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Fighting Back! Controlling WordPress Spam

Bloggers have a love-hate relationship with WordPress comments. Through comments, we meet new friends and industry contacts, engage in intense discussions and build a community of loyal readers (or loyal opponents, depending on the nature of your blog!). We like the flurry of activity that comments exemplify. Getting well-thought-out new comments is addictive, and we write posts directed at inspiring them. I work for an SEO company, and our blog is no different – we get a little giddy inside every time we get a new comment.

Comment spam, however, is the bane of blogging. A steady stream of comments with links to malicious sites, “enlargement” sites for gentlemen and webcams offering the latest in online perversity can make you feel like packing up and leaving your blog to rot. And then there’s the whole process of filtering through them – either you have to go through every last comment to fish out the real ones, or accept comments immediately and have the chance that some spammy nonsense will slip through unnoticed.

WordPress comes with a number of built-in anti-spam tools you can use to keep unwanted comments off your blog. In addition, a number of plugins, free or paid depending on your needs, are available to help combat the deluge. Start cracking down on comment spam today!

Maintain Your Spam List

You can add unwanted words to a spam list. Open Settings, select Discussion and then choose Comment Moderations. Add any words you like into the Spam Words box. Any comments containing these words will be shunted into your moderation queue for approval or deletion.

You can also add words to the Comment Blacklist in the Comment Moderations section, but use this list with care. All comments containing included words are blacklisted, including words found within other words.

The example WordPress provides is “ass.” Blacklisting this word will also blacklist common words such as association and asset.

The downfall to this method, of course, is that creative commenters can learn the patterns and work around them. Also, unfortunately, many spam comments contain copious misspellings that will skate right past this method. Though the spam list can be a great starting point, don’t let it be your only line of defense.

Limit Links

Maybe you write a parenting blog. Perhaps you manage a blog for an SEO company, like me. Whatever your subject, you’ll have to contend with unrelated links in comment spam.

You can’t entirely eradicate spammer links this way, but you can limit how many links appear in a comment. Open Settings > Discussions > Comment Moderation again, and lower the number of accepted links to one.

Comment Moderation

Tempting though it is, don’t set comment links to zero or leave the field blank. Doing so shunts all comments to moderation. In addition, this is a powerful ability and you should wield it with caution – what if someone wants to leave a long, thoughtful comment with links to some related resources, and are unable to because of the link limit? Carefully consider your options here.

Activate Akismet

You can find a number of WordPress plug-ins to help combat spam. One particular plug-in, Akismet, is well worth your time.

Akismet uses a community-generated spam database to identify spam comments. Over time, the plug-in “learns” to identify new spam messages. You can install Akismet by searching for it in the plugin search, or by visiting their website.

One note on Akismet. If you make any money off your blog, the plug-in costs a monthly fee of $5.00. You can add new comment spam to the database to help keep the plug-in up-to-date. If you do, don’t delete the original comment. The database needs access to it.

Any anti-spam plug-in will have occasional false positives, where the software misidentifies legitimate comments as spam. Guard against this by occasionally reviewing the software’s collected spam files, marking any legitimate comments as not spam.

Stop Those Fake Trackbacks

Have you ever gotten a trackback notification for a page that turned out not to link to you at all? That’s a fake trackback, and they’re becoming more and more common. Scan them as they come in with this simple plugin and forget about them!


If your blog is really suffering from spam comments, forcing people to enter a CAPTCHA is one easy solution. But wait! You might hate CAPTCHAs, and forcing your commenters to enter one for each comment might seem like too much of a nuisance. Maybe they’ll stop commenting altogether.

The truth is, however, that CAPTCHAs are just becoming a part of everybody’s daily lives. Your readers probably won’t mind entering one now and then in order to comment – especially if you explain the value of their doing so. Because when you use the reCAPTCHA plugin, a service offered by Google, not only are you ensuring that the commenters are human, but you’re actually helping digitize old books. Each word that you type into a reCAPTCHA is for a cause. Pretty cool!


Keep in mind that this won’t completely eliminate spam – tons of spam is actually human generated each day – but it should drastically reduce it, especially if you’re suffering from an extreme spam problem.

In Conclusion…

While the process of obliterating spam comments and trackbacks can be daunting, keeping your comments as spam-free as possible gives readers a good impression of your blog. After all, which blog would you prefer to comment on – a clean one with genuine responses, or one with hundreds of comments advertising porn, pills, and dodgy get-rich-quick schemes?

Adrienne Erin | Blogger & internet marketer at WebpageFXAbout the Author

Adrienne Erin is a blogger and internet marketer at WebpageFX. If you like her work, you can find more of it by following her on Twitter.