Comment Spam Or Not?

I just read Comment Spam Warning Signs from Andy Beard. Deciding which comments are spam, irrelevant, for link juice only or positive and constructive is one of the most difficult tasks I have to do while running this blog.

In the above mentioned post, Alex Goad of Net Frontier Marketing describes the problem very nicely:

This is a strange conundrum.
It’s like my mother’s living room. It has extra nice luxurious carpeting which causes her to constantly fret when people walk on it.
Regular house guests know the rules, but new ones don’t…

The stupid thing is, I make it difficult for myself -as does Andy and some others- because of our decision to use the DoFollow strategy. If it wasn’t for that, life would be easy.

You see, the basic principle here is that if you leave a comment that adds value to the discussion, you should be rewarded with a nice link back to your site, where I, and above all, my readers, can expect to find more valuable information on the topic or a related one.

If every commenter followed to this rule, again, there wouldn’t be any problems. After all, this is what makes the Internet tick:
– valuable content
– links to more valuable content
– (strongly) related information.

But what happens?
Using the DoFollow strategy attracts a lot of people, who don’t care about valuable content. Instead, they comment just to get a link back to their or their client’s sites, no matter what the topics are.
The recently launched software Comment Kahuna, which on itself is great software by the way, has only contributed to these kind of comments.

Comment Spam Or Not?
Photo Credit: macie3k

In his post, Andy addressed the most common warning signs that he uses to decide whether or not a comment is considered spam, irrelevant or valuable.

I can relate to that list. It’s similar to what I use. Some commenters on Andy’s post were very upset with some of these warnings, but I should emphasize that they’re only there to protect ourselves – well, I shouldn’t talk on behalf of Andy, so they’re there to protect myself and my blog.

However, I do have some remarks to make.

In contrast to what Andy mentions, I use more options than ‘delete’ or ‘mark as spam’, shown in the emails that are sent by Spam Karma. I just login to manage my SK2 account and use the blacklist a lot for domains that are just affiliate sites, sales pages or content that I do not want like porn, gambling, and so on. The same applies to dirty splogs that send ping backs.
Yes, that IS a lot of work, but I can still handle it (don’t know for how long though). And I prefer to blacklist a domain so it can’t access my blog above marking it as spam.

I don’t mind free email addresses that much, since I use one myself as I was forced to after one of my domain names was jo-jobbed. But I’m terrified when I see .ru and .cn domains, as I discover them a lot in my stats.

Like Andy, I visit blogs and sites from commenters, trying to learn who’s behind it. More often than not, that’s a difficult task on Bloggers.com as most bloggers on that platform don’t take the trouble writing something about themselves.

But I also look at the history of the site. If there’s not much of archives there, I tend to delete the comment. I see a lot of these fairly new sites: only a few posts, plenty of banners in the advertising space (yeah, right) and no Page Rank.
And the same applies if it’s a site that is not ranked by Google.
Sometimes that implies I will delete a completely valid post, but I just can’t take any risks.

And that’s what moderating comments is all about. Taking risks.
While I love to send links back to good commenters, not all links are great ones. Google and other search engines will punish me for having the wrong links at my site. Just because I like to value content generated by my visitors.

Maybe I shouldn’t do that anymore and delete the DoFollow. Would save tons of time too.

What’s your take on this?
Post your comments below.




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18 thoughts on “Comment Spam Or Not?

  1. Andy Beard says:

    There is another aspect to it I didn’t cover in that post, but will cover in a followup, as I have written about it before.

    Subscribe to comments

    It is one thing to have junk content appearing on a web page, but as soon as you allow people to subscribe to comments, you have a responsibility to ensure that

    1. The comments aren’t spam
    2. If possible, they should have some value

    I was running subscribe to comments for about a year, I need to add it back but when I upgraded to 2.3.x it got left off for a while whilst I was waiting for upgrades, then to hack it to again comply with CAN SPAM and redirecting through the swift mailer plugin.

    I have seen some crazy spam being let through Akismet recently that I would fear using S2C with.

  2. Generally, when I make a comment on a particular blog post, I do subscribe to the comments because I want to see if anyone responded to mine. And I find it annoying when 90% of the comments are:

    – “Great idea, thanks for posting it!”

    – “Sounds good!”

    – “Wow, I have to try that sometime!”

