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How To Comment SPAM Without Causing Offence

09-07-31a Cookipediachef, Spam pizza You have probably already taken offence at the title of this post, I know I have. It irritated me even as I was typing it. So why use it? I will get to that later.

This post is in reaction to a Spam comment that was posted to this blog last night. There is nothing new in getting spam comments, I probably average one a day, with the highest number of spam comments in one day so far being fourteen.

Fortunately I use WordPress with the wonderful Akismet spam blocker plug-in. Akismet checks all new comments and presents me with a neat list of all the comments that it considers to be suspect. All I have to do is check the content and click the delete button.

Comment spam comes in a few flavours but all have the purpose of building back-links to the spammer’s site. The clever bots out there always pop the comments on old pages well down the history, in the hope that they will not be noticed. The flavours of spam that offend me are;

Flavour: Irritating (Valueless praise with author link only)

“Wow. Great post, lots to think about.”

A difficult comment to judge but when this is a comment on a mediocre link page, you see it for what it really is, SPAM.

Flavour: Severe Irritation (Generic praise with guilt payload)

“Wow. Great blog, I found this by accident and just love your posts. Definitely going to subscribe to this blog.”

Oh no! Is it a new subscriber? What if you delete his/her (actually ‘its’) comment, will you lose a subscriber, offend a fan? You have just fallen into the “Greed & Guilt” trap. The comment has a payload that makes you believe you are receiving something (a new subscriber = greed) and that your possibly ill-considered action will offend (guilt). The reality is, SPAM.

Flavour: Annoyance (Undisguised links)

“; spam-name”

I get more annoyed that they bother with such an undisguised attack, surely no site owner will leave this type of spam on his/her pages. The reality is that the spam is auto generated by bots that play the numbers game. For every site that cleans them away there are sites that don’t and dormant sites that owners no longer maintain but have left the comment options open. It adds up to lots of back-links, it adds up to lots of SPAM.

Flavour: Severe annoyance (Disguised links)

Hi, <link;”Http##….”,” “> Really like <Link;”http##…”,” “> your site <Link;…

Just like the previous example, except that they have tried to hide the links from casual view.

Flavour: Anger (Blatant, undisguised, ignorant abuse)

This is the comment that started this post. I have disabled the links, keywords and site URLs.

Posted by FeemSwibiawal
Submitted on 2009/07/30 at 2:45am
http[SPAM_SPAM]/guru/viewbio.jsp?EID=1517906 asian tran#ny po#rn
http[SPAM_SPAM]/guru/viewbio.jsp?EID=1517900 tran#ny c#all gir#ls
http[SPAM_SPAM]guru/viewbio.jsp?EID=1517773 shem#ale patt#aya
http[SPAM_SPAM]/guru/viewbio.jsp?EID=1517721 hun#g shem#ale wa#nk
http[SPAM_SPAM]/guru/viewbio.jsp?EID=1517923 ero#tic shem#ales
http[SPAM_SPAM].com/jr/online/thick_co#ck_shem/ shem#ale pool pa#rty
http[SPAM_SPAM]/guru/viewbio.jsp?EID=1517930 shem#ale cors#et
http[SPAM_SPAM].com/jr/online/american_tran#ny/ hot tran#ny on por#nucopia
http[SPAM_SPAM].com/blo#wjob_ladyb#oy asi#an ladyb#oy m#oo
http[SPAM_SPAM].com/members/monthly-carnsurance.aspx car insurance services
http[SPAM_SPAM]/guru/viewbio.jsp?EID=1517677 ladyb#oy forums
http[SPAM_SPAM]/guru/viewbio.jsp?EID=1517774 shem#ale so#lo
http[SPAM_SPAM].com/members/commercial-insurance-safe-auto/default.aspx iaa insurance auto auctions
http[SPAM_SPAM]/guru/viewbio.jsp?EID=1517943 shem#ale ren#evge
http[SPAM_SPAM].com/jr/online/tran#ny_gold_lam/ tran#ny awards
http[SPAM_SPAM].com/ladyb#oy_cho#mpoo banc#hok ladyb#oys
http[SPAM_SPAM]/guru/viewbio.jsp?EID=1517905 tran#ny sau#na melbou#rne
http[SPAM_SPAM].com/jr/online/th#ai_lad#y_bo#ys/ ladyb#oy har#dcore th#ai
http[SPAM_SPAM]/guru/viewbio.jsp?EID=1517738 se#x shem#ale daily
http[SPAM_SPAM].com/jr/online/mr_lo#pez_tran#ni/ im tran#ny

So what do you think? Harmless? Just an irritation?

This pile of S##T links point to Adult sites, if it and any of its siblings are left on the site then when the search bots rank the site, it may become listed as “Adult” and so drop off the radar without you knowing why.

Right, I have now finished ranting about my daily spam cleaning, but how does this tie into the title of this post and how does it affect us all as writers?

Unfortunately at some point as a writer/author you will have to start spamming. I hear cries of “No” and “Never”. Sentiments I can fully appreciate but let’s look at what spamming is.

It is putting an unsolicited message in front of somebody who doesn’t know you.

It can be done in an acceptable way, otherwise known as advertising or in a unacceptable way, which is deplored as spam.

One of the ways promoted for a writer/author to build their platform is commenting on blogs, forums and other social media. By commenting and adding value, an awareness of you is developed and that gets people tracking back to your site(s) and taking an interest in you.

