Posts Tagged ‘comment’

Say Goodbye to WordPress Comment Spam with YAWASP

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

In How To Fight WordPress Comment and Trackback Spams, I shared several techniques that you could use to reduce the amount of comment and trackback spams that hit your blog.  Spams are not getting through on my blogs, but it’s still a pain to review for false positives among spams caught by Akismet. Fortunately, there’s a relatively new WordPress plugin that will significantly cut the amount of comment spams without placing any burden on your readers.

no spam

Image by buggolo via Flickr

YAWASP – Yet Another WordPress Anti Spam Plugin

YAWASP is spam fighting plugin for WordPress developed by Sven Kubiak and Lukas Sadzik — thank you guys.  It does the job by replacing the comment form field names every 24 hours with random values preventing spambots from adapting to the comment form. Furthermore, it adds a hidden blank field that needs to be left empty. If a spambot fills this field, the comment will not be saved.

Ever since I installed YAWASP, which works along side Akismet and Simple Trackback Validation plugins, the number of spams caught by Akismet went down from almost a hundred per day to 4-5 a day.  This makes my task of fishing out false positives a lot easier than before.

If you are interested in the plugin, you can download it from the WordPress Plugin Directory.

How To Fight WordPress Comment and Trackback Spams

Friday, May 2nd, 2008

Sooner or later, your beloved WordPress blog will be flooded with comment and trackback spams. As a blogger, there is not much you can do to stop spams from hitting your blog, but there are several things you could do to fight them back.

Akismet Screenshot

5 Levels of Spam Protection

1. Discussion Settings

A key setting in your WordPress configuration is the check box “Comment author must have a previously approved comment”. You can find this under Settings –> Discussion –> Before a comment appears. This will prevent any comment that haven’t approved before from appearing.

This is very useful at preventing hit-and-run spammers. But all the spams will be mixed in your moderation queue, so the next step is to implement Akismet.

2. Akismet

Akismet is by far the best spam fighting tool in your arsenal. It is a distributed spam fighting system where comments and trackbacks marked as spams by other bloggers are automatically marked as spams for you. These spams are placed in a separate Akismet Spam queue for you to review, so the moderation queue with legitimate comments waiting for moderation won’t be cluttered up.

There is one weakness with Akismet and it’s called “false positive“. This occurs when legitimate comments and trackbacks are marked as spams by mistake. As a blogger, you would have to “fish” these false positives out, which is like finding a needle in haystack.

Although I have never used Spam Karma 2 before, it’s another alternative to Akismet that’s worth investigating.

3. Simple Trackback Validation

Once your blog gets fairly popular, fishing false positives out of Akismet Spam queue becomes quite painful. This is where plug-in like Simple Trackback Validation comes in. The plug-in works in two ways:

(1) checking if the IP address of the trackback sender is equal to the IP address of the webserver the trackback URL is referring to and (2) by retrieving the web page located at the URL used in the trackback and checking if the page contains a link to your blog.

This plug-in automatically eliminates trackback spams that fail the above conditions, thus reducing the amount of spams in Akismet Spam queue that you have to review for false positives.

There are other plug-in in this class, and I’ll mention the two I have used before:

  • Bad Behavior — Bad Behavior works really well for what it was intended to do. However, I stopped using it because (1) it logs information to the SQL database making it bloated and consuming system resources, (2) it embeds javascript in your code which is something I don’t like.
  • WP-SpamFree — Another good plug-in that I stopped using. WP-SpamFree requires javascript to work and it causes extra load on the server (another situation that I want to avoid).

4. Deny Access by IP using .htaccess

This one requires some knowledge of .htaccess and it is not necessary unless you have a serious spamming problem. Anyone with a matching IP addresses will not be able to access your blog.

This technique is useful if you use it strategically and with the understanding that spammers have access to millions of IP addresses (they can even fake their IP addresses) — so this won’t fix everything.

Here are some good articles you can read on this technique:

5. Other Techniques

Here are some other techniques that I have used with varying degree of success.

  • Renaming wp-comment-post.php as something else — i.e., “wp-comment-stop-spam.php” However, you have to update the POST variable in the comment.php (inside your theme folders) as well, and remember to update this each time you upgrade WordPress or the theme.
  • Using CAPTCHA type validation system — There are many plug-ins that will ask the user to enter a text string to validate that he or she is really a person. In general, I don’t like this approach because it adds another level of barrier for readers that want to leave a comment.
  • Using challenge question — This is similar to CAPTCHA, but the technique ask a simple question, such as “what is 2+2?”
  • Inserting hidden fields in comment form — Several bloggers suggest adding a hidden field in the comment form and check for the value. Since spam bots don’t know about the hidden field, the spam comment wouldn’t go through. For example:
  • Forcing users to register to comment
  • Closing comment and/or trackback on older posts — i.e., using Close Old Posts plug-in.
  • Closing comment and/or trackback entirely — This is a very drastic measure and goes against the nature of blog as a communication media

I hope this post gives you some ideas on how to protect your blog against spams and make your life a little easier.

