So Long Sucky
Comment spam is one of the biggest annoyances for WordPress blogs.
While it doesn’t pose any “risk” as long as you do not approve the spam posts… even having to delete it sucks up precious time and hosting resources. (Delete a thousand spam comments back-to-back and you may temporarily run out of hosting resources).
As your blog ages and as you get more posts ranked you become an ever increasing target because more bots learn that you exist.
Even blogs that are not particularly popular can get wailed on by spam bots simply because they exist!
In the early days of this blog, Akismet plus GASP free-version was enough to keep most spammers to a minimal, but now that the blog is several years old and performing strongly, that doesn’t even begin to be enough.
I’m going to share what I’m currently doing that is working for me – as a way to help bloggers that are in the same situation. However, I do NOT advise all bloggers to rush off and do ALL of this immediately because you may not need such an aggressive approach.
I’m only going to talk about reducing comment spam today – this will not go into other things you need to do to keep other types of bad guys away.
Step 1: Keep The Bad Guys From Ever Reaching You
Using a combination of Cloudflare.com, to block at the DNS level, and the Bad List Blocker (part of iThemes Security), to block at the htaccess level, I substantially reduce the number of known evil-doers that can ever reach my site.
I adore both Cloudflare and iThemes Security and use both of these with clients. Both of these are also security tools so there’s lots of goodness to be gained here.
This plays a very important role in keeping bad bots and bad networks from ever getting to my site.
Step 2: Strip Out Author Links & Author Picture Links (You’ll See Why In A Moment)
The built in author links in your theme – often attached to the website URL and occasionally attached to the gravatar/photo – have very poor native control for linking. Let’s ditch them and try something better.
These are code solutions as I’ve not found a comprehensive plugin. A developer could probably pull either of these into a plugin with some coding skill. (Maybe we could get Andy Bailey from Commentluv to give us check-boxes?)
Remove Comment URL-to-Name Links
Remove Comment URL – From Comment Author Image Avatar – In Thesis 1.x
(Use thesis_comment_avatar instead of thesis_avatar in the code provided.)
It would be nice to think that doing this would decrease the amount that spammers target me… but apparently spammers aren’t bright enough to realize that they can’t possibly get a link from me if they don’t engage commentluv.
(If you stop here – you’ve actually stopped all comment linking unless someone puts one in the body of the comments. Stopping here is a solution for some but I prefer to continue to reward my commentors since I’m in a blogging niche and have visitors that need the links. YMMV.)
Step 3: Stack Commentluv Premium + GASP Pro + Anti-BackLinker
Because I use CommentLuv Premium, I let the commenting reward link come from there, which allows me to set VERY STRONG rules about who does/doesn’t get links and to have very good control over these links.
GASP Pro combined with Anti-Back Linker (both part of CommentLuv Premium) does an amazing job giving me the control I need. (I don’t use the keyword name function both due to Google’s statement about it AND due to having disabled those links above anyways.)
You’ll need to go into CommentLuv, GASP Pro and Anti-BackL inker and set their individual settings. I have mine set reasonably restrictive. Just be aware that the tighter you set them, the more false positives you’ll cause. (And if you make word count and certain other ones too restrictive, you’ll just annoy real visitors. )
CommentLuv Premium is totally worth the purchase cost – a one time $87 payment – even if you do not intend to use the CommentLuv links because you gain GASP Premium and the Anti-BackLinker which are superb.
Step 4: Akismet Crowns The Stack
It would be nice to think, at this point, that Akismet would not be needed but that’s simply not true for me.
The strong crowd-sourced engine is important… but it comes at monthly cost for professional blogs.
This cost is really affordable and a great way to support the WordPress community (Automattic is the primary funder of the WordPress.org Foundation) while gaining a crowdsourcing engine.
However… there are two things you have to know to get Akismet to do its best for you:
1) Decide whether you want it to auto-spam comments on OLD posts. You’ll find this in the settings. This results in a LOT less spam but also valid comments can go to spam.
(I leave this set to no – but then I manually close comments on any post that is old but gaining a lot of spam. With comments close, a real visitor that NEEDS my help is more likely to use my support desk to contact me.)
2) False positives (real comments sent to spam) is a HUGE issue with plugins of this nature and you really MUST take a quick walk-through of the spam comments to rescue any real ones before you send them all to the trash.
(GASP can cause some false positives too but not nearly as high as plugins like Akismet which tend to wind up with our fellow bloggers in their bad-list due to false positives resulting in even more reports as others don’t check for false positives. Do your friends a favor and check your spam folder before dumping it!)
Step 5: Check For False Positives
As mentioned, this stack will create a fair number of false positives – largely due to Akismet – so you need to check the spam folder before you dump them.
My tip for this is to look for comments that have a gravatar image that isn’t the default one. That usually is a quick way to find most of the real comments (Some spammers have gravatar too, though not most).
Once you’ve found those then take one more glance through to spot any other real ones – and then you’re all set.
If you found this guide useful, I’d love if you’d +1, like, tweet and comment on it to help others get a chance to read it! Thanks!
What’s working for you at your current level?
Happy – spam free – blogging!
~ Kim ~