Community engagement provides a sure way to improve your domain authority and search rankings. One way to allow readers to engage with your website is by allowing comments on blog posts. While this provides an opportunity to improve your authority, it also opens a window for comment spam.
Comment spam is not inquiring minds or encouraging words from readers. In most cases, these comments push cheap subscriptions and payday loans—they just don’t make sense. There is nothing more frustrating than going through comments to determine which one makes sense and spam. The worst part is that these comments will affect your search rankings and traffic. Read along to learn more about comment spam and how to prevent it for better SEO.
What is Comment Spam?
Comment spam refers to irrelevant comments posted to a blog with a link to a spammy website. In other words, this is a “Black Hat” SEO technique used by some publishers to improve a site’s link popularity. It negatively affects the visitor’s experience and your search engine rankings.
Comment spam contains links that can lead to insecure sites, exposing visitors to malware, viruses, or phishing tactics. Spam comments also present a negative view of your website as users may conclude that you don’t take time to monitor your website, which can hurt your brand reputation.
Spammers can post thousands of comments on different blogs and websites with a little budget and the right software. Imagine what effect it will have on your brand reputation if they succeed in tricking unsuspecting visitors into buying illegitimate products or providing credit card information. Devastating, right?
The trickiest part is that spammers try to make their comments look real (so admins will not suspect they are spam) to benefit from a backlink. Unfortunately, Google and other search engines have gotten better at differentiating between legitimate and spam comments.
Backlinks and Pingbacks
Backlinks contribute to search optimization (SEO) to help build a positive online reputation. After all, sites with more quality backlinks enjoy higher organic rankings on Google. This is especially the case if reputable websites like Forbes link to your site as it gives a huge boost in search engine rankings. The impact will be the opposite if spammy or low-quality websites link to your website.
Search engines follow the same principle when looking at the links on your site. If your website contains links that Google views as low-quality, phishy, or spammy, your website will likely have low rankings.
Google understands that customers and businesses rely on the information they receive on search engines to make key decisions—it wants to ensure that the information they receive and the link they click are safe and relevant. After all, if users feel insecure on Google, they’re likely to go to another search engine, and Google will experience a hit in their Ad revenue. That is why they have put measures to identify and penalize spam to ensure everyone on their platform has a good user experience.
The best part is that Google provides “nofollow” attributes in comment links. Ideally, links with the re=”nofollow” attribute will not be used when determining page rankings. The best news for WordPress users is that by default, all comments in WordPress have the nofollow attribute to prevent comment spamming.
Google updated its approach on how it handles nofollow attributes. Currently, Google considers all link attributes, including nofollow, sponsored, and UGC, alongside other signals to determine how to analyze and use links within their system.
That said, it’s advisable to avoid spam comments with links on your site to improve user experience and boost your SEO.
On the other hand, a pingback occurs automatically when someone links to your blog post from their blog post. In other words, you will have a pingback when someone links to your site, and a comment with a link to their site is automatically generated.
While there are measures to ensure that the pingback generated came from your blog post, spammers have found their way around this. As such, it is common to find fake or malicious pingbacks as comments, leading to more comment spam on your site.
To disable pingbacks, go to Settings > Discussion and uncheck the box titles “Allow link notification from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks) on new posts.”
Why Spam Comments are Bad for Your Google Search Rankings
Google has clearly stated that it is against web pages with many spam comments. As such, you should be extra careful about the comments users post on your website, forum, or any other online property.
Usually, spammers have different mechanisms, tools, and software to post spam comments on websites that they find. Unfortunately, these spam comments will eventually affect your website rankings.
That said, you need to enable comment moderations in your blogging platform to prevent spam. Luckily, various management systems, including WordPress, Medium, and Blogger, have in-built moderation to help enable moderation of comments easily. Enabling this moderation ensures that no comment appears on your website until your team moderates it.
So, how do spam comments affect SEO?
Spam comments are not good for your website rankings. After all, nobody wants to see irrelevant content or comments that do not add value to a discussion. Spam comments do not help your users in any way. On the contrary, it leads to a bad user experience.
Spam comments are characterized by many dangerous keywords and spammy content, including gambling, casinos, poker, prescription drugs, adult keywords, etc. The spammy content is then combined with links to low-quality spammy sites.
