Tactics to Deal with Spam Comments and RSS Autoblog Leechers

If you are running your own moderately popular blog, it doesn’t take long until comment spammers start targeting your blog with their useless spam comments. Another problem are the RSS Autoblog Leechers that copy and repost your content on their blog.

In this article, I’ll discuss tactics that you can use to turn the tables on the spammers and leechers and actually turn the negatives into a positive outcome for your site.

 

 

But First… Should you use the NoFollow Link Attribute on your External Links?

Before getting into the tactics, here’s an overview about using the NoFollow link attribute.

There is a common myth that if you add the “nofollow” attribute to external links on your site, then the search engines will not follow the link and therefore will not index the site it is pointing to. This is an incorrect assumption. If there is a link on your site, Google is going to follow that link regardless of the “nofollow” attribute.

But what you need to know is that Google will take into account whether the link was “dofollow” or “nofollow” and assign a different weighting to that site which then feeds into it’s indexing algorithm (which will then influence the ranking for the external site).

Note: A “dofollow” link is just a link without the “nofollow” attribute. There is no specific “dofollow” attribute.

So by using the “nofollow” link, you are telling Google that you do not really trust that external site and hence less link juice will flow to it.

My advice is that you should use “nofollow” on any paid links on your site and anywhere else you think it is appropriate. For sites that you trust and want to promote, give them “dofollow” links. Typically, the Blogroll on my sites have “dofollow” links, whilst all other links on my sites are “nofollow”.

I use the SEO Smart Links WordPress plugin to automatically make all external links “nofollow”. But more importantly, I make sure that all the links in my Comments section are “nofollow”.

I’ll now explain that reasoning. If your blog allows “dofollow” links in the comments, then you will be targeted by comment spammers trying to get backlinks to their site. Your blog will also feature in blog posts that list blogs that allow “dofollow” links in their comments. People use these lists to find blogs to spam with comments. By using “nofollow” links, it will cut down on the spam comments that are submitted to your site.

Recently someone emailed me to say that this blog was listed in a blog post that listed hundreds of “dofollow” blogs. Why my blog was listed there I do not know, but the person who emailed me was upset when he found out that I have “nofollow” on all my external links. He was obviously a newbie trying to get decent backlinks by manually entering spam comments. I had a look at that blog list and in the comments on that post, people were saying how great the list was and were spamming every blog  on the list. Its best to make your external links “nofollow” so your site is not targeted.

Tactics for Spam Comments

If you are using WordPress, then the Akismet plugin correctly identifies 99.9% of the robotic comment spammers. But the bigger problem is how to deal with the manual comment spammers that are using black hat SEO techniques to target your blog.

These are the people that will manually go to your blog and leave a useless comment in order to get a backlink to their website. The article they are commenting on usually ranks quite highly in the search engines for certain keywords so they will leave a useless comment such as “Nice post” or “Well written post, really enjoyed it” so they can get the backlink.

Now don’t take this the wrong way. I really like people leaving comments on my blogs and emailing me directly. But what I don’t like are comments that just do not add any value to the discussion such as “Great article… thanks for sharing!”.  Having to moderate these comments wastes my time… and if I approve those comments it doesn’t add any value to the discussion.

So this is what I suggest you do to cut down the spam comments to your blog:

  1. Use the Akismet plugin to filter spam comments.
  2. Use the “nofollow” link attribute on all your external links, especially in the comments section. Automate this by using a WordPress plugin.
  3. Consider closing comments on older posts. If you have a popular blog you can send out an email to your list notifying your readers that you will be closing comments on a recent post very soon. This tends to get some great meaningful comments from your readers, since they know their comments (and their backlink) will be locked in on a popular post.

For the comments that make it through the spam filter, you could just delete those comments. But sometimes if I am in the mood, I like to turn the tables on the spammers by doing the following:

  1. Update the Name field in the comment to whatever you like.
  2. Update the Email field in the comment to whatever you like. It’s even better if you create some extra Gravatars for you to use so it looks authentic.
  3. Update the URL field to point to one of your other sites (or to your friends site). By doing this you are naturally creating backlinks to your other sites.
  4. Update the comment text to say whatever you like and fix the spelling errors. For some reason, spammers are quite bad spellers since they are probably trying to get through the spam filter.

