CleanTalk Anti-Spam WordPress Plugin Review – No CAPTCHA and No Spam

CleanTalk Anti-Spam protects you from human as well as bot spammers on contact forms as well as posts

I have reviewed the WordPress plugin here, but to see the range of platforms, forums and other implementations that CleanTalk Anti-Spam protects click here and scroll to the ‘Anti Spam Plugins’ section about half way down the page.

Key facts:

Product name: CleanTalk Anti-Spam WordPress Plugin
What it is: An effective way to block human spammers from contact forms and post comments. It works on a wide range of platforms, forums and static sites.
Rating: 4.99/5.00
Where to sign up: CleanTalk
Price: From US$9.99/year for one site. Reduced price per site for more sites


Please assume any links on this page are affiliate links. An affiliate link means I will get a small commission if you decide to buy the product, but it will not affect the price you pay. The price you pay is the same, whether you buy it through my link or go directly to the site.

Spam campaigns tend to happen in waves and there was one such wave shortly before Christmas.

A woman frustrated with spamWhat irritated me about this one was that they were spamming me with services that I provide, and doing so on the site from which I provide them!

I’ve been using Google reCAPTCHA and a separate anti comment-spam plugin for years, but it was clearly time to find a better solution.

There are any number of services out there, in addition to Google’s reCAPTCHA, that effectively block spam from bots.

But few that effectively block human spammers on contact forms – which was what I needed.

Having used reCAPTCHA version 3 for a little while I liked the fact that there were no tests for humans – it worked in the background without making every site visitor click all the (fuzzy) pictures that had a cat in them.

This greatly improved the experience for site visitors – including for the human spammers who sailed straight through!

But all those services do is tell you whether or not it’s a bot that’s trying to spam you. I wanted something that worked in the background but which also stopped human spammers, particularly those who are spamming me through my contact forms.

I don’t care whether or not it’s a bot. I care whether or not it’s spam.

After some research I found CleanTalk Anti-Spam, which claimed to do what I wanted: effectively block both contact form spam and comment spam from humans.

The question was: would it do what it says on the tin?

Keep your eyes open when signing up – it’s not a good introduction

I found and installed CleanTalk on one of my WordPress sites – it is available as a plugin on the WordPress plugin repository.

It qualifies to be in the WordPress repository because the initial implementation is free. But it’s actually just a free test, which only lasts for 1 week. What annoyed me the most is that this is not made clear (or even mentioned, as far as I could see) on the plugin page on WordPress.

So I was rudely awakened when I received an email after 4 days telling me my free trial period was about to expire. A bit of a shock since there had been no mention of a free trial followed by a price.

This kind of bait and switch makes me angry, and I nearly scrapped the plugin purely based on that.

However, I had to admit that it had done a fantastic job since installing it, so I ground my teeth and signed up.

It wasn’t long before the next bump hit: in the email telling me my trial period was nearly up there was a link to a special offer of US$24.00 a year for the 5 websites I had added (reduced from US$29.00 a year).

But when I landed on their sign-up page after clicking the link, I was presented with a plan that was double the price (and double the number of sites – 10 sites for US$46 a year).

In fact, there is a range of plans – starting with one site for US$9.99 a year. The price per site reduces if you go for one of the bigger plans covering more sites.

Once again, though, I nearly walked away. If someone is going to link me to a special offer then take me to that offer. Not a higher priced one.

This kind of behaviour really, really irritates me.

However, I persevered and found that I could select the original offer (5 sites for US$24 a year) and I signed up.

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So after a rough sign-up experience how has it performed?

Putting aside what I consider to be the tricky (if not unethical) sales and sign-up practices, I have to say that CleanTalk has done a remarkable job.

Contact form and post spam, on all the sites on which I have CleanTalk installed, has been stopped dead.

How easy is it to install and activate CleanTalk?

If you’re using WordPress:

  1. Go to the Plugins > Add New page in your WordPress admin area
  2. Type ‘Clean Talk Anti-Spam’ into the search box
  3. Click ‘Install’ and then ‘Activate’
  4. Go to the plugin settings and click the ‘Get access key automatically’ button

If you’re using any other Content Management System, a flat site, or you’re managing a forum, go here to get started.

Shortly after completing those steps you will receive an email that thanks you for registering and provides both the access key and a username and password to access your CleanTalk account:

CleanTalk Welcome Email

If you’re using WordPress and installed the plugin in the way I described earlier, the access key will have already been added to your WordPress site and this just provides a confirmation.

So now you are all set up and your website is being protected as part of the (cunningly disguised) free trial.

What, then, do you get when you log in to your CleanTalk account?

The CleanTalk Dashboard

The CleanTalk dashboard gives you an overview of the verification activity on all the sites in your account:

Screenshot of the CleanTalk member's dashboard

Although they don’t line up, the 3 columns of figures about three quarters of the way across relate to the headings (Approved/Spam/Spam Firewall). Clicking any of the underlined numbers in any of those columns enables you to drill down into more detail.

For example, clicking a number under the ‘Spam’ column shows you the attempts at spam comments, or spam attempts via a contact form, that have taken place on your site:

Analysis of spam activity on your website

Clicking a number under the ‘Spam Firewall’ column lists the IP addresses of all attempts to spam your site.

You can then click each individual IP address to access a lot more details: spam activity, service provider, country of origin, domain owner and more that specifically relate to that IP address.

Although there is a lot of data available, many people will probably not be that interested – they just want the spam to be blocked!

I look at the spam attempts occasionally, but I don’t spent hours digging into all the information that’s available.

I’m just happy that CleanTalk is being highly effective at its job.

So, while you can get a lot of information through your dashboard, most users will just be happy with the protection that CleanTalk provides.

My recommendation

It’s a real shame about the tricky behaviour that confronted me during the sign up process, because it left a bad impression.

However, having got over that, I have to say that the spam protection is the best I’ve come across. And that includes stints of using Akismet, Anti-Spam and reCAPTCHA (versions 2 and 3).

As a result, I do recommend that you give CleanTalk a try.

But do remember that it’s not free and do be vigilant if you click through to their special offer from the welcome email – make sure you don’t accidentally sign up for a plan that includes more sites than you want.

Also, remember that CleanTalk Anti Spam protects a wide variety of Content Management Systems, static sites and forums.

To get started with CleanTalk Anti-Spam:

Stay vigilant!

Martin Malden

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