Comment spam remains a problem for all WordPress users. It also affects other blogging software and platforms such as discussion forums, guestbooks and wikis.
Unfortunately, it is near impossible to completely stop spam software from attacking your website. Even if you completely disable comments, spammers can still submit spam to your website. Whilst these comments will not be displayed on your live website, they will take up space in your database, which will increase the overall size of your database and, in turn, slow your website down.
In this article, I would like to give you some tips on how you can reduce comment spam on a WordPress website. If you follow these steps, you should greatly reduce the volume of comment spam you receive.
The first four steps all involve configuring your discussion settings correctly on your website. You will find the discussion settings area in your main admin menu under Settings / Discussion. The direct URL for this area is www.yourwebsite.com/wp-admin/options-discussion.php.
1. Moderate Comments
There is a section in the WordPress discussion settings page entitled “Before a comment appears”. This section allows you to control which comments are sent to the moderation queue and which articles are automatically published on your website.
Enabling “Comment must be manually approved” means that every single comment must be manually approved. A lot of blogs use this setting as it gives full control over what comments are published. This essentially means that no spam comments will ever be published on your website.
As someone who comments on blogs semi-regularly, I find this option frustrating. Depending on how often the blog owner checks the comment moderation queue, it could be a few hours or even a few days before a comment is approved and published. This can slow down any discussions that are taking place.
The other option is “Comment author must have a previously approved comment”. I personally feel that this is a more practical option as it only sends a commenter’s first comment to the moderation queue. Once they have had a comment approved, all of their subsequent comments will be approved automatically.
This setup is not perfect as someone could technically submit a good comment and then submit spam later. However, in practice, the majority of people who leave a good comment initially will submit good comments in the future.
A high percentage of spam comments contain links. One way to take advantage of this is to send any comments with links to the moderation queue.
You can do this in the “Comment Moderation” section. A fresh WordPress installation will send comments to the moderation queue if they contain two links or more. I recommend reducing this to one as many spam comments only contain one link.
3. Use the Comment Blacklist
The comment blacklist is one of the most underused features of WordPress; despite it being available in every WordPress website. It allows you to blacklist the IP addresses of spammers who are persistently attacking you. You can also blacklist commenters by URL, email address, name and/or content.
Blacklisting someone is a good way of discouraging people who are submitting spam manually. I encourage you to use it when you can.
4. Close Comments On Older Posts and Pages
Whilst comment spam does occur on new articles, it is more common for spammers to target older articles that have established traffic and a good search engine ranking. These articles can sometimes be years old, so you may not even notice that they have been attacked.
WordPress lets you automatically disable comments on posts and pages that were published a defined number of days in the past. In my experience, a couple of months (e.g. 100 days) is normally a good balance between keeping comments enabled on new articles and stopping spammers in their tracks.
5. Install Anti-Spam Plugins
Whilst I do believe that configuring your discussion settings correctly should be your first port of call when tackling spam, there are a lot of plugins available to help you when spam does get out of hand.
The most well-known plugin is Akismet; which comes packaged with every installation of WordPress. Developed by the makers of WordPress, Akismet is an automated spam service that will filter spam comments into your spam folder. It is very effective and learns from what comments you mark as spam and what comments you mark as legitimate.
Due to how big a problem Spam is for WordPress users, there are hundreds of anti-spam plugins available for WordPress. There are way too many to list in this article, but here are a few good anti-spam plugins to get you started:
- Spam Free WordPress
- Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin
- WP Anti Spam
- Anti-spam by CleanTalk
- NO CAPTCHA Anti-Spam
Be aware that some anti-spam plugins can hurt the commenting experience for genuine commenters by making them jump through hoops before they can submit a comment. Unfortunately, that is the price you may need to pay if comment spam is a major problem on your website.
Comment spam is an ongoing battle that most website owners have to face on a daily basis. Thankfully, if you configure your discussion settings correctly, a few spam comments will actually be published on your live website.
Whichever moderation option you choose, be sure to check your moderation queue and spam folder on a regular basis as there is nothing more discouraging to readers than having a long detailed comment deleted 🙂
Here are some other comment plugins that add more functionality (or completely change everything) to the WordPress commenting system.
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