Time To Revise Our Comment Policy

Our experiment Spam Filter Free Day had one year anniversary yesterday. We won’t repeat the experiment as it gave us a tremendous amount of comments to administer.

Since then we decided to remove the “nofollow” constraint on all comment links. At that time we wanted to give credit to our friends and other people that put effort in posting comments on our site.

Removing nofollow would result in higher search ranking for the webpages of our active community. We wanted to reward and encourage comments that way.

The drawback of removing “nofollow”

Recently, justaddwater.dk has been added to spammers’ search engines — for instance the “Search DoFollow” search engine where “you can find relevant posts where your comment will earn you a backlink”. We also appeared on discussion forums like here and here.

The result is that we get many comments from people that are more interested in adding a link to their site than adding positively to the discussion. As a consequence, the article from last year (Spam Filter Free Day) is totally bloated with comments. And you see only the comments that are actually approved. The majority of comments are still caught by our spam comment guards (akismet, and other comment filters).

Many of the comments are apparently not automated and address a specific thing in the actual blog post. But what should we do with the following situations:

A: Author name and URL is a product name

The most common situation we see is like this:

Until now, we have manually assessed the content of each of these. If it’s relevant for the blog post, we have been approving it.

B: Author name seems personal but URL is a product name

A seemingly valid name but apparently the URL points on a product (or may be a site that sells a product). Example:

This type of comments have been approved if we decided the content to be valid. In this case it’s actually an invalid comment as the CSS is included inside the example file. But I approved the comment as the author may not have known that.

C: Author has a gravatar but URL is a product name

In rare cases, people post a comment where there is a valid gravatar but something smells about the URL. Example:

This type of comments have been marked as spam if the content was not adding any real value.

D: A personal gravatar but name is a product name

We have very rarely seen people that use a product name instead of their actual name. Example:

In this case, Taylor Thompson would be better off by using his real name. He obviously put effort into commenting. In this case we have previously approved comments.

E: Comments in other languages

To my surprise we see a lot of comments in Russian and Turkish. Our target group will not understand this, so we assume per default it’s spam. Trackbacks could be valid here but we also assess these individually (and approve most trackbacks).

New comment policy

In the future we will probably mark all of the above comment types as spam. Yes, some of the comments actually add value, but most of the comments actually are just made to improve ranking.

We will continue to manually approve the comments we mean will add value.

We will continue to hold comments for manual moderation. (so if your valid comment does not show up within a few hours, please contact us).

Strategy for making a valid comment on this blog

  • Use your real name — not a product or service name
  • Use a gravatar (improves the likeliness that your comment won’t drown when we moderate comments)
  • Write your comment in English. (of course, trackbacks from your site in other languages are OK)
  • If your site is about SEO or traffic optimization, we’ll probably remove your comment, or your link.
  • Write comments on topic (this is of course not new)

In general, expect us to mark more comments as spam.

Note to self: We should look more into setting up the “Nofollow case by case” and “Auto moderate comments” plugins…

See also

18 Responses to “Time To Revise Our Comment Policy”

  1. Simon B. Says:

    Please do, and remove any comments that don’t add value to your blog’s readers. That includes this comment! :)

  2. Dave Says:

    As a reader, I strongly support you on this. It’s overly kind of you to think only of whether the content of the comment has a positive effect on the conversation — to me, a spam link/name has a negative effect that often outweighs any contribution the comment could make.

    I would strongly support you if you deleted/removed comments where the content seems positive but the name is obviously not a person’s real name or online name or the URL is obviously not a person’s personal site/blog/contact page.

  3. Johnny Says:

    It is so difficult. I am a new blogger and English is not my mother tongue. I started my blog so I can write and practice. When I was learning, I read do-follow does better for getting comments. But if you say it’s just the spam doorway, I’m glad you made the experience for us. It is regrettable that a few bad apples spoil a generous act for the others. But what else can you do?

  4. Chicago breast cancer Says:

    I own multiple blogs, all of which are dofollow! It’s not spam if it contributes to the conversation. Obviously if the post is a bot or someone who clearly is doing a job rather than actually adding their two-cents then yes, by all means, delete the post…otherwise I leave it. I have had ongoing conversations with people whose names resemble mine, they turned out to be pretty involved and sometimes very interesting. Regards!

  5. Paul Says:

    I’d have to disagree with Chicago Breast Cancer and I think to an extent, Google do too. I’ve seen plenty of dofollow and mayfollow blogs happily rank for years and keep good PR. However there is one blog called connorwilson.com, which was/is a notorious haunt for dofollow hawks and it seems to me its cost him two rungs on the PR-0-meter.

    The people who go around commenting with names like “Chicago Breast Cancer” are obviously only doing so for the link juice and would not do so if you had nofollow (unless its a comment robot).

