Blog Comments: How to Tell a Spam Comment from a Real Comment

spam commentsI love blog comments. I love knowing that somebody—anybody—is reading my blog and cares enough about what they read to comment on it. Of course, I love the good comments more, but I don’t mind the negative ones—as long as they aren’t rude and they aren’t spam. I rarely delete a legitimate comment unless it’s really nasty or vulgar in some way and, thankfully, those are pretty rare.  Spam, on the other hand. . . .

One of the questions I am asked most frequently is “how can I tell a spam comment from a real comment?” Some spam comments are no-brainers. You know these, they are either in some foreign language and—at least on my blog, it’s usually an alphabet I don’t recognize—they are pages long and make no sense at all. Either that, or it’s a blatant plug for some scummy website.  I’ve never had Akismet (my favorite anti-spam plug-in) miss on these.

Some spam comments, however, are a little more clever and sometimes a little more difficult to discern. They nearly always get picked up by Akismet, but sometimes you look at them and wonder if they could be legit. And sometimes they get missed.

If you need help getting started with Akismet or need to know how to adjust your blog comment settings to minimize the possibility of spam slipping through, read this post on avoiding blog spam. 

Today’s post will help you to recognize the clues I use to determine whether or not a comment really belongs in the spam filter. The numbers after each example correspond to the numbers in the graphics. To see the graphics larger and be able to read the text, just click on the images—they’ll open full-size for you. Just use the back button to come back and finish the article.

Some spam comments are blatant and obvious.

Comments that show up in an alphabet you don’t use on your blog can always be considered spam. I’ve yet to see any comment on my blog in Asian, Cyrillic or Arabic characters that wasn’t spam. (1)

Comments that are ads for pharmaceuticals (2), targeted website traffic, links to random websites and long-winded missives (3) that are actually keyword-stuffed SEO junk trying to use your site to create links to trash sites are all spam.

Comments that are just a string of keywords are spam (4 & 5). Again, it’s just black hat SEO types trying to build back links for their junk clients. These aren’t sites you want associated with you—if you allow these to stay, you can be penalized by the search engines.

spam comment

Some spam comments are more subtle and clever.

Comments that are very generic and don’t seem to actually be related to the post are often spam. I’m not talking about things like, “Great post,” or “Good points, here.” Spam comments are more often like examples 6 and 7 below. Note example 6 is just generic, but #7 is completely unrelated to the post it is associated with. You can see which comments go to which post by looking to the right of each comment (oh, & in case you’re looking for these posts, these comments aren’t from my website but from a client).

Spam comments also will often have a name that doesn’t match with the email address.  You’ll notice in the screen shot that every spam comment has a name that is different from the email address. The names and websites/email addresses can also be a clue to know if a comment is spam. Any website that comes up as “facebook.com/profile.php?id=” followed by a string of numbers is spam—I’ve never seen one that isn’t. Also, comments that include a generic website like “yahoo.com” or “google.com” are generally spam as well.

While occasionally there may be a difference in the email address and the poster’s name (8), this should be a clue to you that the comment bears further investigation. When you’re trying to determine whether or not an “iffy” comment is spam, here are a few more clues.

A common word will be misspelled. I’ve circled a few here for you (9) but if you look through the comments, you’ll find one misspelled word in every post that isn’t obvious spam. I’m not entirely sure why but I suspect it is an effort to bypass spam detection filters set to pick up on certain words and phrases. Comments with an odd syntax (generally from SEO spammers who aren’t native English speakers) and criticisms of your site that don’t make sense (like when I get comments about my terrible grammar and spelling) are also usually spam.

A note of explanation here: I bear no prejudice against my international readers. I think it’s pretty awesome that I get visitors from around the world–and I also understand that the way you write in English isn’t always the way I write–I learned that decades ago as a teen when I became penpals with my German cousin. But there is a difference between your awesome comments and the junk churned out by spambots created by non-native English speakers.

spam comments

Finally, if a comment just doesn’t sound right, look at it carefully before approving. It’s your blog; you get the final word about what gets published and what doesn’t. While I am an advocate of publishing every comment, even those critical of a post (aside from the vulgar or hateful garbage I mentioned before), I firmly believe in stopping spammers dead in their tracks, so I will err on the side of caution, even if it means I occasionally (and by occasionally I mean rarely) end up deleting a legitimate comment.

How about you? Have you found any sure signs of a comment spammer? Do you have any questions about determining spam comments? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below. I really do love blog comments and I love hearing from you.

I’m a writer, photographer and entrepreneur with a passion for learning, sharing and self-improvement. I love to help people become more productive and organized in their home, business and life. I’m all about real, practical, do-able solutions that will help you to enjoy a more fulfilling and creative life and focus on the things that matter most.

29 Responses to Blog Comments: How to Tell a Spam Comment from a Real Comment

  1. Akismet has not been so great at picking up spam comments lately. Either that or these spammers are getting more creative. Thankfully, I require my approval for every comment.

    One of the things that I have trouble discerning are pingbacks. They SEEM okay but I’m almost hesitant to click on the link to see where they go – so I usually just google the website and see if it makes sense.
    Shelley Webb recently posted..How (and Why) to Set Up Google AuthorshipMy Profile

  2. […] Anyway, go read her article so you can see what you might be letting through that you probably don’t want to be. Comment spam can actually really hurt your SEO if you have a lot of shady sites using your comments as links so you do have to be careful. Go and check out “How to tell a spam comment from a real comment“. […]

  3. About the randomly misspelled word, my understanding is that it isn’t random at all, it’s a marker for tracking purposes. The spammer can monitor in Google how many times this misspelled word comes up to understand how effective their spam campaign was.

    • That sounds reasonable to me, Peter. I figured there had to be a reason for the oddly misspelled words in the spam posts. I wasn’t sure if it was to escape some filter (though the words are odd ones to find in a spam filter) or for something else. Your explanation makes more sense than any other I have heard.

    • That is so true. One of the big spam clues for me is really bad grammar and syntax. I understand, though, that not everyone is a grammar nerd like me or has a background in editing, so it can be a challenge for some.

  4. I was spending too much time sifting through the comments using Aksimet and switched to another program called FV antispam. It is free and it does a better job at weeding out the junk comments. It also auto approves frequent commentators. I agree sometimes it is hard to determine which comment is spam and what isn’t because some of the spammers are very creative.
    Christy Garrett recently posted..Summer Food Safety Tips – Reduce Your Chances of Food PoisoningMy Profile

    • I will have to check that plugin out, Christy. I really have had great luck with Akismet and can scan through my spam box in just a minute or two before emptying it. But I like to be sure I am keeping up with what’s what in WP. Thanks for the tip.

  5. Thanks for this article about spam. There have been times that I have went through my inbox and found items that I do not consider to be spam and I have removed them, but they are far and few between…I love your analysis of this topic:)

  6. So glad to have read this article as a recent newcomer to blogging & commenting on blogs. I am so careful what & how I comment. Sometimes I want to reference my business, blog or product but don’t want to be slammed for spamming. (cute phrase-don’t yah think?) I don’t yet have Askimet , will eventually) but caught a few on my own (eagle eyed) & haven’t had any in awhile. I like idea that comments await approval.

    • Roslyn, Akismet comes on every WP blog. You just need to go through the steps to activate it. It really is simple and makes comment maintenance so much easier. I don’t like having my commenters have to wait for approval. I like them to know their comments are up and being read right away.

    • Every once in a while, I find one that slips through the cracks, too, Alexandra. And then I find myself analyzing it to try and figure out why. So far I haven’t come up with a pattern.

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