How Do You Identify Comment Spam and What Do You Do About It?

I've been having an interesting conversation on Twitter with @phdinparenting, @jmatlin, @rebeccakeenan, and @therealneeroc about what constitutes a spam comment these days.

It used to be easy. If a comment showed up after a post that said "I like the way you louis vuitton purses bags leather goods", you knew it was spam and deleted it. Lately, though, it can be difficult to tell if a comment is spam or not, because spammers are leaving much more highly personalized comments than they used to, and there is some disagreement about what constitutes actual spam when the content of a comment is clearly in response to the content of the weblog entry.

The grey areas arise when someone leaves a comment that appears to be legitimately related to your content but the commenter signs with their business link and/or name. Is a comment spam if they sign with the name and url for What if they sign with an individual person's name such as "Jeff" but with the url for What if they sign with both an individual person's name and an individual person's blog or profile page but leave a sales link within an otherwise legitimate-seeming comment?

I tend to be pretty strict about it. I sell ad space to cover the costs of running this website, and I see this type of commenting as an underhanded way to advertise for free in my home space on the internet. They are using space that I pay for to advertise their products for free. They are using my money to pay for their ad space.

It has been argued that any individual with a blog linked to their name in the comments is doing the same thing, but I don't believe that they are. They are an individual commenting as an individual who leaves a link that leads either to their personal home on the internet or a profile that describes them. They are a person taking part in a conversation., on the other hand, can't have an opinion or comment on a website, because a car dealership doesn't a will of its own. You guys, a car dealership doesn't even have fingers to type.

Three Unofficial Rules About What Constitutes Comment Spam On

  1. Comments signed with names that are not used to refer to one specific individual but instead to larger businesses are spam. For example, names like "Susan" or "CrazyMommyDoodlePants" refer to individual people, but "XYX Car Dealership" does not.

  2. Comments signed with a link for an individual's name that does not lead to an individual's website or profile page but instead leads to a larger business page is spam. For example, or even do stand to represent an individual, but alone is not a website or profile page on a website that stands for an individual.

  3. Comments that include obvious sales links to advertise products unrelated to the weblog entry, no matter how well the rest of the comment applies to the weblog entry in question, are spam.

I pay for this space, and I don't pay for it so that other businesses can use it to advertise their cars or purses or whathaveyou for free, so, if either the name or the url attached to a name in a comment is that of a larger business that employs multiple individuals, and if the url does not point to a personal website or a profile that describes an individual, that comment will be considered spam here, and it will deleted. I'd kick a person out of my house if they plastered my walls with commercial advertising without asking, and I'll kick them out here.

Our weblogs' comment sections are not beholden to hosting free advertising space for people, no matter how well-meaning their comments may seem. Don't be fooled. Sometimes that is the ploy to try to make you leave the comment stand. Who knew that free ad space could be bought with guilt?

I also think that there are a number of spammers who honestly don't know that they're spammers these days, because there are these grey areas with regard to how we represent ourselves on the internet and the lines between personal and commercial interests are sometimes blurry. I think unwitting spammers sometimes see a weblog, take a personal interest in the topic at hand, comment, and, without really thinking about it, throw in links to sell stuff without realizing that they come off like that Herb Tarlek character in a cheap suit who's inappropriately treating your space like a sales floor. They've crossed over from being a guest taking part in the conversation to the goon who doesn't know the difference between the car sales lot and your living room.

Have you run into comments on your website that fall into grey areas like this? How do you decide what's spam and what isn't? Do you delete these comments, or do you let them stand?