How to Defeat WordPress Spam Users: Identify, Delete, and Prevent Future Registrations

How to Defeat WordPress Spam Users: Identify, Delete, and Prevent Future Registrations

Back when WordPress was just for blogs, spam users weren’t really a problem site owners had to combat. But as WordPress has expanded into membership, multi-user, BuddyPress, and all kinds of other sites with open registration, WordPress spam users have become an all-too-common problem for many site owners.

Spammers target WordPress registration forms to create bot accounts that spam links and/or try to inject malicious scripts. But guess what? With a little know-how, you can fight back against these nasty folks and rid your site of spam users once and for all.

In this post, I’ll take you through how to identify and delete existing spam users. Then, I’ll show you how to proactively prevent WordPress spam users once and for all.

Why WordPress Spam Users are a Problem

Spam users can hurt your site both internally and externally, which is why they’re such a nuisance.

On the internal side, spam users bloat up your database and just generally make it harder to manage your site. If you have to sift through hundreds of spam users to manage the real users, you’re going to waste a lot of time. Similarly, if your server has to store heaps of spam users in the database, it’s going to work less efficiently, too.

Spam users can hit you on the external side by posting spammy outbound links, which can hurt your site in the eyes of Google. If you’re running something like BuddyPress, spam users might even send private messages to legitimate users, which your real users certainly won’t appreciate.

So, end the spam user problem once and for all by learning how to identify, delete, and prevent WordPress spam users.

How to Identify and Delete Existing WordPress Spam Users

Once you implement prevention methods, you hopefully won’t need to do this very often. But if you’re just starting out, you’ll first need to identify (and then delete) any existing spam users.

If your spam problem isn’t too large, you might be able to do this manually by bulk deleting users who exhibit spam behavior. If you’ve got a real infestation, you’ll want to turn to a plugin that can automatically go through and detect spam users.

How to Bulk Delete WordPress Spam Users Manually

The simplest way to delete spam users is to just go through your Users tab and check the users you want to delete. Then, you can bulk delete them by choosing the Deleteoption from the Bulk Actions dropdown.

Bulk delete WordPress spam users

Of course, doing this with the default WordPress screen options is infuriating because it only shows 20 users per page. Thankfully, you can change this number by clicking on Screen Options in the top right corner of your WordPress dashboard:

screen options

Then, change the Number of items per page box to the number of user accounts you want to display on each page.

items per page

If clicking a couple hundred checkboxes doesn’t appeal to you, you can also automate some of this process by using a plugin called Bulk Delete.

Bulk Delete allows you to bulk delete users that meet criteria like:

  • Specific User Roles
  • Specific Meta fields
  • Last login date
  • Registration date

If spam users are thoroughly mixed in with real users, these criteria may not be especially helpful. But Bulk Delete is great for cleaning up a one-time attack where the spam accounts all registered on similar dates or eliminating old spam users who logged in once but haven’t been back since.

Identifying and Deleting Spam Users with a Plugin

If you have too many users to identify manually, you can turn to a plugin called SplogHunter (formerly known by the somewhat awkward name “WangGuard”) to automatically identify and remove spam users. I’ll also discuss the proactive prevention part of this plugin in the next section.

SplogHunter goes through your existing users and compares them against its database of sploggers/spam users. If there’s a match, SplogHunter will mark that user in a new “Splogger” column. You can then easily delete spam users after verifying they’re not real people:

bulk actions

SplogHunter also provides an easy Report as Splogger button that both deletes a user and adds them to SplogHunter’s centralized database (similar to how Akismet functions for comment spam).

Note – as you can see in the screenshot, there is still WangGuard branding in the most recent version of the plugin. Rest assured that SplogHunter and WangGuard are the same thing.

How to Prevent Spam User Registration on WordPress

Do you know the old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? That definitely applies to spam users on WordPress. If you stop them from registering in the first place, you won’t need to worry about identifying and removing them.

There are a number of ways you can block them:

  1. Fortify your sign up form with CAPTCHAs – this is my least favorite method because it requires real people to verify they’re not a robot, which isn’t good for user experience.
  2. Use a plugin that compares signups against a database of spam users – this is a better method because it doesn’t inconvenience real people. It just quietly blocks known spam users.
  3. Add access rules to prevent sploggers – if you notice that most spam users come from, say, .ru domains, you could create a rule that blocks anyone from using an .ru email to register.

