8 Commenting Mistakes that Make You Look Like a Spammer

Spam is the scourge of the internet. Depending on which source you want to use, somewhere between 80-99.9% of all email is spam. Akismet, the most widely used WordPRess spam filter, shows that right now 83% of comments are spam on blogs running their plugin. That means that only 17% of blog comments are legitimate, what Akismet calls ham.spam

The flood of spam is the reason I first implemented a Comment Policy here at SuccessCREEations.

Spam is nasty stuff.

Danger of Getting Labeled a Spammer

When it comes to blogging, there is a big danger in getting labeled a spammer. Most of the prominent spam filters such as Akismet (Defensio is another good one I recommend) have filtering algorithms that learn which commenters are spammers and which are legitimate (hammers?) based on user submissions.

This means that every time I mark a comment as spam, or tell the filter that I think a comment that it has marked as spam is really OK, it sends that info to a central database and learns. Combine my input with millions of other users and the filters get pretty accurate pretty fast.

Of course, if the filter ever starts thinking you are a spammer it can be nearly impossible to get your comments approved again. On any blog anywhere.

I’ve had friends end up there by mistake and I promise it is no fun. You don’t want to have that happen. Seriously.

Characteristics of Spammers

To help you out I thought it would be good to share some common characteristics that spam comments tend to share so that you know what to avoid. Hopefully it will help you stay out of spam purgatory.

Keep in mind that most of these characteristics taken individually do not necessarily mean your comment will be marked as spam. However the fewer of these you have in your comments the lower your chances of your comments being marked as spam. On, and I’m going to leave out the painfully obvious things like link stuffing for porn, pills or gambling.

  1. Arrive from a DoFollow list. The short version is that there are lists of blogs floating around out there listing blogs with decent Page Rank who have removed the NoFollow property from comments. Since this blog is on many of those lists I know that the majority of folks who come here from them are more interested in link juice than conversation.
  2. Leave several comments in a very short time. It is not unusual to see a commenter leave a half a dozen or more short comments on various posts in the span of 10 minutes or so. More often than not they never comback after their initial slash and burn pass. Instead, leave on comment a day over several days.
  3. Use key words instead of their name. Since spammers are all about getting better ranking in the search engines they often fill the name field with key words instead of, well, their name. Talking with keywords instead of people makes for awkward conversation, to say the least. Use your name and participate in the conversation.
  4. Don’t have a Gravatar. Spammers are about staying anonymous. Adding a picture of yourself goes a long way towards identifying you as a person and not a spammer. Go get your Gravatar set up so blog owners know you are a person.
  5. Only 1 or 2 sentence comments. Spamming is a high volume, low return activity. Since comment spamming is about getting the link the only incentive is to add just enough comment text to (hopefully) make it past the filter. Taking a moment to add value to the conversation will go a long way towards your comment being approved.
  6. Use free email service instead of email with your domain name. Spammers use throw away email addresses because it helps the anonymity factor. They tend to be random letters and numbers. Using your name in your email, or better yet your own blog domain will help you look less like a spammer.
  7. Blog has comments closed on all posts. Spammers are not interested in conversation. Since they are spamming, they probably think everyone else is spamming too. Turning their comments off is a sure way to prevent getting spammed back. Make sure yours are on and encourage conversation.
  8. Link to a sales page instead of a blog. Spammers are trying to improve the ranking of their sales page so they can make more money. It is much more effective long term to engage in dialog and let your ranking grow over time rather than trying to “trick” the search engines into giving you good ranking. If your blog is on an internal page of your business site, consider linking there instead of to your front page.

Obviously this is not an exhaustive list. But avoiding these mistakes will go a long way towards keeping your comments out of spam filters.

What would you add to the list?

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Comments

  1. Recently, I’ve discovered that my messages have been winding up in spam slush, though I did none of the above to warrant having them wind up there. I’m hopeful that you will get this one.