    However, I think its good that people like you are removing nofollow as I believe anyone who is engaged in real discussion on a blog deserves to be rewarded with link juice. I think anyone who is posting good comments is contributing to the value of the site and as such should be able to have their own little slice of the PR pie to take away :)

    If you want to try and reduce dofollow spammers, I would recommend removing the “powered by wordpress” from your blog and also the
    in the head and at the generator in the WP feed. As their are dofollow finder scripts that use those to identify your blog as wordpress.

    Also giving out your WP version number can be a security issue, as I can Google up some hacks for that particular version.

  6. Realtrix - Tips & Tricks Says:

    Basically, the internet is one giant poll to Google, and each link counts as a vote. There are other factors that intefere, but we’ll keep it as is for simplicity’s sake. The more links you have, the more popular your site is – and that’s exactly what Google wants to find, the most popular/authorative sites on the web.

    The NoFollow attribute tells Google, “Don’t count this link as a vote for this website”. Whilst Google might still crawl the website’s content, it definitely does not add any link-weight. Well done, you’ve now penalized both the legitimate commenters as well as the spammers. Makes sense.

    I’ve made one of my blogs into a dofollow blog and here are my results (in comparison to a number of other, more popular, nofollow blogs that I own):

    1. More comments.
    2. Discussion. Because my links were carrying link-juice, and I was only accepting good quality comments, I ended up with proper, meaningful discussion that was pertinent to the article. I’m sure many of you bloggers only get spam and scraper comments

  7. Sabac Says:

    The big issue in my mind, why we make our blogs “do follow”? Perhaps the reason is to give some benefits to our fellow bloggers and loyal users. On my own network of blogs I generously give this benefit on valid comments, of course if a name would be used with keyword. Another way to reduce spam is to use some good commenting system like Disqus. I think it is very easy to identify spammers from such system(I am just discussing but not recommending anything).

  8. Perrow Says:

    Thanks for the link ;)

    My Do Follow Search engine was part experiment, part for fun. I’ll be the first to agree that many, maybe most, maybe all, of that sites users will “comment for the linkjuice”. To me the whole dofollow movement is about rewarding those that leave useful comments. As with most things you’ll give people, they’ll try to maximize their own benefit from it.

    Personally I’ll try to get as good a backlink as I can for my commenting effort. The blog owners are of course free to moderate as they please (btw as you already link to my search engine in your post I hope to get away with another link from this comment ;) ).

    If you find that commenters from my search engine do spam your site then by all means send me an email and I’ll remove your site.

  9. Tim Penny Says:

    I think as long as the comment adds relevant information to the conversation bloggers should approve the comment. You might try adding a captcha to filter the spam bots.

  10. Vitalka Says:

    It’s a strange thing to listen that many useless comments appeared with your decision to change approval moderation. Maybe try to make some restriction and rewards system, like how much comments and reward points has a visitor? It’s will blow away “link-wanters”, as we call them in our country. Only people who really interested in your materials will remain your valued friends.

  11. LocalSecurity Says:

    Jesper I think what you decided is pretty much fair for those who really wants to continue discussing the topic of your blog and at the same time earning points from backlinks here. Thanks alot for clearing your policy on this.

  12. Victor Says:

    It’s good to have comment policy in every blog. This way commenting on the blog would be moderated, and it will also give guidelines for readers on how they will comment on a particular post. And it will also encourage readers to comment sensibly and on topic.

  13. kampanye Says:

    you apply a dofollow policy but still manage to have a PR5?? how the hell in the world you can do that?

  14. Kai Lo Says:

    This is why I stick to Nofollow policy. I want people to visit my site because of the contents, and not because they want to come to get some link juice. I want quality comments because I like responding back to quality comments. The worst comments are, “Great post!! Here is my (link)”

    When you take off nofollow tags, you have to expect spams Jesper. As long as you monitor what gets posted into the comments, you should be fine.

  15. Blogger Toraya Says:

    My Blog is Dofollow because i want to give my Visitor a Link Luv.. I hate spam but I also Love their Comment so i think it is not good reason to remove yyour do follow tags..

  16. baba Says:

    i have a lots of blogs. my procedure is that i accept all the comments but not every link. whenever i feel that this is spammer and his comments are relevent to discussion then his comment show without any link on it.

  17. Comment Policy - PlanetMike's Technology Journal Says:

    [...] as those sites are just wanting link juice. And I don’t use nofollow.Jesper Rønn-Jensen at Time To Revise Our Comment Policy came up with five categories of comments. His categories of A, B, and E would be marked as spam on [...]

  18. louie jerome Says:

    I accept more or less any (decent) comment on my blogs but when it is just pure spam and adds nothing to the blog at all, I delete.