    I would just delete those as link grabbers. If you can’t contribute to the conversation, don’t bother.

    Scott

  3. Case Stevens says:

    Dang, you’re right Andy.
    Didn’t think of that one, but it definitely needs to be added to the list.
    By the way, I have Akismet disabled, so I only receive the emails of SK2. Wouldn’t you recommend that?

  4. Case Stevens says:

    @CSmall If you keep commenting like this, you can’t go wrong. That’s why I leave it.

    Otherwise I would have deleted it, since your site isn’t related to mine and, more importantly, I really would like to learn who exactly C. Small is. Couldn’t find it at your site. An idea?

  5. Evelyn Lim says:

    Hello Case,

    I have no problems giving backlinks as a small gesture of thank you for adding to the conversation on my blog. But you do have a point there about linking to spammy sites.

    Incidentally, how do I check if I have a follow or nofollow tag on my blog?

    Regards,
    Evelyn

  6. Vlad says:

    I actually had to disable DoFollow on several of my blogs due to the spam.

    I am not sure if you ever experienced this, but if you have ever written article for EzineArticles, chances are you may have been already targeted by the “spammy trackbacks”…

    They write a post completely unrelated to your niche and then take the “resource box” from your article on EzineArticles to ping your blog. Just today I had an article about penguins pinging my web hosting blog.

    I use to ignore those because the trackback notification would include just the “resource box” from EzineArticles, but I had recently went trough several dozens of these trackbacks just to discover that most of them are spammy. Great follow up Case!

  7. Case Stevens says:

    Thanks for all your comments guys.
    Most funny thing is: I’ve deleted even more! 🙂

    Evelyn, you have to look at the source code to discover if a link contains a ‘nofollow’-feature. If you use Firefox, there’s an add-on that will color these links pink. You can get it here: quirk.biz/searchstatus/
    If you want to use DOfollow, download the plugin at: semiologic.com/software/wp-fixes/dofollow/

    One liners are easy to recognize, link builders who work for clients are a more difficult breed. I find myself too suspicious sometimes, reason why some may slip through, but in general I recognize them fairly quickly.

    And yes Vlad, I had that happen to me too. I tend to blacklist their domains in SK2.
    I don’t mind scrapers that much IF they give the right credits, but so many don’t and that’s what I strongly disapprove of.

    Another difficult one is from someone who leaves a great comment and a link to a totally unrelated site. What to do?
    Cats have nothing to do with Internet marketing, but I know Darlene, so I left her comment in. Same applies to Brennan’s comment.
    By the way Darlene, incoming links can’t hurt you. It’s the outgoing ones, those that YOU can control. That’s why this strategy is so tricky.

    If I don’t know the commenter, I visit their site to see what it is all about and if I found their site to deliver valuable content, I left them in, like Trucker News. May have made a mistake here, but it still was informative content and the comment looked sincere.
    Others linked to plain sales and affiliate pages and those were deleted.

    On the opposite, linking to a squeeze page isn’t that bad AnneMarie, IF I know who’s doing that and expect him or her to deliver great info.
    That’s why knowing your commenters is so important. Besides that, it builds your own network.

    So yes Mark, it IS a double-edged sword and sometimes I really wonder why I’m doing all this. Difficult to handle, which makes mistakes unavoidable. But in general it’s also rewarding for the good commenters, which is appreciated by them.

    Finally, I don’t use Akismet as my main spam fighter, because anyone can put you on the Akismet blacklist, while using SK2 YOU are in control. Read Andy Beard’s Akismet False Positives & Spam Karma Configuration.

  8. Andy Beard says:

    Case you can still use Akismet as an extra indication, that page has a link to the SK2 plugin that uses Akismet in that way.

    I know some people are switching to using Disqus – why not go all the way and force people to comment on FriendFeed, or do a Seth Godin and switch off comments.

    The powerful side of dofollow is engaging your audience more, they link to you possibly, or stumble a post.
    Every time you link to a dofollow WordPress blog, you get a pingback with your anchor text.

    As far as off topic links, who cares, as long as they are not junk – every bit of juice helps people in some small way and very often gets reciprocated.

  9. Andy Beard says:

    Well you can always use Akismet as a filter for SK2, there is a plugin I listed at the bottom of that config page to do that.