    Just wanted to say this is a great list and bloggers need to be aware of it. I’d like to know want you recommend for a person to do if they find themselves somehow banned from commenting.

  2. Heya Robyn! It’s a tough one. The people I know who were successful at getting freed from a false spammer label took a long time and had to ask their blogger friends to let their comments out of their spam filters. Each time they commented. Eventually it happened enough times that the filter figured out they were not spammers.

    I recommend you reach out to Joe Hauckes. I know he overcame that issue a long time back and could probably shed a little more light on what it takes.

  3. Thanks so much, Chris. Lately I asked Robert Hruzek to lift out comment that didn’t show up and turned out to be in his spam box. Glad that didn’t happen here. Just came back to test it out. Whew!

  4. Howdy Chris! Yes, Robyn’s comments have simply disappeared from the Middle Zone many times – and there’s no trace of ’em in the spam file either! Don’t know what to do about that when it happens… :-\

  5. Robyn, I’m using Defensio right now not Akismet (though I switch back and forth at times) so that’s probably why your comment showed up right away here.

    There is no telling “how” your comments started to get marked as spam. The filters do flag false positives at times. If bloggers don’t look through their spam folder before deleting they will flag good comments without realizing it. Unfortunately for legit commenters it can quickly snowball.

    And Robert, I don’t have an answer on how the comments don’t show up anywhere. That’s weird indeed.

  6. Should I try Defensio instead of Akismet? Is it in addition to, or instead of? What happens to the Akismet stuff if I switch? or is it better to just dance with the current pardner?

    … and of course, the ever-popular: what about Mary Lou? πŸ˜€

    • Robert, Defensio is comparable to Akismet. Personally I like the way Defensio displays spam messages better than Akismet. I think Defensio makes them easier to sort through to see if there are legitimate comments trapped as spam by mistake.

      I keep both plugins installed so if one is having problems with spam (services go down from time to time) I can switch to the other with a couple mouse clicks. However you should only activate one at a time. Trying to run them both at the same time will likely cause problems.

      As far as which one is better, I think it is really a matter of personal preference. They are both good.

  7. I actually came to your blog from a directory that you were talking about; however you did your job and got me to subscribe to your RSS feed. I guess it helps that I’m interested in your niche.

    I think I set my gravatar up correctly. I’ll probably change the picture because it looks more like a default one they give, but I just wanted to see if it would work first πŸ™‚

    Great suggestions though, that is huge! If you choose to make backlinks through commenting, you only get your times worth out of it if they remain on the blog and are not deleted as spam. Great post, strangely relevant to me πŸ™‚

    • That’s a good point, Jared. If getting back links is your objective then having your comments deleted or marked as spam sure doesn’t help you any.

  8. I totally agree with you mate. My blog has too much spam and not much ham which really annoys me. Today I made my comments dofollow so I’ll be suprised to see how much spam and ham I get now. When it was nofollow I had over 3.5k spam which were mostly to do with Viagra which really annoyed me. πŸ™

    • Hate to break it to you, Artful, but changing to DoFollow will probably make your spam problem worse, not better. Spammers are out there looking for link juice and if your site ends up on any of the DoFollow lists spammers will start showing up in big numbers.

      Of the nearly 125,000 comments this blog has had to date, I’ve only approved just under 4,000 of them. That means I’m getting nearly 97% spam here.

      I’m regularly tempted to turn off DoFollow. But I have a personal issue with penalizing good folks along with the bad just to make it easier on myself. It is possible I may get frustrated enough to change my mind on that one day though.

  9. On all of my other blogs (the website I’m currently liking to is like my only HTML site) I use Akismet, but i’m getting fed up with all of the spam that makes it through the filters. In fact, I actually had a decent sized b,og that I have currently completely changed and left for dead because I couldn’t keep up with all of the spam.

