Fighting Spam

One of the biggest problems we all face on the web these days is spam. As soon as you post content to the internet, someone will start sending you unwanted advertising e-mails and junk mail. Here are some tips to help you keep the wolves at bay.

Multiple e-mail addresses

Since I first started accessing the web, I have had multiple e-mail addresses. In the beginning, this was probably because I was testing out different e-mail hosts, but now I do it for security and privacy.

To keep spam mail down, or at least manageable, and to maintain certain privacy, it may be wise to use two or three e-mail addresses. I use one e-mail address for my business, one for friends and family and one to post comments and to sign up to newsletters and marketing material. Not only does this help me ordering my e-mail inbox, it also helps I restrict the spam I receive to one e-mail address. Some people go even further and with your own domain you can set up unlimited email addresses. So if I signed up to this site’s newsletter I would create and email address like joel-btg@mydomain.com. Then whenever I was sent an email to that address I would know where I submitted the email address and be able to tell if they sold the email on. I would never sell your email address on (I use AWeber to protect you), but some people do.

Everything in moderation

Comment Spam is another problem you’ll have if you have a blog. A good practice may be to moderate all your comments. This can be time consuming if your site attracts many visitors but it will pay-off in the end. Many blog hosts have a facility to allow ‘approved’ users or e-mail addresses and by using this, you will cut down on some of your work.

Word verification

Also known as CAPTCHA, many sites use this form of anti-spam to protect themselves (see my Contact form for an example). Using a combination of distorted words and letters, users are required to copy a certain word into a field to prove that they are actually a human and not a spybot or crawler software program.

Unfortunately, there are many users who will not post comments when required to use word verification. One way to get around this is to ask new visitors to register first; another form of moderation. Again though, this can reduce the number of commentators.

Anti-spam plug-ins

If you use WordPress, you will have heard of Aksimet. Akismet is a plug-in that analyzes all posts and using certain parameters, decides whether the comment is spam or not. Of course, this is not a foolproof system so you will need to check your Spam Box every now and then to ensure that legitimate comments have not fallen through.

Dead letters

Closing comments that are no longer live is another good way to prevent spam. When you have a post that is hot, attracting lots of comments, the post may be pushed higher up in the search engine results. This is brilliant for advertising your site but not so brilliant for attracting spam. The problem is that once the comments and backlinks die down, the link stays at the top of the search engine, attracting automated and manual spammers. One way to stop unwanted spam comments is to close the ability to add new comments after a certain time. By doing this, you will still keep your high search ranking but prevent new spam. WordPress can now do this.

Spam is everywhere these days but as long as we follow a few simple guidelines like these, we will keep the wolves from the door. Maybe…

36 thoughts on “Fighting Spam”

  1. Hello Joel!

    This is a very good post! I totally like the idea of “multiple e-mail addresses”! I use three addresses too. It is very wise to have more than one address. Some people don’t realize that and everything comes to one e-mail which is full of everything you could ever imagine!

    Thanks for sharing!

    John

  2. Ooooo, I’m going to try the “shut off comments after __ days” thing. I forgot about that possibility. I used to go through and check the spam to make sure I wasn’t deleting anyone real, but there’s just not enough time to do that anymore.

  3. Hi Joel. You have pointed a very good topic here. Spam is something, irritating in the blog world. The blogging community is affected by spamming the most. Very good post and advice given by you. I am with you in the fight against “SPAM”.

  4. Managing spam is time-consuming!! I haven’t tried the cut-off comment idea. I think I’ll take a look to see where that would work well with some of the more popular posts on my blog. I do notice that certain posts attract more spam than others.

    Collecting ebooks is another issue I’m dealing with…no time to read them all, let alone implement the good ideas found in each one. One thing at a time 🙂

  5. I do find comment spam most irritating, not so much the obvious stuff that gets caught by Akismet, but rather amateurish attempts to write flattering comments without a persons name, but just a keyword. I should follow your advice with sign-ups and use a separate email address. half the time i can never remember the original reason I signed up!

  6. I get just as much spam on the telephone even when I’m no-call lists (they just use overseas operators to circumvent), and political messages aren’t included. I think spam is more manageable and more easily prevented.

