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How to Fight Comment Spam

Fighting Comment Spam

Opening your website or blog to 2-way communication is a great way to connect online with your target audience. Unfortunately, there’s a tradeoff; comment spam generated by automated programs are a common occurrence.

Comment spam can be annoying to deal with, but there are steps you can take to ensure only quality comments appear on your digital property. The following suggestions will use WordPress as an example because it is one of the most popular content management systems and blogging platforms.

Akismet

Your first line of defense is to use a spam fighting plug-in like Akismet (http://akismet.com/). Akismet is a program that automatically detects and filters out comment spam. This will eliminate the majority of the spam you have to deal with. However, no program is 100% accurate. Sometimes spam comments will still pass through the system.

WordPress Settings

To prevent unwanted comments from appearing on your website, it is important to configure WordPress so that comments need to be approved by a person before they appear on your website.

  1. Log in to your WordPress administrative dashboard.
  2. Select Settings > Discussion in the left navigation menu.
  3. Beside the “Before a comment appears” section, select either:
    1. An administrator must always approve the comment
    2. Comment author must have a previously approved comment
  4. Click the “Save Changes” button.

These settings will instruct WordPress to hold a comment for moderation until the selected condition is met.

Recognizing Spam

Now that comments are held for moderation, how do you determine if a comment is spam? Here are a few quick ways to identify spam:

  1. If you see a string of keywords used in the commenter’s username, it is likely spam.
  2. If you see that the commenter’s email address uses a bunch of random characters, it is likely spam.
  3. If the comment includes many links or is not relevant to the post, it is likely spam.

If you are still unsure, you can try copying the first sentence or a section of the comment and pasting it into Google Search with quotes surrounding the comment (eg. “This is questionable spam content”). Perform a search for it and if you see a long list of results where the exact same sentence appears, it is likely spam.

IP Address Blocking

If there are spam comments that are regularly passing through for moderation, you can also try blocking the spam by IP address.

An IP address is tracked for each comment. If there are multiple spam comments being sent from the same IP address, you can block it by adding it to the Comment Blacklist.

  1. While in your WordPress administrative dashboard, locate the spam comment’s IP address and copy it.
  2. Select Settings > Discussion in the left navigation menu.
  3. Paste the IP address in the “Comment Blacklist” box. Add one IP address per line.
  4. Click the “Save Changes” button.

Use these tools to make filtering spam content more manageable. Above all, do not allow spam to discourage you from connecting with your audience.

Victor Chan
Digital Strategist

Photo Credit: Sean MacEntee

 

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How to Embed YouTube Videos on WordPress

In many cases, embedding a YouTube video in a WordPress post is as simple as copying and pasting the YouTube video’s URL into the WordPress post. You can find out how at http://en.support.wordpress.com/videos/youtube/.

The instructions also describe a method for customizing the YouTube video player’s size. However, if this method does not work for your WordPress installation, you can also try the method described below.

Step 1:

Locate the desired YouTube video and click the Share > Embed option.

In the video size drop-down menu, select custom size. Next enter the desired width of the video player. In the example above, the width is 400. YouTube will automatically set the height to resize the video player proportionally.

Make a record of the video’s YouTube URL (eg. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eAdXVxRDdws) and the dimensions for the YouTube player (eg. width=400, height=225), which will be used in the following step.

Step 2:

Log in to your WordPress site and locate the desired post/page to embed the YouTube video.

Copy and paste the following code in the location you want the YouTube video to appear.

Replace the width, height and YouTube URL attributes in the code above with the information you recorded for your desired YouTube video in Step 1. Your WordPress post should look like the example below once the code is inserted.

Using these few steps, you can add interest and variety to your blog with custom sized YouTube video.

Victor Chan
Digital Strategist

 

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How to Compare Google Analytics Data with Channel Data Missing

You may have noticed a message in your Google Analytics Acquisition Channels report that says “Channel data is not available prior to July 25, 2013.”

The reorganization of Google Analytics data which occurred on that date is a potential problem for users accustomed to analyzing website traffic source data year over year or in a situation where traffic source data prior to July 25, 2013 is needed.

Traffic source data used to be divided into 4 major categories, Direct, Referral, Search, and Other. Now, the default traffic source categories (aka Channels) are broken into 9 categories. A list and definition of the default channels can be found at https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/3297892?hl=en&ref_topic=3125765.

For example, if you need to analyze and report on traffic source categories for 2013 compared to 2012, you’ll see that all Channel data prior to July 25, 2013 will be categorized as (not set). This isn’t very useful when trying to determine changes in traffic sources.

So what do you do?

