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Figuring Out Live Comment Spam

Posted by on May 10, 2011

I know I’m not the only one having problems figuring out which comments are real and which ones are spam these days. Strangely enough, the problem isn’t with the stuff that’s very obviously spam, or with people who you know. It’s the fact that there are enough people who write badly that sometimes you’re not sure if someone is an awful writer or if it’s live comment spam.

Here are four issues I seem to have; let me know if you have them as well:

1. Punctuation but no spaces between it. How many people do you know that write a sentence, add a period, then immediately start writing without a space between the period and the next sentence? I hate to admit this but I know quite a few, and I just don’t get it. I mean, it looks weird to my eyes and one would think it would look weird to everyone but it doesn’t. So, one can’t automatically use that as a determining factor.

2. No punctuation at all but you know the next sentence is coming because the beginning word is capitalized. Once again, I know people who do this; just what are they teaching in school these days?

3. Sentences missing words to keep a coherent flow in meaning. Heck, that’s so common that even I notice that I do it every blue moon, probably because I type too fast. Your mind just seems to pop those words in there whether you typed them or not.

4. Because someone uses your name, you tend to believe it’s someone who’s actually reading the post and writing you something personal. However, knowing that people are paid to post comments to blogs and link back to other websites, these things suddenly become suspect, though they’re hard to discern.

See what I mean? None of these fits the qualification of comment idiocy that I’ve talked about before or pretty much any of the other comment issues I’ve seen before. Frankly, I’d have to admit that this is a conundrum because these people are able to bypass the GASP plugin and also bypass the Akismet spam filter easier.

Although it takes time, one thing I do is click on the link these people are leaving to see if the page it takes me to has writing as bad as what I’m seeing on the site. For instance, if English is the second language for some folks, the writing on their blog or website, if it’s also in English, will probably be just as bad; at least that’s what I’ve noticed. If it’s consistent then I kind of assume it’s probably legit. If not, then my mind says “spam” and I’ll “unapprove” the comment for a day. I do that to see if the person who wrote the comment will come back and wonder where their comment is, or will leave comments on other new posts I write.

When I’m not really sure… in those times I’ll leave the comment and I’ll comment on it to see what happens. I know people get notified when I respond to their comments because I’ve tested it so I figure it’s now become an experiment of sorts.

Yeah, some of these things take time, but I think it’s worth it to make my space legitimate across the board. What’s your thought? Oh yeah; couldn’t figure out what image to add to this post so this is a area of my office. lol

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I have that same debate. I have nothing against bloggers who may not speak English natively, but at the same time, I want people reading through the discussion not to wonder “what is this mess?” I also do visit the websites, and if the site matches the commenter, and I can tell the commenter is trying, I’ll let it through. Otherwise, no go.

May 10th, 2011 | 4:47 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

It’s a shame that we have to deal with it, isn’t it Kristi? So many people trying to game the system; stinks.

May 10th, 2011 | 4:55 PM

Akismet works great for me. LIke you, if I have a question I click through to the website to see if it looks spammy and if it has any Google page rank.

If in doubt I let it through because you have to make three comments before your links are Do Follow on my site. I figure if I let one spam comment through it doesn’t matter if it is no follow anyway. If they actually come back, by the third comment I have a better idea if the are a spammer.

PS what is the GASP plugin?

May 11th, 2011 | 12:04 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

Ned, the GAPS plugin blocks autobot spam from getting through, which means any spam you end up with is pretty much “people” spam. Initially it blocked almost everything but people have found ways to get around it here and there.

I don’t have the system set up to alter DoFollow; never even thought about doing it to tell you the truth. It’s only recently when it’s gotten a bit harder to define spam, but I think if I employ my comment policy more I won’t have to worry about it as much.

May 11th, 2011 | 9:39 AM

Hi Mitch,

Maybe it’s the former English major in me, but typos, missing prepositions, and faulty punctuation always get my goat. But the spammers will never really care about that sort of thing and it makes things easier to spot them, right? Kind of like a calling card.


May 11th, 2011 | 3:00 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

Delena, in a weird way you’re correct. I mean, everyone makes a mistake here and there, but some of those are just blatant. And of course they always “out” themselves when they comment on more than one post with the same message. One way of determining spam used to be a “one and done” process, but now you see some of the human spammers coming back day after day; very weird indeed.

