2-3 WordPress Plugins For Reducing Comment Spam (From 100s To <10 Per Day)

Want to know how I reduced WordPress blog comment spam significantly, using just 2-3 plugins, with no need for a CAPTCHA? Then keep reading, friend…

STOP imagePeople who know me well (especially on Twitter) will know that blog comment spam has been a major bugbear of mine for a while. I’ve tried multiple solutions, including CAPTCHAs (such as Animal Captcha, Sweet Captcha, Math Captcha, other more normal CAPTCHAs…) but experienced no joy. I also followed the steps in this guide, downloaded the plugins that were recommended and followed its instructions, but found that it just didn’t have the desired effect…

Unfortunately it’s not simply a case of purging the Spam section in one go without checking it. I get a lot of false positives (genuine comments that get filtered into the Spam section by accident), so I have to trawl through it all. One. By. One. Bearing in mind that I used to get about 100-200 spam comments everyday. Ouch. I also help to manage Cardiff Blogs (also built on WordPress) and while they don’t get as many spam comments as SEOno does, if left unchecked for a few weeks, I’ll have to filter through a few hundred…

Desperate for a solution, I stumbled upon 2 plugins and thought that I’d give them a go. The number of spam comments I receive now has reduced dramatically: from 100-200 per day to about 10. Much more manageable.

Here’s what I use…

1) Akismet

An absolute necessity, in order for comments to be distinguished as spam in the first place. I won’t spend too much time talking about it and singing its praises as 99.9% of you reading this will already be familiar with it.

(Fun fact: SEOno’s nearly 3 years old and Akismet’s already protected it from 14,038 spam comments…)

Moving on…

2) Bad Behavior

Link to Bad Behavior on WordPress.org

This is the daddy. Working in conjunction with Akismet, Bad Behavior acts “as a gatekeeper, preventing spammers from ever delivering their junk, and in many cases, from ever reading your site in the first place.” In other words, while Akismet determines whether a comment is good or spam (but doesn’t necessarily stop spam comments), if Bad Behavior discovers a spam comment, it stops it completely…

If I look at my site’s settings, it’s “blocked 3334 access attempts in the last 7 days.”

Bad Behavior stats screenshot
Whoa. I wonder how many of those would’ve resulted in me having to check through them all manually…

You can even set its security to ‘Strict checking’, which “blocks more spam but may block some people.” I’ve actually left this unticked, as I was worried it’d be a little too protective, and then genuine comments wouldn’t get through.

3) AVH First Defense Against Spam Plugin [optional]

Link to AVH FDASP on WordPress.org

For the remainder than slip through Bad Behavior’s net, what I love about AVH (which I actually discovered and downloaded before Bad Behavior) is that it allows you to blacklist IP addresses. So at least if someone manages to leave a blog comment once, if it’s blacklisted, that same spammer cannot send any more attempts from that IP address. Spammers tend to vary IP addresses and use multiple IPs, but they’ll still use the same IP address multiple times, so instead of a few spam comments hitting you, you only get one.

In order to enable the ability to blackist individual comments, in the ‘Blacklist’ section of the plugin’s ‘General Options’, tick the ‘Add to blacklist link’ box, which I believe is unticked by default.

AVH tickbox screenshotThen, when assessing the few that do trickle through, just click the ‘Blacklist & Delete’ button under each comment.

AVH Blacklist & Delete feature screenshot
(Click to enlarge)

Unfortunately, to my knowledge, there’s no ‘Blacklist All’ command (in the same way that there’s an ‘Empty Spam’ command), but when you’re dealing with high single-digits/low double-digits, it hardly takes much time to sort out – after all, it’s not like you’re doing it to 100-200 comments…!

I’ve put this down as optional, as while it isn’t as effective at Bad Behavior (on its own), it’s still pretty handy for getting rid of repeated spam.

Don’t waste your time with:

  • Any kind of CAPTCHA: In addition to making it harder for your genuine commenters to leave a comment (potentially putting them off), some people argue that they’re just not that effective anymore. They can also be user unfriendly… I used Sweet Captcha for a while, but found that it didn’t work if someone used Safari (desktop version) – I tried tweeting the SC team about it, but it went ignored.
  • Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin: This was recommended in the article that I linked to at the top of this post, but it was absolutely hopeless. Similar to Bad Behavior, it tells you how many attempts it’s stopped, and it stayed on “0” the whole time it was running, while the spam kept pouring in… Also, while it’s not as in-your-face as a CAPTCHA, it still requires genuine commenters to do something out of the ordinary, which may confuse them and therefore stop them from leaving a comment.

While I can’t guarantee that what’s worked for me will work for you, I’d love to know if anyone else has had success using the above. Leave a comment below if so!

[STOP image credit – Andrew Ferguson]

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