One possible solution for analyzing more comparable data is to view the traffic medium data. While viewing the Acquisition > Channels report, select Medium as the Primary dimension.

This is not a perfect solution, but it will allow you to identify comparable traffic source categories for both periods. For example:

  • Medium: organic = Organic search traffic
  • Medium: (none) = Direct traffic
  • Medium: referral = Referral traffic
  • Medium: cpc = Paid search traffic
  • Medium: banner = Display advertising traffic

The number and variety of mediums you see will depend on the complexity of your Google Analytics setup and custom tagging.

Hopefully this solution will aid you in your Google Analytics reporting.

Victor Chan
Digital Strategist

 

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Closing the loop between TV programming and social conversation: will ‘See It’ revolutionize social TV?

The recent strategic partnership between Comcast and Twitter for launching a new platform called “See It” could have huge implications for the way we access TV content.

The platform, which rolled out on November 22, offers U.S. Comcast customers the ability to tune into the TV channels owned by Comcast with a click of a button on Twitter. In particular, by clicking on the “See It” button on their mobile devices, they will open a Twitter “card” with several options, such as changing the TV channel, playing a show on demand or recording it on the DVR.

The connectivity between Twitter and a TV screen offered by the “See It” platform is revolutionary. Brian Roberts, the Chairman of Comcast recently stated he would like to see this platform act as an “instant online remote control”. In other words, he would like to give subscribers the ability to control their TV directly from a tweet. As the largest U.S. cable operator with over 20 million customers (according to Reuters), Comcast can’t be matched in its functionality to U.S. media consumers.

At the moment, the platform is only available for NBC Universal shows like the Voice, and less known reality shows and series. In the near future, however, the system will also be available for other networks such as NBC and NBC Sports Network. In addition, according to Roberts, “video distributors, websites and apps are already interested in getting on board to promote their content in the coming months”.

It remains to be seen whether “See It” will resonate with audiences.  Either way, it is interesting to look at this development in a wider context. While there is nervous chatter in many traditional media corners as ad dollars and eyeballs shift to the Internet and mobile devices, “See It” potentially reverses the tide, driving viewers from social media back to TV. Who’d have thought?

Flash in the pan or novel new tool? We’d love to hear what you think. Please drop us a line.

Thanks!

Marta

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Death of TV! Rise of the Audience!

According to Business Insider, the death bell tolls for TV.  Old news you say?  Perhaps, but BI has pulled together the data to back it up.

There are a few factors contributing to the decline of viewership and cable subscribers. Not surprisingly, it all boils down to the simple fact that we are choosing to watch “video” on devices other than our TVs. Consumption of video on mobile continues to soar. Subscription TV that bundles a bunch of undesired channels is becoming a thing of the past and it seems audiences may even be growing tired of PVRing their way through programming, especially when it can be summoned when and where they want it.

So where does this leave networks and content creators?

Smart networks realize that TV still works for large, live events we want to share on a big screen.  Big sporting events, live concerts and some political events still draw mass audiences. To that end, broadcasters are cranking up ad prices which, as the BI article points out, has been masking ad revenue declines.

Networks have been less clever about engaging audiences online.  For example, few are leveraging data about target audiences –their gathering spots, search habits, topics of conversation, demographics and spending intentions/history — and building fact based strategies to engage and monetize audiences before and after broadcast.  These tactics are going to be increasingly important as viewers, and subsequently ad dollars, continue to move online.

Someone said to me recently that “transmedia doesn’t make money.”  What a dumb statement.  Transmedia, which is gooey code for engaging audiences in various aspects of a story across multiple platforms, is about five minutes old.  Social media didn’t make money either when it started.  Online audiences may be smaller, but who cares, if they are highly engaged and more motivated to buy?

For the first time ever, content creators have access to much of the same data (online) as broadcasters and distributors.  Strategic content creators will leverage audience insights to create smarter, more commercially savvy pitches.

As many of our loyal blog readers know, this is our business and something I’m personally passionate about.  Wearing my TV producer hat, I am thrilled to think I can connect with audiences directly either in tandem with, or apart from, a broadcaster.  As many of you also know, we’ve spent the last number of years developing tools to enable both content creators and distributors (broadcasters, publishers) to find and distill audience insights – not just data, but real, actionable insights.

I’m pleased to announce that the next iteration of our flagship product, ALERT-TV+, is poised to turbo charge the process of surfacing and leveraging audience data as well as invaluable insights about your content ideas.  Watch this space for updates about the Spring 2014 release of our next ALERT-TV+ update.  It is the best and most exciting to date!

All best,

Moyra

 

 

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