Want to be a Good Blogger? Be a Good Reader

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

One of the most important concepts in producing successful creative works is to know your audience. If you know what they want, and what will encourage them to do what you want, then you know what to produce.

Reading

Photo by delgaudm via Flickr

In blogging, once you get going, you can know your audience by their comments. But what about the early stages, before your blog has many commentators? The simple solution is to become your audience — read widely in the niche that you want to write in, and then think about why you act on them in the way that you do.

Ideas to Try Out

Subscribe to a few blogs in your niche

Check out any link roundups, and think about whether you want to subscribe to the blogs linked. Use Social Media sites, vote up and down based on what you like.

Go to actual blog sites in your niche

What are you drawn to, how have they structured their information, what interests you, do you want to subscribe, and if not, why not? what do you want to know on your first visit? do you want to comment on a post? did you actually leave a comment? how do you find new blogs?

Using your experiences, look at your own blog as you were a first time visitor

Click on all the sidebar links and check that they go where you want them to. Think about where someone would naturally look to contact you, find out more about you, or read more posts. Look at how your commenting is set up. Compare your content to other people’s content that you like in your niche.

Real Life Examples

Social Media

Normally, I’m not a very visual person, and when I started blogging I didn’t really use any pictures. As I became involved in StumbleUpon, I noticed that one of the features that encouraged me to read the post were the pictures at the top of the posts. After a while, text all looks the same, whereas pictures are much more eye-catching. Since then, I’ve started using pictures more and more on both of my sites.

Commenting

I started blogging because I started commenting. I used to read a lot of great posts, but would always be put off when you had to log in to comment. I felt like the writer was telling me that I wasn’t important enough to be allowed onto their site, and I didn’t register on a single one of those sites. When I started my blogs, I made it as easy as possible for someone to comment — there’s no registering and no default captchas.

Technical Stuff

When I first started Plonkee Money, I didn’t know anything about RSS, other than that it was a good thing to have. So, I burnt a feed at FeedBurner and then collected some HTML code to add to my blog. Unfortunately, I generated code that linked not to my feed, but to the FeedBurner home page by mistake. It stayed like this for at least month.

I may never have realised that I done this if I hadn’t looked at my own site as a first time visitor might and clicked on all the buttons. Once I realised what I’d done, it was very easy to fix, but no wonder I didn’t have any subscribers for a long time.

If you want to be a good blogger, become a good reader.

How To Grow A New Blog Efficiently

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

This article contains some information and ideas that I have about how to grow a small or new blog efficiently. Unfortunately writing good content is not enough — there are so many blogs out there that you have to do some extra work in order to get noticed. These ideas are more effective on smaller blogs so as your blog grows then you can modify or omit items.

promote new blog
Photo by Mtchm via Flickr

Content

It’s been said before and I’ll say it again: without reasonably good regular content then your traffic growth will be sluggish at best. Write about topics that interest you and hopefully you know something about.

A few ideas about content:

  • Focussed or not? — Some people say that blogs with a narrow range of topics are more successful. Personally I don’t worry about it — if something interests you then write about it.
  • Length — When I started on a blog and was posting five times a week I decided to try to do posts that were 300-500 words in length. I didn’t want them too short and I didn’t want them too long. Because if they were, I’d rather split them up and post them over two days. Now that I’m sharing a blog I don’t worry about the length as much, but I do think that posts that are too long might be detrimental to growing traffic since most readers don’t really want to read a book when they are browsing their reader. On the other hand it can be a bit annoying when you check out a new post on a blog and they have written a two sentence reminder to themselves or something equally silly which I’ve seen many times.
  • Think up ideas in advance — It amazes me when I hear about bloggers who regularly sit down in the evening and think up an idea and then write a post on it. I suppose this has to do with individual style but I like to think up most of my ideas in advance and I hate writing last minute posts.
  • Avoid burnout – If you post twice a week for a year then you will have a much larger following then if you post seven days a week for three months. If you want to be a blogger for the long term then you have to pace yourself. Even taking a week off now and again (maybe not right in the beginning however) is not a bad idea.

Posting schedule

This is an interesting topic since not everyone agrees about how often a blogger should post. My blog posts five days a week which is facilitated by the fact that there are two writers so we only write every second day. My feeling on this topic is that you don’t have to post five times a week to grow your audience — two or three times a week should be sufficient.

I would however suggest that you follow a schedule — i.e., for twice a week then post the same two days each week. Avoiding burnout is a key goal of a beginning blogger so if posting three times a week feels comfortable then do three times a week. There is nothing gained if you struggle to post five times a week (or more) and then end up quitting the blog after a frustrating few months.

RSS Icon

See that orange square in the upper right side of the screen? That’s a FeedBurner icon and it allows readers to easily subscribe to your feed. This is very important because making it easier for readers to read your posts when they are published will increase your readership. Get one!

Carnivals

Carnivals are one of the best ways for a new blog to get new readers. I’ve found the Carnival of Personal Finance to be the best for my personal finance blog but Festival of Frugality is also quite good. Other PF carnivals to consider are Carnival of Money Stories, Carnival of Financial Goals, and Money Hacks Carnival.

