In the hellish battle against spam, many WordPress users have adopted a highly effective trinity of anti-spam plugins:
This effective triage of free WordPress plugins has served many a WP-blogger well, eliminating virtually 99% of all automated comment-related spam. When spam first became a problem for me, I installed this triple-threat arsenal of anti-spam plugins and immediately enjoyed the results. Although Spam Karma seemed a little invasive and resource-intensive, too much protection seemed far better than not enough.
Even so, during the most recent redesign of the site, one of my goals was to lighten things up as much as possible — fewer scripts, fewer images, fewer plugins, etc. During that process, I decided to drop both Bad Behavior and Spam Karma. What a mistake that turned out to be! At first Akismet held up just fine, but it only took a few weeks before Perishable Press got hit hard: over 300 spam comments, trackbacks and pingbacks snuck through the Akismet gate. Needless to say, I was extremely upset and spent over two hours scouring the database to remove the stench.
After the attack, I decided to add Bad Behavior back into the mix, and prepare — but not activate — Spam Karma just in case. The result? I am happy to announce that I have been relatively spam-free for several months now, operating exclusively with Akismet, Bad Behavior, and one weird trick that more folks should be using: WordPress’ “Comment Moderation” and “Comment Blacklist”.
Located in the WordPress Admin Area on the Discussion screen, the Comment Moderation and Blacklist settings enable us to check for specific words and phrases whenever a comment is submitted. For example, if you add the word “sex” to the Comment Moderation list, any submitted comments that include that word will be held for moderation. Likewise, if you add “sex” to the Comment Blacklist, then any comment that includes that word will be sent to the Trash. Either way, these settings enable you to stop unwanted terms and phrases from scaring away half your visitors.
Careful with that axe..
Before going crazy by adding a bunch of unwanted words to the blacklist, keep in mind that there are legitimate reasons why words like “sex” or “gambling” might appear in a comment. Likewise for variations of words, understand that WordPress matches any and all instances of each listed string (case-insensitive). For example, if you add the term “sex” to the list, WordPress will place in moderation all comments containing any of the following matches:
..ad nauseam. This isn’t life or death, however, as comments with matched words are simply relocated to the moderation queue. No risk whatsoever. Also when crafting your own list, keep in mind these additional tips:
- The most common blacklisted terms are curse/swear words
- Also common to blacklist obvious spam phrases, like “buy viagra”
- If in doubt about a word or phrase, add it to the Moderation Blacklist
Build your comment blacklist with context in mind. For example, most of my sites are about web design and development stuff, so I’m always careful not to block any words that would make sense in that context. That means that I can safely block all medical and pharmaceutical vocabulary, all gambling and sports phrases, and so forth. Because the likelihood of any of that stuff being mentioned at say, Perishable Press, is slim to none. Likewise if say I have a site about weight loss, then I would avoid blocking medical and pharmaceutical terms, because it would make sense for visitors to use that vocabulary.
But it’s also a pain to maintain multiple lists of unwanted phrases on each site. What we want is more of a “universal” blacklist that would safe to add to any site, regardless of topic or niche. Well except for topics that are associated with tons of spam. Like drugs, gambling, porn, and other spammy things. We want to block as much of that as possible on ALL sites.
Powerful, Effective, and Automatic
At first, I didn’t bother with the Comment Blacklist. I just didn’t see the need. However, while deleting 300+ comments from that nasty spam attack, I noticed large numbers of repeated words: “cialis,” “tramadol,” and “levitra.” Apparently, my site was attacked by the pharmaceutical spam industry. In any case, I decided to take advantage of the Comment Blacklist by developing my own, generalized list. My strategy: less is more. Block the most amount of spam using the least amount of phrases.
And the results have been excellent. Using only Akismet, Bad Behavior, and the Comment Blacklist, I have been able to completely eliminate 99.99% of all comment spam. I say “99.99%” because there are spammers who can’t even spell “viagra” correctly, and so you see an occasional spam comment.
Bottom line is that adding an effective Comment Blacklist to your WordPress-powered site is gonna keep a LOT of garbage from hitting your frontend. Scaring the children. Making your site look cheap, spammy, and risky. You get the idea. It’s entirely a win-win situation: any blocked comments are held for moderation or held in the Trash bin, so you always have full control of what goes through. And so without further ado..
Universal Comment Blacklist
Use this “Universal” Comment Blacklist “as-is”, or as a starting point to craft your own powerful blacklist. Simply copy, paste, and click “Save Changes” (or whatever it says) to enjoy immediate, carefree results. Other than updating the list with any newly discovered spam words, no further maintenance is required. Fix it and forget it!
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Indeed, the Universal Comment Blacklist is quite robust and has served me very well. Before adding to your own site, I recommend scanning through the list and removing any terms that you think might be used in actual user comments on your site. Then going forward, if you ever catch some tricksy spam making it through the blacklist, take a moment and add its keyword to the list.
Over time, your Comment Blacklist will evolve to a mighty barrier through which no spam shall pass.
Just found this “official” blacklist in the WordPress Codex. Feel free to copy & paste this list as well, either appending it wholesale to the Universal Comment Blacklist, or using an online tool to combine the two lists into one while removing any redundant terms. That said, here is the Codex list:
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Once you have established a core set of blacklisted spam words, make a habit of adding new terms and novel strings to the list. As time passes, you will see the effectiveness of this remarkably simple spam-fighting technique.