    Gravatars also help identify who isn’t a spammer as well (I think I have one…)

    I’ll just point out a little bit of hypocracy to you – there’s a comment a few comments above mine left by someone whose name is “cellphone_junkie”

  10. Interesting. I don’t have a Gravatar (Actually, I didn’t know what it was until you mentioned it), but I am a real person.

    And yes…I must sheepishly admit that I came here because your blog was on a high-PR Do follow list.

    Well…since I’m here…I guess I should ask a worthwhile question. Is there any value to posting comments on a “No-follow” blog?

    Thanks. And beacuse of your hands-on approach, I think I might become a regular reader of this blog.

    Ed (Real person located in Ohio…Miami graduate etc…)

  11. Great tips for those looking to comment on blogs, they are all good for people to take note of. I cannot recommend the whole do follow movement enough to people with their own blogs. I have only recently discovered it for myself and it is a powerful tool, a free one too so bonus!

  12. Chris, sometimes, my blog will be flooded by those spammers (I have no idea where they found my blog), which they’re posting the comments like the speed of lights. The even worse thing is most of the comments included with several links to their websites and it’s totally annoying me indeed! πŸ™

    • The good news is that it’s your blog so you shouldn’t feel guilty marking those comments as spam, especially when they are that blatant about it.

      • You definitely have the point here, Chris. Why should I concerned about the spammers’ feeling, as they didn’t respect me in the very first place, isn’t it? Well, thanks for the advice, now I know how to deal with those nasty imposers and show them, who’s the boss here…

  13. Thanks for the tips and I agree with viewpoint. Spamming is always a turn-off for people (including me). It not only are annoying but also can jam up the e-mail inbox! Which leads to another source of frustration.

    Sometimes I worry about making comments in blogs for the fear of being misunderstood. But I do enjoy reading great articles like this to open up our minds further and in a way mold the right behavior in the cyber world. Thanks

  14. I am glad I read yor artice I did com from a follow page t I did not knowI could b labeled spam. I am not spamming I am learning the whole blog thing. I did sin up for you newsletter. I will do the gravitor as soon as I learn it.

    Thank your charles

  15. That is a really helpful list thanks! We use akismet and we have millions of spam comments caught. The frustrating thing is, we have lots of legit comments caught in it too. but because we have so much spam, we can’t dig through it to find all the legit. So sad when good commenters get caught. I am going to go tweet about this post now…

  16. Hi

    I was tempted to start this post off as a typical spam one (how ironic, how witty πŸ™‚ ) but thought better of it.

    I am guilty of a couple of the above – hotmail email address that I’ve used for years and using a directory of follow blogs. I do comment to try and get links/juice to my site but I like to think I try and add some value along the way.

    I would say that I’ve received quite a volume of span whilst my site was nofollow – waiting to see whether I will be flooded with it now I’ve changed to dofollow

    I like the point about not just leaving a single comment and never visiting again – I’ve subscribed to your RSS feed as a result πŸ™‚

    Neil

  17. I did not know about the gravatar thingy. I shall sort this out as a matter of urgency. Thanks for the tips.

    Worth noting that webmasters have a responsibilty in dealing with comments appropriately. I have seen people have their standing in the community destroyed because of malicious activity designed to label a innocent surfer a spammer.

    Its worth remembering that even if a comment scores high against the pointers outlined in the post. It may still be authentic. Labelling comments as SPAM should be done responsibly!

    Just my two cents worth

    cheers πŸ™‚

  18. I have been swamped with spam this weekend, making me wonder what is going on. It’s more than just people seeking out link juice. I suspect a new zombie network or something that’s popped up.

    Every hour, 50 – 100 spam comments, all from different IPs and it’s driving me crazy.

    Great list that you have here as well.

  19. Forgive my violation of the no avatar rule. πŸ™‚ Great tips, thanks for these. I was wondering how you can tell if you’ve been listed tagged as a spammer. I’m learning a lot about SEO by following these types of blogs and forums. If you have any other ideas that could help, that would be great.