Whatever your blog is about — there are probably carnivals covering that topic. If not then start one of your own at Blog Carnival!

Some suggestions regarding carnivals:

  • Don’t wait — I don’t care if you only have two posts up — start submitting now!
  • Submit often — Especially in the beginning you should be submitting every week.
  • Concentrate on bigger blogs if you don’t submit regularly — The most traffic the blog gets, the better your chances for some referrals.
  • Submit early — Putting in a late submission means the host may not read your post and will probably “bury” it at the bottom of the list. The higher up the page your submission is, the more referrals you will get.
  • Appropriate topic — Try to pick the best posts for the right carnival. If you are really keen you can even try to write posts with a particular carnival in mind but this is not something I do.
  • Match your post to the host — Take a look at the host blog and see what kind of material they are into. If a host looks like they are not into your favorite topic then try to find something else to submit. If you don’t submit regularly then try to submit a post when the host blog has similar topics to yours. If the host really likes your submission then they will often use it in their “editor’s picks” which will be (hopefully) featured at the top of the page where you will get the most referrals.

Hosting carnivals

This is a lot of work but it can really raise the profile of your blog because:

  • You will get a lot of traffic and will get noticed
  • Getting links to your blog raises your profile with Google which will help you in the long run

Try to pick carnivals that are appropriate to your subject manner and look for smaller carnivals in the beginning because the more popular ones tend to choose more established bloggers to be their hosts. I have yet to host a carnival but I’ve signed up to do three in the next few months so I shall see how it goes.

Comments on other blogs

This is a great way to market your blog. Some suggestions for leaving comments:

  • Correct info — Make sure you fill in the name of your blog and the correct URL.
  • Usefulness — Write a meaningful comment on the post. Things like “great post” are not going to get you any traffic.
  • Relevancy — The more relevant the post is to your blog then the more likely it is that a good comment will get some referrals. Someone who is reading the comments is definitely interested in the topic so if you look like you are interested in that topic as well then they might check out your blog. On the same idea — focus on blogs that are similar to your own.
  • Blog size — Comment on medium sized blogs. Commenting on large blogs is often a waste of time since there are too many comments and it seems like nobody reads any of them! By the same token, a small blog will not have enough traffic to make it worthwhile commenting if it’s traffic that you want. I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t comment on very small or very big blogs if you want to but the traffic potential will be less.

Link to other blogs

This is a key tool and is part of networking with other bloggers. Bloggers love to get recognized and praised (at least I do) so if you write a post and include a link to one of their posts then they will often come and check out your blog. Ideally if they like your blog and hopefully start reading it, then they will put some links to your blog in one of their posts which can be an excellent source of traffic. As I mentioned with the comments, medium sized blogs will probably provide the best results for this strategy.

Read other blogs

If you want to comment on, link to and network other bloggers then you have to know what they write about so make sure you read at least a few blogs regularly.

Network with other bloggers

This usually takes the form of emailing other bloggers — you can comment on a post, tell them you like their blog, ask for advice etc. This won’t work with every blogger but it can serve as a great learning tool and can also lead to more links — and you might even make some good friends.

Guest posts

This is another area where I will be venturing for the first time in the next few weeks. From discussions with other bloggers this can be a good source of new readers. Guest posts take time so this shouldn’t be done at the expense of your own content. Again, try to match the subject content of the blog you will be guest posting on to your own for maximum benefit.

Here too I would say try to go for medium sized blogs — they are likely to be receptive to a guest post and if their content is similar to your own then this strategy could be quite beneficial.

Advertisement on your blog

I would suggest that you not bother with any advertising when you start a blog for the following reasons:

  • No money — You need traffic to make money with advertisement on your blog, so until your blog has a chance to grow there is no benefit to having advertising.
  • Aesthetics — Advertisement on your blog almost always has a detrimental effect on the way a blog looks. This is an acceptable trade off for an established blog but for a new blog you are better off without ads. It’s kind of like a first date — you want to look as good as possible!

SEO

Search Engine Optimization is a fascinating subject but for a new blog I would completely ignore it. You will have plenty of time later on to get into this topic. Time spent on SEO is time not spent on content or marketing which is a mistake for a new blog.

Social Networks

Social networks are a great way to generate traffic and new readers. StumbleUpon in particular has been pretty effective for me. I would say that this might not be the best route for a brand new blog but keep it in mind and maybe after a few months, start looking into it.

Summary

If you try to do all of the above items in a big way then that would take a lot of time which doesn’t fit with the “efficient” theme of the post. I would concentrate on the following items for maximum benefit:

  • Content — This has to be the top priority.
  • Carnivals — These don’t take much time to enter so this will help grow your blog efficiently.
  • RSS icon — This doesn’t take long to set up.
  • Link to and comment on other bigger blogs.
  • Networking – It’s hard to go wrong with getting know other bloggers.

None of these suggestions are “all or none” propositions. If you want to enter three carnivals a week then go ahead. If you only want to enter one carnival every three weeks then that is fine too. Whether it’s entering a carnival, adding an extra link to to a post or emailing another blogger — every little bit counts.