Lee Odden

Open Letter to Blog Comment Spammers

Lee Odden     Online Marketing

Photo credit: freezelight

Dear “SEO Consulting Services New York” and you too “Starting A Home Business”,

I have an admission to make: I don’t like comment spam. You are comment spammers. Our readers don’t like you. I don’t like you. You’re not welcome here.

Our Akismet filter has been doing a good job of filtering out spam and our commenting filters within Disqus catch most of the non-automated spammy comments. But they still persist. Most people active online have real names (obvious I know, but stay with me). If they don’t use their real name, it’s popular to use a “handle”.   I can see that it might be reasonable for some people to have a few different handles, but for the most part, singular identities are the norm.

Where the “identity crisis” comes is the persistent and pervasive use of what I consider, spammy handles in blog comments. Doing this is as old as blogging itself.   It started with legitimate beginnings though. For example, I used to put “toprank” in the name field when making comments on other blogs since that’s my handle. Today, I just use my own name.  Apparently, there are a large number of people named, “internet marketing minneapolis” or “insurance leads”. I don’t think so.

We “no follow links” within our blog comments due to abuse by SEO spammy types. Actually, most of them are not professional SEO’s at all. Pro SEO’s would not be so obvious and stupid as to blatantly use keywords as a person’s name when the links are no followed. It’s a waste of time.

So, to “internet marketing india” and “buy viagra and ciallis here”, I’m pretty sure those aren’t your names or your handles. My position with this blog is that if you opt NOT to identify yourself as a person, then the comment has no place here.

My preference is for readers to use real names. When people do that, their comments also tend to be more thoughtful, intelligent and useful to other readers. Additionally, when people use a handle or nickname to reference themselves online, it’s usually a good comment. However, with the popularity of Twitter, most people use their Twitter handle which is often a one-word name anyway.

I simply draw the line with people (or bots) that insist on using keywords they want to rank for in search engines as their “Name” in our blog comments.  Same goes for those that decide to use a two word name that then decide to link to a sales letter for some kind of “automate all your online marketing” software.

We’ve published a blog comment policy several years ago, but after adding Disqus as our comment management system, we cannot link to it in the same way. However, there should be a link at the end of each blog post now so readers can our guidelines for commenting.

After blogging for 6 years, I’m not ambiguous in my thinking about this. I’d be curious to know if readers think this is extreme, but I have no problem saying that I’m pretty firm in this policy and not buying in to the argument that there’s an implied reciprocation that should happen when people comment that involves a keyword link in exchange.

If you’re a long time blogger, what decisions have you made about a blog comment policy?

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on integrated content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely on a beach somewhere doing absolutely nothing.

Comments

  1. juliekosbab says:

    I don't think you're at all extreme. I'm sure given the prominence of the blog, your filters have to work overtime.

    For some sites, I see the beginning of attempts to comment spam as a positive signal about the site/content footprint on the Internet. It's kinda like your child's first step – 'Aw! My first comment spammer!'

    I generally use features that shut down blog comments after a set period to forstall zombie-posters trying to comment to older posts hoping that they'll be able to 'sneak through' that way. Not because I don't trust my filter, but it leaves less in my filter for my occasional tour of what's in there to make sure nothing of value got eaten!

    • I have seen a number of good comments get caught in the filter too. Right of passage yes, and part of the package I guess. 🙂 Ooh that rhymes!

    • Good comments do occasionally get trapped – that's the only reason I check them and have to put up with scrolling through the obvious spam in the first place. Otherwise, I wouldn't even go into the dark den of filtered spam comments. I don't like shutting off comments, as old posts can stir value-added conversation, like one I stumbled on just yesterday from 1995. On About Home Business, the post that attracts the most spam has the word “forum” in the title – 99.99999% of the comments on that post are spam and have nothing at all to do with forums, let alone the forum I was talking about in the post.

      • That's why I like the idea of being able to whitelist and blacklist email addresses, domain names, ips and user names. It helps address repeat offenders, good and bad 🙂

      • That's why I like the idea of being able to whitelist and blacklist email addresses, domain names, ips and user names. It helps address repeat offenders, good and bad 🙂

  2. AMEN. Spam comments are annoying (for the blog writer and for the blog readers).

    And honestly, do they even do any good? I can't think of a single person who would actually click through the spam to buy their home insurance or Viagra or whatever they are selling.

