spambot plugin (G.A.S.P.). You can search for this in Install Plugins in your backend. This is a stand-alone plugin, although its developer, Andy Bailey, has also included it within his CommentLuv plugin. (CommentLuv is a nice piece of work, but unfortunately, I feel it opens you up for a lot of spam comments… there are tons of lists of blogs that have CommentLuv installed, and spammers love those lists!)

GASP includes a checkbox that commenters must check, normally entitled Confirm you are NOT a spammer. Failure to check the box will keep them from leaving a comment, and many spambots cannot detect that checkbox. Personally, I also uncheck the Allow Trackbacks box, which disables trackbacks (but doesn’t disable pingbacks).

GASP also includes some other heuristic settings, such as a refer check (Yes), Maximum comments in moderation (2) and Maximum number of URLs allowed in comment text (1).

Akismet This plugin gives some added protection, but requires you to get a free API key.

AVH First Defense Against Spam Plugin This plugin allows you to detect reported spammers via Stop Forum Spam, Project Honey Pot or Spamhaus. It also enables you to build a local blacklist (as well as a whitelist), which I highly recommend doing. There are a number of other settings under AVH F.D.A.S. – General Options with which you can require email notifications and caching of offending IPs. Of all the anti-spam plugins described here, AVH is the most effective.

Fast Secure Contact Form If you have a contact form on your website, I like this plugin for a number of reasons. One is its easy to read captcha and another is that it plays well with Akismet. Best of all, you can set it to show a honeybot empty field trap for spambots.

If you implement all of the above, you’re bound to see a greatly reduced number of spam comments get through, particularly from automated spam. If you’re being swamped by spammers, it can make your life a lot simpler. Obviously, this will improve the experience for your readers, too.

Best of luck to you! Any questions you’d like answered? Again, please let us know via Top Shelf Copy’s contact form. I’ll be back with an answer next Monday!

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2 thoughts on “Ask Doc: Control Spam Comments

    • Hi, Bill, thanks for dipping your oar in the water!
      I agree that turning off comments is unthinkable. Why have a blog, if you don’t want the conversation? You might as well just print flyers.

      About a year ago, I was wasting an hour or more each day, sorting out spam comments from just two sites. Now I spend perhaps 2 minutes doing a high-speed review of what these plugins do for me, across 7 sites.
      I sure wish someone could provide a plugin that would take care of my offline chores as easily!

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