One of the downsides of using a wildly popular platform like WordPress is that spammers have a lot of incentive to figure out how to game the system to post spammy comments. For many WordPress sites, unless comments are posted only after moderation by a site-owner or disabled altogether, it is a common site to see fake sounding comments with links to unrelated websites either in the comment poster's URL or within the body of the comment. But there are several steps you can take to reduce and even eliminate your spam altogether, read on to discover how!
What is WordPress spam?
Spam on WordPress websites is any comment that does not add value to the discussion but instead uses the opportunity and space provided by comment forms to insert backlinks to other, usually unrelated and low-quality websites. Since backlinks to a website are used by Google as one of the indicators of its usefulness and popularity, comment spam is a black-hat SEO technique used by unethical website owners to seek and exploit WordPress comment sections to farm easy backlinks. Spam comments are often posted using bots and templated comments like 'Wow what a useful article, please check out my website'. Sound familiar? If you have many such comments on your site, you might just have a spam problem that needs to be addressed quickly.
Why stop spam?
The major reason to stop spam is that it can really affect the experience of your real users. Comment sections full of spammy links discourage real users from posting comments and make it difficult for readers to tell good information apart from bad.
Moreover, Google also uses the quality of links your website links to as an indicator of your own website's quality. So if your websites link (even unknowingly) to a lot of low-quality and irrelevant websites, Google can think of your website as spammy as well! This can obviously have serious consequences as no website can afford to give Google such an impression.
While it's tough to personally moderate all comments posted to your website, especially if you have a popular website with a lot of content, luckily there are some effective and easy steps you can take to reduce or even stop your spam problem altogether.
How to stop spam: Pro Tips
1. Nofollow or disable links in comments
Spammers have only one reason to post fake comments: the backlinks! So by using a plugin like Nofollow for External Backlinks you can make sure that any link posted in the comments section has a "nofollow" tag attached to it. This indicates to Google that you don't know the quality of the link and it should not be counted as a backlink when it comes to SEO rankings.
You can also disable HTML altogether to disallow links appearing as such. While spammers can still post links in plain text, these will not be clickable or counted by Google. However, this also stops your users from being able to use other HTML tags such as strong or em, which may not be desirable.
2. Activate Akismet
Akismet is a plugin that comes bundled with WordPress and reduces spam significantly. To enable it simply go to Akismet's website, register on the website, and then activate the plugin from your website's plugin administration area by entering your Akismet key.
3. Enable Captcha for commenter verification
Captcha aims to distinguish humans from robots by creating a simple task (type the words in the image, do a simple math problem etc) and verifying the answer before submitting the comment to your website. This ensures that automated bots cannot post comments, although it doesn't stop humans from exploiting your website if they want to, so use this in conjunction with other tips. There are many WordPress plugins for captcha verification, with Captcha plugin being one of the most popular.
4. Automatically disable comments on old posts
Spammers also target older posts on active sites, knowing that in many cases it can slip under the radar of the website owner. To combat this problem, WordPress offers the very useful feature of closing comments on posts that are older than a specific number of days.
You can enable this option by going to Settings >> Discussion, and finding the set of options under Other comment settings: the relevant one asks you to Automatically Close comments on articles older than ___ days. Specify your desired number of days, enable and save your settings.
5. Disable trackbacks
If you enable trackbacks on your WordPress posts, every post will display a list of pages linking to the post. While this feature was originally designed as a way to show other relevant pages, it has come to be exploited by some spammers as a way to get easy backlinks. All a page has to do is link to your page to appear on your page! To disable this feature, go once again to Setting >> Discussion, and under Default article settings, uncheck the option that says Allow link notifications from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks). Remember, you can always choose to change these settings on individual posts, but sitewide trackbacks can often by a bad idea from an SEO and user-experience standpoint.
We hope you find these ways useful in stopping comment spam on your WP website. Share your own tips in the comment section below, we are spam protected!