    • As an activity, it must result in some kind of desired outcome for the spammer. Otherwise they wouldn't do it. Spammers like to be efficient as much as anyone else. 🙁

  3. Lee, You're much nicer about it than I. My letter: “Damn you all to hell,” linking to the Chuck Heston voice and shaking fists at the screen. Sorry, death and special hell to spammers.

    I use WP SpamFree which catches most of the bots, but the live people crap slips through. I have decided to just trash/spam all the junk. If the email address (which of course does not match the scammy URL) is from a real IP, I have warned folks that some of their catchall emails like [email protected] or [email protected] have been spoofed.

    It's just a necessary evil of blogging, fighting spam.

    • I agree, it's part of the territory. Just seems like a waste when folks make such an effort to seem useful in a comment and then think a nofollow “SEO Minneapolis” text link will help somehow.

  4. I must politely disagree with you Lee.

    Without the timely messages from people you dub 'spammers', how would we find out about the exciting opportunities awaiting us from Nigerian princes?

    Where would we learn how to buy real estate with absolutely no money down, or make money from the Internet while using the toilet?

  5. What gets me are the comments that are long, seemingly original and quite relevant, ruined by “insurance cheap” in the name field. Why bother writing (or pasting) some long comment on the topic of the post when you're spamming with keywords in the name field?

  6. Kev Strong says:

    Absolutely spot on Lee, I'm sick of emptying out my spam folders on several high traffic blogs purely because of these auto submitters.

    I'm on teh verge of calling out one or two automated SEO company spammers 'cause it just pisses me off so much seeing them pop up all the time

    • We could make a Twitter list of them ….

    • I like the idea of this, although I'm not sure I'd want to limit it to just one or two. My thinking is, if you are such a dumbass that you think this is how SEO works, and you continue to do it even though your comments never get approved, you deserve what you get.

  7. Hi Lee. First I would like to disagree with you (because everybody else seems to think you're not extreme enough), then I would like to agree with you, because I hate being disagreeable.

    When I run through the comments awaiting moderation at my blog, there is one overriding aspect I look for: Does the comment look like it might add something to the conversation? If not, is it at least a real comment (shows that the person actually read the post and is actually responding to it)? Also, is the English even recognizable? If the person contributes to the blog conversation and for his time and effort wants to be called “Moscow hotels person”, I don't have a problem with that. You might, and that's fine. To me, that's a matter of personal preference. However, I very strongly feel that is not spam. I have read your post and I am providing real input, contributing to the conversation. If I call myself Michael Jackson, George of the Jungle or Buy Soggy Socks is irrelevant to the value of the comment.

    That being said, I do agree with you to a small degree. As I am sure you have experienced, there are many comments that fall into a bit of a gray area. In that case, I look at the “name” of the person as a secondary indicator; if they use a non-keyword name, I am more likely to assume good intent and not delete their comment. That is probably more psychology playing on me than logic.

    But the bottom line is that I would never consider a good comment spam because the commenter uses a keyword-rich handle. There are bots. There are “Nice site. I've bookmarked you.” And then there are real comments, whatever their “name” might be.

    • David, I think I agree with you on keeping a valuable comment that has a spammy name except that I would have to remove the link. Unfortunately, Disqus does not support that feature and therefore I end up having to delete the entire comment.

      I think the handles or actually keyword link attempts that I make fun of in the post do not add value regardless of the comment. They RARELY do.

  8. Interesting. I had tried to post as “David with a whole bunch of keywords in his name” and the comment software kept giving me errors (in both FF and IE). Just on a hunch, I tried posting just as David, and it worked like magic. So much for my little joke.

  9. This is exactly why I am considering a name change to “Debt Consolidation Loans” so I can spam off-topic blogs without any guilt at all.

  10. Great post, Lee. Very timely as I tweeted about this last week.

    I take a different approach, but I don't think any differently. I added that I reserve the right to edit the URL in the comment since that's the most important part of the comment to these spammers.

    Some of the comments are somewhat thoughtful. This is a way to have my pie and eat it too.

    • I agree that some of the comments are thoughtful and I used to find comfort in editing out links and the spammy names replacing them with the name provided in the email account. Unfortunately, Disqus only lets you edit the actual comment, not the name provided.

      I didn't see your Tweet but I would expect this is a pretty common sentiment amongst new bloggers and pros like yourself.

