The best anti comment spam solution for WordPress


This site, like most sites, has struggled with comment spam for a long time. We use the WordPress publishing platform and the most popular WordPress anti-spam plugin (Askimet) did not provide an adequate solution, and resulted in many spam comments making their way through as well as many false positives mistakenly relegated to the spam folder.

We’ve tried many approaches to fight comment spam, from using a handful of different CAPTCHA plugins to routing our traffic through Cloudflare’s DNS, which uses blacklisted IP lists, to using other ‘zero spam’ plugins such as ‘Spam Free WordPress’. Recently, however, we’ve stumbled on a very simple and effective solution that has finally laid this issue to rest for us (at least for the time being). It consists of using THREE FREE WordPress plugins in conjunction with Askimet, and is very attractive in it’s simplicity.

The three plugins are as follows:

1. Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin

This plugin (which we will refer to as GASP) works pretty much as would a Captcha filter would. It requires users to simply tick a checkbox before submitting a comment. Very simple first line defense that is both user friendly and, we were surprised to see, enormously effective beyond our wildest expectations.

growmap checkbox

2. Askimet

Those non-automated (or sophisticated) spammers that are able to overcome the first hurdle will now have to contend with Askimet, which will run the comment through and decide whether its spam or not. If Askimet decides that the comment is not spam it will be published. Those comments that it thinks are spam, however, will be processed by the third plugin.

3. Conditional CAPTCHA for WordPress

This is a last line of defense intended to prevent Askimet’s false positives. IF and only if Askimet decides that a comment is spam will this plugin kick in, and only those users will be presented with a captcha to complete.

  • IF the captcha is NOT successful: the comment will be deleted, it will not enter the spam queue. You will never have to deal with it ever again.
  • If the captcha is successful: it will either enter the spam queue, or you could set it to be automatically approved, whatever you prefer.

4. Simple Trackback Validation with Topsy Blocker

While the above plugins are extremely effective at eliminating comment spam, this final plugin is designed to eliminate ‘Trackback’ spam, which can be just as annoying.

Simple Trackback Validation with Topsy Blocker will do a couple of tests,  to see if a trackback is a real or spammy one. For starters, it will check that the IP address of the trackback sender is the same as the IP address of the webserver the trackback URL is referring to, and spam it if they are not the same. This will reveal the overwhelming majority of trackback spam.

But the plugin will also look on the page that is the source of the trackback to see if your URL (that is being trackback-spammed) actually exists in the trackback URL (spammy trackbacks will not actually have this). If not, the trackback spam is junked.

Simple and beautiful, and will save you a lot of time and energy.

So there you have it. A complete WordPress anti spam solution that has worked wonders here at Freewaregenius, and that is simple and free.

The PROS: simple, easy, and – most importantly – effective. Makes your spam folder manageable and unlikely to contain false positives, and you only need to look over it once in a great while. Also, deals with trackback spam.

The CONS: some webmasters might demur at using four different plugins. If that’s a concern you should take heart in the fact that the plugins we recommend in addition to Askimet are fairly lightweight.

Was this helpful to you? Do you have any thoughts or concerns? Please share in the comments section.

  • I bought a comment luv plug in which has the functionality of the GASP integrated and am very content with the amount of protection it provides. Before I used Askimet, but now it is redundant as GASP combined with the ability of setting a minimum length of the comments help a lot.

    • Andy at CommentLuv wrote both plugins so the functionality in CommentLuv Premium is the same as the free GASP plugin, but it appears Andy may have made the premium version even better at blocking spam.

      GASP only blocks automated spambots so it will not eliminate spam written manually. When GrowMap was getting 1000+ spam comments per day, G.A.S.P. blocked 96% of them. For those who still want to run Akismet or something else along with it, that then allows you to rescue your real comments from the spam section.

      Anyone who comments regularly in blogs will be blacklisted by Akismet. That solution alone will never work because they could, but choose not to block massive amounts of offensive automated garbage and most bloggers do not know what spam is so even the best commenters are considered spammers by Akismet.

      If you use Akismet DO always check spam and rescue real comments – or you won’t have any – and where you delete a bloggers’ comments they will not read nor will they share your content.

      Also make sure you uncheck the box in Akismet that automatically deletes comments on posts older than 30 days or it is deleting comments you will never even see. If you get a blank white page after commenting, the most common cause is that you are flagged as a spammer and Akismet just deleted your comment.

      If you want more comments, install CommentLuv. There is a free version and the premium version.

  • Martin

    There are better solutions, but you need to code a bit. Try using a normal captcha but instead of asking people to simply copy it, modify it so it asks for the number of digits or letters displayed.

    A bot will always fill it incorrectly, people that actually read what you are asking will do it correctly.

    • Hello Martin,

      People hate captchas because some are nearly impossible to read and it is common for your browser to get hosed up and even though you enter it correctly it keeps telling you what you entered is wrong. The same issue occurs with the math plugin. The cure is to delete cookies, but even bloggers and programmers often forget to do that and can’t comment.

      Before GASP existed I tested captchas and math and my regular commenters let me know that they couldn’t comment. The tests were VERY short because the same day I tested each I got several complaints. Most are not connected with their commenters on Twitter or Skype so they will never know why they get so few comments.

      In the United States, roughly 2/3rds of people are functionally illiterate. They are your readers. What that means is they can read, but not really understand, what you wrote. Your solution will send away those who either missed the point or did not grasp what you were asking them to do.

      Before you dismiss this as “good – I don’t want them anyway” you should know that many who have been blogging for years still do not know how to add images, rarely click on links you offer unless you make them VERY obvious, and do not know what tabs are – even though we might assume they would if they had been online for more than a few weeks or ever shopped at Amazon or somewhere similar.

      What WE know is not what THEY know – not even “they” who also blog who are your best commenters. Most are too focused on preventing spam, and not focused enough on making sure your readers feel heard. Where we can not comment we stop reading and sharing – so this is critical to your success.

    • Samer Kurdi

      @ Martin: that is genius!
      However, most (including myself) do little no coding, and anyway there is a lot of manual spammers out there that the other plugins in this post will take care of some of that.

  • Thank you very much for sharing the GASP plugin! I’ve been looking for a simple and elegant solution for my blog to cut down on spam comments for quite some time now! It’s very much appreciated!

    • Samer Kurdi

      You’re welcome!

  • FYI, “SPAM” in all caps is a registered trademark of Hormel Foods. I would recommend using “spam” in lowercase unless you mean the food product.

    • Samer Kurdi

      @ morely: edited, thanks for the heads up!

  • Remove the website input box and then there’s no need for spammers to come by. Also Akismet works great too. That’s all I run on my website.

  • Hi guys!
    I’m use CleanTalk because this plugin not only protects from spam, but also the plugin approves relevant to blog comments. For example, if visitor of the blog post a comment that relevant to article the plugin aumaticaly aproves this comment. CleanTalk takes off my job 🙂

  • reedbed

    Following my comment that Nuance do not convert PDF to Word on their website (only buy software) I found the following for OCR for scanned docs.
    This is free, works almost pefectly, did one page of very scientific text correctly, and returned the DOC version in about 20 seconds.