    I don’t worry about off-topic links, they still pass juice in some way, and I even allow anchor text on them if the sites are legitimate, and both readers and I can identify who wrote the comment without much effort.

    I take a hard line, but then my community is important to me.

  10. Case Stevens says:

    @Fotobuch
    Another great example. You’re a beginner and it shows, because you only have three posts, dated February, at fotobuch.im. That makes me wonder why, because it’s May already. It’s a warning sign, as Andy calls it.
    Next, I can’t learn who you are, because there’s nothing about you on the site. Another warning sign.
    Still, you very well may be a beginner who doesn’t know these things. And your blog, as well as the theme, looks great and promising.

    But…
    you DO know what to put in your anchor text and your RSS feed links directly to a real estate site selling houses and condominiums in Germany.
    That’s why I took your URL out of your comments. Prove me that you’re real and I’ll put it back.

  11. Case Stevens says:

    @Gain muscle
    >>even unchecking ones filtered in askimet

    Really?
    I just visited your blog at musclesweb.net/blog/. The latest post was dated April 29th, 2008.
    I skipped through the three pages you have up there and only found 1 post with 2 comments, both without a link.

    >>more comments makes your site look busier and that is the bottom line
    NO, it’s not!
    It’s the interaction you can achieve with your readers that’s the bottom line. Blogging is about building a community with true relationships, not about volume.

  12. Case Stevens says:

    @College Tips
    >>However, I think that this type of commenting is OK
    Easy to say for someone with a blog containing only two comments without a link back and a few track backs from your own posts with NOfollow installed.

    If you would use the DOfollow feature, the link back should go to an informative site. I don’t want to send my readers to porn, gambling, Adsense scraped sites, sales pages, etc. Do you?
    But as you can see, I left your link in.

  13. Vlad says:

    @Andy,

    I was the one to suggest Case to look into Disqus. I know it feels like you are making people to comment elsewhere. I was apprehensive at first at the idea of “hosting” my comments on another website. But at the end of the day all links from Disqus are pointing back at me.

    They do a decent job fighting spam on my blog. I am sure it would be different on blogs like yours or Case’s.

    I have not used SezWho, but I think Disqus is similar.

    Just my 2 cents.

  14. Case Stevens says:

    I just read an excellent post by Maki that I can wholeheartedly recommend:

    Rethinking Blog Comments: Much More Than Just A Quick Way to Get Web Traffic

  15. Case Stevens says:

    Let me try to clear up this possible misunderstanding here:
    I do NOT mind if you got here through a DOfollow list. It’s another traffic channel, as is great content and high rankings in search engines.

    But you can still leave a valuable comment, right?

    It’s not how you found me, it’s what you’re leaving here. Here’s why.

    I want to build a great community and I really would like you to particpate by posting good comments, in return for which you get a back link to -hopefully- more valuable info, because…

    …new visitors are reading your comments too and may visit your site. You want to keep them there and the best way to do so is delivering great content or something valuable.

    That will result in a snowball effect with a growing number of visitors returning to eachother’s blogs over and over again.

  16. Case Stevens says:

    >>My feelings are (and it is what I would do) answer NO and YES.

    Yes, you’re right.
    But then he would sign his comment with Matt Cutts and not Drabdesign.

    Big difference!

    Matter of name branding, recognition, expertise and authority!

    EDIT: Poster DrabDesign sent me an email.
    His name is David and he said he didn’t meant to be offensive.
    It wasn’t. At all.
    I just wanted to make clear WHY I would leave Matt’s comment in there.

  17. Ernesto says:

    Commenting on Dofollow Blogs is like a manna, a gift from the blogging gods to those who might be needing some link building. This is something that we must not abuse or take for granted, by making spam comments. In my case, I comment only when the topic interests me and I try my best to make my comment as sensible and relevant as positive. The link love (or love link?) is a bonus.

  18. Matt says:

    Well my long comment just got earsed because of the math captcha not working in firefox (again – it rarely works).

    So to summarize without retyping it all… we get lots of spam as well – and we use wpspamfree to block most of the automated stuff. Then we approve all the rest that askimet catches if people use a name and wrote a comment. We don’t allow people to use keywords, so we do lose a lot of comments every day from people who didn’t read the comment policy.

    I’ll have to look into SK2 if it has those blacklists.

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