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Using Akismet to fight comment and trackback spam

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Chances are you’ve heard the term Akismet before in the context of preventing WordPress blog spam. So what is Akismet exactly? Akismet is a powerful tool in the fight WAR against comment spam and trackback spam. This isn’t your ordinary anti-spam plugin that just adds a simple image code which supposedly verifies if the commentor is a “human” or not. The truth is, spam bots are getting more and more sophisticated by the day, and who knows? They may even be able to circumvent your CAPTCHA code and spam you like crazy. What Akismet does is different.

In this tutorial we’ll go over how to set up Akismet on your WordPress blog, step by step. This quick guide will show you how to activate the plugin and sign up for an API key to use it. Start experiencing the benefits of Akismet and read on.

With Akismet enabled on your WordPress blog, each comment will be submitted to the Akismet web service which will run hundreds of tests on said comment to check it for “spammy” characteristics. If it gets the thumbs down, the comment is automatically marked as spam and is placed in your spam section of your comment moderation panel. All of this is done behind the scenes, so a legitimate commenter wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference.

Installing the plugin

You most likely already have this plugin uploaded to your blog, since it is bundled with all the latest WordPress releases. If you don’t have it, download it, and install it. After activating, you should see a screen like this.

Akismet Installed

You’ll see a pretty annoying red message that says “Akismet is almost ready. You must enter your WordPress.com API key for it to work.” each time you load any page in your WordPress administration panel, until you actually get an API key.

To get an API key, you have to get a username at WordPress.com first. Fill in all of the fields, and make sure you have a valid e-mail address, since that’s how they send you the API key.

Akismet API Signup

You don’t need to have a WordPress.com hosted blog to get an API key, so just select the username only option. You should receive your personal Akismet API key via e-mail momentarily after submitting. Input this key into your WordPress admin panel like so:

Akismet Key Verified

If everything goes well, you’ll have a nice green message which looks like this:

Your key has been verified. Happy blogging!

That’s it. Now just sit back, relax, and let Akismet take care of your comment and trackback spam. Of course this isn’t 100% foolproof. Sometimes genuine non-spam comments get flagged and sometimes blatant spam attempts don’t get flagged. Of course you can always go back into your Akismet flagged comments and approve them. The good thing about Akismet though is you just set it and forget it. The guys at Automattic take care of everything and stay on top of the latest spamming techniques. Either way it’s always a good idea to moderate your comments manually. Consider Akismet your first line of defense.

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About

Leland Fiegel was the original founder of ThemeLab. He is a web developer who loves WordPress and blogging.