May 11th, 2011 | 9:41 AM

Spammers are using advanced search operators, for example “powered by wordpress”+”keywords”. This is a very basic operator, but most of the times it give about a 1000 blogs which contain keyword in the title. Bypassing spam filters is easy. Advanced spinning syntax completely bypass all popular plugins – example {Blog|Website} spam is a {big|huge} problem. So technically, there are 4 versions of this sentence.

May 11th, 2011 | 3:09 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

But Carl, it’s not supposed to be that easy to blast by the GASP plugin, and truthfully it does block tons of stuff. I wonder if Andy will be working on an update to it one of these days.

May 11th, 2011 | 9:42 AM

Google “Panda” update related to content farming tried to hit exactly this. I know what exactly Google algorithm is doing, but average spammer will not figure out. Regarding plugin it is a basic version of this Google update. Technically it represent regular expression which is checking for the number of characters and words. However, in the above example I showed you a basic example – basic spinning syntax and basic search operator which is known by many SEOs. There are advanced ways which definitely can’t be caught by any plugins or SE algorithms. Something from the kitchen of SEO and Internet Marketing. Big companies are using experts to do this and even comment spammer does not read the topic, you may get a comment which looks like written by human. Another thing that I forget to mention. Spammers are using proxies, so if they blast 1000 comments, comment will appear from 1000 different IPs. The way that spam plugins catch this one if proxies are public. Advanced spammers are using paid private proxies.

May 12th, 2011 | 2:26 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

Wow, that’s a lot of information to process Carl. Nope, don’t have time to learn how to stop all of that!

May 14th, 2011 | 8:30 AM

Hi, Mitch.

As my blog is very new, I have no problem with spam yet. But, I am not sure if I wish to handle that headache in the future. I am pretty much a stickler for correct spelling and punctuation, so I’d probably label a comment that doesn’t have these as spam. However, I can also understand your dilemma about actually knowing some people who are bad writers. So, what do we do then? What can a newbie like me do if even veterans like you are having problems at figuring this out? I’d love a tutorial sometime if that’s possible. I’d really appreciate it.

May 11th, 2011 | 5:43 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

Kim, sometimes it’s difficult but overwhelmingly it’s pretty easy to spot spam. However, not sure if you noticed, but I have a comment policy on this blog. If there’s something borderline, because of the policy, I’m well within rights to just delete it and move on. I tend to be a bit more circumspect, but I don’t have to be. That’s probably the smartest thing you can do for your blog so that you can make sure people are actually adding to the conversation rather than just trying to drum up links for themselves.

May 11th, 2011 | 9:44 AM

Thanks for pointing out your comment policy, Mitch. Will look it up now. Thanks for the sound advice. 🙂

May 11th, 2011 | 11:08 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

No problem Kim; I’ve got you covered. 😉

May 14th, 2011 | 8:28 AM

The funniest kind of spam is when I have comments not just addressing my name but my full name and last name. That’s a kind of good indication something’s wrong.
As a side note, I remember when the email we used internally to manage orders from our online shop (orders@something) received spam from a dating website. The email started something like “Hello there Orders, your profile piqued the interest of…”. That was epic.

May 11th, 2011 | 6:43 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

That is funny Gabriele, and you’re right, I haven’t been paying all that much attention to the fact that some of these messages are using my full name. I’ve been deleting them for other stuff but that’s a good one.

May 11th, 2011 | 9:45 AM
Diana Simon:

Hi Mitch,

You are right on about trying to decipher if a comment is spam or not. Usually when I am in doubt, I don’t approve it unless the commenter sends me an email.

I had a commenter do that and I approved the comment. I also take time to visit the website to check them out. I think you share some very good tips!

P.S. I love your creativity. You couldn’t find an image and took an area of your office!

May 11th, 2011 | 11:05 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

Hi Diane; welcome to the community! Seems many of us want to give the benefit of the doubt, and that’s a pretty good thing. But I also have no qualms about removing something I think might be dodgy.

May 14th, 2011 | 8:23 AM

Mitch, I’m seeing some of the same spammers as you. I also had a few recently that were really creative. Here’s what they did on my latest post about CommentLuv. They went to an OLD post I did about CommentLuv and copy and pasted my opening paragraph and posted it as a comment. How clever is that!??! It almost got me until I started thinking “that sounds so familiar”….
Hey it was such a clever trick I almost approved the comment, but on second thought I marked it as spam instead AND put his email address on the my blacklist.

