If there is something which is abused the most by website owners and bloggers trying to get better search rankings, it is most definitely abusing the comment form available on other websites and blogs to win a backlink.
Comment Spam is a fundamental problem which has to be dealt by all the websites which allow commenting on their articles and blog posts. People try to post a comment on an article to win a free backlink to their sites, thinking that the free backlink will improve their search engine ranking and their website will start to rank higher in search results.
This was the case when the web was in its infancy, way back in 2001 but this is not the case anymore. Google and other search engines have gotten really smart and they can figure out which comments are legitimate comments and which ones have been posted artificially, just to gain a signature link from the comment posted by the commentator.
In this article, we will discuss few important aspects of comment spam, how comment spam affects SEO of a website and what you should do to ensure user comments do not hurt the Search engine optimization of your website. In addition to that, we will also discuss few other best practices while commenting on other websites and ensuring that the comments you leave on other websites do not end up hurting your website’s SEO and reputation later.
How Comment spam Affects Google Search Rankings
Google has been pretty vocal about comment spam from the very start. Here is a blog post announcing nofollow links to fight comment spam where Google clearly explains that they do not like web pages with lot of spam comments in them. Here is an excerpt from the post
If you’re a blogger (or a blog reader), you’re painfully familiar with people who try to raise their own websites’ search engine rankings by submitting linked blog comments like “Visit my discount pharmaceuticals site.” This is called comment spam, we don’t like it either, and we’ve been testing a new tag that blocks it. From now on, when Google sees the attribute (rel=”nofollow”) on hyperlinks, those links won’t get any credit when we rank websites in our search results.
What this means is that if you have a website or a blog or a forum or a portal or any other online property where users are able to post comments, you should be very careful in how these comments are displayed on your website. Spammers, typically use different mechanisms, software, scripts and tools to post millions of spam comments in whatever blogs or websites their tools are able to find. If you allow spammers to post spam comments on your website, your website’s rankings will go down eventually.
It goes without saying that you should first enable moderation of comments in your website or blogging platform. If you are using WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr or Medium as your content management system, these platforms already have built-in moderation so you can just turn on moderation of comments right away. This will prevent any comment from appearing on your website without being moderated by you or by your team. This will prevent the appearance of spam comments on your website or blog.
Now you may wonder, why spam comments are bad for SEO? The reason is very simple.
Nobody likes spam. Nobody wants to see irrelevant content posted on a blog post or a webpage that does not add any value to the topic or discussion. It creates a very bad user experience and is not useful to anyone, except for the spammer maybe.
Hence, website owners and bloggers need to be very careful with comment spam on their pages. Google clearly says that any content which appears on your website is your responsibility which means, that comments posted by other users on your webpage or blog post is also your responsibility. If you do not do any quality control on these web pages and allow spam comments to be posted, Google and other search engines will not like it. What is going to happen is that the search rankings of your pages will significantly drop in search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, and others.
Hence, the takeaway is to prevent comment spam at all costs. Here is a typical example of a Spam comment on a WordPress blog
You should install comment spam plugins like Akismet and update your content management system to include plugins which restrict spammers from posting spam comments on your website. In addition to installing these spam protection tools, you should also enable moderation of comments and user-generated content so that you manually moderate a comment before it is made live on an article, webpage, blog post or any other content type. Bear in mind that the quality of a webpage depends on both the content that you provide and the content which users add to it and maintaining the quality is the sole responsibility of the owner of the website.
If every other page on your website has spam comments in it, that will cause Google to think that you are encouraging spam content to be posted in your website by allowing spammers to display spam comments, which creates a negative user experience. If you have previously allowed all comments to be shown without moderation, it will greatly help if you go back to those pages, read each comment and do a review of whether a particular comment is relevant to the subject of the article. If not, you are better off removing that comment which adds no value to the content of the post and to the users who are reading it.
So what should you do to ensure user-generated comments do not hurt the SEO of your website? Here are few important things to take note of
- Firstly, prevent spam comments from being posted on your website. If you are using a content management system like Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr or Medium, go to the preferences page and turn on comment moderation.
- Secondly, install comment spam plugins and tools which filters spam comments automatically and makes it easier for you to clean up spam comments without much manual effort. We highly recommend Akismet as the comment spam plugin for WordPress.
