Does your blog receive a lot of spam comments?
You know the ones. They’re full of gibberish talk, or they’re in a completely different language. They usually contain links to gambling website or websites containing explicit content.
And rather worryingly, it seems like spam is getting smarter and I’m seeing comments that look like normal comments, even making reference to the content of the blog post itself.
Annoying isn’t it?
Fortunately, if you use WordPress you can prevent these comments from being published on your website with the help of a plugin.
Let me introduce you to Akismet. In this post, I’ll show you how to install and set up this helpful free plugin.
What is Akismet?
Akismet is a spam-filtering service that catches comments left on your WordPress site that it determines to be spam. Actually, you may have heard of Akismet because it’s actually one of the default plugins that comes with WordPress.
It’s a pretty effective tool. According to their website, Akismet catches 7.5 million spam comments per hour!
Is it free?
Akismet has 3 different plans: Personal, Plus and Enterprise.
The Personal plan is free, and it’s a good one to get started with, especially if you just have a small blog or website.
The Plus plan, which is £44 per year, supports commercial websites, but it only valid on one site. The Enterprise plan, which is £413, is valid on an unlimited number of site.
In this tutorial I’m going to be focusing on the Personal plan as I know that’s the one most of you will opt for.
How do I install Akismet?
*Please note: These instructions are for the self-hosted version of WordPress. Akismet is also available for WordPress.com website but the set up is different.*
As previously mentioned, Akismet is actually one of the default plugins that is installed on WordPress.
However, if you don’t have the Akismet plugin installed already (you might have deleted it not knowing what it was!), I’ll show you how to install it.
Login into your WordPress admin panel and go to Plugins then Add New. Then search for Akismet and you should see a plugin that looks like this:
Click Install, and then Activate.
Unfortunately, there’s a bit more work to do after you have installed and activated the plugin. You will need to set up an account with Akismet and obtain an API key.
How do I create an account and get an API key?
To set up your Akismet account, head over to their website.
On the homepage, click “Sign up for Akismet now“:
At this point, you will need to set up a WordPress.com account or log in to your WordPress.com account if you already have one.
Now, I know that if you are following these instructions then you are using the self-hosted version of WordPress, so you probably won’t have a WordPress.com account.
Don’t worry! Just pop in your email address and choose a password to create an account. It’s completely free and it won’t impact on your current website at all. A WordPress.com account is required by other plugins, such as Jetpack, so it really is worth setting up.
(For more information about why Akismet requires a WordPress.com account, check out this page.)
You should be sent a confirmation email once you have set up your account.
On the next page, you will see the plans that are available and their prices.
I just opt for the personal plan which is free. If you feel like you need the features of the premium, paid plans then you can always upgrade at a later date. But for me, the free plan has always done the job.
After selecting your plan, you will be presented with a checkout page.
If you have chosen the personal plan, Akismet will ask if you want to make a monetary contribution. If you don’t want to pay anything for your account, you can move the slider all the way down to £0.00/year.
Then fill in the rest of your details on this page and click “Continue” when you are ready.
Your account has now been created and your API key is ready for you to use. Copy this API key, or make a note of it.
Where do I put my API key?
Now that you have your API key, head back to your WordPress admin area and go to Settings then Akismet Anti-Spam.
On this page, insert your API key then click “Connect with API key“.
And that’s it! Akismet is all set up for your website.
Once your activated Akismet, you just need to leave it to do its thing.
It will check each comment that is posted and decide whether it is spam or not. If Akismet thinks the comment is spam, it will not publish it to your website but instead, it will put in the spam folder. You can view all spam comments by going to Comments then clicking the Spam tab.
If Akismet doesn’t think that the comment is spam, then the comment will be published to your website as normal, or put into your pending queue is you have the comment approval option switched on.
Does Akismet always work?
As great as Akismet is, sometimes it gets a bit confused and it flags genuine comments as spam.
In order to prevent these lovely comments being lost forever, I make sure that I check my spam on a regular basis (say, once a week). I skim through to see if any of the comments are actually genuine and if they are I dig them out of the spam folder and approve them. The rest get deleted permanently.
On the other hand, Akismet might let the odd one or two spam comments slip through the system, especially as spam comments are appearing more genuine. If you spot a spam comment that hasn’t been caught, you can mark it as spam, and it will be removed from your website and put in the spam folder.
Fortunately, Akismet will start to learn from your actions. For example, if someone comments on your blog with a genuine comment, but Akismet thinks it’s spam when you mark it is not spam, next time this person comments on your blog then it shouldn’t be marked as spam. Hopefully! It might take a couple of tries to get this right.
But all in all, I think Akismet is a very powerful plugin and has saved my blogs from a lot of spam over the years. To date, Akismet has caught almost 10,000 spam comments over on my personal blog!