Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Constant posting into comment boxes and forums on websites is a full-time spam problem for website owners. I look at why and how this is happening across the web.

My site is almost one-year old now. From the day that I set it up through WordPress, I started receiving neutral comments like, "I like your articles; great work, keep it up, God Bless you; keep posting; good article or whatever," no matter whether they are related to the topic or not.

Most of these comments are not genuine. At least, I believe they're not posted by human beings. They are either posted by automatic software or some kind of script. The same is experienced in the case of other websites that I owned and today, also I received dozens of such comments. How do you see them? Who and why are they doing this?

In this excerpt from Answercast #13, I look at spam in comments and speculate on why they often seem generic or off-topic.

Website comments

I actually think that, in many cases, they are not automated. I believe that there are a lot of low-paid individuals in overseas countries (where, here we would consider very low-paid; they would consider a living wage) who are actually paid to do this kind of thing.

I see these kind of comments all the time. Not just on Ask Leo! but on many of my WordPress sites: there will be a name and there will be a comment that is completely generic. It has nothing to do with the article that it's actually been posted on.

The reason they do that, I believe, is that on most websites you get to post four pieces of information:

  1. You get to post your name, which is displayed
  2. An email address, which is not
  3. Your comment which, of course, is displayed
  4. You're also allowed to often post a URL

When the comment is displayed: rather than your name linking to your email address (which would be a privacy issue), your name is linked to the URL that you provided as part of your comment.

Getting online links

So if I commented (if I went to a website and commented; gave my name as Leo, my email address, my website as http://ask-leo.com and made a comment), when that comment is published on the website (when it's processed, be it approved manually, or approved immediately), the name Leo would then, if you click on it, take you to ask-leo.com.

That's what these spammers are after. They are trying to get more links to their website.

It's also one of the reasons you'll see names that make absolutely no sense. Names like "Ugg Boots" where the link is to a website that sells Ugg boots.

So, I understand why they are doing it. It's very annoying if you're trying to maintain a website and actually have the comment portion of the page be somewhat relevant and useful for subsequent visitors.

Moderate the comments

On Ask Leo! we post moderate. Your comments get posted immediately, but then within 24 hours, they're all reviewed and anything that is spammy or even the least bit spam-like is going to get deleted. On other websites that don't have nearly the same volume of traffic, I actually moderate every comment. There's just a ton of stuff!

The glossary site is a great example. You can comment on the glossary entries; but there's a bunch of comments that come in that you will never, ever see. They are exactly this; they're completely off topic. They are only for getting more links to some website that's trying to sell you something completely unrelated.

Article C5273 - April 30, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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4 Comments
Jim de Graff
May 1, 2012 8:55 AM

I would think it would be a simple matter to disallow the posting of URLs in comments. At the very least it should just be a couple of lines of code to slightly alter the link (so that it is still decipherable but not a valid link) or to remove it completely when the "POST COMMENT" button is clicked. Or more draconian - a notice in the POST COMMENT area stating "any posts links to other websites will be not be posted"

It's been my experience (and I have a LOT of experience in this area of late) that obfuscating what gets posted is not a deterrent to spammers still posting 'em. Consider: unlike most blogs I have no URL field in my comment form, and yet spammers still try to use it. Posts that contain more than 2 URLs are not published but held for moderation where spam is deleted and thus never seen - and yet spammers still post. My belief is that a lot of it is automated where they simply spam lots of sites knowing that some will fail, but they don't care because enough will work. Heck, the search engines now recognize this and render most of it moot anyway, and yet the spammers keep on spamming.
Leo
01-May-2012
NL_Derek
May 1, 2012 11:27 AM

There are Wordpress plugins to automatically eliminate this sort of spam; one is called Akismet. I have no idea how well they work, but it's probably a lead worth following.

--- Derek

Akismet is certainly the most popular for Wordpress, but I know of no solution that is 100% effective.
Leo
01-May-2012

Benmara
May 1, 2012 7:04 PM

My g-book comments are saved to a (dot)txt file. It's separate from the header/footer page that has my links. Once a week or so, I download the comment page and open it-- I then use replace to remove all http:// entries (the whole thing since posting links is a no no @ my site). Takes less than 5 minutes. then I re-upload it. (check date/time on the off chance someone signed it in those 5 mins ;) )

Chellie
May 26, 2012 6:38 PM

I can see the value of the post moderate because your site is busy. I am receiving so many spam comments lthat I'd hate to leave it up .... even for a day so for now, I manually review all.

Of course that might change when I get super busy.

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