Before I start explaining the reasons why we developed Sur.ly, let me briefly tell you how this spam prevention tool works.
It’s a new free WP plugin that can make your website or forum non-sensitive to spam attacks by replacing all unwarranted outbound links with safe links to interstitial pages on Sur.ly (hereafter I will clarify why this method to stop spam does matter).
Reason# 1: We Understand How Spam Pesters Many Online Projects
You should know that even a single link to illegal, irrelevant or malicious content, even if it was published in comments or in a forum post, might badly harm your web project.
This happens because search engine robots examine every outbound link on a website before they grant it a certain position among the search results. If improper linking is found, then most likely this site will be identified as somewhat less eligible, deserving a lower position.
Building good link neighborhood for a site, i.e. linking it to other legitimate sources in the same field,is essential for promotion and making it sustainable, but spammers are able to ruin all these efforts at one stroke – some accidental spam link posted among comments can relate your website to an outer source of unwanted content (adult, spyware, malware, etc), jeopardizing its Page Rank and safety of visitors who might follow that links and infect their PCs with phishing ware, viruses or just reach some irrelevant materials.
Moreover, your AdSense account (in case you partner with them) can also be suspended according to their strict policies which do not welcome any improper outbound links.
Reason# 2: Spammers Persist Worldwide with No Global Solution on the Way
Nowadays spamming techniques are evolving in response to availability of advanced anti-spam methods, so spammers are becoming even trickier in their attempts to intrude and exploit legitimate websites.
Internet community activists and some national governments do their best to shut down this underground industry (we can mention closing down Grum botnet in 2012), but due to a variety of legal, economic and technical issues this “war” probably can never be won completely.
That’s why it remains one of the main tasks for all website administrators to maintain their projects free of suspect links, while choosing the appropriate tools on their own.
Reason# 3: There is No Ideal Anti-spam Solution
Yep, the world is not enough when it comes to safety of your website and visitors. No matter how sophisticated are the firewalls we deploy against spam, these tools always have some vulnerabilities exploited by “bad guys” to keep spamming you.
There are many WP plugins to prevent spam attacks, but in fact there are three major methods widely used:
- Human verification tests added into comments and registration forms to prevent their auto submitting by spambots (CAPTCHA, etc).
- Tools with different blacklisting mechanisms to automatically block spam attempts from suspicious IP addresses by detecting the presence of blacklisted links/words in posts, etc (like Mollom, Akismet and others).
- Manual pre-moderation of comments and posts.
All the methods listed above are great and effective in their own way, however, even when combined they still leave some considerable gaps that tricky spammers can pass through.
For example human verification tests can rebuff armies of ordinary spambots crawling around, but all the tests are naturally a cakewalk for human spammers, so even the best solutions of this type can be easily hacked during so called relay attacks when human operators complete the tests instead of bots.
Solutions that use blacklisting methods are quite effective so far, however, they are prone to “false alarms” making them not fully reliable. Let’s say presence of suspicious words in a post, wrongly blacklisted IP address of a user or some other issues can become the reason for incorrect identification of a few good posts as pointless spam and discarding them.
On the other hand a portion of spam links can be let through so you’ll have to remove them manually (it happens from time to time). In other words you still need to keep an eye on spam queue to check out if nothing valuable was rejected by mistake, and also promptly react to any spam omitted (remember that even one link can affect your site).
Manual pre-moderation needs a webmaster staying awareonline all the time or having a reliable team of active moderators checking all the submitted posts and responding quickly. It’s always slower, less effectiveand more expensive when dealing with large amounts of user comments and posts sent for review.
Moderator errors are not rare too, as spammers can appear not so stupid to submit tons of spam links in every “comment” making it a sitting duck, but rather hide a hyperlink in the dot within a half-wit post that is much harder to notice and disqualify.
Reason# 4: We Want to Share a Spam Prevention Strategy that Works
Having some of our business projects terrorized by ubiquitous spammers, our team decided to develop a comprehensive anti-spam strategy, attractive to other website managers.
Things we focused on were security of web projects (no position drop due to spam links missed by firewall systems) and their visitors (less risks to catch malware on their computers or to suffer the breach of other bad content), and after all mitigation of the risk to lose income from AdSense.
Here are some approaches that we used as our guidelines to develop Sur.ly:
- When a suspicious link appears on your website (probably missed by other anti-spam systems) it should be immediately turned into indirect link, so your site escapes the danger of being linked to any unwanted web resources. This is what we call your last line of defense allowing you not to be afraid of occasional PR drop or AdSense account suspension due to breach of spam links you haven’t swiftly deleted.
- Data and links contributed by trusted users, regular visitors or even newcomers should be equally respected and never rejected or blocked (this is a part of customer retention tactic).
- Website audience, if they follow any unwarranted links, should be informed about opening the potential spam or unsafe content, so such links should be opened indirectly via interstitial pages with certain precautions to warn and protect users.
- Spam links may include some inappropriate words spoiling the quality of your content, so shortening links down to alphanumeric codes is also an option to keep in mind.
- It should be impossible for malicious websites to track back the site from which users have come, so spam attacks have no way to repeat.
Sur.ly WP plugin employs these principles which you may agree or disagree with.
It can be used as a single protective solution on your site or as the last line of your anti-spam protection to ensure 100% site safety along with other tools implemented.
As we’ve mentioned this plugin puts safe links instead of all potentially malicious links, while target pages are shown via interstitial pages on Sur.ly – this prevents your site from having “bad neighborhood” because of spammers and your visitors from getting malware.
Well, thanks for your attention, you are welcome to share your ideas!