How to deal with a wall of SPAM

“Doctor, I think I have a spam problem. It keeps coming back”

The first signs of spam often go unnoticed and untreated until eventually a plague is visible and difficult to deal with.
The symptoms can include sleepless nights, head-aches, teeth-grinding, swearing and an increased resentment to other humans.
Sit down and let the Doctor write a prescription.

What is all this spam, and where does it come from ?

You can blame the silly British sense of humour and Monty Python for the strange name for junk messages (click on the picture above for the wiki info), but the source of most modern spam is automated software (bots) and people trying to boost the search ranking of their site.
Email spam is usually just trying to trick you into visiting a bad site or downloading malware.

Many people still believe that posting on comments and linking to a site is a good Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) method, but because of comment spammmers Google do not rank links that are posted in comments, they only consider the links on the blog post for site ranking.

What does it look like ?
Something interesting I discovered a few years ago, while cleaning up the bad SEO and reputation that a law firm in London had paid for, is that the common spam on Western sites is from the Eastern countries, and the common spam on Eastern sites is from Westerners.
This is why the use of language often seems strange or even like a collection of random words.
Generic sentences that do not mention anything in the blog post are converted into multiple languages with online translators, so the authors usually have no idea what the text says.
These are then posted on any blog with a keyword that their spambot found.
Some have links in the text, and others rely on the fact that comment posters can add a web address to be used when you click on their avatar.

Most comment spam will be be generic text designed to make you feel valued, or a comment designed to look like it is a useful reply. Sometimes they are designed to make you feel pity.
Many comments refer to the style of your blog and ask for recommendations or offer a recommendation.
Often they complain about a large comment that was lost or that they can’t subscribe to your blog.
It seems your blog is popular with someones brother, and people claim to read it with their breakfast.
They often comment that you have duplicate content or do not monetise your site.

OK. How do I block the spam ?
There are several free anti-spam services you can use depending on your needs.
Here on the Vivaldi blogs you can use the Akismet plugin for WordPress.
Akismet used to be enabled by default in WordPress blogs without the need for an API key, but at some point they changed the requirement.
It still works fine on my real WP site and I have never made a key for it, but here you will need one.

For me getting a free API key involved signing into Akismet with an existing account.
Thankfully I already have one so I logged in with that.
You may not need a WP account, but I could not see a way to do it without.
Once you have logged into the Akismet site and go to create your API key, you must select the option for choosing the price you want to pay.
It will already have a price set on the slider on the right side of the page.
Drag the slider to 0 and you will see the panel on the left change to show 3 tick-boxes, where you agree that your blog is not used for business and does not have adverts.

Now you can type or paste your site address into the space provided, and generate your key for pasting into the Akismet section in your blog admin page.
For Vivaldi (WordPress) blogs you must look in Settings -> Akismet Anti-Spam

Vivaldi blogs also come with a free SEO addon “All in One SEO”. You can enable/disable more free addons in its “Feature Manager”. One of the freebies is “Bad Bot Blocker”. Enable this to stop bad bots from being able to view your site.
Extra Anti-Spam blocking and checking options

If you need to do manual checking in a public blacklist, or if you administrate other sites or forums you should also visit StopForumSpam where you can find a free plugin for many types of sites.
There is a very useful tool called “Forum Spam List Checker” made by a member of the site, which can check the details of any suspect users in many blacklist sites.
Download Forum Spam List Checker v3.2.8 (65 kb zip file)

Ageing techno-hippy armed with a radio show and not afraid to use it.

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