HELP! My blog is under attack!

It looked innocent enough – a comment, albeit one with grammatical mistakes, telling me in glowing terms how great my site was and asking for my advice about how to set up a blog.

It turned out to be poison.

Like most bloggers, I’m pathetically grateful for any encouragement, though it seemed odd that the sender picked my post on growing organic potatoes on the reclaimed Dutch province Flevoland to express their admiration.

I politely replied to ‘Natalie’s’ query about whether technical know-how was needed to set up a blog (it’s not). My message bounced back as ‘undeliverable’. Natalie had vanished from my life forever and I don’t miss her one bit. A closer inspection of her comment revealed that it was linked to a ‘vegas gambling’ URL.

A few days later, WordPress itself contacted me to advise that they’d found a suspicious comment on my blog. They warned that unless I removed it the blog would be punished by search engines and was in danger of being closed down altogether. I took their advice immediately.

But for some unknown reason daily hits on my blog suddenly dropped by 50% in early February and have never recovered. I suspect that Natalie or one of her friends may be responsible, though I’m grateful to her for curing me of my hits obsession. It saves a lot of time and makes my day longer.

Natalie has never returned to Flevoland’s organic potatoes, but other unwelcome spam visitors have.

‘Sebastian’, aka ‘cheapthirdpartycarinsurance’, wrote: It’s a relief that I was able to come across richardtullochwriter.com: it has the resources I was definitely searching for. You’ve created a very good site and it’s clear you possess a thorough understanding of the topic. You have opened up my eyes to numerous ideas concerning this sort of subject applying interesting and strong material.

Suspiciously generic, Sebastian. Try harder next time and make sure you mention potatoes!

Do other people out there have this problem? What should I do about it?

41 Comments

Filed under Writing

41 responses to “HELP! My blog is under attack!

  1. Colleen

    Sorry, Richard…

  2. Yep, I get them too, but usually WordPress spirits them away before they hit my blog. If they accidentally do slip through, I delete them asap. That’s all you can do to the nasty buggers.
    Sebastian is right about one thing, though: your site is awesome. 🙂
    -Mina

  3. I get those every once in a while. They are so annoying. I love when they say that you have a thorough understanding of the topic and all that you even did was post a video or a photo.

  4. Sounds absolutely terrible! I have had some weird spam that I just deleted but nothing like this! Yikes!

  5. As I understand it the drop in hits is because of changes in the way that google handles its searches. My hits dropped by about 50% at about the same time and many other bloggers have reported the same.
    Perhaps we are just not as interesting as we thought?

  6. Damn Spam!
    (I like to ryhme)
    Jennifer

  7. This one made it through the spam filter this week, but I did click on the gravatar to see where it took me (oooh, I hope that doesn’t poison me!) before I marked it as a spam comment. From “gift card email” gravatar (red flag, I know): “Hmm it seems like your blog ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I had written and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I as well am an aspiring blog writer but I’m still new to the whole thing. Do you have any tips for beginner blog writers? I’d really appreciate it.”

  8. Will

    Richard,

    I’d suggest that you remove the potato post for a while–just set its publish status to private for a week or two. Before you turn it back on (open it to the public again), make a change to the title of the post, and make sure that change propagates to the link. I was plagued by spam when I did the same foolish thing about a year ago, and this helped. Unfortunately, of late another post of mine has suddenly become a spam magnet without my having done anything dumb to warrant it. Once more, I’ve taken the post in question down. Once it came back up, WP’s Akimset service seemed able to cope with further spam attacks.

    Will

  9. I just delete them and never click them

  10. Thanks for this post, Richard. I too got sucked in by the “Hmm it seems like your blog ate my first comment (it was extremely long) ” one. What I don’t understand is what these bots are for? I get that they are trying to scam people, but why? What is the financial point? Any clues anyone?

    • I suppose if you can circulate your product or site’s name to a billion people by pressing a couple of keys, you’ll find one or two suckers.

      • But they’re not selling anything of value!!! I get your point, but I don’t get theirs. I know it’s a numbers game, but I am betting the margins must be pretty slim. Kinda like publishing, I guess. Lol

  11. Unlucky Natalie’s poison seeped through the spam filter, Richard, and alarming that it could have had such serious repercussions for you – something we should all take heed of.

    I too have noticed a (30%) downturn in visits – though ‘followers’ are on growth hormone – benign, I suspect, but suspicious, as visits, likes and comments have altered very little given such a massive increase.

    Like most of us, I’ve had a range of weirdo messages but so far, despite a growing number of them (10 or more a day) none has fooled Akismet yet. What Will said is true though – for no apparent reason some posts – or photographs/other attachments are spam magnets (my first was a mother and child shot, the latest, and by far the most popular photograph I’ve ever posted, a banana flower – kessel muwa). I switched off the mother and child post and had a blessed respite, until the kessel muwa … I must go now to switch it off.

