If you are like 20% of the Internet and run your website on WordPress, then Akismet is a must-have plugin. Although it comes pre-installed on any WordPress website, it is not configured by default. This post explains what Akismet is, why you need it on your WordPress website, and how to configure it.

What is Akismet?

Akismet automatically detects and deletes comment and trackback spam. It’s one of the easiest ways to protect your website from spam. As of January 2014, Akismet has zapped more than 110 billion instances of spam across the Internet superhighway.

That’s wild!

Why do I need the WordPress Akismet plugin?

To protect yourself from website comment spam.

Many companies try to game search engines by tricking your website readers into clicking on dubious comment links. These links often point to fake pharmaceutical pills, malware, Internet scams and porn. Have you ever seen them? I sure have.

Historically, comment spam was delivered by automatic bots. These bots would scour the Internet for blogs and websites just like yours, looking for opportunities to type in a fake name, fake email address and fake comment with the hope that you (or some kind of automated system) would approve the comment.

These days, not all spam is delivered by these bots. Spammers are increasingly exploiting low-paid workers in Internet cafes, factories and schools in developing countries. Spam, because it’s sounding more and more real, is becoming harder and harder to detect.

Many of these human spammers will appeal to your ego, writing a comment that they loved your post, or that your website was exactly what they were looking for.

Don’t be fooled!

How does the Akismet plugin work?

It’s actually pretty cool.

Akismet has their own servers and can monitor millions of blogs and Internet forums. They understand the methods used by spammers better than anyone else. They track spambots, comment factories, social engineering tricks and buffer websites so you and I don’t have to. Akismet takes all of this knowledge and applies it to your website in real time, warning you anytime a spammer tries to sneak a fake comment past you.

While there are many ways to use Akismet’s technology on your WordPress website, installing the free plugin is what most people choose to do.

If your WordPress Akismet plugin is configured correctly, then each time a new comment, trackback, or pingback is added to your WordPress site, they are automatically submitted to the Akismet web service for review. Akismet runs hundreds of tests on the comment and then gives it a “yes” or “no” rating.

Don’t waste time sorting through and deleting spam comments from your blog. Use Akismet!

How do I configure the Akismet plugin?

1. First, log in to WordPress to see if you already have Akismet installed. From the dashboard, click on Plugins > Installed Plugins. You should see Akismet listed there. Make sure that the plugin has been activated.

akismet plugin configuration

If Akismet is not listed for some reason, click on Plugins > Add New, search for and install it.

2. Once you have installed and activated the plugin, you can click on Plugins > Akismet to begin configuring it. At this point, you’re being asked to enter an API key. Do not skip this part! Your plugin will not work without a valid API key! Your API key is a string of letters and numbers that acts as a kind of username/password, allowing you to access Akismet’s service.

To get an API key, visit the Akismet website and click on the blue, “Get a WordPress key” button.

akismet free api key

You’ll be taken to a pricing page. Akismet offers a few different pricing plans. If you’re using Akismet for a personal website, you can sign up for a free API key, but if your website is for a business, then you’ll need to pay. Plans start at just $5 per month.

akismet pricing plans

Is this plugin worth paying for? You bet.

3. Once you have an Akismet API key, head back into WordPress and copy/paste your API key on the Akismet plugin configuration page. That’s it! There are a couple of optional settings on this page. Most people choose to auto-delete spam comments if they’re over a month old, but that’s up to you.

akismet configuration api key

4. Check out your Akismet stats! There are two ways to do this.

a) On your dashboard, right when you log in to WordPress:

akismet dashboard stats

b) By clicking on Dashboard > Akismet Stats:

akismet configuration stats

Akismet incorrectly marked my friend’s comment as spam!

This happens! When a comment is mistakenly marked as spam, it’s called a “false positive.” While Akismet is the best WordPress comment spam defender out there, it’s still a computer, and computers aren’t always perfect. Fortunately, it’s easy to unmark the comment as spam.

Make sure to check your Akismet spam contents every so often to ensure that legitimate comments aren’t being incorrectly marked.

That’s it folks! A very easy and helpful plugin to install. If you’re running your website on WordPress and don’t yet have it configured properly, get on it!