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WordPress Anniversary: Comment Spam Lessons

It’s hard to believe that I’ve learned much from comment spammers over the years. I’ve learned that they are among the most hated folks in the world, yet you have to respect them as well.

As I look back on ten years of blogging with WordPress on this 10th Anniversary year, I realized that comment spam has been a popular subject on this site.

My site is not very interactive. I tend to publish articles that leave little room for discussion. Yet, like most of us today, this site has had more than its fair share of comment spam. Thank goodness that WordPress.com and the WordPress Community, along with dozens of other forum and web publishing platforms, have to protect them. Akismet is one of many projects created by Matt Mullenweg that make the world a better place and I’m so grateful.

I’ve watched comment evolve from email spam to being a nuisance on blogs to a billion dollar industry representing more than porn, casinos, and mortgage companies. The growth – nay, explosion – of comment spam in the last ten years has been stunning.

A recent story on The World radio show described how Chinese are learning English to improve the odds of catching a big fish in phishing scams:

According to the cybersecurity company, Mandiant, hired to investigate how the New York Times was hacked, one important tool hackers are now employing is “good English.” Moser says it’s a sign of the times.

“We know there are at least 300 million people in China learning English right now. That’s the population of the US. So there’s got to be lots of people good at learning slangy English,” says Moser.

It’s true, these scams have gotten a lot more sophisticated says Andrew Howard. Howard studies the effectiveness of phishing at the Georgia Tech Research Institute by writing and sending what he calls “ethical phishing emails” and measuring how many people click on the dubious link.

“In my experience even a really poorly crafted email, we see click rates in the 20-25 percent rate.”

Improve language skills and that click rate will rocket up. It’s up to us to be smarter than email and comment spammers, not an easy task.

In “The Secret Recipe of Comment Spam Comments,” I shared a broken comment template form that came through my comment spam. It featured the secret sauce recipe spammers use in bots and templates for human spammers to slam our sites. It was a study in well-formed comments, comments designed to fool you into thinking they are legitimate.

I’ve been surfing online more than 3 hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It’s pretty worthy enough for me. In my view, if all webmasters and bloggers made good content as you did, the web will be a lot more useful than ever before.

Aside from some grammatical issues, what a lovely comment. Makes me feel sunshine inside, my first lesson learned from comment spam.

The Best Comment Spammers Complement You

Before came out to save our time and blogging lives with its solid comment spam protection, in 2005 I wrote “What is Comment Spam?” to help everyone learn more about how it worked and how to recognize and differentiate it from legit comments. I wrote:

The sneaky comment spammers are the ones you really have to look for. They require more work to determine if they are legitimate. These are the nice comment spammers. They say things like:

“I really like your site, keep up the good work.”
“This is a beautiful site.”
“It looks like you worked hard to create this site. Good work.”
“I like what you have to say. I’m going to tell my friends.”
“This is really good information. I’m going to mark it as a favorite.”

When these first started showing up, I preened. I even pointed them out to my husband with pride. Then I learned that these were NOT legitimate but creepy comment spam robots that were lying and creating links to their sites. Some investigation found that some of these links were indeed hooking up with pharmacy and gambling sites. DAMN! These are the sneaky comment spammers! More and more comment spam prevention tools help to eliminate these, but if you get a lot of “nice comments” within a day or two across many posts – you’ve been hit by a sneaky comment spammer.

I learned from comment spammers that those who thrive on evil are smart and polite. They taught me not to trust commenters.

Comment Spam is a Waste of Our Time

Comment spam is a waste of time. It clogs up the web, representing the majority of content flowing around the Internet tubes, but mostly it just wastes time. Everyone’s time.

In 2005, a report came out saying Americans spent 40% of their time online deleting spam. Most of that was from email, so increase that for bloggers deleting it from email and blogs. That’s a huge amount of time going down the drain. While most email services have vastly improved their email spam filters, and sites using save time with the crowd-sourced comment spam fighter, it’s still a lot of time wasting with no return other than a feel-good that you are helping others avoid spam by marking spam as spam not deleting it.

In “A Day in the Life of a Paranoid Website Administrator,” I described the hard work it took to monitor and clean out comment spam, giving you some insights into how much these things waste our time and mess with our heads.

Then one day I got hit by about 25 viagra/casino spams. While these were caught by WordPress comment spam filters, they showed up in pink using ColdForged’s Paged Comment Editing Plugin. The monsters were in my spam catching database, eating up valuable space on my server. Well, not really but I was angry anyway. Remember, I’m paranoid about comment spam. After several months with only the occasional irritant, I was pissed, so I added the Bad Behavior Comment Spam Plugin.

