Monty Python sang about spam. Campers eat spam. But when it comes to your website, spam is no laughing matter and when you get a ton of it, it’s pretty hard to digest.

How to identify spam on your WordPress business website

New WordPress business website owners invariably get some spam and wonder if it’s a real person commenting on their post or if it’s spam. They haven’t yet learned the trick of sniffing out illegitimate comments from the real deal. Fortunately, most spam is automated and it’s easy to tell from a legit comment.

Any comment that says nothing specific with regard to the post’s topic is probably spam. The spam will include phrases such as “your topic” or “the content”; it might even restate the post’s title, but it won’t say anything specific, such as: “Wow, Scott. That was a really helpful post about identifying spam. I feel hungry now.”

Since spam is a form of marketing, it almost always includes an email or URL that has a commercial element to it, either a product, company or service. Black hat SEO firms constantly use spam techniques to drum up business. They’ll send a message saying that your site ranks poorly, whether it does or doesn’t. Worried web masters then begin to doubt their SEO tactics and they get reeled in. A legitimate SEO company won’t use spam to get clients.

Another clue that indicates that a comment is spam is if the message makes no sense. Some spam engines generate nonsensical messages, spinning certain words to create variety. These messages always use awkward phrases and bizarre word choices.

Finally, flattery is often used as a spam tactic. The comment praises your post or your website, and then it asks if you’ll visit their site or reveal your secret about brilliant web design. What they really want is a link. Any spam comment wants you to approve it or visit their link or send an email. And even though some may have a hint of legitimacy about them, resist approving or linking.

What to do about spam

The first line of defense is to set your Discussion options so that no comment is published until it is approved by an admin-level user. Now it’s up to you to separate real comments from spam. In the Comments tab, you can review all comments and perform several actions, including marking comments as spam. This creates a spam folder that can be used to filter out comments from those comment authors. But the best way to stop most spam is by using a plugin that sets up an obstacle that automated spam can’t overcome. At AIM, we’ve tried quite a few different spam-catchers, and our favorite at this time is Spam Free WordPress. This plugin generates a password that needs to be copied and pasted into a field before a comment can be submitted. Only a human can figure this out, so it blocks automated spam. The main advantage this system has over the often-used captcha images is that you don’t have to decipher a squiggly image, which can be frustrating.

There you have it. Now you are well-armed in the ongoing struggle of goodness against spamness.