Blog Spam Gets More Sophisticated

 

I’ve been running my new Entrepreneur Writer blog for about a month now. For the most part I’m really enjoying it. It’s great to have total control over this blog (my old blog was owned and sponsored by my publishers) and I’m also enjoying the greater flexibility of the WordPress platform.

There is always a fly in the ointment, though, and in this case it’s blog spam. It took about a week for the spammers to notice this blog, and then the spam comments started flying in thick and fast.

I should say that one of the first things I did when setting up Entrepreneur Writer was install an anti-spam plugin (I chose Antispam Bee). This has been a life-saver, but I still like to double-check what alleged spam it is blocking. And that has been something of an eye-opener…

Some spam is, of course, easy to spot. Where it’s irrelevant to the subject of the post and blatantly an attempt to insert a link to another website, there is no doubting it is spam. Other instances can be harder to identify, though. Without the assistance of my anti-spam plug-in, I would have been quite tempted to approve these comments, and maybe even respond to them.

The one that came closest to fooling me was this one:

When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get four e-mails with the same comment. Is there any way you can remove people from that service? Thanks a lot!

When I first saw this comment I was quite concerned and all set to respond. I am new to running a WordPress blog, and was quite willing to believe I had done something wrong. A little research and reflection proved that this was not the case, however.

For one thing, Antispam Bee had marked it as spam. In addition, a quick Google search showed that I wasn’t the only blog owner who had received this comment and been concerned about it.

Most significantly, though, at the time when the comment was posted, there was no way for visitors to my blog to subscribe to be notified when new comments were made. Case closed – guilty as charged!

(I do now have a subscription facility for comments, incidentally, by courtesy of the excellent Subscribe to Comments Reloaded plug-in.)

Other comments also flagged up as spam included several like this one:

I am really loving the theme/design of your weblog. Do you ever run into any browser compatibility issues? A number of my blog visitors have complained about my blog not working correctly in Explorer but looks great in Chrome. Do you have any advice to help fix this problem?

Again, without the tip-off from Antispam Bee, I could easily have been drawn into publishing this and replying to it. I don’t want to say exactly how the plug-in knew it was spam, in case this helps other would-be spammers. Suffice to say, it applies a number of clever tests that are designed to weed out comments from known spammers and spambots.

So far, Antispam Bee has a 100 percent record on my blog in blocking spam comments and allowing through genuine ones. I will continue to monitor any it marks as spam in case any genuine ones are wrongly blocked, but so far I am very impressed by how well it works. Of course, there are other anti-spam plug-ins too – Akismet is a very popular one that also attracts high ratings from users.

My recommendation if you run a WordPress blog is therefore to install an anti-spam plug-in at the very earliest opportunity. And if you use another platform, be sure to have comment moderation switched on, and regard any comments such as those I have mentioned above with considerable skepticism!

If you have any comments or questions about dealing with blog spam, please do post them below (as long as they aren’t spammy!).

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