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How to Get More Comments, Less Spam

Preamble: To give you a little context, this post was originally written in early 2007. At the time, I made the radical decision to close (and later, remove) the comment section from my blog. Seems a little irrelevant now, but the principles are still very much applicable. I also updated it slightly. Additions are highlighted for clarity.

I've done a couple of things to my blog recently, mostly “behind the scenes,” that I want to share with you.

Some well-known marketers have closed their comments on their blogs. The primary and most important reason is to deal with the plethora of comment spam. If you wanted to comment on any of their posts, you'd have to do it on your own blog by posting an article and linking back to it.

Since most blogs support it, your link will automatically create a trackback on the post, which will be listed in the comments area. But the wonderful byproduct of this is that it increases backlinks (i.e., link popularity) to their blogs.

Some people have said that this approach is dishonest, which befuddles me.

I get over 10,000 spam comments a week on this blog — thank goodness for the Akismet plugin! So I understand the reasoning, especially in light of the fact that we as marketers value our time.

By the way, I also use a service called CleanTalk. For just a few bucks, it stopped 99% of the spam I get, including via my online forms.

I also did a bit of research and discovered that 94% of the spam occurs on my older posts. That's why I've decided to do something similar.

Comment Timeout is a plugin that does a variety of comment moderation tasks. For example, it automatically rejects posts with too many links or spam-like coding within them.

But the most important feature is the fact that it can automatically close your comments after a specified period of time.

I've set mine to 120 days. Posts older than 120 days are automatically closed. But it will keep posts with recent comments open, namely posts with comments made within the last 60 days.

However, I admit that I loved the comments area. Comments help me to gather feedback, ideas, or insights that are helpful. So if I wish to get feedback, I'll simply post a new blog entry.

Trackbacks and pingbacks are always on, and will be listed in the comments area. So if you wish to comment on an older post, simply post a new article on your blog and link back to it.

Today, other than social media, today my email list is now the primary channel for gathering feedback. Subscribers can easily hit “reply” and have a private, one-on-one conversation with me.

For those who don't have a blog, there are many poll or survey tools out there, such as Wufoo.com or dPolls.com (now defunct).

But to encourage comments on current posts, and as a result of applying the plugin above and using effective anti-spam filters, I've decided to allow “do-follow” attribution on links in the comments.

With the WordPress default package, links within comments apply a “no-follow” attribution, which was initially meant to curb spam. (Many spammers have exploited this in the past, for the sole purpose of gaining linkback popularity and pagerank when search engines index blogs.)

As we now know, this is not true. At least, not any longer.

Spam is almost always automated (spammers often use software that “blasts” blog comments all over the web). And they don't care. Because, if spammers can get blog viewers and authors to visit their sites, gaining extra backlinks is but a mere bonus for their despicable efforts.

The problem is, just like email anti-spam filtering can kill innocent bystanders (such as legitimate marketers), no-follow penalizes legitimate blog commentators because of disincentivizing comments.

After twisting my virtual arm for a while, marketers who have been evangelizing the benefits of do-follow have convinced me. Plus, there are many plugins out there that can help you manage link attribution in a more intelligent way.

So now, when you comment, your link will get the benefit of the backlink.

Since writing this article, I've decided to turn off comments. some of the original marketers I mentioned at the beginning of this post have since reopened their comment sections. I prefer mine closed. To me, my email list is more private, intimate, and conversational. But If you have any comments, message me on the socials or join my email list.

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