So basically you are putting an unsolicited message in front of people who don’t know you (sound familiar?) and you had better make sure you are doing it in an acceptable way.

But do it in any of the previously detailed ways and more harm than good will be done. No matter how inviting it seems to cut and paste from a list of generic comments, don’t. There is no value or return from that shortcut.

So what you need to know is,

How To Comment SPAM Without Causing Offence

Site owners aren’t born yesterday, they know that many of the comments on their sites are there partly for self-promotion. However if the spam comment is of the flavour “acceptable” then Akismet, the site owner and most importantly the other readers will accept it. So, just what is acceptable spam?

People will accept you and your message if you are providing them something. If you are perceived to be giving and not just using. The gift can be knowledge, links, humour, alternate perspectives… anything that is giving and not self-serving.

Here are my thoughts on how to approach it when you need to start doing your own comment spam.

1, Read the site content and take an interest. There is a chance you may learn something.

2, Lurk a while, don’t be in a hurry to post. Try to figure out where you can add value.

3, Only post if it adds something. This can be information, support to another comment, relevant links, other considerations, humour.

4, Provide far more links to other sites than your own, (your avatar will always contain your own URL).

5, Ensure your avatar has the correct URL. If you have an author’s page or a product (book) page, use the appropriate one.

5, Only ever link to your own content if it is absolutely specific to the thread and it adds value.

6, Be yourself, it’s fine to disagree or even openly play the devil’s advocate. As long as the tone of the comments are kept mutually respectful. Playing the role of a sycophant is a no-no.

7, Don’t be drawn into personal attacks (no matter how much that other poster needs to be brought down a peg or few), keep it civil and if trollish behaviour starts, withdraw.

8, Be interesting, be informative and your readers will follow your trail of bread crumbs back to your site.

I feel that these thoughts should be obvious but unfortunately the quantity of spam, of all flavours, that have to be clicked away each day, indicate that some people need a little help with the obvious.

Of course, all this takes time. There is no quick way, no “comment trick”, it takes effort and sincerity. So it is important to select the blogs, forums and communities carefully. It is simply not efficient to spend time in small communities or in an off target community e.g. in a writing community rather than a book review community.

The bridges you build in these communities will also help an eventual blog book tour. Not only with the sites which are prepared to host it but also with how effective the tour is on each of these sites.

So please, when you cook your spam, please make sure it has an acceptable flavour.


Photo: Spam Pizza, cc Cookipediachef

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13 comments to How To Comment SPAM Without Causing Offence

  • Yup, I have this problem at least 20+ times a day. I stopped using Askimet for the sheer fact that while it was storing all the spam up to tell me all about it, the bots that were posting it to my site just kept on hammering away.

    Now, I’m lucky enough to be able to host my own website, located on my own server, in my own home. So all I had to do was go into the routing tables of my firewall and block the entire IP address ranges (for the sheer fact that most bots operate from mass IP address ranges) and, Voila! Those spam bots can no longer see my website. Eventually, it got to the point where the bottom-of-the-barrel spammers (the ones who sit there and type the spam into the comments themselves) come across it every now and again.

    I’d shoot them if they were close enough, but I only have a water pistol, and most of them come from Asia. Oh, well, I’ll just have to keep blocking them in the firewall.

    Hope this is a nice tasting Spam?

    Take care, Andy,


    • Natalie, very tasty, as usual. Interested in your firewall, if I ever get big enough to warrant it I will have to pick your Brain for some advice (not yet though). I can pay in orange or raspberry jelly cubes.

  • Andy, this is a great post. I deal with this nonsense every day and am sick of it.

    • Sharon. Thank you, I imagine with your blog(s) that you do not have the time to check all the flagged posts. Have I guessed right, you just bulk delete the blighters?

  • Pretty much – who has time to wade through everything? If you are using Firefox, Aksimet Auntie Spam is a good extension to help you check for legitimate comments without having to read all the spam.

  • [...] Mo­re here: How To Com­m­e­n­t SP­A­M­ Withou­t Ca­u­sin­… [...]

  • Hey Andy!

    I stumbled my way here (finally). Subscribed so I won’t miss any more!

    I like how you took a subject that is near and dear to us all and turned it on its head. I think my fav advice is to spend some time lurking. By taking this step, you give yourself the opportunity to get a flavor for the site and to see if what you have to contribute really fits into the conversation, thus increasing your chances of getting a click through.


    • Well hello George, how lovely to know you are moosing around these pages. Just love your humour, neat parody of my second flavour of annoyance in your second line, just can not believe that it was an accident :) .

      Yeah, lurk. It can be synonymous with learn.

      I think I’m about due for your next news letter, hint, hint.

  • Andy,


    Hey, the guilt thing has always worked for my mom…:-)


  • The latest ones we’ve encountered are a little more specific. After having made a few Michael Jackson-related posts, we’ve received spam comments that directly mention the late singer. A quick Google search reveals that these comments are on hundreds of other blogs, verbatim, either due to lack of moderation or blog owners getting fooled (which was, of course, the intent).

    • And right there you have the root of the problem. Spammers keep pushing the boundaries and there are to many easy targets. I took two out yesterday that at face value appeared genuine (not as clever as your example) but I checked the links and they were spam.

  • I always check the links. If I’m in doubt, then I leave the comment and remove the link. It’s zero tolerance on spammers on my blog.:)