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The Cost of Comment Spam

Posted By Darren Rowse 27th of April 2006 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments

It seems that bloggers everywhere are giving up the fight against comment spam – Or it least it seems that way to me.

I’m not going to start naming names but this week as I’ve read a number of fairly high profile and active blogs I’ve noticed that there is ALOT of comment spam in many of their archives. I’m suspecting that they are not alone and that it’s symptomatic of what is happening on a larger scale.

Whether the spam is slipping though some how under the radar or whether these bloggers have just given up because it’s all become too hard I’m a little concerned to find so many examples of comments sections of posts with literally hundreds of spam comments linking to all manner of dubious sites.

While I understand why some bloggers might give up under the weight of numbers of spam comments it’s worth considering the costs of comment spam on your blog:

  • Ignore it and it will Go away? – one blogger who I spoke with this week actually told me that he was hoping that if he did nothing that it would sort itself out. I don’t know what this blogger was on but it has to be one of the craziest things I’ve heard for a long time. You see in my opinion it’s the exact opposite. If we (and I mean WE collectively) ignore comment spam and allow it to clutter our blogs it will not only not go away, it has the potential to grow further. My anecdotal evidence this week is that if you allow comment spam to sit on your post that it’s more than likely to be added to a list of posts to spam again. Many of the examples of spam in comments threads this week revealed many many comments left on single posts while other posts seemingly were ignored by spammers. This says to me that it’s a systematic attack upon unmonitored blogs. Ignoring it will only encourage spammers.
  • Search Engine Impact – the comments that your readers leave on your blog have the potential to impact what people find your blog searching for in search engines. This can work for you or against you. Most bloggers have stories of people ending up on their blogs having searched for all kinds of bizarre terms/spelling mistakes used by commenters – but one impact that comment spam can have upon your blog is that it alters the keyword density of your posts. This particularly happens when comment spammers latch onto a particular post on your blog and leave ALOT of comments. I found one post on a well known blog this week that had 200+ comments on it, mostly on the topic of porn. I didn’t investigate it too much in Search Engines but I’d hazard a guess that his page had some keywords on it that were much more densely populated on that page than what he intended. This decreases the effectiveness of his content for the purposes that it was written for and increases the effectiveness of the spammers work.
  • Linking to Bad Neighborhoods – once again on the SE front – a common warning that SEO experts give is to be careful about the sites that you link to as they can have an impact upon how search engines rank your site. Link to so called ‘bad neighborhoods’ and you can get into trouble with your own SE presence. No one really knows just how much of an impact that this has upon SEO but it’s definitely not worth the risk.
  • Dead Links – one blogger that I approached this week to tell them about their comment spam argued that most of the links that people were leaving were dead links within weeks of them leaving them and that as a result they were not linking to to gutter sites after-all. My response to him was that dead links on a site can harm it’s Search Engine Presence. It’s commonly known that dead links are not looked upon favorably by Google and to have hundreds of them on a post cannot help it’s ranking.
  • Reputation – imagine with me a first time reader stumbling upon a post on your blog after doing a search for ((insert your blog’s topic here)). They find your post which has relevant content that they find helpful and scroll down to read the comments of others or to leave a comment of their own – only to be confronted with ads for pharmaceutical companies, porn sites, finance products, poker websites and all manner of other irrelevant and gutter crawling content. As I’ve said many times – EVERYTHING on your blog has the potential to add to or take away from your reputation. This not only includes your design and the content that you write but also the comments of your readers/spammers. Some first time readers won’t understand that that the comments are left by malicious spammers and will tie you and your blog to it – whilst others who understand that what they are reading is comment spam will make a judgement upon you and how willing you are to maintain your blog (just like the people walking by my house right now looking at my un-mowed lawn are making judgments about me (note to self… mow lawn)
  • Ethics – perhaps I’m something of a prude but looking at some of the comment spams left on blogs in the last few days I have to say that it would take a pretty tolerant blogger to find all comment spam acceptable in terms of it’s nature. I’m particularly thinking of some of the sexual graphic language that is used which refers and links to pages claiming to have some pretty foul and illegal material. I won’t impose my morals on anyone else but would encourage bloggers giving in to comment spam to take a serious look at the type of topics that they have showing on their sites. Ask yourself if you’re willing to live with a child… your child… stumbling upon some of it.

One last argument that I heard from a blogger this week was that they had no-follow tags in operation on their blog and that the links spammers were leaving were ineffective. While this might be true in terms of the benefits that the spammer might get from SEO – one interview I saw with a comment spammer last year (I can’t find the link) said that they get a surprisingly large number of click throughs on comment spam and that they benefit that way also. I’d also remind you that while no-follow tags might decrease the effectiveness of the links from the spammers perspective that they don’t have any impact on some of the points above. To this point no one has come up with a ‘fix-reputation’ tag or a ‘mend-ethics’ tag and bloggers will need to live with the consequences of their inaction.

So what do do?

It would be all very nice of me to attack bloggers who give up on comment spam and no propose solutions. My main piece of advice for bloggers is to use up to date blogging software and to use the built in spamming solutions that many of them have built in or available with plugins.

While spam killing plugins don’t stop everything they do help.

What does slip through the filters and plugins needs to be diligently monitored and checked manually either before or after they go live on your blog. There is no other way to ensure blogs are spam free than to have someone monitor it. If you’re not willing or able to do this then you might also like to consider the option of either switching off comments on your blog or disabling them after a certain period of time.

I hope I don’t come across as an unsympathetic blogger in this post – I do understand the strain that spam can put on a blog. I have quite a few blogs of my own and unfortunately need to put time aside each day to maintain their comments sections. It’s no fun but it is important.

I’d be keen to hear what other bloggers comment spam strategies are – feel free to share your practices in comments.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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