Some Comment Spam is So Odd It’s Amost Amusing

Me, obsessed about comment spam? Not really. Although if you do a search here on the term, using the excellent lijit search tool in the right sidebar, you will see I have posted on it quite a few times.

What I now find not just annoying but quite creepy is that there seems to be an increase in the number and frequency of “comments” which appear to have been generated automatically from some kind of word recognition or phrase scraping, and which when you read them are nonsensical or at least incoherent. But they are “intelligible” enough, it appears, to get past the otherwise very efficient Akismet comment spam buster.

I thought it might be helpful for others, especially people new to blogging and looking for some clues on how to manage their comment stream, if I provided a few examples of what I’m talking about here.

They range from the “phony praise” ones, through the mysterious, to the completely weird.

(Update: in fairness to Akismet, some of the examples in this post may actually have been trapped by Akismet, but I still find enough odd “comments” getting past Akismet to make the exercise of vigilance necessary.)

One feature of some of those generated, apparently, by software robots is that they pick up on part of a blog post title and include that – for example a post the other day whose full title was PayPal: Don’t Leave Home With It.

Among other interesting sidelights of this little exercise, you might notice that my trip to Las Vegas last year for BlogWorld Expo and posts about that seem to have attracted a number of purveyors of Las Vegas related services.

I’ve put the “comments” in quotation marks:

“I have to say you know your stuff,thanks for the info.”

– commenter’s URL link is to a sales page for a “free” report: commenter’s name is different from the name of the report writer

“I found your blog via Google while searching for Las Vegas and your post regarding t Leave Home With It : Thinking Home Business looks very interesting for me”

– links to a site advertising hotel accommodation

” BLOG BLOG BLOG, PLEASE Blog some more I usually don\’t post comments to blogs like this, but t Leave Home With It : Thinking Home Business caught my attention while searching for las vegas real estate value.”

– links to, you guessed it, a Las Vegas real estate site

“I was searching for \’Las Vegas Nevada Travel\’ at google and got this your post (\’l: Don’t Leave Home With It : Thinking Home Business\’) in search results. Not very relevant result, but still interesting to read ”

– links to a sales site for travel to Las Vegas

“Hey! I to have a blog similar to your about home based business online resources.com links. I have just linked to you so hope you can do the same.”

– link not to blog but to a sales page for a book on how to start a small business

“Hello! Found your blog on yahoo – thanks for the article but i still don\’t get it.”

– links to life insurance site

“Yep – I would agree with that.. Thanks for the line.”

– links to a site for human growth hormone (HGH) with pic of heavily muscled guy

“Maybe it can get a little complicated if used in a different way.”

– more discount travel

“Please keep these excellent posts coming”

– mortgage loans

“Sensible guests may approve this information in refernce to t Leave Home With It : Thinking Home Business inwhich supporters already deemed that the research is fascinating! Thank You for the information you expressed.”

– more on loans

Apart from “comments” such as these, there are certainly some which are a bit in the line ball department. One thing I’ve found helpful for checking these out is to take a phrase from the comment and google it – with quotation marks to get results for an exact match for the phrase. This is one way to pick up examples of more grammatically coherent exercises in spam.

But whether or not I find with that test that a doubtful comment is spam, the doubtful comments still have to pass the criteria of my comments policy (see sidebar):

I reserve the right to delete comments I deem as spam, transparent attempts to get traffic without providing any useful commentary, and any contributions which are offensive or inappropriate for civilized discourse.

For new bloggers who might be told they should or must, in the interest of open communication and transparency, leave all comments on their blog (I don’t know whether people still say that, but just in case…), my advice is to remember it’s your blog, your brand and your reputation. If in doubt, I frankly choose the option which is more prudent in safeguarding my brand and my name.

How do you handle comment spam? If you are on WordPress, do you use any software in addition to Akismet? If you are on another platform, is comment spam a problem or do you have it solved?

(Update August 3, 2009: ironically, this post seems to attract spam, so comments are now closed.)

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About Des Walsh

I show business owners and other professionals how to navigate the social media maze and use LinkedIn effectively. I'm an author, speaker, business coach, social media strategist and LinkedIn specialist. Connect with me on LinkedIn, Google Plus and Twitter. And to stay in the loop, get my weekly Social Business Bites.