      • That's one of the reasons why I don't like Disqus and why I won't actually use it on my blog. I have installed, uninstalled, installed, and uninstalled more times than I care to admit! 🙂

  11. I think you are in the right with your thinking. What value does one bring to a particular post if you're linking away from it? Instead of trying to comment on a post, if you want to link to something else, right your own post.

  12. Hi Lee,

    I use Akismet as well, for the simple reason I think it's one of the best filters out there (and love the way it “learns” based on your decisions). It's been pretty good so far, but as you say the odd one will get through.

    I have an open comments policy – I don't moderate before publication and I don't require you to have so many comments approved before being white-listed.

    The majority of my commenters respect this, but if I do get a spam comment, I just add to the blacklist on the WordPress dashboard. 🙂

  13. I don’t think you’re being extreme at all Lee. Spam is gross in all its forms, and no one has time for it. And you’re right, professional SEO’s would never be so obvious and crude. The idea of blog comment reciprocity was originally founded upon the assumption that a blogger might read another person’s related blog, make a thoughtful comment, and perhaps link back to their own RELATED content. It’s about actually partaking in the conversation and adding value. But now even this practice has been sort of ruined by people who link to barely relevant content and seem to just skimmed the blog they’re commenting on.

  14. I feel much the same about heavily keyworded names on blog comments. I don't mind so much a keyword after a real name, but I like dealing with real people's comments.

    Drives me nuts when it's a tossup about whether or not it was a real person. Can't the spammers just make it easy every time instead of just most of the time?

  15. I have several blogs and I have seen that last month the spam comments are more that the original ones. I don’t really get it, why they think that those comments will help them in any way. Either they are really stupid, or they are desperate.

  16. jimrudnick says:

    Hey Lee…spot-on lad! We too use the same type of comment spam protection and as you stated quite well “…their comments also tend to be more thoughtful, intelligent and useful to other readers…” is the best practices methodology to count on!

    Spammers — go away, eh!

    🙁

    Jim

  17. Lee, I think you are right on target. Spam commenting is a waste of the commenter’s time, and mine. If these spammers took their time and ingenuity and applied it to having meaningful conversations on blogs, they’d wind up with more links and better links.

    • Good point Brad and it's true with a lot of activity in this category of promotion. Why take all the time and creativity to be pushy and irrelevant when creating something of value with the same amount of effort is risk free and actually works better in the long run? Ah, greed and stupidity – that's why.

  18. Hilarious. Isn't is just relentless? Can you imagine how awesome the web would be if there were no spammers?

    I have lately been being attacked by the Russian spammers. Awful.

  19. kayceeedenfield says:

    Thank God for Akismet….I'm a manager of Trafficswarm and at our new blog we were getting inappropriate adult content links! We are new to blogging, so we are trying to find some of our favorite blogs to read up on tips and comments on how to be better.
    Thanks for your advice, I have enjoyed reading through your posts
    Kaycee Edenfield
    trafficswarm.com

  20. Completely agree. It’s gotten a bit out of hand – and is even hard for Akismet to catch the now clever bots that flood our sites. It’s also a sham because now the comments are so good, even the real, true, accurate comments are now getting flagged.

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  22. Maybe the blog and commenting systems should provide a keywords field and make it linkable and nofollow by default. Create a filter that would find common words in name field.

    Then, create a rating system where users could up-vote a comment and once it reaches a threshold, the keyword link becomes a do follow link. This would encourage people to contribute good comments and get rewarded.

    • Only SEOs care about follow vs nofollow links. Providing incentives might make sense in other situations, but my take is that people should comment because they have an opinion to share, not because they'll get some link juice.

  23. I agree. Those spammy names are usually just followed up with “great post!” or “good article” which doesn't really help anyone out in any possible way.

  24. I've been getting a lot of spam comments on my blog, but they're not leaving a URL or even keywords. Just “wow this was great!” or “i think i love you” (yep.. got that one a few days ago). Are they embedding it maybe?

    • Hey Devon, I think they're getting approvals with “safe” comments. Then it might open up the door for them to post spammy comments with links later on. Especially on older posts. Worth checking out.

  25. LarryHall26 says:

    Lee, if you are relatively new to this what advice do you have on being consistent?
    I'm unsure if my comments have been considered “spam” or not but I am trying to do this right. Comment policy varies of course from site to site, but I've noticed the blog owners are inconsistent in selection (which is their right).

