WordPress.com Follower Management

imagesI love getting new followers and I like getting like button clicks on my posts too. Who doesn’t? But I’ve been investigating and a number of followers and like button clickers are not are active bloggers or commenters. So what’s a reliable way to track audience growth on my WordPress.com blog?

I have merely skimmed through only the first 3 pages of my followers and made the following discoveries:

  1. some followers have usernames linked to Twitter accounts that no longer exist;
  2. some followers have usernames linked to Twitter accounts that are inactive and have been inactive for months;
  3. some followers have usernames linked to Facebook accounts that no longer exist;
  4. some followers have username linked to Facebook accounts that are inactive and have been inactive for months;
  5. some followers have usernames linked to fake accounts;
  6. some followers have deleted their blogs and are no longer active in the WordPress.com community;
  7. some followers have abandoned their blogs ie. the blogs have been inactive for months and in some cases for over a year.

As I have been unable to locate an active profile and or/blog for some followers anywhere online, I would like to have the ability to remove these followers.

Block IPs

I may seem reasonable to request that WordPress.com Staff provide us with the ability to delete certain followers and permanently block IPs, but IP addresses have not been unique for over a decade. ISP’s place hundreds of us in the same IP block to save money. So that means IP blocking can result in blocking legitimate potential readers and even existing followers. That’s not to mention that getting a new IP address and/or using a router is easily done.

Disable the follow blog link

It may seem reasonable to request that WordPress.com Staff provide us with the ability to disable the follow blog link completely. However, the follow link on the action bar and is under the control of the logged in visitor, not the owner of the blog being visited.

Reality check

Anyone with access to the internet can read and/or subscribe to the RSS feed on any public website.

Did you know that your Gravatar.com account has always been a WordPress.com account? You don’t have to be a WordPress user or blogger to register gravatar and it’s simple and free to do so. When it comes to tracking “likes”  it’s  frustrating to click and find no blog has been linked to on the Gravatar profile page.

Dealing with Bogus Followers and Like button Clickers

1. Blog visibility settings

We can change our blog visibility to private but that doesn’t address the issue. (Read about public blogs that become private blogs here Blog Privacy and Subscribers.)

2. Comment moderation settings

We have complete control comment moderation but that doesn’t address the issue.

3. Like button visibility settings

It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words.The image below came from an empty right out of the box WordPress.com blog. There’s no blogger created content in the blog.

idiotic like button clickers

What do you make of 105 people clicking a “like” button on an empty blog’s placeholder About page? What’s to like?

We can disable the like button on specific posts. We can choose the “Turned on per post” option to disable the like button site-wide. That allows us to re-enable it for any specific post. But if we assign any tags or categories to posts the like button will still display in the Reader. For more read New Way to Spam and Suspicious email addresses for a bunch of new “followers”. But do note those options don’t address the issue either.

Wishing and hoping

I’d like to manage my followers list by keeping it up to date so I can have some confidence in the numbers of followers reflected in my site stats.

twitter block

I’d be happy to have as much management capability over followers as I do on my Twitter account. But others may think the ability to approve or disapprove follower requests is the way to go, or may even have another suggestion.

What are your thoughts on managing followers as a more reliable way to gauge audience growth?

Related posts:
WordPress.com: Who Follows Who?
WordPress Followers, Likes and Stats
Blogging, Bean Counting and Social Networking

145 thoughts on “WordPress.com Follower Management

  1. You already said most there is to say about it. I want to add my token of my support. Fake followers are a big concern to most writers, not only with WordPress. Just type the words into Google and you will find plenty of posts about it regarding other services as well. WordPress misses an opportunity by not actively taking a hand in combating these pests. It’s the way to show that they are the better blog and can provide a better service. When people feel ignored they will take their business elsewhere, because there will always be someone who will provide the service.

      1. Just a small update if someone of wordpress is reading this. I also make a comic. I usually post them on my Weebly site. I just saw that there is a new webcomic theme. I was tempted to go for it as I am busy writing a new comic, however next to being informed about this new hot theme, I also got a new follower called [name removed by timethief] no blog, no pictures, nothing. That does it for me. We are helping someome with some halfbaked criminal scheme and unable to stop them.
        Well we can report them.

