It really is spam

Back when spamming started it was a very crude business. Comments left would consist of many links around one subject – “Buy my porn” or “Buy my pills.” These posts were very obviously spam and blog owners deleted them when they saw them. At some point the spammers changed tactics.

Everyone likes a compliment and we all like to think that what we write is interesting — the spammers are targeting that vanity. These are all spam:

Interesting Findings of the Blog World » Chuck Norris wants a Bible Curriculum in the Public Schools (Gasp!)
[…] Read the rest of this great post here […]

Very interesting… as always!

For the most part I agree with you and enjoy reading your posts.

Hi, you have a jolly good post here, thanks for the good read

[…] Check it out! While looking through the blogosphere we stumbled on an interesting post today.

Anything from universityupdate.com

And in all the above cases someone told Akismet that it was not spam. In each of the above cases the spammers won because on all those blogs their spammy link is staying. You need to look at the links in the post or the author link. Click it — where does it go?

Do you nofollow your links? It makes no difference — spam is spam. Only Google check for no-follow links and even if everyone did, do you want someone to associate your blog with drugs? Porn? It takes one visitor to your blog to go to those sites and click on a single ad for you to have made them money. Leaving that spammy link is bad for you and great for the spammer.

In the case of the pingbacks (the ones that start […]) the spammers are actually stealing your work, putting it on their website and hoping people searching for information will find them first, not you – and again they all have lots of spammy ads. So you lose real people reading at your blog and again your work makes them money.

And lastly of course they want you to tell Akismet that this spam is not spam. They want you to help make Akismet become less effective so you can get even more spam. Akismet is pretty good at stopping this stuff but your help would make this even better.

Don’t let the spammers con you — check those links.

73 responses on “It really is spam

  1. Funny thing–I was actually thinking this morning, ‘I wonder how many people report spam to Akismet as not spam.’
    And then my next thought, ‘O, I sure hope Akismet uses manual review of these, not automatic.’

    Good to read. I’m glad you’re on top of it.

    Akismet rocks. I wasn’t using it for the longest time, and now I’m very happy, and wish I had switched a long time ago!

    Thanks so much.

  2. Another common thing I see spammers post is “nice” or variants of that. Whenever I get one or three word comments, 98% of the time it’s spam and the other 2% of the time I just delete the comment.

  3. Couldn’t agree more. I actually wish instead of just marking those spammy comments as spam and removing them, we could reach through the internet and slap the spammers. That would be infinitely more satisfying that just deleting their crappy comments and marking them as spam. At any rate, I can dream, can’t I? :-)

  4. What’s to prevent spammers from setting up their own blogs and clicking the “Not Spam” button themselves? I hope Akismet has some kind of a reputation system tied to each Akismet key in use. for example if BloggerX tells you that universityupdate.com is not spam, count their opinion for less. Or even ignore their votes on all submissions if universityupdate.com is always spam.

  5. I am glad you posted this. There are several blogs stealing excerpts from my blog and sending pingbacks with the exact verbage you used above. I delete them all and reported them as spam. I hate those fake blogs.

  6. There’s similar solution to Akismet, for Outlook mail from Cloudmark. The idea behind it is that if enough people click on similar message as spam – server marks incoming spam as spam. Product got reputation system (if you mark spam as good as others – your reputation rises). Similar problem occurs now and then, with the difference being that the product is commercial and costs money. So spammers (I think) aren’t really happy to purchase licences and get busy. On the other hand – there’s always a trial period. BTW, I was able to achieve highest reputation in just a few days – way before my trial expired.
    Same thing, as far as I know, haunts Digg. If you have large enough community behind you – you can sink or surface any article you want, no matter how good or bad. I call it “the other side of social networking”. :)

  7. Michael, that is just what I was thinking. Set up your own blog, spam it and then tell Akismet that it is not spam. I suppose Akismet could get quite sophisticated and if one source was frequently at odds with the rest of the world then ignore it.

  8. I think devs should come up with a sure-fire way something like mailwasher that separates the real from the faux. It helps – but the whole world is about advertising, since we’re living in an imagery world, and hence … the rule of business is if you don’t advertise they’ll not buy. So, a mailwasher thingy should help, but a web 2.0 version you know.

  9. Some of these pseudo-comments are so funny that I’ve seriously considered manually posting them (with website, etc. removed, of course) just for the laughs. My current favorite is one informing me that my post is great, but it’s too technical, and the writer will have to do research on the topic.

    The post is about walking our dogs.

  10. In general if the comment is a compliment that could apply to anything, and doesn’t have any relevance to the post, I mark it as spam, without checking the link.

  11. I’m new at this…how to I dis-able a link? You’re doing a good job at catching evil spammers…but I can’t see how to ditch the ones who get in with their links and pingbacks. Thank you!

  12. Thanks for mentioning this. I can’t tell you how many times Akismet has marked those kinds of comments as “Not Spam”, even though I keep telling it over and over that it really is spam.

