Spammers (human and automated) love WordPress as much as bloggers do, so to say you need a spam blocker is an understatement. Akismet has long reigned as the best spam blocker for WordPress, but is this plugin still the best contender in the realm of spam blocking services?
That’s exactly what we’ll decide in this post, by comparing Akismet to its rivals and seeing if it stacks up, and ultimately, comes out on top. Let’s dive in!
Akismet: The Long Reigning Comment Spam Blocker
No one likes receiving spammy email messages or reading spammy comments online. We all know that spam is a nuisance, but is annoyance with it a sufficient reason to block it? Do we really need to block spam on our websites?
The simple answer is an emphatic “Yes!”, and not just because spam is irritating. For example, if hackers create new user accounts on your website and add spammy hyperlinks to your site, you could be penalized by Google. Comment spam falls into this category as well. If your website is indexed and found to have spam, it might be assessed negatively, and a negative assessment of your website can cause it to be removed from Google’s search results.
In order to keep your site accessible, it’s simply good practice to monitor your website and correct any malicious attacks. This is where spam blockers like Akismet come into play.
Akismet was first launched in 2005 by the makers of WordPress. When activated, it filters spam from a website based on information gathered from all websites on which the plugin is activated. Spam is filtered from contact forms and comments sections.
How to Install & Configure Akismet
Lucky for you, Akismet is super easy to setup and use. Akismet is offered using a freemium pricing model, so the plugin itself is free to download and use with the option to upgrade to a premium plan for more features. In any case, to get started you’ll need to first install the plugin.
Simply log into your WordPress installation and navigate to Plugins > Add New. Akismet should be one of the first recommended plugins, just click on the Install Now and then Activate button.
Once the plugin is active you should see a notice bar at the top of your screen to Set up your Akismet account. Click on the big blue button to get started.
This will take you to the main Akismet website where you’ll be prompted to login with your WordPress.com account (or create a new account if you don’t have one). Then after authorizing Akismet you’ll have the option to select a plan:
- Akismet Basic, Free: Includes comment spam protection for your personal WordPress powered website
- Akismet Plus, $5/mo: Spam protection plus advanced stats, support for commercial websites (like your business site) and priority support
- Akismet Enterprise, $50/mo: Same great features as Plus but for large, high-traffic websites.
Once you select a plan you’ll be taken to checkout then to a confirmation screen with your very own Akismet API key.
Copy this 12-digit key, head back to your WordPress dashboard and paste in your key to finish linking your Akismet account to your website.
The last step is to choose a Strictness level for your spam filtering. You can either leave Akismet on its default setting to automatically put questionable comments in the spam folder, or up the permissions to allow Akismet to delete the messages for you.
Monitoring Spam with Akismet
With Akismet installed the plugin will automatically start filtering out NSFW comments. With the Basic plan you can view standard spam stats, but if you did upgrade to a Plus or Enterprise plan then you’ll have access to more helpful site stats.
Just log into your Akismet Account and click on the Active Sites section. From here you can click on each website you’ve linked to your Akismet account to view individual stats.
Stats provide an easy way to identify problem IPs which you can then block from accessing your WordPress site under Settings > Discussion > Comment Blacklist. But you can also use this data to keep track of regular spam levels so you can spot a spam attack from a mile away and take action before your site (potentially) crashes.
Akismet vs The Top WordPress Spam Prevention Plugins
Akismet’s web service prevents site owners from having to moderate spammy comments themselves. But some website owners have reported false positives – meaning non-spam comments have been blocked along with spammy ones (though false positives can be verified via detailed data insights available in the site stats for Plus and Enterprise users).
If you’re on the fence about whether or not to activate Akismet, there are some plugins that claim to take anti-spam services a step further. Here are some spam blocking plugins that offer additional anti-spam features that might better serve your website needs.
Stop Spammers Spam Prevention
This plugin uses one of three captcha configurations to confirm whether a denied login attempt or comment has actually been submitted by a non-spamming human. It’s reported to work well with Gravity Forms. Stop Spammers protects your website against:
- Trackback spam
- Contact form spam
- Comment spam
- Registration spam
- Login attempts
A couple caveats have been reported. Sometimes valid users are unable to login to their own WordPress database. Also, this plugin will not work on a proxy server or with a hosting company that does not use PHP functions.
Anti-Spam by CleanTalk
Anti-Spam by CleanTalk is a cloud-based spam blocker. The plugin is free, but its cloud service, CleanTalk, requires a paid account. After a 7-day free trial, you can decide whether you want to continue with this service.
In addition to blocking comments, registration, contact form, and email spam, Anti-Spam by CleanTalk also protects your website from spammy:
- Newsletter plugins
This plugin is capable of analyzing multiple aspects of your website without slowing your site down because it uses the cloud instead of servers. It not only blacklists email addresses, but also the domains and IP addresses linked to spammers. There’s an optional firewall feature that prevents spam bots from accessing your web server by sending them to a blank page.
Simple Security Firewall
Simple Security Firewall blocks comment spam and offers website security against malicious IP addresses. This plugin cloaks your login page and claims to block all spambot comments, while preventing human spam comments. Malicious login attempts are deterred by two-factor authorization.
Although the firewall can be disabled, this plugin is primarily designed to secure your website. Spammy IP addresses are automatically blacklisted and brute force attacks are blocked. All plugin features are fully accessible for free.
WP-SpamShield Anti-Spam (No longer available)
WP-SpamShield Anti-Spam blocks spam from even reaching your WordPress database, which supports site security. This plugin claims to “simply make WordPress spam disappear” without the need for site visitors to type in captcha codes. It’s free for personal and commercial use, and it blocks both human and automated spam using a dual-layered process, without any false positives. Your email address is protected with this plugin and it protects your website from:
- Comment spam
- Trackback spam
- Registration spam (WordPress, BuddyPress, bbPress, WooCommerce, and more)
- Contact form spam (Contact Form 7, Gravity Forms, JetPack Contact Forms, and most others)
Which Spam Plugin Is Best for You?
Spam blockers prevent your website from being negatively evaluated by search engines. They also remove the headache of moderating spammy comments and intercept the creation of unwanted new user accounts on your website.
But the question remains, how do you determine which anti-spam plugin is best for your website? Here are some questions you can ask yourself in order to determine which plugin is best for your needs:
- Is this plugin compatible with the other plugins that are active on your website?
- Are you in need of comment spam blocking services only, or a more inclusive spam blocker?
- Are you looking for a fully-featured free plugin or one that has enhanced features with plan subscription?
- Are you interested in a cloud-based or web server system?
- Are you looking for website security in addition to spam blocking?
- Would your readers be annoyed with filling in captcha code prior to commenting?
Your answers to these questions can help you determine which anti-spam and/or site protection features might work best.
But even after making your selection, flexibility is a must. Sometimes plugins don’t operate well with one another. You’ll have to test out your preferred spam-blocking plugin to determine whether it operates well with preexisting plugins.
When operating a website, activating a spam blocker is an essential plugin. Without an anti-spam plugin, your website could be overtaken by malicious attacks, causing your site ranking to plummet and possibly become undetectable altogether until you make the necessary updates.
You need a spam blocker, but is Akismet the best option for you? In order to answer this question, you have to assess your website’s unique needs, and then rather than drawing assumptions, you can use our comparisons above to select the right option for you (though we think Akismet really should be your first choice).
How do you block spam on your WordPress website? Is Akismet still your spam-blocking solution? You’re welcome to share your thoughts and/or additions to this list in the comments section below.