  2. I just noticed that a fair percentage of my latest followers are fake blogs. There is obviously some reason why there are a huge spike of these fake followers recently closely matched by an increase in spam comments. I figure someone is making money out of this somewhere or they wouldn’t be doing it. Allowing bloggers to approve followers is a simple fix. What do WordPress care if people deny legitimate followers?! It’s a free country for the spammers apparently but not for we bloggers who are putting the hard graft in to produce posts on a regular basis. It is only going to shoot WordPress in the foot to make light of our concerns. Blogger is starting to look a whole lot more attractive.

    1. Hi there,
      I think I have said all I have to say on this issue in the posts and in my conmments on the post as well as in forum threads. Thanks for sharing your point of view here as well.

      1. Fair enough, cheers for sharing. I live in Tasmania and was just wondering why my humble little blog about sustainability and permaculture was getting so many new followers. There is something in the air and it doesn’t help WordPresses P.R. any to ignore bloggers concerns or try to brush them away with propaganda. Cheers for at least showing me what my new followers really were. I don’t expect you to reply to this comment.

  3. Hello Time Thief, I not quite sure even if this place for this kind of doubt. But here goes.
    I’ve noticed you run a “.com” blog. How did you manage to get a “follow, like & reblog” options on a “.com” website, I’d like to know. Thank you much for allowing me to steal some of your time. Cheers :)

    1. This is a free hosted WordPress.com blog being domain mapped to my domain. Many free hosted WordPress.com blogs are on their own domains. I have two blogs on their own domains and I pay WordPress.com annually for domain mapping each one. It’s well worth it IMHO. There’s no down time ever. There are lots of excellent features and Staff do all upgrades. Mapping a domain you already own costs $13.00 per domain, per year. http://en.support.wordpress.com/domains/

      1. But at the same time I can make changes to the website using my wordpress/wp-admin account correct? And I can’t have advertisements and stuff like that correct?

        1. WordPress.com is a hosting platform that makes it easy for anyone to publish online. You don’t have to download software, pay for hosting, or manage a web server. WordPress.com has hundreds of themes, and includes the functionality of many plugins, but you can’t upload your own plugins or themes.

          WordPress.org offers free software that you can install on a web server. You can upload and install themes and plugins, run ads, and edit the database. http://support.wordpress.com/com-vs-org/

          No upgrade enables the permission to use blogger initiated advertising, any kind of prohibited code, or upload additional themes or plugins. With any upgrade purchase, your blog will still be hosted here at WordPress.com, which means that you will not have FTP access to your files and you will still be required abide by our Terms of Service.

          I have both self hosted blogs and wordpress.com blogs. I have no advertising or any affiliate links or any other mercenary marketing garbage on my blogs, whether self hosted or not. I pay for annually renewed No-Ads upgrades to keep all advertising off my wordpress.com hosted blogs.

          If you have any more questions along this line then all .wordpress.com support documentation is at this link http://en.support.wordpress.com

  4. interesting discussion. Sometimes I get the most unlikely people signing up to follow my small niche blog. I am not a “like me, I’ll like you ” type of girl but I am looking at and following a few blogs which are light years away from my own content. I figure its a free blogosphere and although WordPress can help us out with thieves and spammers, the rest is just plain interesting!

  5. Thanks for addressing this issue clearly and warm-heartedly (here and in the WP forum on “Fake Followers”).
    I’ve started to get 6-10 e-m notifications per day of [obviously fake] followers (after getting maybe two or three new followers per year!). The sudden inundation makes the spamming obvious for my blog.
    But since the odd e-m addresses tend to give these spammers away, an easy solution already proposed in this thread would seem to be to have an approve/delete button for followers (perhaps with a second step: “prevent future following”).

    Is there an obvious downside that has stopped WP from adding this feature?

    Thanks again for all your explanations here.

    1. If you go to the support forum and do searches you will find that Staff have taken some action. http://en.forums.wordpress.com/tags/fake-followers

      We must accept the fact that public blogs are public blogs and we cannot control who chooses to follow our public blogs or chnage the visibility to private. Unless we have some evidence of wrongdoing there’s no grounds for reporting followers we don’t feel comfortable about having.

  6. I just noticed two fake followers and I want them removed, but feel like my hands are tied. Now I don’t care to blog at all. I wish WordPress would do something soon to help us remove them or approve our followers first.
    My last two “followers” are not real blogs at all. I have noticed two in two days! I have a photography blog and now have little interest in writing personal posts. : / Please notify me if there is anything I can do to get rid of them.