As a result, your website will appear suspicious, and people will view it as though it was created purposely to accommodate other spammy sites. As a result, Google will not trust your site and will lower its rankings.
As a website owner or an admin, you need to be extra careful with spam commenting on your pages. After all, you are responsible for any content on your website, including the comments that users post on your website.
As such, you need to do quality control to ensure no spam comments are posted on your website to improve or maintain your rankings. Failure to do this will lead to a rankings drop in search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
Ways to Prevent Comment Spam
The need to protect your website from content spam cannot be overstated. Here are ideas to prevent comment spam on your website:
Consider Disabling Comments
The most straightforward way to prevent comment spam is to disable comments entirely. This is especially so if your business doesn’t want comments.
One way to achieve this is to uncheck the “Allow people to post comments for new articles under the Setting > Disruption option.
If you opt to disable comments altogether, head to the Default post settings and uncheck the options.
However, it is important to understand that doing this will only turn off comments on new posts but not already published ones. To turn off commenting for already published posts, you will need to do that for each of these posts individually.
Use Anti-Spam Tools and Plugins
If you run a WordPress website, installing Akismet is a sure way to prevent comment spam from your website. Updating your content management system will help restrict spammers from posting spam comments on your site.
You may also want to implement the reCAPTCHA system on your website to prevent spam comments. Ideally, this comment system requires users to confirm that they are real humans before commenting on a website.
Typically, a user is presented with distorted images or a CAPTCHA and then required to identify what they see in the images. Other CAPTCHA systems support audios, making it a better option to prevent comment.
The best part is that version 3 of reCAPTHCHA provides web admins with scores to help rate how suspicious a particular activity is.
Implementing reCAPTCHA’s service on your site isn’t complicated. Besides, you can use the data from the service to improve the text scanning process, whether from maps, books, or newspapers.
Enable Comment Moderation
Another option is to enable comment moderation on your website. Comment moderation means that only the comments that have been reviewed and approved will appear on your site.
Applying this approach means spending a lot of time monitoring your comments to ensure that only appropriate comments appear on your site. This is especially helpful if your blog posts lead to heated debates.
Comment moderation helps improve user experience. The only challenge is that you may spend a lot of time reviewing content, especially if your site enjoys high traffic levels.
To prevent spam bots from creating accounts, you can also ask users to submit their email addresses when signing up with a new account.
Use the Nofollow Attribute
The nofollow HTML microformat introduced by Google alongside Yahoo and MSN has been widely adopted. As earlier stated, any link with the rel =”nofollow” or other specific attributes such as rel =” sponsored” will not apply when calculating PageRank or determining your page’s relevancy to a user query. Of course, this new link will not only prevent spam but prevent spammers from targeting your site just to create backlinks.
You may also want to mark the commentator website field as “Nofollow.” This is important because some people can post a legitimate comment but then include a link to their website. In such a case, it helps to “Nofollow” links to external websites of all commentators.
Create a List of Blacklisted Words
Sometimes you don’t want to disable comments altogether but want to restrict comments on specific subjects. In such a case, creating a list of blacklisted keywords will come in handy. These can include words that you don’t want to be mentioned on your site or those that spammers commonly use. Some people also include competitors’ products in their list of blacklisted keywords.
Some blogging platforms like WordPress have a “Comment Blacklist” section where website admins can create a list of blacklisted words, email addresses, IP addresses, website URLs, or anything else you want to include in the list.
Disable Comments on Old Posts
Another way to prevent comment spam is by turning off comments on old posts. This approach is especially good for websites that publish new or other timely content. Some blogging platforms like WordPress allow the option to automatically disable comments on articles older than a specified period.
Restrict Untrusted Content from Getting Indexed
You can also prevent spam abuse from profile pages or forum threads from users by restricting content from untrusted sources from showing up in Google Search. You can then remove indexing restrictions once you determine that the user is legitimate. Some of the tools you can use to block access to untrusted users include the noindex meta standard and robots.txt standard.
Disable Trackbacks in Your Site
Trackbacks form a huge part of spam comments. As such, you need to consider whether it is necessary to enable trackbacks on your website or not. The best part is that you can opt to disable trackbacks in an individual post or an entire blog to reduce spam.