Again, things trickled down to a nothing and I got paranoid again. Comments were being bounced by Bad Behavior before they even got in the door. It was “too quiet.” I was paranoid. So I added Bad Behavior Stats so I could keep track of what it was doing. Bad Behavior was catching a LOT. On average, it nails 500 known comment spam spiders, robots, etc., every week.

But you see what happened? WordPress stopped the majority of the comment spam out of the package. I got paranoid so I added WordPress Plugins to help me deal with MY paranoia not the comment spam!

I learned to trust the tools that keep my site safer and block most comment spam, and not to complain about the few that do get through. If twenty get through on a single day, I relax because I know that 2,000 might have been caught and prevented from appearing in my comment queue.

I Learned More About Sex from Comment Spammers Than Books and Friends

I’ve learned much about sex over the years of reading spam comments. There is a lot of filth – the kind you recognize when you see it – jamming up the Internet tubes and our comment spam queues.

I learned about golden showers from comment spam. That’s one of the kinder kinks found in comment spam. I didn’t know what it was and said the term out loud without thinking. My husband heard me. I told him I didn’t know what it was, so he explained it to me. I don’t know what shocked me more – that someone actually enjoys that fetish or that my husband, an ultra conservative and proper Southern boy, would know what about it. If you don’t know, ask a friend or hit Google. I won’t help you on this one.

I learned that the world is a twisted place. No matter how many laws and Victorian attitudes we may put on sexuality, sexual preferences, and fetishes, they’ve been around for a long time and will continue forward forever. Get more accepting and broad-minded, folks.

I also learned my husband knows more about many things than he lets on. I’m still not sure if that’s a good lesson or not.

A Good Site is a Comment Spam Free Site

When I find comment spam on a site, it makes me sick. It tells me that this blogger has abandoned their site or doesn’t care any more. It means the spammers have won and we are down another solider in the war against the spammers.

In “Do You Care Enough To Keep Your Blog Comment Spam Free?,” I wrote about the snap judgments people make when they encounter a spam-filled site.

With these snap judgments on a comment spam filled blog post, do you think this is the type of resource that I would like to read or recommend? What do you think and assume about someone with a comment spam packed blog?

More importantly, in our constant battle to put an end to comment spam through creative and imaginative means, the evil spammers win with that blog. That blog is the reason they keep littering the web with their fecal matter. Because there are enough lazy, careless, lackadaisical blog owners who don’t care or give up under the onslaught instead of thinking more about their readers and the battle to fight comment spam than doing something about it.

To those bloggers, a kick in the head.

Keep proving you care about your readers and get rid of comment spam when it gets through your comment spam filters. Think about cleaning out comment spam like cleaning your blog house. You want to make a good impression when visitors come to call, don’t you?

..You are only torturing your readers and commenters, not stopping comment spam from getting through. Get serious comment spam protection and open your comments to the world.

Put your readers first and kill all comment spam.

Comment Spammers Want to Wear Us Down

Blogs with comment spam taught me that spammers thrive on persistence. Like terrorists now serving as a legitimate political body within a government once terrorized by them, spammers win by wearing us down and overwhelming us so we give up.

Don’t give up.

In “Are Blog Comments Getting You Down?” I wrote that blogging is hard work enough without including comment spam in the mix.

Don’t let the struggles of nasty people make your blogging experience miserable. Don’t take revenge, or bite back with nasty comments. Do nothing to inflame them. Rise above them and remove their negative influence. Keep your focus on the higher ground: your content and blogging goal.

Comment spam taught me to have tougher skin and resist those wish a wish to condemn me and what I do. I learned to stand taller, fight back harder, and be more confident about who I am and what I do.

I’m a blogger, and I fight back. Take that, spammers.

More Comments on Comment Spam

Here are just a few of the many articles I’ve written on comment spam as I studied it and learn from it over the years.

Clearly, comment spam has occupied too much of my time. :D


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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen.

14 Comments

  1. Posted May 12, 2013 at 2:11 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on peeveesknols and commented:
    Comments are very important or vital for any blog. When it comes to the Comment Spam, what do you think? Whats your reaction. Go thru this post which reveals and clears many of your doubts

  2. Posted May 12, 2013 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    Good info here! I think there are probably a lot of new and/or naive bloggers out there who simply have no idea that these “complimentary” comments are spam. And you are right — their English is getting so much better.