    Look forward to reading more! Cheers.

  20. Spam is a curse and I woke up this morning to find that I had 23 new comments awaiting moderation-all spam. I don’t mind doing it this way at the moment as I only average a few comments a day but if it gets more popular then I guess I will have to employ some sort of anti spamming tool. Problem is that Askimet just scews up my wordpress site. Sorry for no Avatar btw – boy, do I feel guilty now!

  21. Amen. A few of my blogs are on those same dofollow lists and I get tons of comments from “cheap used cars” and what have you. I don’t mind if people place the name of their site in the name field instead of their real name, but spamming it with keywords is annoying and usually grounds for either deletion or editing to remove the keyword stuffing.

  22. Very helpful information, liked it and so Stumbled it to share with my friends, thanks πŸ™‚

    Sarah.

  23. Thanks for this article to spread awareness about commenting. Most of the times when people actually don’t have much knowledge about spam, their natural comments also look like spam. It will help both blog owners as well as commenter to participate decently in the community.

  24. Hi, so spammers are really well-known, I just find out. Great to read this. I am Indonesian blogger and now start to look for abroad blogs to read, and yes I want to increase my blog’s rank. I’m not spammer, just trying to leave “sincere” comments in as many blog as I can. I don’t comment before I read at least half of the post, Lol…

  25. great to read this, no one love spams so if you dont want to see spam in your blog please dont spam at others, this is all about… πŸ™‚

  26. its great,nice to read here. i found many people doing spamming on blogs.
    many of mine blogs have got comments that are of wasted things. i have cleared that.

    i might say your ways are appreciable,

  27. Hi Chris,

    Many thanks for the advice, I am certainly new to reading and commenting on blogs and would not want to inadvertantly get listed as spam.

    As a result of visiting your blog post I have signed up for a gravatar, signed to your RSS feed, and looked into an anti spamming device for my soon to be launched blog.

    Many thanks

  28. Hey Chris,

    I’m enjoying reading through your blogposts. I was getting a few hundred spam posts a day for a while. It was obvious they were spam, like you said the names were keywords and the posts were empty of content.

    Only after adding WP-Spamfree was I able to stay clean of the hordes of crap thrown on my blog.

    Thanks!

  29. To me is seems that a good part of this problem is caused by Google (and other search engines) and how pageranking works.

    The whole internet is based on links and using them to calculate pagerank was a good idea in the beginning. But now that the internet is mature it does seems a bit obsolete to me. If they would change their algorithm I would expect that this will clear up a lot of backlink related spam.

    As a relative new blogger, I hate doing the marketing stuff as I’d rather concentrate on writing good posts. But as the whole system is more or less based on pagerank this is almost a necessarity to do: registering to social media sites, blog directories, etc. All to get the word out and in the end improve pagerank. No wonder comment spam exists.

  30. Love to read this one..Thank you so much for the advices. Leaving relevant comments on someone’s blog is a great way to build traffic to your blog. Especially if you add to the conversation with unique, helpful information. However adding comments that have noting to do with the post or blog is a great way to get labeled a spammer. And once that happens, your reputation is pretty much sunk.

  31. As someone just starting out in the blog and internet sales world this is such a great post to read! Thanks for the tips and now I am going to spend the rest of my days avoiding spammers and trying to positively and genuinely dive traffic to my site!

  32. Word verification and moderation together performs excellent protection, I always believe. Spammers will find it useless to spam because the moderator can reject their spam in one click, while they need to press their keyboards several times to pass word verification once. That’s a losing trade.

  33. In order to increase the traffic, should i use the dofollow blog ? because my blog is still new…

    what do you recommend ? thank you very much.. πŸ™‚

  34. Mass spam apart, there is thin borderline between real interested commenting / arguing and backlink-hunting self-promoting messages.By removing “nofollow” you know very well what you are gaining in terms of spam and comments count. You get both. And maybe you can get also some good valued comment. Double-faced issue: I have not a definitive opinion about no follow / do follow.

