Spammer beacons in blog comments?

This blog gets a lot of comment spam — sometimes as many as 100 per day.

Fortunately, the Akismet plugin for WordPress catches just about all of it, and I've never seen a false positive yet.

For the past six months or so, though, I've noticed a trend: an anonymous poster will leave an innocuous comment, like "Nice post" or "Interesting," with a unique and unusual commenter name, but no links. But then, almost immediately after that comment is posted I get a deluge of spam comments (which of course Akismet catches).

As an experiment, I tried deleting the innocuous comment that preceded the spam flood, and the amount of comment spam immediately dropped off to normal levels. I've done this three times now, and seen the same drop-off each time.

My current hypothesis is that spammers are leaving these innocuous comments as "beacons," which spam bots then look for in search of "live" blogs that they can post their spam to.

Have any other bloggers noticed this sort of trend, or am I just bonkers?

5 comments to Spammer beacons in blog comments?

  • Interesting. (No, this isn’t a beacon. 🙂

    On my personal blog I had been getting similar ‘beacons’ (unique generated name, unique generated email, generic comment without links, e.g. ‘Nice post’, ‘Where is RSS for your blog?’, etc.) until I added a simple captcha.

    Unlike the situation you described, such comments were not followed with a torrent of spam links.

  • Exactly the same in my blog.
    First, these are the marks of a live blog and open comments; second, they’re hunting for the “Comment author must have a previously approved comment” option turned on. If I accidentally approved such an innocuous comment the spammers will post spam directly, evading the filter.

  • Huh. I’ve seen things come in (small) waves on my blog but never understood why. Thanks for the tip. ^_^

  • Interesting; this has not happened to us. However, now that we are on the topic, to us, another way of spamming is for some folks to leave — also innocuous — comments on our blog, only to try to drive traffic directly to their site or sell something. Sometimes this will sound like this: “Nice blog! Check out my company/my blog/something totally unrelated” or something along those lines. Naturally, we reject those comments, as our blogs (and all the other fantastic ones that we read, including yours) are labors of love for fellow professional translators and should certainly not be abused by cyber-pirates on the hunt for more traffic or more business. 🙂

  • @Judy

    Yes, I’d definitely classify those comments as spam. They’re usually either classified as spam by Akismet, or flagged for approval. What I’m talking about is a “Nice post” comment, with no links at all. Sometimes, I’m sure that they’re just normal people being nice, but once in a while I have to wonder, when they’re followed by a big spike in spam comments.

    The “blog comments for marketing” angle is also interesting. I generally don’t mind people promoting products or services through my blog with a discrete link, as long as they’re not obnoxious about it. 🙂

    I’m really happy that this blog has a ratio of over three comments per post, because I think it adds a lot of value (often, I have to admit that the comments are more interesting than my post… 🙂 ) — so I don’t mind if commenters get to promote themselves a bit in return.

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