Dealing with Comment Spam for Attorneys
Chris Dreyer | July 25, 2013
Conversation on a blog is one of the best phenomenon for promoting your attorney brand. A spirited discussion adds new user-generated content to your website and enhances its performance in search. Unfortunately there tons of spammers out there that clog up websites with useless comments about knock-off handbags and running shoes.
At Attorney Rankings, we hate spam with a passion so we have compiled a list of tips for attorneys to combat spam. It is hard to stop spam completely but by implementing some of these strategies, you can definitely slow it down.
*Disclaimer: Many of these tips apply to WordPress sites.
Turn off Comments
We do not promote this as a good option because comments on a blog are very beneficial for SEO and user experience. If however you do not want any comments on posts or do not care about them, turn off comments in your WP interface to prevent spam comments from filling up your admin back end.
Depending on the theme you have installed the steps to do this may be slightly different. Go to Settings > Discussion and then change the comment settings to your satisfaction. Note that if you have some other commenting plugin you will have to change the settings in that specific plugin.
Disable Comments on Old Posts
The older a post gets the less people comment on it so it makes sense to shut off commenting functionality on posts that are not that active any more. You can also do this within Settings > Discussion in your WP interface.
Check the box that says “Automatically close comments on articles older than” and then set the number of days that should pass before comments are automatically closed. The range will depend on how active your blog is.
Turn off Trackbacks
You can turn off pingbacks and trackbacks to your attorney website in Settings > Discussion but there is a caveat to this. Changing this setting will apply to all new posts however existing posts will still be able to receive pingbacks and trackbacks (a huge source of spam).
Lawyers can disable all pingbacks by running a query from myphp admin. We will not go into detail here on how to do that but WPBeginner has a great post1 on how to accomplish that. Make sure you back up your database before you make any changes to it.
A sure-fire way to stop comment spam is to install captcha on your WP site. There are a lot of captcha plugins available for WordPress2 but lawyers should read carefully about how they work. Captcha can be a double edged sword in that it works great at both stopping spammers and frustrating users.
Find a plugin that is simple for people to use. Avoid captchas that leverage images with numbers on them (like the one pictured at right) as they are a pain to read sometimes. Look for plugins that offer a simple question and answer for the captcha validation. The idea is to fight comment spam effectively without deterring real commenters from using your site.
Disable Comments in Media Attachments
By default users can comment on images and other media that are uploaded to a WordPress site. Since there is really no reason to let people comment on media, you can disable them by installing and configuring the Disable Comments plugin3.
WP Pluggins that Block Comment Spam
There are a few choice plugins that work well for fighting off comment spam:
Akismet4: This is a commenting plugin that comes with WordPress when you install it5. Lawyers will have to activate it and create an account with Akismet in order to use the plugin. It is basically a more powerful spam filter for comments than the default protections provided by WordPress.
Cookies for Comments6: This plugin has a unique approach to fighting comment spam. It sets a cookie on the user’s browser when they visit your site and then when they go to leave a comment, the plugin checks for the presence of the cookie. If it is not there, the comment is marked as spam. This plugin operates under the idea that bots and other spam programs don’t use a traditional browser to go to your site.
Wp Spam Fighter7: Spam Fighter works more like traditional captchas with hidden form fields and a time factor. If a comment is being left only seconds after the post page has been loaded, it is marked as spam. Bots cannot tell if a form field is hidden or not, they just fill out all the fields they come across. Real users do not see hidden form fields so they do not fill them out.
How do you fight spam on your blog? Join in the conversation by leaving your tips below.