  7. I like the idea of having different e mail address. I have one for my blog and then another for whatever. I think I’ll use your idea of one for family and friends and then another for opt-in’s like you do. Sounds like a really great idea to me. Thanks Joel, I really appreciate the help when it comes to spam, because it can really be time consuming.
    Debbie

  8. I give up on the spam. As most of us who are online I can get 100’s of emails a day, but most of them now go to spam. Sorry if i miss your email. I’m going back to the telephone. Great tips though!

  9. Spam is just the nature of the beast but as you show here, it can be fought effectively. I like all of the methods you use but I have found a great one for forum owners that is very good and not listed here. While a double opt in is effective on registration, it doesn’t stop the “seo” companies (ie, scam artists) from posting meaningless comments and links, I want to allow linking for my regulars so I had my forum customized that you need to have at least 25 posts to be able to post links or have a signature. to prevent someone from just blasting 25 meaningless comments in one day, members must be active for seven days as well. Just another tip.

  10. Thanks Joel.

    Spam is really annoying.

    The Futurama movie: Bender’s Big Score involved a few aliens scamming the entire planet with e-mail scams and other varieties of spam attack. The aliens looked rather funny, and every time I go through my junk folder I imagine it is one of these aliens sending it to me (particularly when my old friend from Nigeria is offering me millions if I’ll just help him smuggle some money out of the country) 😉

    This makes dealing with spam a bit less annoying for me.

    keep smiling,

    Benjamin

  11. I experience ‘illegal’ spam – from senders and countries that hide their identities – and senseless spam – from so-called internet marketers. Some days the quantity of spam completely dwarfs the quantity of ‘real’ emails. What puzzles the mind, all that illegal and senseless spamming must somehow make these idiots money. Else they’d surely stop it, wouldn’t they? Like your post suggests, to have multiple email addresses helps a great deal. In addition, I use SpamBully software – well worth the annual fee. It reduces my spam problem to spam annoyance. But even so … if cleaning out spam stuff takes you only 3 minutes a day, it adds up to 15 hours a year – a sizable annoyance.
    – Beat

  12. Dear Joel –

    Some blog posts you can not close comments.

    I wrote one a few years ago called “When Your Husband Has Died – A Survival Guide” It has over 1000 comments and has turned into a forum for widows. I have to watch it carefully because I don’t hold the comments for moderation.

    It was quite accidently to have this happen. I was just putting up a regular post.

    Most of the women want to see their post on right away. Some are desperate and once in a while even threaten suicide -l and need to have support by return answer. And they get it.

    It is not pleasant to get porn on such a heartfelt site. It does happen though. Hate to be a target but I am.

    I especially like your idea about separate email addresses, Joel. I am going to do that right now.

  13. It is sometimes difficult to decide whether comments are legit or not, especially when a site doesn’t receive that many. I agree it is tempting to accept comments that straddle the fence between spam and those who are leaving quick comments for linking purposes. Thanks for the suggestions you share in this post to help cut down on the amount that arrives on our websites.

  14. Great, I’m glad it’s working for you. Yes the email address system is a reliable way to tell where spam is coming from. Sometimes i even use disposable email addresses though some sites don’t let you use them.

  15. Very good advice, Joel, thank you. I started using multiple email addresses strategically after I learned my lesson a few years ago. It is a very simple and good way to control spam. I also learned never to use my the email address that my ISP recongnizes as my “account number”. That cannot be deleted.
    The way you set up my website with akismet works great. I rarely have to approve a comment in the spam inbox.

  16. It’s a tough call sometimes! After all it is nice to get comments (thanks for this one Caryn!) but on the other side once you approve one it can open the floodgates to other comments that aren’t as genuine looking. Vigilance is key 🙂

  17. Thanks, Joel. Helpful and timely. We are struggling a bit with what truly is spam. We’ve got some in Akismet that look harmless, like “Nice post, I’m adding you to my list.” but Akismet’s picked it up and it does look a bit generic. With Google rankings now positively affected by the amount of dialog, I’m torn whether to give some of these the benefit of the doubt (if the sender name isn’t an obvious promo). But loved the idea of closing comments at a later time!

  18. Great article Joel. Thank you for sharing:) Unfortunately the reality on the Internet is spam will never go away. A suggestion I have to manage email spam is to learn how to use your email programs inbox rules. These rules can help bring attention to important email when they are being used effectively. As for comment spam, using a comment system like Disqus helps eliminate spam as well.

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