Anyone with a blog has come across the bane of comment spam, recently it’s gotten to near epidemic proportions for folks who use Moveable Type, as I do (I think this is because MT users tend to have high PageRank sites, but that’s just a guess).
Why do comment spammers do what they do? Simple: for the ranking juice. A spammer’s link inserted into the comment field confers this site’s authority, such that it is, to the spammer’s target site. Jeremy Zawodny, who is working with the Search team over at Yahoo, posts an interesting commentary on this problem, and suggests a solution.
If you assume the following:
1. 80% of blogs are hosted by or produced on one of the more popular blogging platforms
2. 80% of people don’t significantly tweak the default templates available in their blogging software
3. those people are the least likely to be actively fighting spam and, as a result, have more spam than the 20% of blogs where the owner is more defensive
Then a partial solution is fairly clear. I’ve heard and seen others discuss it over the past few months. The search engines needs to be smarter about reading and indexing content. …the software needs to be able to recognize the difference between links produced by the blog owner(s) and those contributed by readers and spambots. Once you can identify the difference between those two types of links, you simply stop using the second type of link when calculating rank. Sure, you can still count them for the purpose of providing link counts–just donn’t factor them into the ranking.
Jeremy’s suggestion has elicited a lot of commentary. As one of the 20% who actively fight comment spam, I’m hoping that some kind of solution is in the works. But I’m not sure this is it – often I appreciate the links that are left in my comment fields, and I wouldn’t want to discourage anyone who is well intentioned from continuing the practice. On the other hand, comment spam is a major problem, and it might be worth losing a bit of juice to save the ecosystem from the parasites.