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9 Ways to Eliminate Spam in Your Community Forum

3 minute read

October 29, 2020

Spam is the scourge of the internet and can do significant damage to your community if left unchecked. That's why it's important to monitor your community and ensure that this distasteful posting is kept far away.

It can be a difficult task, however there are some things that you can do to make it much easier. That being said, this post will provide you with 9 tips on how to keep spammers at bay in your community.

There are two kinds of spammers that you need worry about: spambots and human spammers.

Spambots are unintelligent software programs that automate the posting of spam and can usually be easily defeated since they are rigid in their behaviour.

Human spammers, on the other hand, present a greater challenge since they can bypass the traps that catch bots and can quickly change their behaviour.

For example, you might have  run across a spam post that says something like this:

"Interesting post. It's almost as interesting as making $700 per week working from home..."

Why would humans be spamming your forum and how can this make money? Most forum spammers aren't trying to get you to buy something, they are attempting to get higher rankings in search engines by creating lots of links from your pages to their own site. In other words, they're trying to use your community to boost their SEO

The Big Book of Search Engine Optimization1-1

Nevertheless, you don't want your community forum to be riddled with spam—that being said, here are 9 suggestions on how to defeat the spammers.

1. Ensure links in your forum are set to ‘nofollow’

This tells search engine crawlers not to follow the links and therefore, SEO spammers will derive no benefit from spamming your forum. (Vanilla’s links are nofollow by default.)

2. Make sure registration includes a CAPTCHA

Captcha’s are those slightly deformed images of words and you see on sign up pages. Captcha’s do a pretty good job of keeping out spam bots.

3. Require email confirmation

Ensure that you require your members to confirm their email before you allow them to post. Bots and humans can get around this but it's an extra bit of efforts that most real people won't mind.

4. Enable anti-spam plugins

These plugins can automatically detect suspected spam based on links, IP addresses, email addresses and the comment itself. Keep in mind that these plugins are not 100% effective and do sometimes return false positives.

5. Don’t allow editing of comments after a few minutes have passed

A frequent trick used by spammers is to create a comment that doesn’t look out of place (For example: "This is a great post, very insightful.") and then will come back after a couple of weeks and edit the comment to include spam links.

6. Get the whole community involved

Ask members to help out moderators and flag spam. In Vanilla, this can be done with the Spam Reaction.

7. Be ruthless

Moderators and admin should review the spam queue on a daily basis, ban spammers and delete all their content.

8. Restrict who can post links

Only allow members that have proven themselves and have a reputation to be allowed to post links. In Vanilla, it’s possible to prevent members with a low Rank from posting links, editing comments, etc. Ranks are earned by accumulating reputation points or making a certain number of posts.

9. Clearly layout your community rules

Provide information on advertising and partnering opportunities you might offer and make it clear in your community guidelines what is and what is not acceptable promotion. This can help with accidental spammers who are trying to legitimately sell something to your audience.

While spammers are always looking for ways around your defences, following these suggestions will help to eliminate spam.

Community Manager Survival Guide

Community Marketing

Luc Vezina

Written by Luc Vezina

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