Turn to the Community
No one likes spam, and your users are not exceptional. Your users can take part in helping fight spam on your website. That said, we recommend having reporting tools in your comment section to enable trusted users to flag spam comments and threads. Since users can abuse this feature, consider a setting where a comment needs to receive a specific amount of reports before raising an alert.
Implementing a user reputation system helps in two ways. Firstly, it helps identify spammers, and secondly, it helps engage with users, which are key in boosting your SEO efforts.
Check User Comments for Plagiarism
Like blog content, you don’t want to have plagiarized comments on your website. Take your time to check user comments for plagiarism. This is especially so for long comments related to the page topic. The bottom line is not to allow any plagiarized content on your blog posts, whether posted by a user.
What Google Says About comment Spam
Knowing how Google views spam comments and the best practices to deal with them is paramount. As you’ve seen, spam comments can negatively impact your SEO and search rankings. More specifically, here are ways spam comments can be harmful to your site:
- Spam comments can lead to a bad user experience and lower your online reputation. Ideally, if a reader clicks on a link on a comment from spammers, they are taken to a location they didn’t intend. This can lead to readers losing faith in your site
- Low-quality or spammy content on your website can affect the whole site rankings
- It shows a lack of moderation. Comment spam on your site will give the impression that you are not actively taking care of your site, and visitors are likely to avoid it
- Content from spammers can lead to malicious sites that hurt your users
- Untargeted traffic from unrelated content can slow down your site and increase bandwidth costs
- Google is penalizing bad links. To protect the quality of search results, Google may remove pages with user-generated spam. In fact, Google is not only targeting sites that buy bad links but those that allow them as well. As such, ensure that you are not allowing spammy links on your website, even in the comments
Tips to Consider Before Commenting on other Websites
You can also improve your rankings by leaving comments on other relevant blog posts. In fact, if you are not using the active comments sections to increase engagements, you are doing yourself a disservice.
However, it is important to understand that you won’t get great results if you leave spam comments. As such, you should consider the above principles when commenting on other websites.
For starters, it is important to know that leaving signature forms in comment forms of other websites will not help improve search rankings. High-quality content and good user experience without signature links stand a better chance to rank than poor content and bad user experience with many signature links from the comment section of other blogs.
Leaving comments with signature links on other websites is an outdated idea that will not help improve your search rankings. Avoid posting low-quality comments on other websites to win signature backlinks, hoping it will help improve search rankings as it won’t work.
Instead, create high-quality content that can attract links to your website naturally. The catch is to ensure that any comment you leave on another website will add value to the readers and amplify the content on the page.
Posting a not-well-thought comment with a link to your website will only make you appear spammy and won’t benefit anyone. That said, here are things to keep in mind when leaving comments on other websites:
Only Leave Comments on Industry Blogs
Leaving comments on another website is an opportunity to drive relevant traffic to your website. As such, you shouldn’t just leave comments on any blog that you come across. Instead, only leave comments on industry blogs to attract quality traffic.
Write Valuable Comments
The idea of commenting on other blogs is to add value to the topic of discussion. That said, ensure that your comments are thought-provoking and relevant. For instance, instead of posting “great article” or “nice read” comments, add something valuable to the ongoing discussion. For instance, you can provide an answer to a question from another user on the webpage.
This, alongside posting your comments on the industry blog, will help get traffic to your blog that can convert into leads. Always remember any comment not related to the topic will be viewed as spam.
Avoid Signature Forms in Comment Forms
As earlier stated, posting signature links in the comment forms will not help improve your SEO or search rankings. Instead, focus on creating valuable content to improve user experience and rankings.
That’s it. Now you know what spam comments are, how they impact your SEO and search rankings, and how to comment on other blogs without being spammy. However, before I let you go, let’s look at how to identify spam on your website.
One way to identify spam comments is to read all comments to determine whether they are legit. You can also dismiss a comment if you notice that the link does not match your industry blog. Despite that, here are some questions to ask yourself when trying to determine whether a comment is legitimate or not:
- Is the commentator using a real name?
- Do you want your visitors to click on the commentator’s link?
- Does the comment apply to any post?
- Is the commentator’s email address legit?
The answer you get to these questions will help determine whether a comment is legit or spam and will guide your next steps.