How to Prevent Spam On Your WordPress Site (And Why It Matters)

Comments can be an excellent way to engage your site's audience and build a community around your content. Unfortunately, they're also a ripe opportunity for spam posters. Whether they add untrustworthy links to your site or simply flood your posts with content that doesn't provide any value to readers, getting rid of spam comments is crucial. In this post, we'll share three simple tips for doing so.

No matter what type of site you’ve created with WordPress, enabling users to add their thoughts to your posts is a smart move for driving engagement. Unfortunately, opening up your comments section means you may receive some spam.

To keep your site optimized and credible, minimizing spam is a must. The good news is that WordPress has many tools available for cutting down on the number of low-quality comments on your site.

In this post, we’ll explain what constitutes ‘comment spam’ and why it matters to your WordPress site. Then we’ll share three simple tips you can use to prevent it. Let’s get started!

An Introduction to Comment Spam

Comment spam comes in (more or less) three flavors:

  • Low-quality links to untrustworthy sites.
  • Self-promotional content from actual users.
  • Posts that aren’t ‘value-adding’.

The first type involves people or bots sharing links on your site via the comments section. You can usually identify these fairly easily because they include suspicious URLs, poor grammar, and content that doesn’t have anything to do with your post:

An example of a comment containing a spammy link.

This is by far the most dangerous type of spam. You should seek to prevent it or eliminate from your site as quickly as possible.

You may also see less sketchy links among your comments. These may come from actual readers, but that doesn’t mean they’re not problematic:

An example of a self-promotional comment.

These users are often more interested in promoting their own content rather than engaging with yours. Sometimes they won’t even go to the trouble of discussing your post and how it’s related to their link, making it irrelevant (and possibly annoying) to other users.

Finally, you may want to consider eliminating comments that lack substance:

An example of a comment with no substance or value.

Even if the comment is a compliment on your work, having a dozen posts that say “Great stuff!” doesn’t add any value to your site. While relatively harmless, this type of content may still be considered spam.

Why Preventing Spam Is Crucial to Your WordPress Site

Now that you know what spam looks like, it’s important to understand how it affects your site. Most people love to see lots of comments on their posts, so it may be hard to understand why you would want to get rid of them.

The first reason is that it can lower your Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Google looks at the links that are posted on your site, and assesses the quality of them when determining how to rank your content.

This means that those low-quality links spam commenters are leaving could result in decreased visibility – and therefore traffic – for your content. Even well-meaning visitors could negatively impact your page views by posting their websites’ addresses.

Plus, low-quality links lower your credibility with users. If a visitor clicks on a URL in your comments section and ends up on a sketchy site, it may influence their opinion of your own content.

In order to protect your site’s rankings and reputation, keeping spam to a minimum is a must. Fortunately, WordPress has several tools that make it easy.

How to Prevent Spam on Your WordPress Site (3 Key Tips)

WordPress started out as a blogging platform, which means its no stranger to spam. As a result, there are many settings and tools available to help you prevent it and guard your site’s credibility.

1. Moderate Comments Using WordPress’ Native Functionality

The first course of action you may want to consider is moderating your site’s comments using WordPress’ native functionality. You can do this by navigating to Comments or using the Activity widget in your dashboard:

Pending comments in the WordPress dashboard Activity widget.

This enables you to read each comment before it goes up on your site, and delete any that contain spam. In order for this to work, you’ll need to configure your settings to send all comments to you for approval before publication.

To do so, navigate to Settings > Discussion:

Accessing WordPress' Discussion settings.

Under Before a comment appears, select the checkbox next to Comment must be manually approved:

The WordPress comment moderation options.

While analyzing each comment yourself is a surefire way to prevent spam, it’s also time-consuming. If you have a large site or many highly-active users, this isn’t a practical solution. That’s where the other techniques in this post come in handy.

2. Employ a Plugin to Weed Out Spam Automatically

Instead of manually approving comments, you can set up a couple of plugins to prevent spam from being posted in the first place, and to weed it out should it get through your defenses. The first step is to set up a CAPTCHA plugin, such as Google Captcha:

The Google Captcha plugin.

This will add a little I am not a robot checkbox or test to your comment submission form. That way, spam bots won’t be able to post bad links to your site:

An example of a CAPTCHA on a comments submission form.

Make sure the CAPTCHA plugin you choose has an option to add the test to comment submissions and not just your contact form.

Then you may want to consider a comment moderation plugin such as Akismet as well:

The Akismet anti-spam plugin.

This plugin can ‘learn’ to identify spam and filter it out of your comments. You’ll have to put in a little work at first by marking the types of content you want to eliminate.

Simply click the Spam option on any comment in moderation to ‘teach’ Akismet what to look for:

Marking a comment as spam in WordPress.

This can save you a lot of time by discarding spam comments automatically. You’ll still have to do a little moderation work to clean up any that slip past Akismet, but it should still significantly decrease your workload in this regard.

3. Restrict Commenting Permissions

As a last resort, you may want to consider restricting commenting permissions on your site altogether. Since discussions can be an effective way to increase engagement on your site, it’s best to avoid this if you can.

To disable commenting on your site altogether, navigate to Settings > Discussion and uncheck the box next to Allow people to submit comments on new posts:

Disabling comments in WordPress.

You can also take a more moderate approach by requiring users to log in before commenting. This should significantly decrease the number of spam links that make it onto your site.

Just check the box next to Users must be registered and logged in to comment in your Discussion settings:

Restricting comments to logged in users in WordPress.

Finally, you can also add terms to your Comment blacklist:

The WordPress comments blacklist feature.

Any comments containing the words or phrases listed here will be deleted automatically. You can also block specific IP addresses. However, this isn’t an exact science and you may end up deleting valuable comments with the feature. It’s best to use it sparingly, if at all.

Conclusion

Spam may seem insignificant, but in reality, it’s no joke. A few low-quality comments could damage your site’s reputation and make it harder to rank well in Google. This post has shared three key tips for preventing spam on your WordPress site:

  1. Moderate comments using WordPress’ native functionality.
  2. Employ a plugin to weed out spam automatically.
  3. Restrict commenting permissions.

Do you have any questions about how to prevent spam on your WordPress site? Let us know in the comments section below!

Featured Image Credit: Pau Casals.

Will Morris
Will Morris
Will Morris is a staff writer at WordCandy. When he's not writing about WordPress, he likes to gig his stand-up comedy routine on the local circuit.

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3 Responses

  1. Thanks for these tips or anyone can simply install any good anti-spam plugin like Akismet, Anti-Spam Bee, SpamShield, CleanTalk etc. This can also help to prevent spam on your website.

  2. Will,

    Thanks for this sensational content. Spammers are everywhere. It’s our responsibility to protect our site value preventing such spam comments. Sure, I’d be considering your suggestions.

  3. The suggestion you have provided will definitely help readers in making their WordPress site spam free. I have a query does the valid comments in our post helps in boosting our SEO process.

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