Comment SPAM - still a recognised SEO technique?

Just a short post this week as I spend a few moments going through some of the SPAM comments on my blog that have slipped through the net of my trusted SPAM filter. I can't help but think that this old-skool, black-hat method of link building is never going to die! If you have a WordPress blog or website, you will have undoubtedly experienced SPAM comments on your blog. These can become increasingly annoying if  you don't have a SPAM filter set up and activated on your WordPress installation as you could receive an email each time a comment is left. Then, depending on how your site is configured, you'll need to manually check and approve or remove comments.

Background to the problem

SPAM comments
SPAM comments

Link building has always been the backbone of many SEO campaigns as Google just loves to see websites with lots of links pointing at them. In the past many people would opt for quantity over quality and the way of building links was unnatural. One way of people generating links back to their site was to leave comments in forums and on blogs.

As the comments section within WordPress applies a 'nofollow' attribute to any links that appear in a comment, these links become pretty much worthless; Google will not follow them. I can only assume that the people leaving their comments are just looking for links, any links, not taking into consideration whether Google will 'follow' these links.

Despite the lack of value in these links, commenters continue to use the 'Name' field as the place to optimise a link back to their site. WordPress, by default links your name to the URL you put in the 'Website' or 'URL' field. This means that you can place a fake name containing your keywords in the name field and have that link back to your site. By doing this you are creating what's known as 'anchor text' that is optimised for the keywords you want to rank for in Google's search results.

If, for example, you sold Rolex watches and wanted your website to rank when people searched for 'Rolex watches' in Google, it used to be common practice to get as many links pointing to the website as possible with the anchor text 'Rolex watches'. To do this on a WordPress blog, you can change your name to Rolex watches when you leave a comment to get a link back to your site with the keywords in the anchor text.

BEWARE! If you're ever tempted to leave comments for the sole purpose of generating a link to your site, you could set yourself up for a fall as Google gets smarter every day! Anchor text should always appear natural and having all your links using the same text isn't going to happen naturally and Google knows it!

It can be even more valuable if a link that points to your site is from a relevant wesbite, perhaps on the same subject as yours. Because of this, I often see competitors leaving random remarks on my blog with a name like 'Online Marketing' or 'Link Building'. It's sad really as I'm sure they know that I know what they are doing is completely blackhat and a complete waste of time as I'm never going to publish those comments on my blog. But still it continues...

What can be done about SPAM comments?

First of all, I recommend you set up your WordPress site to require all comments to be moderated before being published. To do this go to 'Settings' and 'Discussion'. Here you'll find all the settings to do with comments on your blog. You can switch of comments completely if you think that's appropriate, but just setting comments to be moderated is usually sufficient and means you can still engage with legitimate commenters.

Wordpress Discussions Settings
Wordpress Discussions Settings

The next step is to make sure you have a SPAM filter installed and activated. I use Akismet as it comes with most WordPress installations and works around 99% of the time. Akismet will detect if a comment appears to be SPAM and will label it as such and move it into a SPAM folder (much like your email client does).

SPAM comments do not generate an email notification to you, so just installing this plugin will greatly reduce the size of your inbox!

I hope this has helped a few people out there struggling with comment spam - you are certainly not alone! If you have any other suggestions or other recommended plugins, please leave a [genuine] comment below!