Networking

Pros And Cons Of The URL Field

Mark from WeblogToolsCollection.com recently touched on a subject that I think all bloggers are having to deal with and that is, human created comments with links to questionable sites. I’ve been seeing these types of comments increase in regularity here on Performancing as well as my own blog. The comments appear relevant to the article but when you check out the URL field, things are not quite as they seem. So, unlike comments that can be immediately identified as spam via their content, larger websites are having to spend more time in the moderation queue because of these human entered relevant comments.

Andrew Rickmann left the following comment on the WLTC article,

This kind of spam, and in fact all spam, is a symptom of the misguided(IMO) approach to comments that says that a commenter should be ‘rewarded’ with a link that gives google juice.

I don’t agree with this. The fact that I am commenting here says nothing about my website and shouldn’t entitle me to any search engine benefit. It is enough that real humans can find my site and fine out more about me.

The best answer to comment spam is for everyone to stop linking out. When the benefit is gone then the spammers will go elsewhere.

This comment was the basis behind the poll we recently conducted here on Performancing.com. I began to wonder, who would continue to comment on blogs if the URL field disappeared?

So far, 32 people have voted that they would while 22 people would not. I am still wondering if I could kill two birds with one stone via this approach. The lack of a URL field would eliminate comments from those looking to have a quick link back to their site published on my blog. Also, human written comments which appear relevant but then use the URL field to link back to their questionable website would disappear because the incentive is gone. Some would argue that the human spammers would then move their URL into the content.

Pros And Cons:

The Pros of removing the URL field:
The incentive to comment just to get a link back is gone which should decrease the amount of spam.
Software which creates a database filled with blogs in which to comment on should stop listing your blog.
Instead of receiveing human spam that ends up being worthless because of what they linked to, the removal of the URL field should encourage legitmate comments.

The Cons Of Removing The URL Field:
Plugins such as CommentLuv which parses the last known blog post from the URL provided within the comment will not work.
People will be unable to check out a commenters blog

The bottom line is, I need to experiment with this setup and report back the results. So, I will be doing an experiment on my own blog where I will remove the URL field from the comment section for the month of October and then report back my findings. If anyone else feels daring, I encourage you to participate in this experiment on your own blog as we can then compare our findings together in a follow up conversation.

Author: jeffc

17 thoughts on “Pros And Cons Of The URL Field

  1. I want to find out more about them. I’m disappointed when they haven’t left a link. Unfortunately spammers can ruin things for the rest of us.

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    I think removing the URL field is pointless. Just like what somebody already pointed out, spammers will only post all their URLs on the comment space. There are already a lot of blogs without the URL field. What I have observed is that there are more URL field-less blogs that were spammed, compared to blogs that have it.

    It’s a double-edged sword, really.

    Andy

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  4. IMHO if I have something to say, I will comment, even if I don’t get the credit of an inbound link from another blog. My link is something like my signature on the comment. (BTW, most blogs have “NoFollow” links for comments anyway)
    But if I want to “spam”, I don’t comment on serious blogs and posts, because I’m sure I’ll get caught…

    PS: on one of my sites I left the comments open for everyone, and removed the “NoFollow” attribute from comment links. People comment with links, but they post relevant comments, otherwise their links are deleted without further ado…

  5. Links are the reason for spamming and therefore I’ve done away with the URL field on my blog by design. Any comment that has a URL or embedded link is then flagged for moderation. I will gladly approve legit comments with links. Putting a URL field in the message is asking for spam and also makes moderation impossible unless you rely on external plugins like Akismet, which I do not care to use because of false positives (yes, they do happen).

    I do actually like links in a networking sense, but allowing them makes the spam moderation so much harder as well as so much more attractive to spam. No-follow is not the end-all deterrent. You still get spam email, right? There’s no pagerank incentive there really…

  6. You make quite a few excellent points Andy and most of them I agree upon. Although it is extreme to take out the URL field, I will most likely end up replacing the field after the experiment is over with. I’ve discovered a large number of blogs through the commenter’s URL and it would be a shame to see tons of blogs going URL’less.

  7. I think it’s a bit extreme to remove the URL field altogether to combat the spammers, like Aakash above I think spammers would end up embedding the links in the comment anyway and linking to the commentators site isn’t just an incentive for the visitor, it’s a vital part of the network or community feeling created by blogs that have commenting.

