fake comments

How to spot fake comments in your blog – even when they look genuine

I got an email this morning from a client concerned about functionality of her website –  or the RSS feed, to be more specific. She mentioned that her readers notified her through comments that they were not able to subscribe to her RSS.  Further investigation showed no issues with the RSS feed, and proved those comments to be spam. This is a good opportunity to show you how to identify spam comments that look very genuine, on the comments – if you run a blog, or receive comments on videos, etc.

There is a rise of legitimate-looking comments typically used by spammers to look concerning and genuine, and to trigger you to action – such as to visit their site, to see who they are.

For example, this is the actual comment that I came across in my investigation:

“Oh my goodness! Awesome article dude! Many thanks, However I am experiencing difficulties with your RSS.
I don’t understand the reason why I can’t join
it. Is there anybody else getting identical RSS problems?
Anyone that knows the solution will you kindly respond?

Is definitely a spam. First I can tell just by looking at it – information is too vague, there is a mix of praise and concern, and not enough specific details to know more about the author (makes you want to look up their website); but my experience and gut-feeling are still too subjective. What if I am wrong and this is a genuine comment?

So, you run a blog and want to avoid spam comments

Most blog platforms, such as WordPress, are using plugins such as Akismet, designed to decrease amount of spam. Those plugins typically check the source of comment against the list of known blacklisted domains and IP addresses. In addition, content of the comment is typically checked for known spam word combinations – such as “free offer”; “click here to download”, names of famous brands and medications, etc.

Those methods filter out an enormous amount of spam – for me personally it filters thousands of spam comments a month.However, those methods are not perfect. Those spammers who are using brand new domain names and IPs that have not been blacklisted yet have a chance of sneaking in, especially if they are not using a spammy, robot-generated-looking verbiage. What they do is writing a human-like content, that sounds genuine, concerning, and, most of all, makes you, the human reader to approve their comment. You may be tempted because you fell for it and like the comment enough to be on your blog, or maybe you thinking that it looks legitimate enough to post it, so you have more content for your site when search engines re-crawl it. Hold that last thought!

Are Comments good for your search engines rankings?

Yes – if they come from a truly legitimate source and are a well-ranking website.

No – if they come from a spam website – linking to domains that have a bad reputation with blacklists can harm your search engines ranking.

This is especially true if you run a blog for your business or organization, and need to keep an especially vigilant watch over the integrity of your website and  related content, such as comments that lead to external resources.

How to spot a Spam Comment

Trick to use: Search the web for part of the comment

Let’s review the example we used earlier. If you will take the first 3 sentences in their entirety, “Oh my goodness! Awesome article dude! Many thanks, However I am experiencing difficulties with your RSS.”, and search for those words in Google, including opening and closing quotes

(quotes makes Google look up this exact content, and not just combination of all the words in the sentence), you will see over  212,000 results.   Click here for the complete link to search results demonstrating this spam comment.

example of spam comment search results
Example of search results for spam comment

This is a so-called “black hat” method of gaining links back to domains – in this case, most likely scenario is that some less-then-ethical “marketing/SEO consultant” took people’s money with promise to bring the backlinks and increase clicks to their domains. They typically use a specially designed program to crawl the web looking for posting opportunities – usually available through forums, message boards, and comments on blogs, videos, etc. They usually have thousands of various genuine-looking verbiages that they scatter across the web. So in this specific case these are not “readers”, but “robots”.

So, in the future, when you are not sure, pick a sentence or two from the comment and search the web for it (don’t forget to enclose it in quotes to make search engine to look up entire combination).  I would also recommend use this trick more than once for the same comment.  Sometimes those sneaky spammers get smart, and do not use the same phrase over and over – they use variations. So if the search did not bring back more then reasonable number of results, assume you got a limited variation sample. Go ahead and grab another sentence or two from that comment and search for it (within quotes), once more. If you do not see large volume of results for the search phrase, it is possible that the comment is legitimate. In this case, use your judgment to decide if you want to approve the comment to be posted on your website.