Now, I’ll share some plugins that can help you implement one or more of these checks:

Captcha by BestWebSoft – Add CAPTCHAs to Registration Forms

BestWebSoft

If you want to require all your users to fill out a CAPTCHA before signing up, you can use Captcha by BestWebSoft to add a simple math equation to your forms. Again, I don’t think you should go straight to CAPTCHAs. But if you have a really bad spam problem, it’s a good way to knock out spam right away.

Key Features:

  • Works on login, registration, recover password, comments, and contact forms
  • Adds a simple math equation that fools spambots
  • Allows users to get a new question if it’s too difficult
  • Can configure the difficulty of the math questions
  • Includes letter and number CAPTCHAs as well

Price: Free | More Information

SplogHunter – Automatically Flag Spammers Without CAPTCHA

SplogHunter

In addition to filtering out existing spam users, SplogHunter can also protect your registration forms without requiring users to fill out a CAPTCHA. When users sign up, they will be automatically compared against SplogHunter’s crowd-sourced spam user database.

Key Features:

  • Blocks spam sign ups without CAPTCHA
  • Spammer database is constantly updated because it’s crowd-sourced like Akismet
  • Works with WordPress,WordPress Multi-user, BuddyPress, and bbPress 2.0
  • Can manually block specific domains from registering

Price: Free at the time of writing (there is talk of moving to a freemium model) | More Information

Note -you will need to obtain a free API key from WangGuard/SplogHunter to properly use the plugin.

WP-SpamShield Anti-Spam – Full-Service Anti-Spam

SpamShield

WP-SpamShield Anti-Spam is a highly-rated plugin that handles spam protection for every aspect of your site. Part of that includes your registration forms.

The plugin works in a very smart way. It protects you with both JavaScript/cookie protection AND and an anti-spam algorithm. It also doesn’t use CAPTCHA, which I’m a fan of.

Key Features:

  • Protects against registration spam as well as comment, pingback, and other forms of spam
  • Doesn’t utilize CAPTCHA – no front-end impediments to users
  • Works with BuddyPress, bbPress, WooCommerce, and a variety of other forms

Price: Free | More Information

Wrapping Up

WordPress spam users can be a real pain for anyone running a site with open registration. These bots can harass your real users, bloat your database, and damage your SEO with spammy outbound links.

But, if you implement the right protections, you can root out spam users and prevent them from even registering in the first place.

Before inconveniencing your human users with a CAPTCHA, you should try a plugin like SplogHunter or WP-SpamShield. If you still have a spam problem while using those plugins, then you might consider blocking specific domains that are spamming you or adding a CAPTCHA.

All You Need to Know About Pinterest Buyable Pins

All You Need to Know About Pinterest Buyable Pins

For some time now, Pinterest has allowed companies and bloggers to pay to promote their pins, after which the platform shows pins to Pinterest users who might have an interest in the product.

But now, some Pinterest users can purchase products without leaving the platform.

That’s possible because of the company’s newly released feature called “buyable pins”.

The feature was rolled out by Pinterest back in June. It stands for pins featuring a ‘buy’ button, and it enables users to buy what they see in those pins.

Pinterest says when users spot a pin with a blue price, they’ll know they can buy the featured item from within the application. Here’s how it looks:

Pinterest buyable pins

Pinterest appears to be the perfect platform for this type of impulse spending, as one-third of all Pinterest users didn’t contemplate making a purchase before seeing the item on Pinterest.

And aside from making shopping convenient, buyable pins allow consumers to confidently and safely make a purchase. Purchases are handled with a credit card through Apple Pay, although Pinterest is working with Braintree to devise a method of purchase for users outside iOS. This handling method means that credit card and personal information is secure for consumers.

The Specs

For the moment, buyable pins are only available on Apple mobile devices (iPad or iPhone), so pinners who surf on a desktop or Android device can’t make a purchase from Pinterest.

While a few major retailers (e.g., Macy’s, Nordstrom) have jumped on the buyable pin bandwagon, smaller retailers may find it difficult to enable the feature. Pinterest has partnered with Shopify, so sellers who use the Shopify platform will find buyable pin integration easy.

