Wednesday WordPress Quick Tips-Spam

Welcome to my series of quick tips for WordPress bloggers! Please note that nothing I post here will be for experienced users. Instead, the series is just quick little tips that I’ve come across since moving to WordPress. If you happen to have a random question about WordPress that doesn’t have to do with actual programming issues (which I know nothing about), feel free to send me an email and I’ll do my best to hunt down an answer!

This week’s quick tip…spam!

wordpress spam cartoonSpam is a huge problem on WordPress. On Blogger, I found spam was like that bit of sand that gets stuck in your bathing suit at the beach…irritating, but manageable. On WordPress, spam was like a huge pit of quicksand, and I was drowning in it.

I’ve already talked about the importance of a good spam filter Plugin like Akismet but even when it’s not being published to your site, spam can cause problems for you. If you let your spam folder get too full, it can overload your site’s resources and get your site shut down. And some themes keep a record of old spam comments so even if you delete your spam, it will still gradually clog up your files. When it comes to spam, the less you have, the better!

It took me a long time to figure out some tips and tricks for dealing with the spam on WordPress, but I’ve finally found some ways to make the spam situation more manageable. First of all, that horrible WordPress feature that tells people they are posting comments too quickly is actually in place to protect blogs from spam! If you run giveaways using comments as entries, you really have no choice but to use a Plugin to disable the feature (unless you want your readers to go crazy, that is!) but if you use Rafflecopter or another third-party giveaway method, do NOT disable this feature! Computers can post spam comments much faster than people can type them and this setting helps prevent your site from being flooded with comments about inapporporiate topics and Zune.

Another important tip is, of course, to empty your spam folder regularly. This is one of those jobs that is pretty tedious but very essential. My best advice? Try to find some humour in it! Take, for example, this fabulous comment posted on a lip balm review:

Thank you for sharing. Not to many people in your position are so gracious. Your article was very poignant and understandable. It helped me to understand very clearly. Thank you for your help.

All I can say is, that man really must have needed some lip balm. Or this fabulous comment on a post announcing some recent winners:

If I told U I didnt agree? Would I be shot down like a… couldnt think of an analogy which is funny cos I am usually full of them.

Umm…it was a list of giveaway winners. What’s to agree with?

Of course, since 99% of spam is left by malicious computer programs, it’s no wonder the comments are so hilariously irrelevant. But as I mentioned, they can also be horribly harmful to a website’s operation. And so my very best quick tip for dealing with spam is this: turn your comments off after a certain number of days.

Changing the settings is easy. Click on the Discussion tab found under Settings in the WordPress dashboard. In the category Other Comment Settings you’ll find the option of automatically closing comments on articles older than __ days. Check the box, enter your desired number of days that you’d like to accept comments and then save your changes!

Of course, if you have posts that still get comments years after you’ve posted, this may not be a good tip for you. But if your comments tend to mostly come within the first few months, setting your comments to turn off automatically can be a lifesaver. Because I run giveaways for two to three weeks, my comments on a post turn off automatically after 30 days. Since changing that setting, my spam comments have dropped from over 1500 comments weekly to about 200. That’s a lot less you-know-what to sift through!

If you are completely desperate, there are plenty of Plugins to help minimize comment spam even more, from programs that block spam computers from even accessing your site to ones that add CAPTCHA words or math problems to comment boxes. But like all Plugins, they will eat up some of your site’s resources as well, so if you don’t need to leave your comments open indefinitely, closing them off is a much more resource-friendly way to deal with the problem.

Spam is one of those inevitable burdens website owners have to deal with. But a quick setting change or two could make that burden a lot less heavy. So try some different options out and see what works best for you!

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