  7. I just had another new follower that turns out to be bogus. Makes me wonder if they’re following my content to copy and post it themselves. So I came back here to reread your post and wow! You got a lot of nice comments. That should please you – definitely you touched a nerve with this.

    Nancy

    1. I’m richly blessed with readers who contribute so much to this blog that it humbles me.

      There’s work going on behind the scenes by Staff. They are rate-limiting Likes to stop some the Splike (spam Like) bots. There will be news to share but not right away because the spam likers do read what we post.

  8. I don’t expect every single person who likes a blog post to have their own blog. Not everyone wants to spend time crafting a blog. Not everyone likes writing. But what I don’t like are cryptic blogs which clearly looks spammy/plagiarized. Or a gravatar that’s too mysterious.

    It’s not worth my energy checking out every linked site to a person’s gravatar. I’ve noticed that those who are mysterious…don’t return.

    I’m not interested and will not respond to mysterious subscribers. Life is short. Time is precious.

    1. Hi Jean,
      Your points are always thoughtful and I do appreciate them. It’s true that not everyone wants to blog or has a blog. In my case I read blogs from 2003 – 2005. In 2005 I got up enough courage to create a … wait for it … private blog. It took me a whole year after that to make the decision to have a public blog. A year later I deleted the blog and began two new ones.

      I have never been a follow my blog and I’ll follow yours type of blogger. I have temporarily abandoned checking out all followers and like button clickers in favor of creating content. That doesn’t mean I’m not still unhappy about lacking a means of controlling everything that’s posted to my blog in terms of “likes”. It doesn’t mean that I’m not also unhappy that I lack a reliable means of assessing audience growth.

  9. This was an interesting and timely post/discussion for me. Just before I went on holiday I drafted a review of my first 6 months on WordPress & one of my conclusions was to pay less attention to the stats, as to me they don’t seem to reflect accurately who is actually reading, etc. I’ve also often wondered why there should be a ‘like’ button in the Reader.

    Right at the beginning, it was a little disheartening and disconcerting to realise that some ‘likes’ and ‘follows’ didn’t indicate any real interest in my blog at all. I’ve got used to it now. But I wouldn’t want to lose the ‘like’ button option…I try to be a supportive commenter, but there are times I *don’t* have anything specific to say, but would still like to show my appreciation of the post I’ve just read.

    1. I hear you and identify. I want to let those bloggers whose posts I read know I appreciate the work that went into them, even when I don’t have a comment that comes to mind.

      If the like button disappears from the Reader and everywhere else except below the posts on blogs, I will be shouting Hooray! at the top of my lungs.

  10. I’ve never seen that before- with the likes on an about page with nothing on it… Weird what some people will do to get noticed, even liking an empty post.

    1. I posted an example only. There are others like it. Clicking into blogs wearing the default theme with no content at all that have likes is a mind boggling experience.

  11. What Staff need is ideas for how to resolve this and so far there are three proposed:
    (1) Provide the ability to Moderate “likes” as we do comments.
    (2) Remove the “like” link from the Reader and wherever else it appears when the blogger disables the “like” button on the blog.
    (3) Remove the “like” link from the Reader but leave it active on the blog.

    1. I think all three should be options for bloggers. I especially second #2!!!

      This is where most of the spam likes (and possibly fake “follows”, I think) come from, auto-bots crawling the reader and “liking” and also “following” as many blogs as possible.

      The like link should be removed from the black bar at the top too if a blogger disables “likes”, not only if they don’t use any more tags or categories on posts after disabling likes.

      We shouldn’t be forced not to use tags or categories just in order for the like button not to appear on the black admin bar at the top. (From what I gathered, not using tags or categories is the only way to remove the like button from that black bar completely. But it also takes away the likelihood that anyone will find our posts.)

      1. The followers issue and the like button issue are different issues even if the appear to be related.

        I don’t know where this is coming from:

        We shouldn’t be forced not to use tags or categories just in order for the like button not to appear on the black admin bar at the top. (From what I gathered, not using tags or categories is the only way to remove the like button from that black bar completely. But it also takes away the likelihood that anyone will find our posts.)