It’s not the nicest thing to do… but these people are wasting your time. By using this tactic, the spammers are actually helping you with the SEO campaign for your site and the other sites you will point the links to. The beauty of this tactic is that if a spammer found your post doing a Google search, then Google will analyse what that user was doing on your site. Google will record the IP address of the user, and if they leave a comment, Google will record your post as having some relevance since it assumes that your blog post was very important since the user interacted with it and left a comment. Since the IP addresses are coming in from all over the world, it looks completely natural. The great part is that you hijack their comment at the last moment and enter your own info. Score: Blogger 1, Spammer 0.

Tactics for RSS AutoBlog Leechers

There was a time when I was quite upset when other people leeched the content from my blogs using RSS, and then reposted my articles on their AutoBlog sites.

But now I don’t care! I’m going to tell you a tactic I use to combat them. Once you implement it, you will want the RSS AutoBlog Leechers to keep stealing your content as much as they want.

The first thing to realize is that Google has probably indexed your site first, so Google knows where the original content came from, so your article should always rank higher than the duplicate article.

The autoblogs may copy your entire article, or sometimes they just copy the first and last paragraphs, since those paragraphs usually contain keywords. The article probably doesn’t make sense anymore, but they are hoping to get traffic from the search engines due to the keywords in those paragraphs.

What you need to do is make sure that the first and last paragraphs in every article you write has a link to another article on your site. By doing this, if someone uses an RSS AutoBlog plugin to copy content from your site, they will also be copying the links back to your site. Hence you will automatically get backlinks to your site which will increase your ranking. The more AutoBlogs that copy your content… the better. Google knows which article was the original article, and now there are backlinks to your site as well. It’s win-win for you. You should also make sure every article you write contains some internal links to other posts on your site.

If you really want to turn the tables on the RSS AutoBlog Leechers… make sure to add some affiliate links to your posts as well. How great would it it be for 500 other blogs to steal your content that contains backlinks to your site as well as some affiliate links!

Web Scraping Example

Here is my original post: Simple Guide to Getting Backlinks

And here is the same post on someone else’s blog

That post has links back to my site and some affiliate links as well. Go for it AutoBloggers!

17 Comments

  1. I had a couple of posts about Dofollow and Nofollow some weeks ago, and I remember there has been a very nice discussion around it. Eventually I decided to manually remove the nofollow attribute from links I trusted and wanted to promote, rather than putting everything Dofollow just to gain some more commenters. I figured that it’s a lot more ethic to do it that way, vouching just for content you know first-hand, rather than giving everything the green light.

    • Hi Gabriele, my thoughts are exactly the same. I used to have all my links DoFollow since I felt it was the right thing to do for the blogging community… but not anymore since people take advantage of it. Especially now that there are automated commenting apps that will target your blog.

  2. Kirk. Thanks for this. Great, thanks for sharing! ;)

    On a serious note, my personal blog nabs around 600 spam comments a day thanks to Aksimet. Like you said, the odd one does get through, but I do what you do – change the name and just edit it so its relevent.

    With the backlinks abuse and content pasting, I’m yet to become victim to that, but now I don’t deel as bad.

  3. There are indeed lots of pros and cons with having a do follow or a no follow blog. For me, it depends on the purpose of your blog. If the purpose of your blog is to share information and tips and build a good community, having it as a do follow blog would be a good choice. This is because if other bloggers and site owners take time to leave RELEVANT comments on my posts I like showing my appreciation by giving them a Do Follow backlink. If your blog is merely for business purposes and you don’t want other competitors to use the advantage of a do follow blog to generate traffic, then the no follow attribute would be the best choice.

  4. Hi Kirk,

    I personally do not favor the use of nofollow tag in comment links because I believe that my readers who add value to the discussion, deserve a bit of backlink juice from me. As you mentioned above, there are other ways of fighting spam and since I installed “Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin” on my WordPress blog, the amount of spam I get decreased to almost zero. I got about 3 spam comments in the last few weeks as opposed to what I was getting before (10 per day).

