Spam, Spam, Glorious(?) Spam
How to identify and eliminate Spam comments
Spam – we all know it, we all block it, but when it breaks through the countermeasures, can we all recognize it? Well, it’s not always as simple as it appears. Here I’m going to look at some examples of spam comments we have received in recent times. Some will clearly be spam, some less so. It is important to remember that having your site or blog spammed is nothing personal. In the vast majority of cases these are automated comments being posted by ‘bots’, it’s not humans posting them.
I’m using images in my examples so as not to post links to spammers sites nor cause us to suffer from Google thinking our site is spamming.
Dodgy Pharma, knock-off ‘Designer’ Handbags, or just Beat Poetry?
We’ve all seen them, we all recognize them a mile off – and I can’t imagine anyone reading this would ever approve such a post to their site. However they’re not intended to be approved, they are posted in the hope that there is no comment moderation on a site and that they will automatically be posted.
Cases such as this are why we recommend that any business who wish to allow comments on their posts moderate their comments rather than allow them to be posted automatically.
I have seen some truly amazing examples of these in the past, sadly I seem to have deleted them all. Collections of random phrases, lines from news stories, quotes, etc. inter-dispersed with links of course. Some were almost more like beat poetry than spam, and tempted me to read them out to an unusual musical accompaniment!
In the end though, they are designed to increase the chances of triggering a result in a Google search with the end goal being to get traffic to their own site. That they will go via your site and use your resources is of no concern to them. Indeed it benefits them for you to supply the hosting and bandwidth as most who arrive due to these links and a search result from them is traffic that will bounce straight back away from your site after realizing the truth of the matter.
If comments such as the above are allowed, your website is effectively being defaced and abused, and your company reputation and Google ranking can suffer from the links to known spam websites.
Helpful advice/offer of help?
From what I have seen these tend to offer either SEO services or ‘help’ via a link or phrase to Google to help you with article writing for your site.
Do they offer these services? Well, it depends on the site being promoted. Many no doubt do. Indeed many contain generic but somewhat accurate advice in order to build trust. They will often also point out SEO flaws that may (or probably do not) exist on your site. The idea is to make you concerned enough about the visibility of your site to drive you to their site and services. Do not for a moment think they have actually studied your page! If you wish to improve your SEO and increase traffic there are many ways to do this, a foreign company that uses bots to spam for business across the web probably is not the best option to improve your SEO nor to get genuine traffic to your site.
Weird and pointless? Misplaced?
This comment must be lost. It must be accidental. Surely…? After all, they’re not trying to sell us anything, they’re not asking us to click a link or Google anything. In the front end of the site the only user details being displayed is the name. Sadly, no.
For those wondering, Biggin Hill Airshow is an air show in SE England focusing on historic aircraft. This post was placed on a Cork-based site which had nothing to do with aviation, history, engineering, travel, tourism or anything else you would connect to such an airshow.
The user name? It’s a place in New Jersey, in the USA.
The web address? Well, I’m not clicking it to find out. Sorry, but I have no idea of the contents and I’d be foolish to click it, a odd domain name with an obscure ending.
The e-mail address? Well, I am sure it’s real, from one of the first people to sign up to gmail upon launch, but I’d put money on it not belonging that of the person who posted the comment. Especially as those with such a very premium gmail address could no doubt sell it for more than they’d get for spamming.
So why this comment? Well, Google uses various ways to determine if a site is reputable or not. One of these is looking at links TO a site from an established site. As you can see above, this comment contains a link to the authors domain in their user information. When posted this link is also posted under the user image, and can be seen by anyone hovering on (or clicking) the link. When, or if, a comment such as this is approved, it legitimizes the spammers site in the eyes of Google. This allows their site to rise up the rankings. Of course, there is always the hope that a curious blog owner or blog reader will hit that link too, but that is just a bonus in cases like this.
Compliments, compliments everywhere!
Aren’t these lovely comments! Warm, polite and kind. Very nice…. yep, spammers. Just when you may have thought we had genuine comments here! These are from two sites, with the last comment being actually longer than the blog post it was put on. The page it was posted on was merely a heads up about an upcoming event in rural Ireland, and saying to contact for more information! Neither post nor site had anything to do with stocks nor cricket either!
These too are common, and tend to pray on people’s ego in the hope of being approved, again in order to get links back to their site for Google to see and for people to click.
So, besides the above – any signs to keep an eye out for?
Well, by now you should have a good idea what to look out for in terms of content, but besides the blatant spam and dodgy looking links two other things which at a glance always ring alarm bells for me are:
- Highly unlikely e-mail addresses, usually from genuine e-mail hosts, such as email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. These you can see in the image examples above.
- You will often see cases where the supposed author name doesn’t match the given e-mail address, such as Anya Fakeovic with an address email@example.com.
For a further insight into how the automated comments you saw above work, here is a link to an image which comes from a badly operated comment spinning generator. It’s a large image, hence not being displayed this post, but knowing that software processes this gives an idea how these bots operate in appearing human and varying the text output. I have this example (and more) as a result of spammers who don’t know their dishonourable job very well, but sadly it shows well how easy it is for them to produce suitable text for mass yet varied posting
So hopefully this helps you understand spam comments a bit better, but without making you too skeptical of the intentions behind every last comment.
By Graham, Web Developer at Spiralli – If you need help with WordPress comment settings or anything else, give me a call on 022-55002.