As eCommerce has continued to grow over the past decade, comment spam on blog websites has also increased dramatically. There are several reasons for this, but the primary one is financial: In an attempt to increase the “page rank” (Google search engine ranking) of different websites, unscrupulous people have employed comment spamming methods to try and increase the number of links which connect to their website(s). In addition, some comment spammers attempt to add links to malicious websites which run scripts that install malware on unsuspecting web visitors’ computers. Comment spammers earn money doing both these things. Many comment spammers write computer programs which automate the process of leaving spam comments on websites, so interactive websites like blogs often employ “captcha” prompts which require users to type a phrase or series of characters and numbers that machines / algorithms are unable to decipher. In this way, captcha systems force commenters to “prove” they are human and not a computer software program. This is an ongoing game of cat and mouse, where the evil comment spammers and the “good” website software developers try to outwit and outsmart each other. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a coder to take advantage of the work of many SMART and GOOD coders who have developed programs that keep comment spam to a minimum. In this post, I’ll describe several different options for doing this with WordPress websites.
WordPress is a free and open-source blogging platform used by millions of people worldwide to “power” interactive websites. WordPress can be self-hosted (run on your own website, often “rented” for use through a monthly fee) using software from WordPress.org or run in a hosted (but more feature limited) context on WordPress.com. It’s free to create and use a site on WordPress.com, but paid features can be added if desired.
Since comment spam is a BIG problem, some blog users can be tempted to turn commenting OFF entirely on their website. This is a BIG mistake. The most popular websites on the Internet today, like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and WikiPedia, are popular in large part because they permit user interaction and commenting. By allowing commenting on your blog, you invite feedback and conversations. Every idea can get better when it’s open to the feedback of others, and conversations are a VERY important part of social media. In the realm of education blogging, this is especially true. See Darren Kuropatwa‘s two minute video from November 2013, “The Audience Effect,” for more about why it’s essential to share your learning openly with others online. While Darren does not explicitly address blog comments in this video, I think opening your blog reflections (as a teacher) to the feedback and comments of others is also an essential part of the value which online idea sharing brings to educators.
It’s very important to leave commenting ON when you have a blog, but it’s a prudent idea to turn on COMMENT MODERATION. This means as the blog / website administrator, you “approve” comments before they show up for others to view publicly. This is especially important when working with student blogs. WordPress-based sites like KidBlog turn on comment moderation by default.
If you use a WordPress site which is hosted for you or hosted on WordPress.com, you need to utilize plugins to reduce and almost eliminate comment spam. Fortunately, a large number of secure, effective and FREE plugins are available for WordPress which serve this purpose well. If you’re not familiar with the process of installing a new plug-in, refer to the WordPress Codex page for “Managing Plugins.”
To assist you in finding and deciding between available WordPress plugins for reducing comment spam, I recorded a 13 minute screencast I titled, “4 Free WordPress Plugins to Reduce Comment Spam.” In the screencast, I demonstrate the use of four different FREE plugins for WordPress which can reduce and ALMOST eliminate comment spam. The plugins (in order from the screencast) are:
- Akismet (requires registration so you can obtain an Akismet “key” which is a passcode)
- Captcha (presents a simple math equation which must be solved for someone to leave a comment)
- Disqus (a replacement commenting system for the WordPress default system, which permits moderation and rates users based on their reputation for spamming)
- ReCaptcha (supports the global ReCaptcha project that digitizes documents and books using “crowdsourced” human eyes)
I hope this information and screencast helps you find and use effective and free WordPress plugins to reduce your comment spam! If you have suggestions for other plugins you use and like for addressing comment spam, please share them in the comments!
I created this screencast using ScreenFlow software for Mac.
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