  13. The SPAM that is REALLY bothering me lately is the pingback spam (of which I beleive you covered above, but I’ll rant anyway :) ). That is: wordpress sites (I usually see wordpress based spam pingback sites, I’m sure there are others)that are quickly produced around a topic and state something like:

    NUTTYBUDDY posted a great post today… blah, blah… or

    I was browsing the internet today and HAMSTRING (or some other ridiculous name) posted a great article….

    Every onece in a while they will actually steal your creator tag on the RSS and say that YOU [actual author assigned to a post you wrote] posted an interesting…. These are most likely are less tagged as SPAM but they are as well…

    These seem to be particularly hard to block as they do contain an actually link back to your site and they are not only “sucking” people away from your blog by mis-pointing the search engines but people who are reading your comments waste their time by clicking on their links in YOUR OWN comment section taking them away to SPAM ridden site! The worst thing about this type of SPAM is that pingback validators will not work helping you block it.

    Thankfully, AKISMET is catching on to this type of SPAM and getting much better at finding it (at least it appears to be in my case).

    Sites like TECHNORATI have become compromised, in my opinion, because of all the authority it has given to sites that are linked to by these SPAM PINGBACK creating creeps. Take a look at technorati and see how many sites have “blog reactions” by pingback spammers…again stealing away people from your posts…

    The service you all provide is priceless and appreciated.

    J. Pisano -mustech.net

  14. I get at least 2-3 spam pingbacks every time I post a new article. They don’t get caught by Akismet or any of the other anti-spam plugins I use. But I mark them as spam as soon as humanly possible.

  15. Yup this stuff is pretty tricky.. If the comment mentions nothing in particular about your post, and includes a URL of any kind, it has to be looked at as possible spam.

  16. I recently followed the example of some bloggers I really like and started allowing anonymous posts… so far the spammers have not found me, thank God. I will be counting on Akismet to keep the comments free for responsible users. Thanks for posting this… I would probably fall for the vanity trap, being new to this and gullible (at least in this context).

    Is it considered spam or spam-like if you reference your own article in another blog’s comments (‘you’ means ‘you’ here, not a spam-bot)? I would assume not, provided there is a legitimate relationship between the blog posts. Still, I would hate to have someone think I was trying to bleed traffic off of them when I am trying to add to the discourse. (Somewhere there must be a blog ethics forum for people who worry about this)

  17. Absolutely!

    There’s too many blog owners allowing spammed compliments through to their comments.

    We really need to raise awareness, so that the gullible and naive bloggers catch a fast wake-up!

    But here’s something else for you to consider:

    Sploggers install akismet themselves, make a few spam type comments to their own blog and okay them. The sploggers THEMSELVES pollute akismet!

    So, what needs to happen is that blogs using the akismet plugin need to post a “report this blog” link, so that if we come across a splog, we can use the link to report the splog as a splog, and then you can investigate it and blacklist all their okays of spam comments from polluting akismet.

    You can also provide a link in our WordPress dashboards and on the akismet.com site for people to directly report splogs so you can investigate them. Then if they are splogs, just take them out of your system. Just deny them your service completely perhaps.

    I think I’ll blog an article about this, to help raise awareness.

  18. Gotta love Akismet :)

    As I’m developing my new site, I’m hooking all aspects of it that relate to comments (article comments, contact form, etc) to Akismet to better protect my site from spam.

    I’ve had a few instances of that problem with spam links before but Akismet managed to catch them all.

  19. Gah, I hate these ones! I also got one that read like a plain old comment compliment, but the link didn’t check out :\

    oh for the good old days of porn links :(

  20. Wow. Looks like even a seasoned veteran like me was duped on at least one of those spammy comments. All along, I thought the universityupdate site was actually legit. Now I have to go back through the comments and submit them as spam. Thanks!

  21. I’m also a dedicated link checker. I can’t help but be suspicious. And I don’t get anywhere near the traffic of most of the folks posting. I jut have a special hateful place in my heart for spammers, I guess.

  22. Thank God for Akismet.
    I get tons of spam from the ripe network. I can’t believe that anyone would make that type of spam worth posting on our blogs, I mean who do you know that clicks on any of that garbage?

    If you notice, the spammers are going to some of our older posts now and posting those “Nice Blog” type comments there. I guess if they get through and are posted on enough blogs they will keep trying on all of our blogs, after all it’s just an automated program that does most of their dirty work, right?

  23. These spammers are aggravating and are a waste of our time. I have my blog, The Compass Blog, hosted on WP.com and unlike my other blogs which are self hosted, I can not block access with my, non existent cpanel, or any other blocking software or plugins like I can on my self hosted blogs, therefore Akismet is invaluable and really works great.

  24. This article is right on the spot.
    It should be brought to bloggers attention lo-o-ng ago.
    Thanks for it.

    And now, what happens if few bloggers mark legit commenter as a spammer?

  25. Usually these days i get the most obvious thumbs up comment, only to check the url is for bras/viagra, bravo for not even bothering to hide your links. I always hover over the name and check the link, the most obvious telltale, alongside the spelling mistake of putting a character next to a symbol, ‘!e’ is popular as is ‘.w’.

    thanks for a good read

  26. I ran a post a while back about this kind of complimentary spam and how you as a blogger can make the most of it. What is worse though, is the single word, single link spam that says things like “Cool”, “Interesting”, “Great” and nothing else but with a link field filled in. 9 times out of 10 these get caught by Akismet, but maybe a dozen a day don’t. They are are a real pain.

