8 Ways to Combat Spam Posts on Your Joomla Website Forum
Do you think of spam as something that only arrives in your inbox? Many website owners know that spammers are also targeting their websites, submitting spam through their online forms and to other forms of public writing on their sites (i.e. discussion forums, product reviews, and blog article comments). Several of our own websites recently became the target of spammers who would create legitimate Joomla accounts on our online discussion forums and then post their spam articles within the various discussion categories.
For several weeks they would post one to three articles during the night. What followed became my very own version of Groundhog Day. Wake up. See the new spam post alert in my email. Get angry. Log in to the forum. Delete post. Delete user account. Rinse and repeat.
That led us to look further into what Joomla tools and strategies were available to mitigate this issue. Here are a few items that we found helpful and some that we thought were good for all website owners to review.
1. Know what is going on your website
We can get into the habit of building a website and then assuming that we can check that off our to-do list, turning our attention to other projects. The more you allow your website to be interactive, they more diligent you should be to make sure you are on top of the content being posted. When we went live with an update to one of our dedicated software product websites, I mistakenly forgot to add myself to the admin list to be alerted to new posts. Imagine the embarrassment when a customer suggested we ought to monitor our discussion board. I hadn't received any email alerts and assumed nothing was getting posted. After removing 50+ spam posts made over a period of 5 days I made sure that I was added to the email alert that was sent out from our forum.
2. Require your users to register and authenticate their email address
This step wont stop spammers but it may slow them down. If you disable public write access and require users to create accounts, that can help. Add an additional step requiring them to authenticate their email address. Many spammers use random e-mail addresses and may not want the hassle of logging in/out of email accounts to authenticate. Some other suggestions on the internet included requiring your users to wait several days before posting articles, eliminating those who are simply there to post spam and leave.
3. Set your forum software up to use "no follow" links
Although recent search engine updates have lessened the benefit of this tactic, but some spammers are looking primarily to boost their own site's SERP (search engine results page) ranking by linking to their site from yours. To combat this, check to see if you can set your discussion forum, eCommerce or blogging software to set any links int eh comments to be no-follow links. This essentially means that search engines will ignore those links, rendering the links useless from a search engine optimization standpoint.
4. Block traffic by IP address
Many "professional" spammers know how to forward their traffic from different IP addresses, but sometimes you may notice posts and traffic from one particular IP address. Most CMS's (content management system), Joomla included, have extensions that will block traffic based on the IP address.
5. Censor posts by keyword
Again, depending on your CMS, you may be able to add certain keywords to a blocked list, prohibiting users from posting using that particular word. This can be helpful in keeping profanity and other offensive words off your site as well.
6. Develop a moderator team
While software is good at catching the majority of things, spammers will always find a way around them. That's why, depending on your website and your business, you may be able to build a team of people who are keeping an eye on all public submissions on your website. Perhaps different people within your organization can moderate different sections of the site, keeping an eye out for anything that doesn't pass the "sniff" test.
7. Educate yourself
The best thing to do is be active in educating yourself on the tactics that are being used by spammers and the solutions and strategies that are being used by other website owners. Monitor discussion forums that discuss the things other people are seeing and what works for them. Better yet, join in on the discussion and share the things you are seeing.
8. Utilize Spam extensions
The best solution we found was to utilize a bolt-on to our forum software to help eliminate Spam posts. We installed it several weeks ago and we've not had another Spam post since. As long as you are using a popular software platform, you would be amazed at the available extensions that are being developed and presented by the developer community.
These 8 items are just a few simple ideas that can help to fight the effects of spammers on your website. Drop me a line at email@example.com to let me know what ideas you have found that also work well.
About the Author
Eli Remington is the web marketing director and a partner at SaberLogic, a professional services firm that provides custom development, programming services, integration consulting and technical support for Infor® ERP Visual® and Epicor® Vantage® ERP. SaberLogic also specializes in Crystal Reports® development, custom programming and custom web development. Follow Eli on Google+ and Linkedin.