  3. Posted May 12, 2013 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Pied Type and commented:
    As my readers know, I’m not a fan of reblogging. However, Lorelle has posted some very good information about comment spammers, how to recognize them, and what to do about them. Don’t miss the links at the end of her post. More great information.

  4. Posted May 12, 2013 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    It seems like there is a war on WordPress these days. Comment spam, of course, but now a new thing. Fake subscriber spam. It never ends!

    • Posted May 12, 2013 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

      It isn’t war and it isn’t new. Spam is spam and it is everywhere, including registration and subscriber spam. If you are using Akismet, and ten to twenty comment spam get through, know that hundreds, possibly thousands, have been blocked. This is why it is a billion dollar industry. They know their target and they know that bombardment is the only way to survive to make money.

      The only way to handle it is to use the best tools available, and ignore it. Let it wash past you. If you let it get to you, they win. It is a form of legal terrorism in the eyes of many as it feels like a constant bombardment, attacking our spirits. Just smile and move on, giving energy to the things that really matter in life. They will get their pain and suffering somewhere down the line, we can hope.

      You are not alone.

  5. Posted May 14, 2013 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on WPBuzzer and commented:
    Ohhh those nice compliments )

  6. SALLY
    Posted May 14, 2013 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Hi Lorelle,

    Thank you for the referral and helping to spread the word about comment spam. That sounds odd to say, but the struggles to deal with comment spam is often what causes a blogger to give up as it brings such negative energy to the joy of publishing. I work hard to find something of value in everything associated with blogging and self-publishing, thus I thought the best way to help educate people about comment spam was to look at the lessons I’ve learned from dealing with it. I hope it was helpful.

  7. Posted May 15, 2013 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

    What I just do not understand is what is the purpose of a comment spam – the ones without any links..? Just like the example you posted at the start,

    “I’ve been surfing online more than 3 hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It’s pretty worthy enough for me. In my view, if all webmasters and bloggers made good content as you did, the web will be a lot more useful than ever before.”

    If someone were to let this type of comment through, what use or benefit does the spammer get from it? Personally, I don’t like these type of comments anyway. I don’t want to be stroked. I want interaction.

    • Posted May 16, 2013 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      If you note, the links do not have to be within the comment area. They are in the comment form. A click of their name and the visitor is taken to the spam site, which may be infected with a virus or malware, creating more problems for the victim. The “intelligent” spam comments encourage the site owner to allow them to stay there, ignoring the website address in the form. This happens with enough of them to work.

      I’m with you. I want the interaction, which is why I’m not a fan of “thank yous” and “this really helped” comments, though I understand people’s need to say something. I want conversation not polite behavior. :D

    • Posted May 16, 2013 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

      Ahhhh… I didn’t think about the hyperlink from the name. I’m know that a lot of people post links usually to try to get business and help their page ranking. But didn’t consider this. Thanks!

  8. SpencerLarra
    Posted May 29, 2013 at 1:39 am | Permalink

    It is not like that “Best comment spammers complements you”. If someone likes your blog or website he/she used to make complement on your work. But best spammers uses the words which are most common for complement, they don’t replicate your work which they particularly liked in the comment.

    • Posted May 29, 2013 at 10:43 am | Permalink

      Not sure I understand what you are saying. Yes, spammers try to fool you by using complementary language. Yes, spammers also copy text out of your article and previous comments to try to fool you as well. There is nothing they will stop at to spam, including signing up for WordPress.com blogs, publishing articles that are original, template, or ripped off from other sites, and include a link to their own site to maximize SEO and use other sites, including WordPress.com and Blogger, to promote theirs. There are ridiculous and nasty tricks done all the time, by intelligent people who should know better. Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world where these things don’t need doing in order to gain the trust and respect of customers.

      Until then, we have to be vigilant and use the tools available to protect ourselves and prevent this crap on our sites. Thanks.

  9. Posted June 20, 2013 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    I try to be positive about comment spam, if we weren’t doing a good job building and promoting sites for clients they wouldn’t be targeted. But yeah, if comment spammers all went and died, no one would miss them.


4 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] WordPress Anniversary: Comment Spam Lessons « Lorelle on WordPress. […]

  2. […] WordPress Anniversary: Comment Spam Lessons (lorelle.wordpress.com) […]

  3. […] one of them was a “compliment” comment like those Lorelle wrote about a few days ago. Here are some examples that were aimed at various older posts on Pied Type, […]

  4. […] WordPress Anniversary: Comment Spam Lessons (lorelle.wordpress.com) […]

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