Preventing Abuse on Your Website

Trolls, bullies, spam, cyberstalking—these are just four excellent reasons to hurl your iPad out of a window and transmit all communications via carrier pigeon. Unfortunately, this is an inefficient strategy in the world of e-commerce.

Although you might want to shut down your comments section, squeeze your eyes shut, clap your hands over your ears, and gently hum the theme to “Rosemary’s Baby” (this is a perfectly reasonable response), your audience engagement could suffer if you exercised this option. And yet rampant abuse of your comments section not only makes your content and site look bad, it can affect your total viewership and your bottom line. When sincere, rational consumers are slowly replaced by vitriolic, house-bound, hate-filled trolls and anonymous drones copying-and-pasting useless links, your search engine rankings can deteriorate. That’s right—Google blames you for comment section spam!

How can you, as a responsible business owner, combat the inevitable onslaught of the trash and malice that pollutes your comments section? Here are a few tips that might help you maintain a productive and healthy comments section.

Moderate, moderate, moderate.

Yes—it’s hideously time consuming and frustrating. Nevertheless, if you want to keep your comments section clean and pure, you have to watch it like a hawk and occasionally swoop down and snatch up damaging posts in your mighty talons. Don’t allow any comment to post without approval.  

If you don’t want to give your commenters the impression that you’re arbitrarily censoring their conversations like some mini-minister of propaganda, be sure to make your guidelines crystal clear. Make your presence known in your comments section. Guide the direction of the discussion by posting questions relevant to the content you’ve offered.

Deploy the anti-robot, anti-anonymity weaponry.

It seems counterintuitive to make the process of commenting a massive chore, but hey, trolls and spambots ruined it for everyone. Have your users create validated profiles using verifiable email addresses. Use visual and audio CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing Test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) to further discourage the robot population.

Put up barriers between your comment section and Google.

When you have a comment section bursting with unchecked spammy links, eventually Google and those other search engines will penalize you. Search engine crawl robots take a dim view of sites that seem to endorse extremely low-quality links; if the ‘bots find enough of them in your comments, your site could be removed from search engine rankings altogether.

Make sure all of the links commenters post are “no follow”; there are several automatic link conversion tools out there that you can utilize fairly easily. The link will still appear in the comments, but it will be blocked from affecting your page rank.

Oh, just get rid of it.

If you’ve become overwhelmed by the demands of providing a user comments section, don’t fret. You’re not a slave! Here are two reasons why shutting down comments altogether might not be a bad idea:

  1. Your comments section is a barren wasteland. It actually looks slightly worse to have a comments section option and zero comments than it does not to have a comments section. When viewers see “Comments – 0,” they take it to mean that your content isn’t worth the effort. Not having a section at all eliminates this issue.
  2. Your comments section is active to the point of hysteria. If you don’t have the resources to monitor your comments consistently, take them down, and refer comments to social media channels. This not only makes discussions easier to control, it is also fantastic for SEO.

No one said that website management would be easy. The good news is that consistent maintenance should ultimately influence the standards of your user involvement in a healthy way. Be vigilant about what you allow on your platform, and keep your website comments section a resource for engaging and insightful discussion!