Sometime this week, we should hit the half-million mark in spam comments left here on Phoenix Real Estate Guy.
Yeah 500,000 spam comments in just under six years.
Ridiculous, isn’t it?
Granted most of these get caught in the spam filter (I use Akismet. At various times I’ve tried adding in WP-SpamFree and/or Bad Behavior with mixed results). But no filter is perfect, and the spammer assaults are relentless, so it is inevitable that some slip through.
Some, like this, are obvious:
merry christmas analysis no matter how well conceived is a peripheral representation on its reality
Aside from making no sense what-so-ever, when it’s left by someone with a username of “Wholesale wheelbarrows of cash,” it obviously belongs in no place other than the spam bucket.
Lately though, I’ve been seeing a larger than usual rash of two different types of “spam” comments: 1) paid blog comments; and 2) keyword stuffed user names. These have both always been a nagging issue, and the frequency that they are left seems to wax and wane. At this moment in time, they are coming in like a tsunami.
Keyword Stuffed Names in Blog Comments
In the real estate vertical, there are some “experts” out there that actually teach people to leave comments on other blogs and to “keyword stuff” the name field. This is sold as a “linking strategy”. Most blogs (this one included) have their comment forms set up so whatever URL you leave in the comment form is linked to whatever name you put in the comment form. So you get comments left by people whose names look something like:
Buy Homes in Las Vegas (don’t bother clicking)
which is linked to their web site.
A *lot* of these comments (but not all of them) add no value at all to the discussion. They are usually quite short, along the lines of “Great post! I like this blog.” Sometimes, if the “expert” teaching this “strategy” is “good” and the poor person that believes this is a viable linking strategy is paying attention, the comments will include at least some reference to something in the article. Still, they are usually of very little substance simply because Mr. Expert is telling people to leave as many comments as they can on any and every blog they come across. Folks that buy into this BS simply don’t have time to leave comments that apply to the posting.
The Paid Blog Comment
And then there are companies out there that will deploy this “comment linking strategy” for you. At a cost of course.
A couple of years ago when I wrote, Why Paid Blog Comments are a Waste of Your Money (and my time), it was pretty easy to spot paid blog comments. They were horribly written and had nothing to do with the article.
Unfortunately, the people who offer these paid commenting services seem to be getting better. The English and grammar is reasonably good and sometimes they’re smart enough to at least scan the article and throw something into their comment that relates to it. You can still usually peg the paid comment though by the IP address of the commenter ”“ no one with a blog in the U.S. is going to be leaving a comment while they are vacationing in India, Russia, Malaysia or eastern Europe.
That is, if you have the time and patience to lookup the IP address of suspect paid comments. I don’t.
The problem with both of these “strategies” is, to be blunt, they suck. They annoy the authors of blogs they are left on, they annoy the readers, and they can lead you to being labeled as a spammer ”“ quite possibly getting your name/email blacklisted in a comment spam database. All of this is bad. Way more bad then the miniscule good you might get from a back link.
What to Do?
There are some tactics that can be deployed in the spammy / keyword stuffing / paid blog comment war.
The only complete solution is to disable comments altogether. I don’t like this idea because for me, one of the things I like most about the blog platform is the interaction that can come out of the discussion in the comments. It is tempting sometimes though to pull the trigger and just kill all comments.
I could turn on comment moderation ”“ forcing me to approve a comment before it is published. But that’s a PITA and more importantly, tends to disrupt the flow of the conversation in the comments.
I considered removing my “dofollow” plugin (as well as Comment Luv). Dofollow changes the default WordPress setup so that links left in the comment form are followed by search engines. Most experts agree that having blog comment URLs “dofollowed” makes your blog more attractive to spammers. CommentLuv is the little gizmo that puts a link to your latest blog post at the end of your comments here. But I don’t want to disable these, because I like to offer a little reward to folks who choose to take the time to comment here. Besides, I’ve tested this blog with and without dofollow and CommentLuv and don’t really see any significant changes in the spam levels.
So today I thought to myself, “self why not just ask people to use their real names?” Most people are well behaved enough to do what they are asked. And if they don’t want to leave their real name when they comment (or at least not leave keywords), then in all honesty why should I care if they go comment somewhere else?
So now I’m asking. I modified my comment form to look like this:
Will anyone notice, or pay attention?
I have no idea. Only time will tell.
I want people to comment. I like it when people comment. Comments can add a lot to a discussion. We can all learn from what other people say in blog comments. And THAT ”“ learning and sharing and contributing ”“ is why you should be commenting. Don’t do it to create back links. You WILL get people visiting your blog if you leave good quality comments. I know for a *fact* a lot of visitors here click on comment names. And you know what? If you leave quality, pertinent comments, people will find your blog, read your blog and you know what happens then?
They may link to you at some point.
A real honest-to-goodness one way non-reciprocal in context link. That’s the good kind. The kind search engines care about . The kind of link you want.
Commenting on blogs is also a viable way to get traffic to your blog. It’s a great way for readers here to get to know you. And don’t you really want them to know WHO YOU ARE? You know, like YOUR NAME.
Really, who the heck wants to be known as “Buy Homes in Las Vegas”?