        What is your source for that please?

        1. Are tags or categories even necessary at all, actually?

          I was just wondering, because if they’re not, then I can breath a sigh of relief and leave them off my blog altogether with confidence! That’ll get rid of all the likes on my blog. That’ll be a real relief not to have to tag or categorize my posts anymore. Its really tedious and takes all the fun out of blogging. Sometimes I wished there was a way to automatically tag our posts, tagging is really a pain in the neck and if not tagging will eliminate the like button and slow these like spammers then so much the better.

          And thanks for all your thoughtful and considered replies. I’ve often thought WP should hire you, you’re really like an unpaid employee for them. You devote so much of your time to this. I really dunno how you do it. You’re really invaluable to WP, they need to recognize that. There’d be a real loss to the blogging community without you. They should hire you to do support for them, you’re already so active in the forums. You help more than most of the staff. :) You’re fair and reasoned and thoughtful and thorough, and that gains you a lot of respect.

        2. Also this from your post above:

          “But if we assign any tags or categories to posts the like button will still display in the Reader.”

  12. Geez, I thought I was the only one. I’ve noticed a lot of bogus followers of late from spamming looking sites. I tried to find a way to remove them, but wasn’t successful. I think I’ll check in with WP admin, maybe they’ll have some helpful suggestions…

  13. I’ve been wondering about this for months! I like to reciprocate when someone likes a post, but often found there was no site to visit. Thanks for exploring the topic. As usual, your posts are always so informative.

    1. Thanks for the feedback. I think many of us have been troubled about this for a long time. No site to visit is one scenario when clicking. Discovering links to make money blogs on the Gravatar profile page is another one.

      1. Also, and even more troubling, I have discovered that reporting these scammy profiles and like spammers accomplishes nothing. Of all the many many many I have reported none, not one has been removed. Some of the worst offenders are the “follow for follow” people, who are just following as many blogs as possible to get traffic and follows back to their own site. And even more disturbing and very telling about WP’s attitude, laxness, and even by default encouragment and permisiveness of these like and follow spammers is the fact that several gravatar profiles of known money scamming fake “likers” who had previously been deleted, now have their profiles restored in full with all the links to their scammy money-making sites! They deleted the scammers profiles and then restored them?????!!!!!! I can tell you several instances in which I’ve seen this happen. Scammy profiles deleted and then the exact same profile is restored back again? What’s up with that? Why are they allowing these people to operate so freely? Why are they permitting this? Why are they restoring the scammers profiles that had been deleted previously and taken down by gravatar? I am so sick of all these “like” and “follow” scammers, all these fake “likers” and “followers” just shamelessly and blatantly exploiting bloggers’ naivete, vanity, and egos by following and liking as many blogs as possible, just trawling for new followers and new suckers that they can trick into their money scams. This has gotten really bad. WP please put a stop to this! I think a great suggestion would be to allow bloggers to have the option of approving each and every follower before they can follow our blog. That way we can control and stop these people in their tracks. At least if they refuse to allow us to delete followers we should have the ability to approve or disapprove people when they sign up to “follow” our blog. Likes and follows have become completely meaningless to me now if WP is allowing these scammers and people to operate freely with no true solution and no way to deal with them. Likes and follows have become just another way for scammers and “follow” parasites to gain access to WP. This is disgraceful that the spammers have rendered “likes” and “follows” completely meaningless. Its just become another “in” for the spammers, a convenient little way the can spam us and trawl for followers, and WP is allowing this to continue and by not doing anything about it and not giving us any real solution that really stops this, they are by default encouraging and permitting this behavior.

        1. You are entitled to your opinion and I would never seek to censor you. However, I am not willing to condemn Staff about an issue they have only recently had brought to their attention.

          I know that even if we could delete followers they can simply subscribe to the RSS and that cannot be prevented on any public blog.

          I think our focus ought to be on making suggestions for solving the problem of not having a reliable means of gauging audience growth.

  14. I do click the “like” button when I’m doing some quick reading (like now at work, when I’m taking a quick break). I don’t have time for lengthy comments, but want to let the blogger know that I stopped by. But the comments are much better :)

    Nancy

    1. I do exactly they same thing when I’m answering support forum questions. I take a little break, read posts, use the like button if a (sincerely like the post) and quickly Tweet the link too.

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