Shopify store owners can use buyable pins

Pinterest will not take any fees or surcharges from sales made through buyable pins, but they have been monetizing very successfully with promoted pins. It’s expected that buyable pins will lead to more companies promoting their pins and drive Pinterest revenue in that way.

Fees and surcharges from sales will be limited to what retailers will pay through Apple Pay (and later, through Braintree) or Shopify Payments with no additional cost from Pinterest. Pinterest also has a waiting list for businesses that don’t use Shopify to power their store.

The Advantages

The advantages of Pinterest buyable pins are clear. Retailers now have a way to encourage and facilitate impulse purchasing while marketing to their most lucrative demographics. Pinners can re-pin the things they like, allowing products to go viral and spread through peer groups.

Almost half of all online shoppers in the United States have purchased something as a direct result of a recommendation from Pinterest. More than 80% of all Pinterest pins are re-pins – that is, about four out of every five pins is something that has been passed along from another Pinterest user, so the potential virality on Pinterest is staggering.

For Shopify users, adding a buyable feature to their pins is an easy way to increase revenue. While the data on buyable pins isn’t available due to the novelty of the concept, we do know that before buyable pins existed, the average sale from a Pinterest referral was $58.95. Clearly, there is tremendous potential to use buyable pins to increase this revenue. By eliminating the need to visit the website, chances are that a greater portion of pin viewers will be converted to customers.

The Disadvantages

Unfortunately, buyable pins aren’t yet perfect. The greatest disadvantage in these early days is the limited reach of the pins to consumers and retailers. For many retailers and many Pinterest users, buyable pins simply aren’t available. Pinterest has always maintained a conservative stance toward new developments, so it’s likely that these early forays into buyable pins will be expanded as the new program takes off, but for the moment, a seller’s ability to use buyable pins (and a buyer’s ability to purchase with them) is still quite limited.

One other major disadvantage to buyable pins is that while it facilitates impulse purchasing, it doesn’t allow sellers to cross-promote other items or to establish a relationship with the buyer. Some brands use Pinterest quite effectively to communicate with and build brand loyalty with their consumers. Almost 3/10 of all Pinterest users follow a brand on Pinterest, and 83% would rather follow a brand than a celebrity. However, Pinterest buyable pins allow consumers to make a purchase without first getting acquainted with the company and the brand.

Buyable pins do not allow cross-promotion, which may be a problem for many retailers. Items are listed and purchased individually without encouraging consumers to check out other items from the same seller.

In a way, the buyable pins feature brings an eBay feel to Pinterest. eBay is filled with hundreds of sellers and many of them sell nearly identical products and the buyer chooses a product based on the individual product rather than the seller. For example, with two identical products in original packaging, an eBay user is more likely to buy from the seller who has 1,000 positive reviews and is selling the product at $25 than the seller with 10,000 positive reviews who’s selling for $30. There is fear that buyable pins on Pinterest will create the same price competition that currently exists on eBay.

Are Pinterest Buyable Pins the Next Big Thing?

Judging from the buzz around these buyable pins, some marketers are claiming that buyable pins are the next step in commercializing (and profiting from) social media. But only time will tell whether buyable pins are the wave of the future or a well-intentioned but ultimately unprofitable experiment.

For large retailers like Macy’s and Nordstrom, buyable pins are beneficial. But for small retailers, the picture is less rosy. Small retailers who lack the name recognition and reputation of more established brands require a strong brand reputation and a more personal relationship with their buyers. Buyers take a risk when purchasing from a less established company, so their initial purchases are often small and conservative. Once they see great customer service, fast delivery, and amazing quality, they often return to that same buyer for additional or future purchases. For smaller businesses, that repeat business is critically important.

Small businesses with less recognizable brands cannot generally negotiate the same wholesale pricing as larger companies, leaving them to pay higher prices for their inventory than the multi-national corporations. Because of this, they will often struggle to compete based on price, even when the products are identical. Smaller companies differentiate themselves from larger ones through customer service and building relationships with their customers. When small companies are competing with large companies on a marketplace which rewards low prices and makes it easy to comparison shop, small companies traditionally suffer.