    BTW. I came to your page from a DoFollow list (point number 1)

  35. Comments are my bread and butter right now for link building. My website is only about 3 weeks young, and is my testbed for learning where to link my website. I only make about 10 comments a week, and probably 8 of those are nofollow. Never knew what nofollow was until about 3 days ago. I’ll chalk it up to learning the system. I did take the advice and get Gravatar. Thanks!

  36. All my blogs are do follow blogs so I have become very good at easily spotting the spam comments, a lot of times I will see the same person on everyone of my blogs making they same stupid comments. Askimet is a must like you pointed out and blocks most of the spam. I would hate to see what would be coming trrough without it.

  37. I have been rather lenient though not letting really obvious through. But thinking about it again, I have enabled everything possible to make it rewarding for my readers to comment such as CommentLUV and KeywordLUV along with Dofollow of course; all without spamming .

    Thinking about it now, I will unlink anyone not doesn’t use the KeywordLUV for instance… enough is enough.

  38. Spam is a very slippery slope. Once you cross a certain line, it’s difficult to undo the connotation that is implied by being labeled a spammer. The exploitations of a few have placed a negative framework around the entire process of “unsolicited anything.”

    With so many people flooding to the internet, it’s no wonder that a significant period of a company’s time is spent trying to convince your prospective client that you’re honest and legitimate.

    Excellent tips on commenting, as I personally am engaging in my own social networking pursuits and have had to invest significant effort in this avenue. With so little honesty in the world, it seems most of our time is spent coming off as legitimate. If we could completely resolve the asymmetries of information that exist in the world, these sort of endeavors would be moot.

  39. Yawasp is a great WP plugin to get rid of automated spam, which is about 99%.

  40. Casey, You’re using WordPress so there are a couple anti-spam plugins you can use. Akismet is made by the same folks that give us WordPress and is fantastic. Personally I use a service called Defensio for several of my blogs which also does a great job keeping spam from getting through.

    But even running great plugins like one of these you will still have to keep an eye on things because a small fraction of spam comments will make it though. (Not everyone has the same definition of what they consider spam.)

  41. I used to get tons of spammers, okay maybe not tons, but 3-4 per day. I activated akismet and haven’t had any! None at all, pretty good stuff…

  42. Well..

    I don’t think building back links is at odds with participating in the conversation. You bring up lots of good points, but I don’t think it is a black and white situation.

    It was in trying to build back links that I discovered how interesting the blogosphere is – and I have learned so much since then. Everyone is trying to drive traffic, and although the best way to do this right is to create great content – inbound links are important. In fact they are increasingly important.

  43. Google speaks so much in punishment, but they will punish blogs that disclose dofollow lists? Their recommendations are interesting, but I don’t have interest in using a gravatar.

  44. More than the content of your article, what I like most is the picture! LOL! (”,) Personally, I hate spammers! Just imagine, spammers are penetrating even my personal blog that I’m using to offer my service. They are too desperate in building their links.

  45. I will say that this is a little frieghtening to think of. I definitely don’t want to end up on one of the spammers lists, but what would be my recourse if i did? I’m new to this whole thing so it’s a little scary to think about.

    Is there someway that you can have a real conversation with these people and actually figure out why you might have been marked as a “spammer”?

  46. It’s getting harder and harder to find those “dofollow” blogs and this list was very helpful. Zappos.com has a great blog as well to post to, unless they’re just hiding their “nofollow” links. All the suggestion comments were appreciated as well.

  47. Thats interesting about people arriving from dofollow blogs being marked as spam.

    I’ve had a few comments appear in my akismet filter and couldn’t figure out why, i realise now this was the reason.

  48. Great article. I’m currently teaching a few women on how to get quality links and a point that I strongly stress to them is that to be successful is by contributing in the conversation whether it is in a blog or forums. Its through conversation that you build relationships and these relationships will bring you your customers.