Btw, concerning GASP – I like the idea of having certain text flagged like you guys mentioned in previous comments. You should contact Andy. I’m sure he’ll at least consider it.

May 11th, 2011 | 1:43 PM

Ileane, I’ve seen that type of spam – copying my posts or other comments that have been approved already. Fortunately for me, Akismet catches them.

Mitch – Thanks for the reply above

May 12th, 2011 | 2:10 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

Ileane, I’ve seen that trick as well, and it’s funny when your mind recalls something similar, then you find it. I have to say that the people creating this stuff are pretty smart overall. Someone yesterday said that to beat crooks you have to think like a crook because sometimes they’re 7 or 8 moves ahead of you. Won’t be me any time soon.

May 14th, 2011 | 8:28 AM

Hi Mitch,

I take a completely holistic approach to comments. I use GASP, so the only questionable comments I get are human based. I read the comment and look for context. If my post is about ebooks in the 21st century and the comment doesn’t say one word about ebooks, it gets trashed. This will take care of all the idiocy spam you talked about, plus the kind that Ileane mentioned, where the commentator pastes bits from somewhere else.

If the comment is pretty good, but the person leaves a spammy link, I trash the link and approve the comment.

Other than that, I approve everything as is.



May 12th, 2011 | 3:08 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

Mitch, I’ve rarely kept a post & killed the link but it’s something to consider here and there. It’s one way to verify if the writer is actually legitimate or not. Course, I do keep having to change spammy names to initials, but I’m also seeing those folks almost never come back.

May 14th, 2011 | 8:32 AM

Mitch – Any comment that I don’t recognise as being from someone I know, someone who hasn’t commented before or someone who isn’t taking my post into context, get the ‘God Google’ treatment in that I take the URL of the linked website and paste it into google search. If it’s spam, that shows up easily as there’s nothing good in there! If it’s a spam blog (I forget what they’re called) then I look at it via google’s cache usually to find there’s only one post. I delete all those.

But then there are the rare occasions that someone I know of actually ‘spams’ me with the content being offensive or out of context and I’m afraid I delete those comments too. (I had one of those recently that was actually the person – who is otherwise a nice person – giving me a religious sermon. I have a sort of comment policy of my own but I call it ‘Respect’ and the link to it now lives in my side panel.)

@Gabriele – I recently changed my gravatar ID to Val from my full name as a few people I know were calling me by my full name, so it’s not just spammers that do that.

May 12th, 2011 | 8:08 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

That’s interesting Val, popping the domain into Google to see what comes up. I’ve never thought to do that, but it would be a much safer way to check because one wouldn’t pick up a virus or malware that way. Great idea!

May 14th, 2011 | 8:35 AM

Hi Mitch

I check the site of all new commenters to my site. That deals with some of the spam. But like you say, they do try all sorts of tricks and what a lot of effort they put into some of those comments.

On my site they target old posts usually and it’s quite obvious they are spam soon as I check their sites!

Time consuming yes but definitely worth it.

Patricia Perth Australia

May 12th, 2011 | 9:50 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

True Pat, whenever I see a comment on an old post for the most part I realize it’s spam. But not for all of my old posts, as some people do come to old information anew. CommentLuv’s telling us what the next blog post is for someone works well also. And of course if there’s a link posted in the comment instead of elsewhere those are suspect too.

May 14th, 2011 | 8:37 AM

I hate it when people don’t punctuate properly, especially when they fail to capitalise their I’s.

I know that for a lot of people English is not their native tongue but will delete comments which don’t have much to do with the post itself. I try to maintain a high level when writing my posts so I expect the same from my commentators. If they’re not going to take the time to leave a half decent post then their comment won’t survive.

As to GASP, I find it’s letting more and more spam through so I’m assuming people are finding a way around it. Luckily Akismet is still catching them.

May 14th, 2011 | 12:39 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

True on all counts, Sire. Really badly written posts just have to go, especially if their website is nice and pristine. What some folks will do for a few bits of change, eh?

May 14th, 2011 | 8:40 AM

Hey Mitch, great stuff man and I think we can all in some way relate to what you’re saying. But here’s the good thing— If people are trying that hard to spam your site, it must be a good sign as to the strength of your blog!! 😉

Have a great weekend sir,


May 14th, 2011 | 12:52 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

I like how you think, Marcus. We all need more “glass half full” thinking to get us through some of the goofiness that life keeps throwing at us. 🙂

May 14th, 2011 | 8:42 AM