    The url link for a commentator kind of validates the comment, if there was no way to check out who made the comment then people would be able to make their own comments on their own blogs. There’d be no way for the surfer to see who had made the comment and no way to legitimize it.

    You could always require registration to comment but we all know how that affects comment numbers and it dramatically reduces the times where someone has come from social networking sites and has something useful to say or ask a question whos answer would benefit other readers.

    maybe a cross between the two, comment without a url or regsiter and log in to comment (btw.. commentluv 2.16 works with logged on users now!)

    I think it’s a valiant idea but having a URL field in a commentform is the defacto standard and taking it out of a few sites and leaving it in others will only reduce the comments on one and increase it on the other every time.

    We could always publish our blogs on paper and send them out by paper boy, spammers would think twice if they had to buy a stamp to post their spam 😛

  8. You are right, in most instances, the URL or Website field in the commenting form is generally a good incentive to leave a good comment. Based on my own experience, leaving a good comment which also has my URL in it has at times been a great source of traffic. Regardless, I have commenced with the experiment and on my personal blog, I have removed the URL field just to see what happens.

    And if you want to be anonymous, don’t publish anything 😛

  9. The thing is, if the url field (or “Homepage:” – as your blogging service calls it) is an incentive for web users to post comments at weblogs… And a comments feature is what drives traffic up (something that, had I implemented it, as quite a few have advised), my blog might have had a ton more hits, over these past years.

    The other thing is, if the url field was removed, I think that many commenters might just embed the links, within the text of their comments. (As I did above ;-)…

    (One thing I have found really frustrating is how some blogs do not allow embedded hyperlinks, in the comments… Some don’t allow hyperlinks period, even if you post the entire url’s text. Now, that is something that I would very-much be upset with, if it grows to be a wider trend – as in dialogue, debate, and discussion, I am one who [as many people know] includes reference links, in my polemics.)

    I remember that, on the Illinois Leader discussion board (that was a great publication!!), I would use a manual “signature,” as the ending of my posts there.

    It would be something like this:
    —————————————
    Visit me on the web, at:
    [am tempted to, but won’t… 🙂 LOL 😉 ]
    —————————————

    Just my two cents.

    Oh, one more thing: One thing that has been annoying me, over the past years, is how so many blogs (the overwhelming majority, now), require commenters to include their e-mail addresses. I don’t mind doing so, but if I wanted to leave a comment at some other blogs, using a pseudonym, I wasn’t able to, while remaining anonymous (unless I put a fake e-mail address; it wasn’t going to be displayed, anyway). Then again, the blog administrator does have access to the IP address of each commenter (as far as I know), so they might know anyway… especially if I posted the comment, from campus.

  10. imho, eliminating url field is really a bad idea for preventing spam
    some spammers don’t want just link juice, they want people to see their url and visit their sites

    the surefire way to be free from human-spam, don’t put any form, even name field or comment field.
    of course this method is not the best practice 😛

  11. I’m not sure I was advocating something quite that severe, but it is an interesting experiment. Good luck with that. I will still comment.

    On my blog I inserted the link with Javascript so it wouldn’t confer a search engine benefit, but would still let people visit the authors site. I do think it is important for humans to be able to follow links.

  12. For me, having URLs in comment forms is one way of networking. I do get some traffic from posts on other sites where I’ve left comments from. For me, the benefit is not SEO, but rather potential referrals.

    But surely, I think a lot of people would rather post on sites that display the author’s URL rather than sites that do not.

    Yes, spammers really do ruin things for us.

  13. … human written comments which appear relevant but then use the URL field to link back to their questionable website would disappear because the incentive is gone …
    I don’t think the URL necessarily renders a comment inappropriate. Surely the judgment is about the quality of the comment, regardless of the link.

    If the comment is spammy, spam it. If not, it’s adding to the conversation regardless of where it came from, no?

  14. I really like having URL links for comments. If somebody I don’t know writes a really interesting comment, I want to find out more about them. I’m disappointed when they haven’t left a link. Unfortunately spammers can ruin things for the rest of us.

  15. I think removal of the URL is a bad idea. I have built a network of friends through reading my commenter’s blogs. It’s how we network. The simple solution is no-follow on comments. Then a spammer can put all the links they want…it simply won’t matter.

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