Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Analysis of Spam on Three Blogging Platforms

WordPress, Blogger and Squarespace: All are popular blogging platforms. At the moment, I happen to be blogging on all three. Today we'll take a look at the spam each platform receives and see what we can learn from it.

WordPress

Widely considered the only real choice for a professional blog, WordPress has a vast array of customizable options, widgets, plugins and tools for the business owner. Blogs can be self-hosted, and matched to your website format, or even used as the backend for your website. Recently, I chose to do this for one of my websites. My choice was based on the need for an incredibly flexible solution, but revolving around content, not e-commerce. Wordpress offered me the solution I was looking for; static pages that could be updated on the fly, and posts that allowed for more interactivity, with total control over the comments. Plugins and tools provide the site with a slightly changing facade to provide a lively feeling.

Even with the Akismet plugin to filter out the most obvious spam, WP gets about 25-30 spam posts a day. Current ratio of spam to real comments is 200:1.((This is at least in part to the fact that commenting on the site is a new concept, but this is a much, much higher amount of spam than on any other platform I have encountered.)

WP spam is polite. It compliments you on your writing or the site design and tells you that it will be back. And it will, if you don't mark it as spam and delete it. An example might read, "I can see that you are an expert at your field! I am starting a website soon, and your information will be very useful for me.. Thanks for all your help and wishing you all the success in your business." This spam is typically posted by a real-sounding name, with a link to an inoffensive sounding blog. If you check the blog link (and I don't actually recommend doing that too often, as these spam blogs are often loaded with malware) you'll find that they are spam farms.

Blogger

Blogger is the Reader's Digest of blogging platforms. So simple that most professionals dismiss it, it has some genuine advantages. The primary advantage is that it is a very simple platform to learn how to use. There is limited customization available and not nearly as many plugins, tools and widgets as there are for WordPress, but there are some. Control of commenting is limited to approving, rejecting as spam or deleting comments; no comment editing is possible at this time. Because of its simplicity, I adore Blogger. When I want to focus on content, not formatting, Blogger is my go-to platform.

There are no filtering widgets for spam on Blogger but, spammers tend to hit Blogger much more rarely - perhaps because it is not considered to be a "professional" space. In a reversal of the ratio of spam to comments, I see about 1:200 on my Blogger sites.

Blogger spam is obvious. Unlike Wordpress Spam, Blogger Spam is clearly spam. Links in a spam comment almost always clearly point to a spam farm or porn site. Rarely does Blogger spam pretend to be anything it is not. Recently, there has been a very slow shift to more polite "masked" spam, but links to Sunglasses R Us really can't hide too well among relevant Blogger comments.

Squarespace

Squarespace is a platform that is more advanced than Blogger, but not nearly as widely used as WordPress. Widgets are not plentiful, but the tools provided with the basic blog are more advanced than with Blogger. There are no anti-spam plugins available for Squarespace and while editing is possible, it's probably not useful against spam. Delete is your friend. Squarespace has a very clogged flash-driven design that can be customized with relative ease...as long as your browser likes Flash.

Spam on Squarespace is hot and heavy. Not content with one subtle link to a spam site, Squarespace spam are long lists of brand-name handbags, shoes, sunglasses, each with their own link. Spammers might hit the same post three or four times with the same list of links. The blog I post on gets a ratio of about 50:1 spam to comment.

Spam on Squarespace is in your face. This is the comment equivalent of walking through a crowded bazaar, while vendors scream brand names at you. You can tune it out, but the din is still there.

Overview:

Blogger might be the little brother to WordPress, but the lack of spam can make it appealing to people with niche audiences who don't want to waste time dealing with garbage.

WordPress offers the best tools for dealing with spam, but the most sophisticated spammers are flying under those radars. Don't fall for strangers commenting about your great design - consider the source.

Squarespace might provide an alternative to the other two blogging solutions, but the spam hammer hits hard. It might not be worth the effort to pan for gold in your comments.

Spam is a fact of blogging life. Knowing what you're trying to accomplish and how much time you have to give it will help you decide which blogging platform to choose. 

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Postscript: If you have a Typepad or Tumblr blog and would like to have your analysis added to this article, please let me know in the comments!
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