Comment spam is the bane of any interactive site, like a blog, and most have strategies to deal with it. Sometimes it’s simply word verification, other times it’s comment moderation and sometimes it’s software filters.
But there’s another kind I’m seeing with greater frequency. It’s not susceptible to most normal screening techniques—in fact, I’m not entirely sure it even qualifies as comment spam.
Broadly, “comment spam” is any unwanted attempt to hijack a comments thread to drive traffic to a commercial website, probably one of dubious merit. Such sites may include ones purporting to sell porn or prescription drugs, or they may be some sort of phishing scam. Generally, the comment is irrelevant or unintelligible, so it’s pretty clear what it is.
Lately I’ve been getting some comments that seem, on the face of it, to be legitimate, but instead of a link to a profile or personal website, they link to a commercial site where the commenter isn’t mentioned (and it’s probably irrelevant to this blog or the topic of the post). As long as the comment is about the topic of the post or other comments, I leave them alone. If they make what I think is a valid point or at least seem to have read the post, then I often reply to the comment as I would any other.
I’m a believer in open discussion of issues, and so I generally don’t delete any comments except comment spam, as I defined it above. While I reserve the right to delete any comment that I, at my sole discretion, believe to be racist, sexist, homophobic or some combination, in fact I seldom have. Spam comments, however, get the boot.
I understand why some organisations would engage in comment spamming as part of an astroturfing exercise against opponents, but quite frankly the only gain I can see a company gaining from having comments from blog posts completely unrelated to their business linking back to them is the sheer number of links. But, as I understand it, Google changed their algorithms to preclude this sort of thing skewing rankings for search results.
When I read comments on a blog (including this one) and I want to know more about a commenter, I hover the mouse over their profile link. I always right-click those links to open them in a new window anyway, but if the address seems odd in any way, I “copy link location” and paste the address into the new window. I do this so that if it’s an irrelevant commercial site, its statistics will show it as a direct arrival, and not coming from the site where the link was left. To open it directly from the site only encourages them to leave more commercial comments, something I don’t want to do until I decide what I think about the whole thing.
I’d love to hear the opinions of other bloggers: What do you do? Also, has Google changed their algorithms to make this tactic pointless?