Even when the small business has a unique product (one that they’re not competing with larger companies to sell), buyable pins reward appearance over function. Pins that share well have beautiful photography and are aesthetically pleasing. This means that companies that sell a mixture of beautiful and functional products are likely to see a marked imbalance in their sales figures as their buyable pin sales skew toward the beautiful rather than the more functional.

In most cases, this will be a simple matter of adjusting inventory according to the change in sales trends. But in some cases, this problem can be damaging to the business’s reputation. For example, a beautiful hat might require specialized hairpins to keep it in place, or a cute and colorful cloth diaper cover might require dull and boring liners to function correctly. Customers who purchase the beautiful part without choosing to purchase the functional are likely to be disappointed.

Disadvantages of buyable pins

Should You Use Pinterest Buyable Pins?

That depends on who you are. If you’re a large retailer with established name recognition and a strong reputation of trust, Pinterest buyable pins can be a source of additional revenue. If you’re a small retailer who only sells products that photograph well and look good on Pinterest, the buyable pins can help to drive sales, especially if your products themselves are well-branded.

But not everyone may benefit from buyable pins, and Pinterest already has a strong eCommerce advantage even without the impulse purchasing. Without buyable pins, Pinterest users can surf to your website and make a purchase, especially when compared to other social media channels.

Maximizing Your Pins

Whether you’re using buyable pins or simply looking to maximize your conversions from your traditional Pinterest pins, there are several ways to make sure that your pins are re-pinnable and attractive.

Visual Appeal

The most sharable Pinterest images include great photography and a light-colored (or white) background. Lighter images are almost 20 times more likely to be shared than darker ones. Bright or bold colors can make the image “pop” on the Pinterest platform, and Pinterest users prefer to share images without faces than those with faces. Using portrait (vertical) orientation on your images makes them look better when they’re displayed on the Pinterest dashboard.

How to increase the visual appeal of Pinterest pins

On Your Website

To encourage people to share your images from your website (and to re-pin those images), it’s important that your images have a descriptive name, because the image name will be the title of the Pinterest pin. For example, a picture of blueberries labelled “Blueberries from Hawthorn Berry Farm 2015” is more professional than “DSC0072(2)”.

There are plugins available that can help Pinterest pinners get a customized description when pinning from your pages. If you’re on WordPress, Share This and Social Media Feather will allow you to customize Pinterest descriptions. This enables you (for example) to use a pre-programmed description that will accompany your pins when a guest to your website shares them on his or her pinboard.

When You Pin

When you’re pinning, you’ll want to use a great description, because most re-pinners will retain your original description. Whether you’re writing for buyable pins or just for your ordinary Pinterest social media marketing, the descriptions will allow other pinners to understand why they should share your content.

For Buyable Pins

For the average Pinterest-using company, buyable pins will be available only if you have a store through Shopify. Once you’re logged in to Pinterest and Shopify, you can go to http://www.shopify.com/pinterest and click on the “Add the Pinterest sales channel” button in the center of the page. This will add Pinterest buyable pins to your Shopify store. It is important to note that you must have a paid Shopify account to use this feature. If you do have a paid Shopify store, adding Pinterest buyable pins is a matter of following a few simple instructions in Shopify.

When you use Shopify, your buyers will pay by credit card using Apple Pay and Shopify Payments. While Pinterest will not charge additional fees for buyable pins, Shopify Payments and Apple Pay will charge a transaction fee. Shopify Payments currently charges 2.9% $0.30 for Basic users, 2.6% $0.30 for Professional users, and 2.4% $0.30 for Unlimited users. Apple Pay does not currently charge a transaction fee, but users of the buyable pins feature may want to keep in mind that if Apple Pay chooses to change their policy, Pinterest buyable pin merchants may be affected.

Final thoughts

For those monitoring the eCommerce industry, the biggest winner in this buyable pin idea is Shopify. Pinterest has been tight-lipped about rolling out the buyable pin feature to other eCommerce platforms, so for the foreseeable future, Shopify store owners have a marked advantage over sellers using a different platform or an individual website.

If your company is flexible, and is interested in early adoption of this new program, a Shopify store is the only way to try it out for now. While the idea certainly sounds promising, it remains to be seen whether this is a major advance in social media marketing or another good idea that won’t quite work out.

