Askimet. Aksimet. A… what are you saying? Its name is not easy to pronounce, and sometimes confusing.
But with no slip of the tongue, you should be able to get by without any trouble, trying to articulate this word.
Try it: Akismet. Well done, well done. In this article, we’ll talk about this specimen.
It’s capable of leaving unwanted visitors (spam) on your WordPress site’s doorstep.
To understand how it works and learn how to configure it correctly, read this article.
Originally published in November 2014, this article was updated in December 2020.
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What is Akismet?
Akismet is a free anti-spam plugin, included by default on any new WordPress installation. It automatically checks all comments and messages from contact forms, then filters out those that look like spam.
With over 5 million active installations, it is the most popular anti-spam plugin in the official directory.
Developed and maintained by Automattic, Akismet is a very popular service, existing since 2005.
According to its description from the official WordPress plugin directory, it works by checking “your comments and contact form submissions against our global database of spam to prevent your site from publishing malicious content.”
Regularly updated, Akismet has also been integrated into other content management systems (CMS) like Drupal and Joomla, as well as famous WordPress plugins like Gravity Forms, Jetpack and Contact Form 7.
And for the record, it’s one of the two plugins present by default on every WordPress installation, along with its “brother” Hello Dolly.
Created by Matt Mullenweg, one of the founders of WordPress, Hello Dolly has no technical use. This “decorative” plugin only displays random lyrics of Hello Dolly, a Louis Armstrong song, in the top right corner of each page of your administration.
Why use Akismet?
Akismet’s purpose is to keep you from being overwhelmed by spam comments. You know, those famous comments that have nothing to do with the content you posted.
I’m thinking of intrusive messages that promote pre-approved mortgages, cheap little blue pills, or NSFW-adult sites.
I’m guessing you don’t want any of that to show up in your comments, right?
Then Akismet will be your ally in the fight against that pesky spam scourge. And it won’t go amiss, believe me.
At the time of writing this update, Akismet’s official website explained that they “have kept 509,224,129,820 pieces of spam off the web, averaging about 7,500,000 per hour. That means we’re stopping almost twice as much spam as there are people in Los Angeles every single hour.“
If you’re a sequencing enthusiast, “that’s an average of a thousand spam messages per second, every second”.
I don’t know about you, but I think of spam as a mosquito. Without a radical and effective solution – like squashing it properly -, it’s impossible to get rid of it.
So this problem must be tackled head on. By letting spam comments through, you can affect the security of your site, but also the SEO, because of the malicious links that these spam comments may contain.
How to install and configure Akismet?
Akismet is a very easy to use plugin, which will then work automatically once activated.
Only a few steps are needed to start getting rid of spam. I’ll detail them for you right away.
Step 1: Activate the Akismet plugin
On your WordPress Dashboard, go to the Plugins menu. You already know that Akismet is installed by default.
Now it’s your turn: simply activate the plugin, so that it can work afterwards.
Once you’ve done this, you’ll be presented with two options:
- Configure your Akismet account (number 1 on the picture below).
- Connect using an API key (number 2).
Here are some details about these options. If you have never created an Akismet account, choose option number 1 (the account setup).
If you already have an Akismet account, you can log in with an API key.
For the purposes of this tutorial, I’m assuming you’re not already using the anti-spam plugin, so I can walk you through the process.
An API Key is a code passed by computer programs calling an API, or Application Programming Interface, that identifies the calling program, its developer, or the user’s site or server.
In other words, it is a piece of computer code that identifies you to the Akismet server as someone authorized to use the service provided.
Think of it as a gatekeeper service. And, don’t worry: your key is unique and completely secure.
Step 2: Choose your Akismet service package
After clicking on the blue “Set up your Akismet account” button, you will be taken to this page:
Here, Akismet offers you several possibilities:
- Opt for its free offer (Personal), which provides spam protection for a site or a blog for personal use;
- Benefit from even more advanced anti-spam options by subscribing to a paid plan (Plus, Enterprise or Enterprise Plus), available from €7.50 i.e around $8.30 for a use on 1 site.
