FYI, those sweet-but-slightly-weird comments you get on your blog are fake.

I see these comments on sites all the time and you probably have too but may not have noticed anything particular about them. They look more or less normal. They’re always positive, often enthusiastic even. And who doesn’t like to see that someone out there enjoyed your post so much they felt compelled to respond?

Problem is they are total baloney. They are not genuine reactions to the contents of your post but generic comments that aim solely at driving traffic to the commenter’s website. They don’t even need to include a link in the body of the text as the commenter’s name will be linked. The logic is that at least some readers will click on it and thereby drive traffic to the intended site.

Fake commenting used to be a way to simply accumulate inbound links, which are per se perfectly legitimate tools of SEO. But nowadays almost all blogs add nofollow tags to comment links so that Google ignores them. Backlinks in comments have lost a lot of their SEO appeal. Unlike genuine commenters who can rely on quality content to generate interest (and clicks), spammers have to rely on volume which they achieve thanks to automated comment writing.

So how does one recognize fake spammy comments? There are 3 key giveaways and they all need to be there.

  1. Generic content.
    The comment can be rambling or short but it will always be nonspecific to your post. They have to be since no-one has actually read your post. And don’t be fooled by the automatic insertion of your post title in the text. It’s just a robot doing its thing.
  2. Written by a stranger.
    Spammers stay anonymous. Acquaintances don’t.
  3. They include a link (or dozens).
    Either in the body of the text or attached to the name of the commenter or both.

Just occasionally you will get a generic comment that will include a link from someone you don’t know and it will be genuine. The only way to recognize those false positives is to checkout the website that they link to. Most spammers promote fake handbags or viagra sales. In my case I know that my audience is one of professional photographers – a status which I can verify with a glance to the commenter’s website.

You don’t need to actually click on the link to verify it. First thing to do is to read the domain name. Spammers’ sites often have totally obvious URLs. Secondly, at least in WordPress, hover over the link in the Comments page in your admin and a preview of the site will popup.

If this is all new to you, go take a look at the Comments section in your admin page and run through the list. It will be an eye opener.