    By the way, keep up the cool, interesting, great work ;-)

    db

  27. Ok, little update here. I actually had one of these that I thought was a compliment to my writing… a google search showed the same message posted on every web site the world over. So, I guess I did fall for the vanity attack.

  28. Akismet rocks, it has made it possible for me to keep my blog tidy and running. Before I found Akismet I almost shut down the site because the spam comments had rendered the site useless and not work safe for most posting.

    Thanks again for being on top of the spam epidemic.

  29. Well I am one of those folks who kept on saying university update was legit, so interesting, what happens when the site owner can’t tell spam from real? I am a reasonably intelligent person, one would think that I would know how to do this, but you know if it looks legit, how can we really tell spam from non-spam. Although I have stopped arguing with askimet lately, and just letting it do what it needs to do rather than trying to override it.

  30. Thanks for this article. I was just saying that I didn’t understand what the purpose of all these pingbacks are. Well I guess now I know. Is there anyway to stop them?

  31. I have had a few clients that seem to have a hard time understanding why I tell them to delete that type of stuff on their blog. If you really have to keep the “Jolly Good Post” comment, at least remove the links!

  32. UPDATE: I contacted Akismet support and got a response from Mark on our false positive situation. Thanks! As a user of Akismet on our blog, I’m happy with the service but am worried about being marked again in the future…I encourage the Akismet team to look at Google’s efforts as a model (Matt Cutts, Webmaster Central, help boards) to help legitimate Web marketers work with Google but at the same time firmly fighting against Webspam and Black Hat SEO.

  33. Thankfully all the spammers tend to be consistant when posting their rubbish to my blog. Usually it’s from a user ‘softpilot’ with the same message, links and email address. You’d figure if you don’t succeed once it just isn’t going to happen. But hey ho, that’s how it goes really.

    But I must admit I’ve only had one false positive on my own blog, yet on any other wordpress blog it claims all my comments are spam. In fact, I reckon nobody will ever see this comment as I’ll get “THIS COMMENT IS SPAM.. blah blah blah” message :(

  34. Askimet is pretty good really and between it, and .htaccess, I keep a pretty good handle on the would be spammers.

    I know that spammers move around alot, but more and more these days, there are becoming less and less proxies for spammers to come sailing in on, so I knock down one ip range at a time.

    Last year (2006) I was getting 200 to 250 a month (small, low readership guy here), but in 2007, it’s reduced to 30 to 40 a month. In November this year (2007) I only had 6.

    I think that killing off offshore proxy servers via .htaccess has helped quite a bit.

    Am I worried about what someone in Borneo or Singapore has to say about our towns local taxes? Not really…. no.

  35. I had this situation arise, spam trackbacks.

    One thing: I let one of the trackbacks stand, and strangely enough, it is generating traffic and links for me!

  36. the stats at the top of the page state that 92% of all comments are spam. Wow..why the heck would anyone as a blog owner allow comments on thier blog. If spam is so bad and it ruins you life so much why would you allow ANY comments with 92% of all comments spam. If 92% of everyone that visited my home were thieves and stole from me..I wouldnt allow anyone to visit me at home.

  37. Askimet rocks. Without it I would be out of the blogging. I don’t care about generating traffic. I just want to have a blog with no spam.

    Thanks.

  38. Is there any chance that including a link to one’s Akismet stats might put off some spammers? They see your protected and choose to head somewhere else, kind of like burglars seeing a burglar alarm on one house in the streeet?

    db

  39. I don’t think that even Google cares about nofollow tags. I know that all of StumbleUpon.com is nofollowed to anything that goes outside of their website, but with my Google stats they still have several pages from there linking to my site.

  40. Cody,
    If something has a nofollow tag on it doesn’t mean that Google won’t index that link. It means that they won’t pass page rank to it which is a quite different kettle of fish from indexing.

  41. Yeah, I so hate it when there’s a web doing a pingback/trackback to my blog, it feels like they has stole my post!!!!!

  42. Umm..the comment from ITSS (ITSS Says: December 4th, 2007 at 7:22 am)appears to be spam.

    Linkscanner rates the link to this poster’s website as a known exploit site.

    It is a little disappointing to see this in Akismet’s own comments, but I guess no system is perfect.

  43. It is nice to know that I am not alone in my hatred of spam pingbacks. The worst offender is “steal this blog . net” (no spaces). Askimet notified me of a pingback so I checked their whois. I got the name of their ISP and called them immediately. They told me they cannot do anything without “proof” so I took screen shots of the offending site, and provided them with links to the mirror site they created of my own. They did absolutely nothing, and essentially said too bad. “My” mirror site is down now, but I am sure it won’t be the last time they try this with my content. Is there a better way of dealing with this guy? He seemingly does this to tons of people.

  44. I was wondering, have you been in contact with google in order to share data with them about spam sites? I think this would improve the web greatly, if google could block sites based on akismet data.

Comments are closed.