Issue #006: Stop losing convertible traffic

In this issue, I will be talking about how to manage & eliminate spam on your site. Spam is the biggest threat to the face of the internet. From every tech-enabled startup to fully-established companies like the FAANG are worried about spam & are fighting it in some or the other way.

Spammers are polluting every commentable element on the web. See what’s happening on Facebook. The majority of the content in commercially inclined groups is spam comments. Helpful or not, just paste links to their pages and vanish, only to be deleted by the mods or worst, get banned from the group.

The same is happening a lot on Reddit, but the moderation is way better there. Quora is another example. The platform has the potential to change the way people consume content, but moderation needs to be better.

Once you start creating a user-experience that’s spam free, this will not go unnoticed by the algorithm & it will help you with a boost in organic traffic.

Keeping spammers at bay is quite easy. You have to take care of a couple of tried & tested steps to ensure your site has little to no spam.

As of now, I’ve seen a lot of sites that have a login (Facebook or Google) enabled for people to comment, but that still doesn’t solve the problem. People still spam Facebook groups, and posts. What’s stopping them to do the same on your blog when they can do it by one-click login?

This ends today. In this issue, we will be seeing how you can boost the organic traffic to your site because you’ve chosen to give a great user experience to your users.

But before you make your site spam free, you need to make the content helpful & discoverable. Let’s take a look at those steps.

How to make your content helpful & discoverable?

No matter how good or bad your content is, spam content is always around the corner. A spammer might ruin the UX before even it starts to take off. Here’s how you can keep the content relevant while keeping the spammers at bay.

  • Help search engines understand your pages: Ensure <title> & alt tags are descriptive enough. See these descriptions as the way machines will help visually-impaired users consume your content.
  • Incorporate best practices for media: Optimize imagesvideos & structure data on your site for best results. These practices make your pages eligible for search, & not promise rankings. A lot of subjectiveness comes into the equation when deciding a rank.
  • Don’t block search engines from crawling: If you’re using a CMS (like WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace), make sure that these CMSs aren’t blocking search engines. I know that the default setting for WordPress takes care of this, not sure about Wix or Squarespace. Sure, some pages should be hidden from search engines, such as opt-in pages, thank you pages, or upsell pages.
  • Block crawlers from following advertisement URLs: Crawlers have a budget when they land on your site & it’s limited for every site. Tagging advertisement links as rel=”no-follow” or rel=”sponsored” will instruct the crawlers to not follow those links.

These are a few of the many steps you can make your content discoverable & helpful. Now, let’s look at the actionable steps to reduce or completely eliminate the spam on your site for better rankings.

Step 1: Create policies & track signup records

Publish a clear privacy & abuse policy on your site informing users about the same. Search engines have nothing to do with this page & have a lot to do with the users. You wouldn’t engage on pages with a lot of spam comments, let alone share payment details, would you? The end users would think the same when seeing the spam on your pages.

Furthermore, set up a system to track the following:

  1. How long does it take to fill out the signup form? Humans & bots have different speeds
  2. How many requests are made from the same IP address? That’s clearly spam
  3. User-agents data while signing up
  4. The details about the user. Robots have weird details

Step 2: Have a strong moderation for the comments

If Facebook & Google aren’t spared, what makes you & I think that spammers will spare our sites? Having a strong moderation in place will ensure most of the spam comments aren’t approved & hence don’t see the daylight on your site. Some CMSs have built-in features or add-ons to moderate comments, for example, Akismet on WordPress does a remarkable job.

You can also block specific IP addresses that will disable any comment coming from that IP address. Akismet does a fantastic job around this.

Step 3: Block automated content & monitor abuse

The best way to block the bots from entering the court is to install reCAPTCHAs on your sign-up form, you can also consider the alternatives. This will not only reduce the spam comments but will also reduce the load on your server because only genuine users are signing up.

If you’re just starting out, the active users commenting would be less and hence reduced load on the server.

The whole point of commenting on sites is the fact that crawlers scan through the links in the comments as well. Hence, getting indexed on search. Adding no-follow tags for all the links in the comments will make it pointless for the spammers to even bother adding links. You can mention this in the privacy/abuse policy as well.

See if any of your pages have started ranking for spammy keywords, using the site: <spammy keywords> search operator.

This is the side effect of not moderating the comments on your pages. While search engines crawl the comments, it also confuses the pages to target the same keyword as well. You can also use Google safe browsing API to check the URLs on your site.

TL;DR

The spammers want their pages on search engines. That’s the whole point of spamming the internet. Don’t let this happen to your site. Here are three steps to keep the spammers at bay on your site:

  1. Publish policies against spam on your site, this is for your users first and then for search engines. Keep a track of signups that happens on your site. If you don’t have any other provision for signing up on your site other than for comments, keep a very strict moderation. Comments have the potential to make or break your site.
  2. Use Akismet spam protection services to block IP addresses, moderate comments & more.
  3. Install reCAPTCHAs on the signup form to disallow bots from signing up, let alone leaving spam comments. Use the site operator to see if the spammers have spoiled the way search engines see your pages. Don’t let the spam comments dictate how search engines perceive your pages.

If you’re looking forward to winning online, here’s how I can help:

  1. Sit with you 1-on-1 & create a content marketing strategy for your startup. Hire me for paid consulting.
  2. Write blogs, social posts, and emails for you. Get in touch here with queries (Please mention you found this email in the newsletter to get noticed quickly)
  3. Join my tribe on Twitter where I share SEO tips (every single day) & teaser of the next issue of Letters ByDavey.