As your website becomes more popular and your traffic increases, spammers will visit you as well. They look for hyperlinks to email addresses and for forms to exploit.
Having a hyperlink containing your email address on your website is akin to leaving the key in the front door of your house and expecting only your family and friends to use it. Spammers have software that crawl websites looking for hyperlinks containing mailto. When one is found it is captured and logged. From there it can send spam to your email address and/or use it as the Reply To email address of spam going to others. The first scenario is a nuisance while the second one becomes a Public Relations issue.
Replacing the hyperlink with a contact form helps to hide your email address. Yet, spammers can still use it to send you email and if your system has an auto-reply they still find out your email address. Consider setting up and using no_reply@ for your website forms.
Leave a Reply forms on blogs and bulletin boards also attract spammers since the content they submit appears on your website for all to see. Spammers love blogs that are unattended, allowing them to post message after message without review. Often these posts are nonsensical comments or blatant advertisements that are completely of topic.
The volume of spam posts on this website prompted a change to a monitored system. Now all post are reviewed prior to being activated. I find myself sifting through post after post looking for ones that are on topic and give value to the conversation of online success.
How do you decide if a post is valuable you might ask? Well, first look for posts where the user entered a person’s name. Some posts have “continue reading” or “Google” or some such words for the name, tipping you off to an advertisement.
Next read the content of the post. If it is completely off topic or sounds like gibberish to me, I pass. The posts that gush with “generic praise” get pasted into Google search. Often website after website pops up with posts that contain the exact same wording. One person even posted the exact content on this website twice.
If the content is on topic and has not been duplicated hundreds of times, check the website to see if it is legit. Often times the website has no relation to the topic at hand or the comment posted. I followed one link to find a photograph of a group mixing something in buckets. Could not distinguish what it was. Another link led to an advertisement for search engine ranking software. The software promised to post links to your website on blogs forums, wiki sites, and more. It was clear from the advertisement that quality content was not the objective, that quantity was the priority.
If you own a blog you might ask yourself “Why does this matter? Why not let anyone post whatever he or she likes? Isn’t lots of comments a good thing – a numbers game after all?”
Consider your clientele. If a customer finds your site, reads a useful blog post from you, then follows a nonsensical link to an inscrutable service in the reply section, have you served them well? Will they return and use your services or buy your products? Will they trust you?
To the spammers, perhaps this will help your website rankings in the short term, but at what cost? Google gets wise to these schemes and sooner or later changes their algorithm. Then your rankings are lost and Google blocks your website for “black hat” activity.
The Internet is a powerful tool that is bringing the human race closer together and is providing avenues of success that were not available twenty years ago. It is also the largest trash heap over known. There are countless spam posts littering the web and the pile continues to grow. For previous civilizations, archeologists have dug up bones, stones, pottery, and metal objects. What will our legacy be a thousand years from now? Will they surmise that we providing value to society or will they sift through the ruins and find a heap of SPAM? No offense to the lunchmeat intended!
We want to hear from you! Tell us what measures you are using to discourage spam.