6 Little Ways to Delight Your Customers This Holiday Season

6 Little Ways to Delight Your Customers This Holiday Season

It is much more cost effective to keep a customer than it is to find a new one. In fact, according to a report by Adobe, returning customers account for up to 40% of a company’s revenue.

Trouble is, a 2016 small business survey revealed that while 72% of small businesses plan to allocate the majority of their marketing budget to customer acquisition, only 28% plan to allocate the majority to customer retention.

To help marketers refocus their retention plans — especially those in the ecommerce industry — I’ve put together six creative ways to keep your loyal customers coming back. Check them out below.

6 Little Ways to Reward Your Customers This Holiday Season

1) Offer a compelling discount.

By a compelling discount, I don’t simply mean “20% off your next order.” Instead, try a discount that will inspire your customer to continue shopping with you.

What does that look like? It depends. And there are a couple things to consider:

  • Focus on the value your product or service provides customers, not just the price you discount it by. In other words, position yourself in a way where buying your product is a complete no-brainer.
  • Choose your words carefully. According to research from Psychology Today, a “Get $ Off” promotion emphasizes achieving a gain, while the “Save $” wording emphasizes avoiding a loss — and customers recognize that difference.

For example, check out how T-Mobile positioned this holiday deal on the Samsung Gear S2:

t-mobile-holiday-discount.png

2) Get personal.

Great customer service is about more than just solving your customer’s issue. Try going above and beyond by creating something awesome to remind your customers why they love your business.

For example, you might send out a personalized holiday card or thank you note to their home address. Even though we’re in a digital word, it means a lot to receive something handwritten, and capitalizing on the holiday spirit in this way can build a positive brand association.

 

3) Tap into referrals that reward.

Referrals are a great way to get customers to sell your products for you. It’s a simple evolution of word-of-mouth marketing, as customers usually refer friends or colleagues.

For example, when shopping with The Clymb, you are gently reminded to refer a friend in the website header:

Invite a Friend.png

Notice how it provides a clear call-to-action along with an incentive — $10 for your loyal customer and $10 for a future one — encouraging visitors to take action even before they start shopping.

4) Use premium packaging.

Anyone that’s spent any amount of time wresting with a roll of wrapping paper and tape dispenser knows the value of a pretty package. In fact, according to a 2015 Dotcom Distribution packaging study, 49% of online shoppers said that branded packaging made them more excited about receiving or opening an item, while 44% admitted that packaging reinforces that a product is worth its cost.

The lesson? First impressions make a huge difference in our fast-paced lives, so by using premium packaging you allow your product to stand out against others. Take Pad & Quill, for example. This tech accessories company packages its iPhone and iPad cases in paper with friendly messages printed on it. It even uses an authentic-looking Roman seal to give a more hand-wrapped feel.

customer-loyalty-holidays-pad-and-quill.jpg

5) Turn the small print into a feature.

Refund and exchange policies are often part of the small print on your website. During the holiday season, you have an opportunity to make them a feature. After all, these policies are in place to increase trust and promote sales, right? Make them known.

When buying gifts, customers prefer a return policy that ensures that if the recipient doesn’t like it, they can easily return it. If you can offer this, you have a better shot at increasing sales, while keeping your customers happy.

Nordstrom does a great job of displaying all of its holiday shopping, shipping, and return perks right on the homepage, giving potential and existing customers peace of mind during one of the more stressful times of the year:

Nordstrom Return Policy.png

6) Create a holiday-inspired video.

Why does everyone love and anticipate the John Lewis holiday advertisements year after year? Because they tell a story that evokes emotion.

Fortunately, you don’t need a million-dollar TV advertising budget to do this, just an idea for a great story. As video is becoming more and more popular, it’s key that you apply it to all areas of your marketing strategy.

Back in 2014, the Lowell Police Department went viral due to its “Christmas Surprise Traffic Stop” video. In the video, police officers asked the folks they pulled over for traffic violations questions about what they wanted for the holidays. Meanwhile, their behind-the-scenes crew quickly purchased the items and drove them to the scene. Watch the magic unfold below — trust us, it’s worth the four minutes:

The holiday season is a time of giving, so be creative with how you can implement goodwill into your marketing campaign.

Wrapping Up

Offering compelling discounts with creative call-to-actions will inspire your customers to buy, but great customer service is why they return.

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