  49. Adam, You make a good point. It has ended up being a bit ironic, really. I write a post on how to avoid getting listed as a spammer and it ends up attracting spammers by the score. Go figure.

    Because of your comment this morning I went back through the comments on this post and found a few snuck through that didn’t even meet my generous standards. So I cleaned house a little.

    Ultimately though, spam is in the eye of the beholder. I go out of my way to find an excuse to keep a comment. Keep in mind, this blog gets thousands of spam comments every day. Even with the best anti-spam procedures some are bound to get through. πŸ™

  50. many thanks for all the words of advice and suggestions which the author of this blog and the subscibers have left, it has helped me alot get in getting my head around the whole ‘spamming’ thing. I have just recently started my own website and as a beginner to SEO, was advised to get my name out there on the web whether it be blogs, forums or whatever other means necessary. This ‘advice’ didnt sit well with me as i knew that there must be some sort of authorisation process from the site/blog owners and as a site owner myself, i understand the frustration of spamming as my mailbox too is flooded everyday with random, un-solicited e-mails telling me i need to loose weight and invest in some shady company on the stock market!

    The information I have gained from this post and the recommendations from the authors and readers already confirms what i originally thought, which is, respect the blog you are commenting on even if it is to get some link feedback by engaging with it the site/blog and being a beneficial contributor which will help contribute to the discussion taking place.

    P.S: havent got a gravatar but seeing as i only learned what this term means within the last 5 minutes, i will make sure one is set up soon!

    Kind Regards

    Carl

  51. I have to admit that I got here via a dofollow list. And it isn’t a secret that many, many people comment with backlinks being one of their major (if not the major) purposes. I like link juice – we all do. But this does not mean that those people aren’t interested in leaving meaningful comments. For example, even though your blog comments are nofollow right now, I still find myself responding to your post because it caught my attention. People will get to a blog by so many means and for so many reasons that in my opinion it’s really the blogger’s responsibility to capture those people’s attention and make them want to comment regardless, as you just have.

  52. I agree, if you want the link juice then earn it!. Many people don’t realize that good posts and helpful and meaningful conversation will encourage more of the serious blog subscribers to want to learn more about you, and your product or service. Help other people, and you will find in time, it will end up helping you. I have had so many people email me for my website, and give great viral referals, because I was being helpful in a blog.

    When you sell information on how to successfully promote an internet business, and you give some of your knowledge and expertise away in intelligent blog posts, people will naturally be more likely to pay for the rest of the information.

    email me if you need any help!!
    devin@startupshortcuts.com

  53. Search engines sniff out the spammy ones. Blog keepers don’t like dealing with the 87% of non-legit blog posts, but in the end search engines are the ones that ultimately have the last laugh when it comes to dealing with spammers. Great post, I went out and got my Gravatar in the middle of reading your post. Thanks!

  54. Thanks a lot for this post we all hate spammers as much as we hate people who post flyers through the letter box. It is true some people are interested in link juice and some are really inputing positive information to the subject. Seen as getting backlinks is so hard i think everyone will appreciate those who are after links but do input and get involved in the convo

  55. Thanks for these amazing tips. I will most definitely put these into practice as I try to help my blog’s SEO by commenting, I always try to stay on topic but I’m not sure if the websites or the admins will think its spam or not. I appreciate your help with this.

  56. Hello Chris, although you covered quite a lot on the subject but I think it would be unreasonable to not mention about certain words which are considered as spam too. Could you please also mention some of those here so that people who are not aware about the ‘spammy juice’ that those words release, do not use them even by mistake.

Comment Policy: Your words are your own, so be nice and helpful if you can. Please, only use your real name and limit the number of links submitted in your comment. If in doubt, please take a moment to review our full Comment Policy before you click "Post Comment" so we don't mark your comment as spam.

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