Comment sections make up a small percentage of website content, but they can have a major impact overall. Even if the original content on your WordPress site is outstanding, your reputation can be tarnished by comment spam. In this blog, we’ll cover the need for comments, the inevitability of spam, and what you can do to reduce it.
The Case for Comments
Comments are usually a good thing in the context of online marketing. In fact, some marketers see them as a main benefit of content creation.
This CIO article explains some of the benefits of users commenting on your content. According to the article, it’s good for brand engagement, customer service, and customer feedback:
“When handled properly, your content gives you the opportunity to start a conversation with your customers. They may comment on your blog posts or share your social media posts. In addition to letting you answer customer complaints or questions, you can also gain valuable insights from these comments. When consumers begin to see that you take their feedback seriously, they’ll be more likely to continue to buy from you.”
We recommend that you allow comments on your site for the same reasons. They have the potential to add value to your website and create a community within your target audience. This alone justifies the risk of letting outsiders add content to your site.
Expectations vs. Reality
The CIO article makes a major assumption in its analysis — that the comments will be productive. But in reality, how many comments actually contribute to the conversation? How many of them are just spam?
According to a recent Forbes article, spam comments can show a lack of maintenance of your site and even damage your brand reputation:
“Spam, of course, leads to further problems. Even a great article can be diminished if the content below it is full of insults, spammy links, and more. At best, these comments showcase a lack of maintenance on a blog. At worst, the negative feelings associated with the spam subconsciously transfer to the brand and its website as a whole.”
Some spam is rather innocuous, like when someone promotes his own business. But what if a random user comes along and starts sharing racist, misogynist viewpoints. According to the Forbes article, your website visitors might subconsciously connect your brand to these spam comments. This is why you need to pay attention to your site and look out for potential spam.
Reducing Comment Spam
The good news is that businesses have a variety of options when it comes to reducing comment spam on WordPress sites. Here are some of the most effective methods:
Install WordPress plugins
A strategy that doesn’t require much effort on your part is to install a WordPress plugin. The Akismet Plugin, for example, checks each comment for spam and blocks comments with suspicious links. It also provides reports so you can have an idea of how accurate it is and how much spam your site is receiving.
Other useful plugins in this respect are Wp-Ban and the Recaptcha Plugin. The former lets you block users by IP address, which is great for finding and stopping repeat offenders, and the latter checks for a human user by asking for words they see in a graphic. You can even use all three to fight off spam links, malicious users, and spam bots all at once.
When it comes to reducing comment spam, humans will always be more accurate than machines. While a plugin might save you time and remove dubious comments before anyone can ever see them, it also might remove genuine comments or miss well-disguised spam.
There’s a lot you can do when it comes to comment moderation. This AllBusiness article, for example, recommends approving each post before it gets published to your site:
“Don’t give spammers the keys to the castle. You should NEVER allow comments to post automatically. By moderating your comments, you will be able to approve what you want and delete the rest. If you allow comments to automatically post, you will have to play CAPTCHA. Also, spam comments will be live on your site, allowing visitors to read them before you get a chance to delete them.”
There are a couple of general rules to follow in regard to comment spam. One is that it’s usually a good idea to shut down comments on posts older than a few months. As these articles decrease in relevancy, they’re less likely to produce quality comments. At some point, the risk of spam is greater than the possibility of a worthwhile discussion.
Moreover, you should typically review comments with links manually. These are the purpose and quintessence of spam and you should approach them accordingly.
Find a new comment system
A last resort is to ditch the WordPress Editor comment system and use a third-party tool. These usually make it easier to detect and control comment spam. One reason for this is they prompt users to log in with a social media account and once they lose their anonymity, they’re less likely to contribute low-effort comments.
Of course, you can also choose to remove comments from your site altogether, but then you miss out on the opportunity to connect with readers. As long as you can put up with a few hurdles, dealing with the occasional spam comment is worth the increase in brand engagement. To talk more about reducing comment spam on your WordPress site, or anything else, contact us today.