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Comment spam: using Backtype to spot it

November 26, 2009 11 Comments

Google's written some hard facts about comment spam (Andy Beard and Shaun Anderson have some interesting follow ups - and it's good to be aware of how comment spam can get your blog penalised).

Like most bloggers, I'm plagued by comment spam - but I've found a good way to spot spam: Backtype. It's designed to let you see all the comments you've left on many blogs - but you can use it to check comments that other people have left that link to a specific URL.

Oh noes. 502 bad gateways ...

Let's start with Matt Call who left a comment, giving his URL as, saying that:

"I had difficulty navigating past your website because I kept getting 502 bad gateway error. Just thought to let you know."

Blimey, that's helpful, right - I should be worried. I was a bit suspicious that his surname was "call" and it linked to a telecoms site with call in its name. So let's check out Backtype, and see comments linking to that URL.

Freecallindia: notice any similarities ...

Freecallindia: notice any similarities ...

Ah. There appear to be over 100 comments, all saying the same thing, all left by several people with different first names but the same surname.

I'm an authority

Some guy apparently from left a comment about what an authority I am. Thanks. Finally, some recognition. But then I checked what other comments on blogs linked to that site.

Onlinecarinsurance: notice any similarities ...

Onlinecarinsurance: notice any similarities ...

Yes, a series of comments (more than I've shown here) about insurance, menace and huge corporations. Preceded by one saying:

Nice strategy Ajith.. though they say every backlink counts but I prefer dofollow links.. So I do check pagerank, type of link that are allowed.

Right, thanks for the heads up.

Maybe he did think it was a nice post ...

Someone giving as their URL left one of those "nice post" comments. They're always spam, true. But, you know, maybe this guy meant it, and sounded OK ... Let's use Backtype to check the comments he's left on other blogs.

Thesoftstuff: notice any similarities ...

Thesoftstuff: notice any similarities ...


Some others ...

You get the idea:

  • Randy, who gave his URL as, left a reasonable sounding comment. Check the blog comment profile for that site, and you see a lot of people whose surname is Crushed leaving comments ... Update Randy has commented below that he always leaves useful comments, which his original one might have been. His latest one is certainly useful.
  • Alex from gave me a tip on an SEO post. He informed me that "Appropriate keywords make your search simple and also help your data searching quick too". Seems he gives out this advice a lot ...
  • Then Danni from came along. His comments fall into two types. He had a lot to say about the death of Patrick Swayze - now he leaves the same message on loads of blogs about how "using Adwords for the last 2 years and i can only say that it increased my online sales by about 20%".

These were all the undeleted comments I had awaiting moderation. Good old Backtype. Let me know if you spot anyone with backlink profiles worth a look.

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  • Rhys says:

    Great post! :P

    I'm tempted to switch to backtype, a lot of people rave about it, so I may give it a shot myself (I like the tweetback feature).

    Comment spammers are getting harder to spot. I almost let a comment through who commented under the name "Teenager's Ex". Even her domain name read Teenager's ex dot com. However, when you put it together in one word, without spacing or punctuation, it was obvious what the domain name actually was targetting.

  • I love posts about spam - especially the blatent stuff like this. More of, please!

  • Or just let Akismet sort it out. I've found so few false positives or negatives that I only give a cursory check to the moderation queue now...

  • deralaand says:

    about Askimet...This is why I found this post.
    Recently Askimet has kinda dropped the ball for me. I have seen obvious duplicate comment spam waiting for approval. You would think that Askimet would recognize the old "identical comment on multiple posts" tactic...and it does, to some degree. But, obviously not to my satisfaction (hence...the search)
    I would like to thank Malcom for pointing me towards BackType. It has given me some good info to post about.
    Thank you!

  • Randy says:

    You mentioned my site and comment in this post.

    I have an interesting take on what you are talking about here. I think you are missing one aspect of how you define spam which is the quality of the comment. I actually only leave comments on post/blogs that I read. Thus, the comments I leave "ADD TO THE DISCUSSION" which means they are not spam.

    Now, if I'm going to take the time to post a comment which helps the blog owner, in return it is nice for a backlink.
    It is like helping your neighbor take out the trash, and in return he offers you a beer.

    Too many sites are filtering out quality comments which are useful to the other readers. That is too bad for both parties.



    • Randy - I have to confess I forgot what your original comment was. The reason I'd thought it was spam as there seemed to be several people leaving comments with a link to your site with Crusher as the surname (Miles Crusher, Dennis Crusher, Bob Crusher etc). I take your point about the link being a reasonabe exchange for the comment, but I guess it depends how the site owner can reasonably evaluate what is and isn't spam. Anyway, I'll update the bit above to say you've replied...

  • Randy says:

    Thanks Malcom,

    As a fellow blog owner, I know filtering spam is no easy task. And while I do like the Backtype service, I'm not sure it can effectively tell the whole story of a commentors history. For instance Miles, Dennis, and Bob all are associates of mine who spend a lot of time (more than they should) surfing the web and subsequently leaving comments on blogs. So from an outsider looking at the Backtype surfer, you would think this is all spam, which in fact is not.

    As a general rule for me, I simply let in quality comments "--IF--" their name with the link is not obvious spam like "JIM coffee cups for the mocha machine" I simply don't have the time to dig down into the commenters history to give them a quality rating.

    Anyway, I like your blog and will keep reading.



  • The decider for me is not where the comment came from, nor if it's blatently pimping some product, service or site, but whether it seems to be written by a real person and refers directly to the content in the post.

    As Randy suggests, maybe some blog owners do spend a lot of time trawling the web for blogs they can comment on. If so, that's actually fine by me, as long as they stay on topic.

  • [...] – Essential anti-spammage, no matter that it has its critics. Comes as [...]

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