- Thirdly, review all the old content on your website and check which of your old posts have spam comments in them. If you find old posts or pages with spam comments in them, edit that page or post and delete the spam comment permanently.
- Next, check the source code of your website and ensure all the links posted through the comment form of your website are “Nofollow” in nature. This will discourage people from posting spam comments with signature links on your website and it will also take care of all the external links posted through the comment form of your website by people who posted the comment, just to create a backlink from your website to theirs.
- Finally, check the website field of the commentator and ensure that the “Website field” is also marked as “Nofollow”. Sometimes, people do post a legitimate comment but they include their websites which are nothing but Spam. The comment could be fine but the website of the commentator turns out to be spam, so it helps to “Nofollow” the link of external websites of all commentators. This is a standard practice used by most of the websites to fight comment spam.
- Remember to check visitor comments for “Plagiarism”. If the comment is fairly long and related to the topic of the page, it is possible that the content of the comment has been copied from somewhere else. If that is the case, you should not allow plagiarized content to be posted as a comment on any of your pages or blog posts. Because it does not matter whether the comment was posted by a user or not, at the end of the day your web page will end up having plagiarized content. Which you should definitely prevent at all costs.
Google’s Guidelines on Dealing With Comment Spam
It helps to know how Google instructs webmasters and website owners to deal with comment spam and what are the best practices suggested by Google for eliminating comment spam from blogs and websites. Here is an article in Google webmaster support where Google engineer Matt Cutts clearly explains the harmful effects of Spam comments and what you should do to prevent spam comments from decreasing Google search rankings of your website.
Spam comments can be harmful to your site in several ways including:
- Low-quality content on some parts of a website can impact the whole site’s rankings.
- Spam can distract and annoy your users and lower the reputation of your site.
- Unintended traffic from unrelated content on your site can slow down your site and raise bandwidth costs.
- Google might remove or demote pages overrun with user-generated spam to protect the quality of our search results.
- Content dropped by spammers can lead to malicious sites that can negatively affect your users.
What you should remember before commenting on other Blogs and Websites
The above principles also apply to you, if you are trying to improve your search rankings by leaving comments on other websites and blogs with a signature link.
First of all, signature links left in comment forms of other websites do not help you in improving search rankings. This is a myth and a subject of debate but it has been found that a website with better content and user experience with no signature links from a comment form has far better chances of ranking than a website with poor content and user experience and lots of signature links from the comment section of other websites and blogs.
There is no need to post comments with signature links on other websites and blogs trying to improve your search rankings. This concept is outdated and may very well fall under Black hat SEO. So our recommendation is not to post any comment on other website or blog trying to win signature backlinks towards your own website thinking it will improve search rankings. IT WILL NOT. Period.
Instead, use your time more wisely and use it to create more useful and meaningful content which attracts links naturally towards your website. We are not saying it, this is what Google and other search engines have to say to improve your search rankings. If you must leave a comment on another website or blog, make sure it adds value to the discussion. Make sure that the comment is thought-provoking, it adds to the discussion and amplifies the content on the page rather than posting a fly by statement and leaving the link of your website. That is a cheap, spammy tactic which nobody likes. Worst, it build a negative reputation for your website and nobody trusts you because they see that all you have done is writing spam comments on other websites pointing to a low-quality website with no interesting content or poorly written content.
So there are three things to remember while posting comments on other websites
- Post thought-provoking comments which adds value to the subject of discussion. Make sure the comment is relevant. Don’t post comments like – “Thanks for the article, it made my day”. Instead, add something meaningful to the discussion or reply to a question posted by another user on the same webpage. This is also good from the branding point of view.
- Don’t post signature links in comment forms. They have no positive effect on search engine optimization or search rankings of your website. It may actually harm your website in the long haul if Google finds too many signature links coming to your website from spam comments which you have left on a variety of unrelated websites.
- Don’t hire agencies or freelancers or other people to post comments on behalf of you in random websites. There are services available in Freelance hiring websites where people say – “I will post 10,000 comments for $500”. It’s no use hiring these people. Better, be genuine and legitimate and post comments when you feel like you want to participate in a discussion. There is no point buying fake comments. It will do more harm than good.
Be Sure to read our SEO Guide which contains useful information about SEO and we have discussed in detail key SEO Concepts with examples.