Anyone who has anything to do with the back-end of websites will quickly admit what the most tedious task of their job is; cleaning up Comment Sections. If you haven’t had to deal with it yourself, it seems like an over-reaction. But the sheer amount of spam you are inundated with is mind-blowing – even on websites that are basically invisible, like your cousin’s Short-Stories Blog (yeah, totally going to be the next Google). But why does this happen? and what can be done about it?
What are Comment Sections?
Okay, this part is basic, but bear with me. Comment Sections are the region on a page that usually immediately follows some kind of content, an image, gallery, video, article etc. Pretty much any type of information can be followed by a comment section – even this Blog Post (scroll down if you have to). Comment Sections are intended to add to the user experience by allowing visitors to engage physically and verbally with the website, its creator, and other visitors. Although, if you have ever wandered into a Comment Thread, you have probably seen some or other disagreement or verbal altercation as the result of someone posting something that is considered inappropriate by other users, these are called Trolls. They are everywhere, and they take pleasure in getting a reaction out of people online. Although Trolls are annoying, they are not the only thing lurking in Comment Sections that have ulterior motives – enter the Spammers.
What is Spam?
Spamming is considered to be the relentless and repetitive posting in a comment thread on a particular topic, be it for personal gain or not. Trolls are basically spamming because they are posting for no real reason but to annoy people. There are other forms of spamming, the kind in which people are trying to make money from posting in a Comment Section. When it comes to SEO, some people head straight for the Grey and Black Hat SEO Practices. They run aggressive Off-Page Campaigns whereby they use your site’s Comment Section to post comments that include links to their own sites.
How do they Spam so much?
Spammers make use of a number of different tools to get results, they use tools called Scrapers to find thousands of websites that would be perfect to hit with spam. Scrapers are basically programs similar to Search Engines, they scour the web looking for telltale signs of websites that are unguarded and susceptible to attack. The Scraper then produces a list of these URL’s for the spammer to use. There even exist sites that offer a service to do this for you, and include features that would post on those websites with links to your own – at a cost of course, but it is available. If it so easy and common nowadays, is there any hope?! Yes there is.
Safeguards against Spamming
There are some fantastically simple ways to keep Spammers at bay in today’s online landscape:
One of the ways is to set your blog’s Comment Section to be ‘Moderated’. This means that although your site’s comments will seem unguarded, any comments made by users will need to go through a Moderation Process. you will be notified that a comment was posted on the site and needs your approval – until that point it will not appear on the site at all. In other words, you have full control over which comments actually appear on your site. Even we here at BFS got hit by Spam a few times and lo and behold, the moderation settings prevented them from going live. (see below)
If you are using a platform like WordPress or Wix, chances are that they offer some kind of protection from unwanted posting – take note, these are not perfect and spammers are constantly circumnavigating them, but they receive a lot of updates and development, so they will almost constantly be updated. Best of all, they’re free services/plug-ins.
In one of our recent articles on the Types of Backlinks we discussed No-Follow backlinks – we defined them as hyperlinks to another site that refer to it, but do not allow it to benefit from that interaction in any way SEO-related. The reason this is being brought up again is because, and this is a very healthy thing:
Almost all Comment Sections, be they popular or not, are set to only produce No-Follow links.
Is is a great feature because this means that even the comments that you approve will not have that user’s site benefiting as greatly from commenting on your site as they would have otherwise. So you don’t have to be too concerned about approving comments in their entirety.
Caution is Advised though…
Search Engines take into consideration the types of comments that occur on websites – it is even a ranking factor in and of itself. The kinds of links that occur in the comment section of your site should be inspected before approval because you may not know what the link it referring to. There are ways to disguise links to appear harmless, and prepare for the wrath of the Search Engines if you happened to approve a post that referred to a shady website. This has a direct impact on your site’s performance in searches, and could lead to irreparable damage to its reputation.
Comment Sections are fantastic ways to engage with your audience – and should be everywhere! They do, however have their share of risks, what with trolls and spammers lurking in the shadows awaiting an opportunity to pounce. Make sure you are aware of what you can do to prevent unwanted posting on your site, and implement those changes. They may seem a little admin-intensive at first, but will save you lots of work in the future.