If you use your site for commercial purposes, you should normally subscribe to one of the paid plans.
If you are in this situation, you normally have to pay. In this regard, Akismet states the following: “While we rely on customers to self-select their plan, we do perform periodic audits of accounts to ensure the correct plan was selected.”
For our test, I opt for the Personal plan, which is more than enough for my purposes. Immediately, you are asked to add your bank details in order to make a donation to use the plugin.
To take advantage of it for free and not have to enter this information, you just have to set the slider to $0/year (you can of course make a donation, if you wish).
You also need to provide the following:
- Your email address
- Your first name
- Your last name
- The URL of your website/blog
Finally, you have to check 3 boxes stating that you are not using your site for commercial purposes, otherwise you will be asked to pay.
Finish by clicking on the blue button “Continue with personal subscription”.
In order to verify the authenticity of your email, you must validate your account by entering a 6-digit code sent to your mailbox.
Be careful, mine ended up in the spam folder!
Step 3: Activate your API key
In order to make the plugin work, you must now activate the famous API key. You should have received it in your email box, too
Copy it and go back to your WordPress Dashboard, in the Akismet plugin settings.
Enter your API key in the dedicated field, then finish by clicking on “Connect with an API key”.
Once the key is copied, you will be redirected to the confirmation page.
This API key can be used for all the sites of your choice created with WordPress. There is no need to create an Akismet account for each new site you create.
Step 4: Make Basic Settings
Congratulations! As Akismet indicates, your site is now protected from spam.
To complete the configuration, you can make adjustments at three levels:
- Comments: if you check this box, the number of approved comments in front of each comment author will be displayed.
- Strictness: by default, junk mail will be placed in the “Spam” folder so that you can check it before approving or deleting it. But you can go even further by choosing to delete directly the worst and most widespread spam.
- Privacy: allows you to add a notification under the comment forms to “help your site with transparency under privacy laws like the GDPR”.
Remember to save your changes, and you’re good to go.
From now on, you’ll be rid of comment spam. They will no longer show up on your WordPress site.
However, some comments may slip through the cracks. You will have to go into the comments, and delete them manually.
To avoid spam, Akismet is a valuable companion. But also consider making some basic adjustments to your site. First, approve your comments manually. To do this, consider checking the “Comment must be manually approved” box in the Settings > Discussion menu on your WordPress site dashboard.
And while you’re at it, also check the following box: “Comment author must fill out his name and email”.
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How to check your anti-spam statistics?
Little by little, your new shield will do its work on a daily basis. To get an idea of the work done by the plugin, you can go to two different places.
The “At a Glance” widget on your WordPress dashboard will give you an initial indication of the number of spam comments blocked:
For a more detailed overview, you also have the option to view the statistics collected by the plugin, through the Settings > Akismet Anti-Spam menu.
Basic stats show you the number of junk emails blocked each month, over the last six months.
What are the alternatives to Akismet?
While Akismet is the flagship anti-spam plugin in the official WordPress directory, it is not the only one on the market.
If it doesn’t suit you for X or Y reasons, here are some competitors that could satisfy you:
- Antispam Bee (600,000+ active installations)
- Titan Anti-spam & Security (100 000+ active installations)
- Spam protection, Antispam, Firewall by CleanTalk (100 000+ active installations)
Our final opinion on Akismet
Akismet is a must-have plugin to fight against spam comments.
Don’t deprive yourself of it, in order to keep your site running smoothly, while avoiding wasting a lot of time (try to moderate each comment one by one, you’ll understand).
Easy to set up and configure, this plugin is suitable for all types of users, from beginners to advanced users.
Depending on your needs, you can also turn to one of its paid offers, more or less rich in features.
However, the free offer will be sufficient in many cases.
Do you have Akismet installed on your site? Do you think it’s the best line of defense against spam comments?
Share your feedback in the comments below.
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