    • Yes I tend to agree and would like to use DoFollow on all my external links… but that tends to get my sites targeted. The WP Anti-Spam plugins do work for the SpamBots… but not for the manual commenters (“Great Post!”) just trying to get a backlink. So I am finding that NoFollow on the external links cuts down on the manual commenters.

  5. Manual comment spam has really been a headache for many of the bloggers out here. I do agree with you that having a nice feedback from readers feels good but doesn’t add much value to your content. Having limited time frame for commenting is a really good idea and I have seen many bloggers do that.

  6. Whoa! Awesome tricks…I don’t understand how to make external links nofollow on blogger. But, It would be nice if I had a plug in for it. Also, Thanks for the tips on getting 1up on the spammers. That’s funny to me. Thank you. Do you know of any plugin’s for blogger that can help with setting “dofollow/nofollow” ?

    • Hi Jasmine. I don’t use hosted blogging platforms… and if you are serious about building your own identity and brand etc, you should consider installing and running your own self-hosted WordPress installation. That way you have complete freedom to do whatever you want with plugins and the domain name. Over time you will build up your own blog into an asset, and you will not be tied to one particular blogging platform that you do not really have a lot of control over. What if Blogger decided to suspend your account?

  7. From my point of view, the best way to save your blog from spam comments is by providing no follow comment attributes to all, unless they stand out with quality comments and allowing comments for recent articles only. I guess that much is enough to scare the quickies away!

  8. Hi Kirk,
    Nice tips.But I guess having so much strict policy would certainly make the readers lose interest in commenting one one’s blog.At least one should cut some slack.There are times when even the author of the blog fails to moderate the comment maybe due to some reasons and believe me it happens and the comment goes to trash on the expiry of the time period.So according to you who is responsible for this and how can one have control over this.It should be a fair game for both sides I guess.

  9. Thanks for these tips. I get constant spam comments to a couple of my blogs. However they tend to trickle in. I’m not at the stage where I need to use a spam filter yet. So I just delete them individually.

    Amazingly, there are two websites that keep spamming one of my blogs. (They are internet marketing firms.) I keep deleting their comments, in the hope that they’ve seen that this is what I’m doing and cease. Yet they still keep doing it!

    It’s such a stupid thing to do. Not only are they wasting my time. They’re wasting their own as well.

    • Hi Matt, don’t just delete those comments. Do everyone else a favour, just install Akismet and mark the comments as spam. If enough people do this, then those spammers will be tagged as spammers and their comments will be automatically filtered out of everyones blogs.

  10. great tips on dealing with autoblog.
    but how if they use some plugin to have all nofollow attributes on external links?

    And I’ve heard blogger complaining that the his post is ranked below for the same post than the other blog that copied his article.

    • Hi Affan, I am not too concerned about dofollow and nofollow links.
      Now, Google knows which site is the authority and original site and will rank articles accordingly. Sometimes the original post can be ranked lower than the scraped post, but Google will eventually figure out that the other site is an autoblog site, so the lower ranking will only be temporary.

  11. Hi Kirk
    My blog is about 1½ years old now and I are getting more and more traffic, but also more and more spam comments on my blog. It is really beginning to take up more and more time on a daily basis. I get a lot of those “thanks for sharing” comments. I have been using the Akismet plugin, but it was beginning to mark many of my loyal visitors as spammers so I removed it again. Right now I am using Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin by Andy Bailey, but nothing seems perfect to block all spam.

    • Hi Thomas,
      I just use Akismet… and mark spam comments as spam (which will help other blogs out as well). For my own sites, I just delete the “Thanks for sharing” comments since they do not add any value. Also, if someone doesn’t have a Gravatar, that’s usually a sign they are spamming.
      I have another blog that gets hit with heaps of spam… and I did turn off comments for a while… but now I leave comments on since Google sees this as people interacting with the site which will help your rankings.