    • As you say Larry, it's up to each blog owner as to what their preferences are. However, I'd say you can go wrong with useful, insightful comments. Adding value never goes out of style 🙂 A bit pet peeve of many is the use of keywords in the name, irrelevance to the topic and gratuitous links.

      Just comment like you would talk in a conversation at a gathering or social networking event. Ask questions, give answers and participate. I'm sure you're doing just fine.

  26. love your post – away with spammers; nice photo tag:).

    Ana/YourNetBiz

  27. I love all the really generic stuff, like, “Great Site. I'll be bookmarking it” or “this is a really important topic.” Lately we've been getting things like giant lists of links. Annoying.
    I think it's totally the prerogative of the blog owner to have “no follow links” and to block all the lame spam. I don't think 1st amendment rights apply to spammers.
    We use Askimet and it is pretty great. We haven't had it mislabel anything as spam that wasn't. Yet.

  28. Byron Smith says:

    I couldn't agree more, blog and article spamming lowers the credibility of both media sources.

  29. nickstamoulis says:

    I agree with this issue. It is tough, because sometimes some of these spammers make really good, planned out comments that contribute to the topic of a blog post…at least this is what happens on my SEO blog.

    I sometimes will let the keyword stuffing names go through if the comment is intelligent and good enough, but generally they are deleted. It is apparent when someone wants to comment, just to get a link (even a “no follow” ed one).

  30. seo_training says:

    Lee,
    I enjoyed your talk here in Louisville on SEO for PR … sorry I couldn't join you and Jason for drinks at Proof on Main however.

    Onto the topic at hand:
    Little known secret to be exposed: I've often viewed you as one of the “blog comment police,” but I have a differing perspective, and here is why:

    If someone takes the time to come to my blog, contribute a legitimate thought/opinion and adds true VALUE, I frankly don't care what they want to call themselves (non-offensive to others of course). As long as the comment adds to the conversation, I'll look the other way on something so trivial as what they choose to call themselves.

    Frankly, I've got better things to do than to worry about than whether “SEO Dallas” is really “John Doe” or “Betsy Sells.” If they help make my blog more valuable because of their comment, “SEO Dallas” works fine.

    I'd much rather have the valuable contribution than to say (in the nerdiest voice I could possibly muster while putting my pocket protector in along with the masking taped glasses) “hey John Doe, you didn't use a real sounding name so your comment is now getting discarded as spam.” I mean, how many people use names that aren't their real ones when commenting anyway? What's the difference?

    Let's say I call myself “Roger Bauer” (my real name) in this comment, but I call myself “John Holmes” (obviously NOT my real name) in the next one … am I spamming you next time even if the comments are relevant and contribute value? Get my drift yet?

    Besides, how much is that link really worth in the grand scheme to be worrying about what someone entered into the name field today? The comment is more valuable than knit picking over whether they used their real name or not.

    That said, saying “hey Lee, nice blog” or “I hadn't thought of that so I'm going to bookmark your blog so I can revisit it,” doesn't contribute anything for anybody so that's spam even if somebody uses their “real name.” Ya feel me?

    Just contribute value and everything takes care of itself whether you want to call yourself “Lee Odden” or “Top Rank.”

    To each their own,
    Roger

    PS–before people pile on … my real name is taken on Disqus (probably by me, but I don't recall the password and don't feel like jumping through 7 gazillion hoops right now to reset it) so I resorted to a “handle” (i.e. secondary account).

  31. While Chanting (Lee Lee Lee), I just don't get while the few have to wreck it for the many. But after all, I guess its like that for everything.

  32. jameson says:

    I couldn't agree with you more. Great post.

  33. Yes I agree that the number one enemy of some site are spammers and I don't have idea on how to avoid them because they do way to enter your site. Maybe putting some security code on your program could avoid them.

  34. DoreenMartel says:

    I hear you loud and clear on this one! In fact, I have often written about this on my own blog. I also love the ones who are 'referring' to other websites that “I might find helpful”. I would find them a lot more helpful if they had anything to do with what I'm doing.

    The other ones that crack me up “I find your blog very interesting and will add it to my bookmarks”. They often link to gambling sites in their urls, and other useless sites. I thank you for bring this to the forefront, you have a far greater reach than I do!

  35. mitchdcba says:

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  36. Impressive post!

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  38. Harrymont says:

    It very clear about your view on spammer because nowaday there are many other that plans to destroy the rest of good post blog on the internet which have high ranking for people to post their following comment and having a security codes is much safe to protect your website from spamming.

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