spamWith the relaunch of this site, I made the mental commitment to more write more blog posts, more often than I did in previous versions. One of the downsides of maintaining a blog is dealing with WordPress comment spam. While you want to encourage comments and free flow of information, there are others who are less concerned with commentary and more interested in knock-off Viagara.

While there is only one way to stop spam entirely, not everyone wants to close comments. There are several ways to reduce WordPress comment spam. You can use a service like Akismet or choose a plugin from the WordPress repository, but one of the more effective ways and easily overlooked ways are to use the discussion settings in the dashboard.

Check Your Discussion Settings

In your WordPress Dashboard under the “Discussion Settings” you will find options for whether or not to allow comments and what is the approval process for publishing comments on your blog. First be sure that the “Comment author must fill out name and e-mail” box is checked. Without it, anonymous comments can be posted to your blog.

Discussion Settings — WordPress

Because spammers are looking for links back to their site, old blog posts are a juicy target. While the link itself may not be read orseen by a human if it is on a very old post, the spammer achieves the goal of getting one more link back to their site. You can curtail some of this behavior by closing comments after a specified number of days.

To lower your blood pressure and reduce the number of emails in your inbox, you may want to uncheck the “E-mail me whenever Anyone posts a comment” checkbox. Just remember, you will need to review your site regularly to approve legitimate comments.

Comment Moderation vs. Comment Blacklist

There are two larger boxes on the Discussion Settings screen: Comment Moderation and Comment Blacklist. You can list words and phrases in these boxes, and when these words are used the comment will be flagged for moderation before it is posted to your site or be flagged as spam. These areas are helpful but there are a couple of things to remember.

The Comment Moderation and Comment Blacklist boxes use character matching to determine how to handle the comment. When you enter one character, word or phrase on each line, it is compared to the text in the comment. If there is a match it will be either be sent for review or marked as spam. Comments that have words matching those in the moderation list will generate an email advising you of a pending comment, while words on the blackist cause the comment to be marked as spam.

Some caution is required when using these list because if one of those lines match something anywhere in the comment’s content, the comment will be held in the moderation queue or blackisted. For example, if one of the lines contained “at”, any comments with the words “athlete”, “Atlantic” and “math” would be held in moderation. Because of this, try to identify the specific words that are used in the spam comments that you receive. A quick google search will lead you to several comment moderation blacklists.

A useful tip is to add words to the Comment Moderation area first. If you find that certain words or phrases are only used by spammers, move those words to the Comment Blacklist.

If you really want to block as many sketchy comments as possible, you can go with the “Nuclear Option”. Grant Hutchinson maintains a comprehensive list of spam words and phrases on Gist. At over 4000 entries, it’s likely to trap most of the objectionable comments that spammers. It may be a little aggressive in blocking some common phrases, but if you’re looking to keep your blog free of junk it’s a great tool in your arsenal.