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Protect your blog or forum from user-generated spam

On 27th January 2017 Google made a very important announcement on how to protect your site from user-generated spam. This was another step showing that they are committed to providing quality search results and that they are also prepared to help genuine websites be a part of the quality results.

What is user-generated spam?

We have all come across it – most likely as spam comments on your blog articles or on forum threads. These can be very irritating and frustrating at times for you as a blog/forum owner or admin, and even if you are an authentic user. It is not at all nice being forced to continuously see irrelevant comments and links.

Some users abuse the comments/forums threads by adding unnecessary and irrelevant links or text content in order to drive more traffic to their own sites; and sometimes the content is not something you or your site would want to be associated with.

Some examples are:

Spam comments

Security Settings

Google have listed a number of pointers to help genuine webmasters to safeguard their sites in this recent blog post.

Blogs, blog comments and authentic forums have a wealth of good information. This valuable content should not be buried by auto-generated keywords and links placed there by spammers.

There are many ways of securing your site’s forums and comment threads to make them unattractive to spammers:

  • Keep your forum software updated and patched. Keep your software up-to-date and pay special attention to important security updates. Spammers can attack security vulnerabilities in older versions.
  • Add a CAPTCHA. CAPTCHAs require users to confirm that they are not robots in order to prove they’re a human being and not an automated script.
  • Block suspicious behavior. Many forums allow you to set time limits between posts, and you can often find activity more common to bots than human beings. For example, phpBB, Simple Machines, myBB, and many other forum platforms enable such configurations.
  • Check your forum’s top posters on a daily basis. If a user joined recently and has an excessive amount of posts, then you probably should review their profile and make sure that their posts and threads are not spammy.
  • Consider disabling some types of comments/archive older threads. For example, it’s a good practice to close some very old forum threads that are unlikely to get legitimate replies. If you plan on not monitoring your forum going forward and users are no longer interacting with it, turning off posting completely may prevent spammers from abusing it.
  • Make good use of moderation capabilities. Consider enabling features in moderation that require users to have a certain reputation before links can be posted or where comments with links require moderation.
  • Consider blacklisting obviously spammy terms. Block obviously inappropriate comments with a blacklist of spammy terms (e.g. Illegal streaming or pharma related terms).
  • Use the ‘nofollow’ attribute for links in the comment field. This will deter spammers from targeting your site. By default, many blogging sites (such as Blogger) automatically add this attribute to any posted comments. Many a times the reason behind such spam is to generate inbound links to their sites to improve their organic profile. By adding the ‘nofollow’ attribute you are making it non-attractive for these spammers.
  • Use automated systems to defend your site.  Comprehensive systems like Akismet, which has plugins for many blogs and forum systems are easy to install and do most of the work for you.

We have helped many of our Digital Marketing clients to make their WordPress blog websites a much safer place to be. We can help you too. Contact us for more information.

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