    Keep on blogging …

  12. Richard, My post on how to make iceblocks for dogs attracted similar gratitude and awe, and I just turned off comments, which seems to have stopped the (in my case) trickle of insincere praise.

  13. I get heaps of this stupid spam, some of it slips through the detectors and I delete it myself. I keep getting new subscribers with a wordpress address and when I click onto their site either it doesn’t exist or there is no content. My number of subscribers is climbing constantly, but the hits are going backwards…weird.

    • Ah, just as well the hits don’t matter to us, Debra.

      We do it for the satisfaction of having a creative outlet and for the contact with a community of nice people who really do exist.

  14. same here, Richard – and it scares me, honestly. I am not really a technical person at all and suddenly, a month ago, I had very little hits, more than 50 incredibly stupid spam messages which I NEVER opened but deleted immediately. Also my ‘facebook’ friends suddenly received a chain mail from me (which of course I never ever sent) urging them to open a certain link. Luckily for me, a number of those friends contacted me saying, sorry, cant open your link which of course started alarm bells ringing. What do those people have to gain from this??? I swear, this is a genuine reply and I do love your site. Carina

    • Hi Carina.

      It sounds as if Will’s advice above – temporarily shut down the particular post which attracts the spam – is the way to go. It also sounds as if others, including you, have been worse affected than I have been.

  15. When they get through so that I receive an e-mail about a comment and asking for me to approve I click “spam” or “trash” if it’s generic and it opens a comments page that shows the comment. At that point I can hover the pointer over their URL and either a preview shows at which point it’s obvious that it’s spam trying to get people to the site or nothing opens up in the preview which tells me it’s definitely bad. The nice thing is that I haven’t actually consigned it to spam or trash at that point, I still have the choice to make the final click so on the rare occasion that it turns out to be a real blog, I can change my mind. I imagine you can get that comment page without clicking from e-mail but I’ve never tried to figure out how. So far I’ve managed to keep them all from showig up under any of my posts.

  16. I got three in a row. One exactly the same as yours asking for advice. The other two said how great my sites are. I usually check back all these comments which are so general…not specific to our posts, and found those weird sites. i I immediate disapproved and spammed them. I wonder why WordPress let these through. It used to be pretty good in preventing the spams from coming in.

    • I just got another one, on a different post. Damn! It wasn’t really obvious spam and I’m still not sure I should have trashed it.

      I try to be polite and non-judgemental of bad spelling and grammar and even ill-informed opinions. That’s the whole idea.

      The giveaway, as you say, is if the comment fails to mention anything specific from the post.

  17. I have a page on my blog that links to a number of other blogs (it’s my friends page) and for some reason it attracts spammers. They tend to come in batches – I had 4-5 in a matter of days about two weeks ago that got through Akismat. My advice to spammers is to at least pick a page on my blog that is better suited to invite comments, and to use proper English!

    • Good advice to the spammers. Their grammar and fulsome (note my scrupulously correct use of the word) praise usually betrays their evil intent. It’s harder to pick if it’s just a ‘great blog!’, ‘useful info, thanks’ or ‘nice post, man!’ comment.

  18. Sounds nasty and annoying, have had many similar comments appear in my spam folder but thankfully Akismet picks up the majority of them and I don’t know which posts have attracted the most hits from spammers. Occasionally I have to check my spam folder because a legitimate comment has been sucked in and when I do I often think that they’d have more luck if their grammar and spelling was much better, plus I don’t get that many hits that I’d believe that anyone would seek help from me when it comes to blogging 🙂

  19. I get dozens of these kinds of comments too, Richard: “Love your photos, adore your writing, any advice?” or “Left a long comment, but it wasn’t accepted, so I’m trying again”, or “There is an issue with your website in Internet Explorer” [well, then try Firefox!], or “You would get lots more readers if you used my SEO software…”. [Yeahhhh….]

    Luckily Akismet picks up most of them and dumps them immediately in the spam folder. I go in there every couple of days to clean up – one week, I had almost 200 of them. In the last two/three weeks, though, many have snuck through and arrived as ‘seemingly legitimate’ comments; fortunately, I’ve set my blog so that I always have to approve a comment before it is posted, otherwise I’d be in trouble!

    And like many of your readers, my hits have also plummeted in the last month or so; mind you, I haven’t blogged for a bit. Wonder whether it has something to do with the Big BotNet Attack on WordPress?

    • Hi Reggie,

      I’ve been lucky (I think) until the past couple of weeks and some of the offending comments have looked convincing until I checked the URLs they referred to.

      I’m not too bothered by the drop in hits. It happened so suddenly I assumed it was technical and didn’t take my sudden loss of popularity personally. It sounds like lots of others have had the same experience.

      Thanks as ever for your thoughts.

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