Comments

  1. Comments that are off-topic and blatant ads are annoying. Most comment spam is self serving claptrap that needs to be deleted, and doing so is just the cost of doing business in the blogosphere.

  2. Caught my eye ” thinking home business” more people teaching themselves computer skills especially silver surfers. There’s hope for us yet.

  3. Thanks! If you try it, let me know what you think.

  4. Thanks iDope for sharing that. I don’t have a problem with a bit of shameless self-promotion, especially when it’s on topic and adding value, as your comment is.

  5. Its all a matter of volume. You could be a human spam filter but I really don’t want to spend every minute of my day checking for spam. Akismet works okay for me but lets through couple of spam frequently (especially the ones without links). And I hate captchas, I will never put one on my blog. So I wrote a plugin to block comment spam without resorting to captchas called WP Captcha-Free (Sorry for the shameless plug, I hope you dont take this as comment spam 😉 ). It uses a combination of time based hash and ajax to block spam (or atleast ensure the commenter was human and not a bot). I use it myself of both my blogs and now get zero spam from an earlier 40+ per day. This doesn’t replace Akismet but does complement it very well. You can check it out at http://wordpresssupplies.com/wordpress-plugins/captcha-free/

  6. Martin
    I believe I’m also noticing more of those apparently real comments linking back to sales pages or “flycatchers”. I figure my readers are savvy enough to be able to deal with that when it arises, with the proviso that the commenter needs to be adding something to the discussion. The public statement of my prerogative to decide what’s value-adding and what’s just link-getting trickery is in my comments policy in the sidebar, especially my intention to discourage actively “transparent attempts to get traffic without providing any useful commentary”.

  7. Hi Des,

    Interesting post! My blog is not yet old enough to attract too many spammers, although I do get some. (I hope that doesn’t open the floodgates!!)

    What I am finding, though, are comments which I’m sure are written by real people, but which lead back to an affiliate page or sales page.

    I got one last night (on my other blog) which was so borderline I chewed it over in my mind for quite a while before approving it. My reason for eventually approving it was because, aside from the link, it did provide some new input.

    However, your point above about it being my brand, my blog, my reputation, etc is well taken – and one that I’ll keep top of my mind when I’m beating my brain out over similar types of comments in the future!

    Thanks!

    Martin.

  8. Joey
    Thanks for the domment. I have no problem with people linking to their blog and in fact with WordPress and other blogging platforms when you include your URL in the space for that it links your name to your site. I notice you’ve linked yours to a sales page, but if you had put a blog address in that URL space when you were submitting your comment, that would be where the link went from your name here in the comments.

    I have a challenge when people use the facility to link their name to their blog and then add the link in again in the comment. Of course I appreciate that some readers might not realise they can see your site by clicking on your name, but I do get the feeling sometimes that people are being a bit greedy, wanting to get two links in instead of one. Where I come from we call that “having two bites of the cherry”.

  9. I have my own blog, I get about 1 – 2 spam everyday. So, it does not “yet” bothering me to delete them 🙂 I hope it will not getting bigger in numbers.

    I will not post my blog here 🙂

  10. @Wendy: I know, it’s a mystery. And I don’t know whether it’s depressing or just hilarious that the first “comments” this post attracted and which of course I’ve zapped so the rest of you don’t have to be bothered by these cockroaches of the online world, were more of the same!

    @home business builder: Yes, I as I mentioned in the post I have Akismet installed – I’ve been told I should install, in addition, Bad Behavior, which I have used in the past and is very good, but on the Ockam’s Razor principle I don’t know whether I want more than one spam zapper operating, especially as Akismet does a very good job already

    @Ed: yes – and don’t you love the grammar?!

  11. Hi Des,

    I Just started blogging a couple of months back, So I haven’t had any experience with comment spam. But in all seriousness, I didn’t know the spammer are so very creative in writing their comments haha.

    best of luck,
    Ed

  12. home business builder says:

    With a medium like the internet people are ill advised as to how to market correctly. However using askimet on a wordpress blog reduces spam and personally I feel it s a small price to pay for the freedom of speech we can all take advantage of by using the internet.

  13. Evidently we have the same spammers doing the same stupid things on our blogs.

    It really makes me wonder why the hell they bother? Like we would *ever* publish this stuff?!