Photo via jmsmytaste
Blogging is the most popular form of personal expression on the Internet today and is also the driving force behind many company websites. While blogs are a fun and easy way to communicate, they do come with pitfalls, namely spam. It can show up in the form of automated bots peddling purses and hair replacement, or it can appear from a seemingly real person who does drive-by postings. Either way, it can be a pain to deal with, and this article will explain how to keep a blog free of spam.
A captcha is an image containing a string of letters, numbers or both that a commenter must enter in a text box in order to post a comment. This method is very effective against automated spam bots because a script cannot read an image. While it will not stop a drive-by spammer, it may discourage posting by being inconvenient. The most effective captchas use a variety of fonts and cases, and mix up nonsensical phrases with numbers.
Use Spam Plugins
Akismet is a service that analyzes each comment and disposes of those that test positive against the spam database. Available as a plugin for most major blogging platforms, Akismet is free and only requires an API key to start fighting spam. Bad Behavior is another effective plugin that works by disallowing bad IP addresses from ever landing on the site so spammers never even get close to the comment form. Both methods work well, but it should be noted they are sometimes too aggressive and block legitimate comments.
Force a Login
Another way of preventing spam is by requiring visitors to sign up for an account before being allowed to comment. This method is most effective when verification is utilized, requiring the person to prove they are the owner of the email address that was used for registration. Not only is automated spam stopped dead in its tracks, drive-by spammers will move on to easier pickings. This is by far the easiest and most popular method for spam prevention, used by many sites.
Force a Preview
While this approach is a bit old school, it is still a very good spam preventative. It works by simply requiring a visitor to preview a comment before submitting it. Automated spam scripts are not written to deal with a preview requirement and will not be able to post to the blog. Another bonus of using a preview is that typos and other errors can be caught before the comment is posted, so it benefits the visitor as well as the blog owner.
Use a Third-Party Comment System
Many blog owners have opted to install a third-party comment system such as Disqus, LiveFyre or IntenseDebate. All three are available as plugins and are easy to install and run. Not only does using a third-party system remove the burden of spam prevention from the blog owner, it also adds community features and options that are not available natively. Since third-party systems use real-time methods for posting comments, the page does not have to be loaded over and over again, which conserves bandwidth and lowers the cost of hosting the blog. All three systems synchronize comments to the blog’s database, so nothing will be lost if the method is discontinued.
The only surefire way of preventing comment spam is to simply not allow comments. While this may seem self-defeating, it can actually work well if a blog autoposts to social media and people comment there instead of on the site. Feedback is important, but not every blog requires it. It is up to the blog owner to decide whether having open comments is worth the maintenance required to keep spam away.
Using any of the spam prevention methods above should go a long way toward a positive blogging experience.