Safety first: Protecting your website from user generated spam

Clarence Digital

05/05/17

Is there anything more frustrating than seeing the engagement on your website that you have worked so hard for littered with spam? It is enough to drive any site owner crazy and, as well as looking ugly, spam messages can push users away and drown out the genuine conversations and feedback that your site is getting.

So what can you do to prevent spam taking over your site and ruining everything you have worked towards? It is clearly becoming an increasingly common problem, so much so that Google themselves put forward some tips on how to get rid of spam comments.

Website Spam – more than just a nuisance

It is certainly worth heeding their advice; the consequences of letting spam take over your site can be cruel and the longer you leave it, the worse it will get. Indeed, sites overwhelmed by spam can find themselves delisted temporarily, whilst they can also suffer massively in the all-important SEO rankings. This comes about due to the spam creating linking and content problems, and will see your website plunge off the first few pages of search results on Google.

Sitting back could see you lose control of your website

However, perhaps the most serious risk of all is being hacked and losing control of your site. Spam content can provide a way in for hackers and it can be extremely tricky, not to mention hugely frustrating, to wrestle back control. Who knows what might happen to your site if it gets into the hands of hackers; it makes sense to take every step possible to prevent such a scenario in the first place.

How do I prevent user generated spam?

Firstly, putting your safety and protection in the hands of reputable third party can save plenty of headaches down the line. Google urge site owners to ensure that all software and licensing is up-to-date and renewed regularly. When software is out of date, it becomes an easy target for hackers who look to exploit gaps in protection.

Once you have ensured that everything is up-to-date, you can start to look ahead at the types of actions you can take to prevent user generated spam.

  • Add a CAPTCHA

Are you a robot? We’ve all had our humanness questioned on websites at one time or another, and for good reason. By adding a CAPTCHA, those wishing to comment are required to confirm that they are genuine human users and not robots or spam bots. It is an effective method of filtering what gets through.

  • Use an automated system

An automated system can do much of the legwork for you and can be a reliable, as well as affordable, method of keeping your site safe. 

  • Block suspicious behaviour

It is important to keep a keen eye on what might be considered suspicious behaviour and put a stop to it as soon as possible. This can extend to using software that picks up on excessive commenting from particular IP addresses, whilst many available plugins can allow you to set time limits for users that regulates how often they are able to posts. Doing so can reduce the amount of spam that fills your page, as normal users are unlikely to be looking to flood your page with comments at a quick rate.

This ties in with monitoring users on a daily basis. If you spot a newly registered user who appears to be commenting often, it is worth checking their profile to ensure everything is legitimate and it is not a spam account. It could save you a number of headaches in the long run.

  • Put certain terms on a blacklist

Another way of preventing spam is through the form of blacklisting certain terms and phrases which may be associated with non-human use. Terms and phrases that are clearly inappropriate, which can be anything that would be considered illegal, should be put straight on to the blacklist.

After that, it is worth looking through previous comments that you would consider to be spam and picking up on terms and phrases that seem to reappear. If you spot any patterns, note them down and add them to the list.

The blacklist shouldn’t ideally contain anything that regular users are likely to post. Rather, it should be filled with terms that would be used by spammers and are inappropriate and have little, if anything, to do with the subject of your site.

  • Remove anonymous posting

Spammers are often able to hide behind a mask of anonymity. Removing this and making it necessary for users to sign in to comment can dissuade some spammers to target your site. Likewise, it can be a good idea to edit your settings so that first time comments from users must have moderator’s approval before being published.

By following these steps and remaining vigilant in your comment section, you can feel confident of an extra buffer against spam, and all the frustration that comes with it.