Thursday, June 16, 2011

Spam: Dirty. Sexy. Funny.

Can the Spam
The reminders of this are everywhere this week. Everywhere I look, its coming. I used to defend SEO vigorously on twitter and in blogs when people had reached levels of despair with the rising tide of spam. It's everywhere: Blog comments, blogs, twitter, cookie cutter sites, LinkedIn, paid links and e-mail. Actually e-mail isn't that bad - not as bad as it used to be. Well done to Microsoft and their crack anti-spam investigation team that recently stopped as much as 60% of spam e-mail.

Someone recently shared how they "dominate LinkedIn" recently. I'm not linking to it but essentially his job profile was literally the length of the screen - "Marketing advisor, Marketing assistant, Marketing..". You get the picture - it wasn't pretty.

The Dirty
Spam and blackhat SEO to me, was largely the preserve of American hard-hitting Blackhat marketeers and the enourmous sweatshop industry they've [help] create in India, China, Malaysia, the Philipines. People who probably never used the internet except to make money. Your internet experience is not their concern - you're just another over paid, over consumerised and lazy Westerner to sell rolex watches, holidays and insurance to. Its obvious, its bad, its annoying. And that's just the US side. But it's getting into Ireland. Bar the top tier SEO agencies (of which there is really only a handful) - probably 60% of people providing SEO as a paid-for service - outsource it. And it's always spammy. SEO as a product plan can only be spammy.

A young, vibrant and dynamic company recently approached us. Their existing SEO was handcrafted, slightly outsourced and very heavy. And it needed more. So we started looking at the guys at number one. The spam wasn't just obvious. It was an avalanche. I had to lie down. It was enourmous.

And it was Irish led. Entire fake, cookie cutter sites which 'spun' content were created - a single bad, copy+paste blog post was refiled again and again and again, giving them NASA terminology numbers in backlinks. I was distraught.

One person called me a spammer. Once. It was 3 years ago. I'm still shocked. I hate spam in all its various incarnations. As do you probably.

The Sexy
There's nothing sexy about spam kids, but its used a lot on twitter - 0 followers, lots of tweets and a really sexy avatar. You know the drill. Well, it's not enough. I think we need to be more on guard. Those dodgy looking websites and blogs aren't just a mere inconvenience - they're harming real businesses. They push real businesses, ideas, brands and genuine content out of the way. So if you're on twitter and someone spams you - Report it - close it down - let twitter work out their IP Addressess and lets help can the spam.

The Funny
Some spam is just ridiculously funny. Self certifying SEO experts are spammers - how do you certify yourself? I think its funny anyway. Especially when its obvious to all and sundry that you clearly couldn't rank in Google if you tried. Just because you've read a few books or blogs about meta data, bookmarking, blog commenting, links (see where the spam comes from) - doesn't make you an SEO expert. Nothing does. You're not a guru. You haven't created anything. You aren't an oracle. Selling yourself as one = snake oil.

Want to show that you rank - then do. Rank for your area or region. People will respect that. Get referred to people for doing a good job. Classing yourself as an expert is your opinion on your own set of credentials. It's empty, meaningless and if you don't know that then how do you know what it is you don't know?

Except when you see the costs that they add to businesses who to have spend more to get them out of the way. So, if you're in Google and see a spammy website, log in and report it. Website copying content? Using too many keywords (stuffing) ? Deceptive pages (e.g. "rolex in Dublin" but then showing something else?) Report it to Google. Help us all make it a better place.

You can report spam found in Google in the Google Spam Report


  1. I was (un)lucky enough to be there for your reaction to the sites in question David, your passion for the industry and doing things the right way clear to see as always. As was your pain at seeing such obvious and terrible spam from a local provider. Refreshing and sadly uncommon in an industry rife with get rich quick schemes and such questionable 'experts'.

    The good news is that we both know those tactics have a very short lifespan and won't last, but it was slightly alarming to see such low quality spam seemingly rewarded even in the very short term.

    The traditional barriers to questionable SEO 'outing' seem to slowly be eroding away, but far slower than many of us would wish. Any activity which hurts genuine businesses and genuinely skilled providers, in favour of spammers, never should have had any level of acceptance.

    It's most certainly a case of caveat emptor when sourcing a provider.

  2. I had someone, a female (allegedly), retweet me today & she stuffed in TWO spam links (the original tweet had no links). I called them out in a tweet & then blocked & reported them to twitter. I checked her stream, she did it quite a bit, but not all the time and she had over 1200 followers but was only following about 260. She's popping in comments like "great idea" with her retweets and most folk probably don't notice that she's slotting in the same spam link on every retweet. And her profile pic showed her as a 30-ish female with a "my Mom and baby" as accessories.
    I totally agree with your comments on the tiresome gurus.
    I didn't know however how to report a spammy website - thank you for that and the great post! ~ Helen

  3. First time when I use Google +1 button and it was all worth it !

  4. Puts me in mind of the recent riots in the UK about Tesco. They came on to the streets and petrol bombed the site for the new store as a way of complaining about Tesco taking over from local shops. Seemed a bit ridiculous to me as they probably bought the petrol from the local Tesco petrol station and used their Tesco club cards.
    In short if you don't want Tesco stores in your area, don't buy from them. If a lot of people continue to buy from them its democracy in action. The people have spoken let there be Tesco’s across the land.
    It’s the same for spam, if people click on the spam links and buy the product or do whatever the call to action is then the people are talking and voting that spam works.
    I hate spam as much as the next informed and technically literate person does. Who are these people that click on spam links... the general public. Does this mean that spam works? Should we all jump on and flood the internet with spam links. That's what we get in the real world isn't it? We can't walk more than a few feet without being blasted by some image or sound selling us something.
    It's not as simple as saying "have a great product and service and they will come" what about the companies that have a great product and service and spam to get attention? Are they somehow different in terms of what the consumer gets? To my mind all the big successful companies are spammer’s offline. That’s why I got rid of my television 7 years ago I couldn’t stand the constant stream of adverts(spam) that I was actually paying for.
    I agree with everything you say David, it’s just not an easy call. For a new company can they afford to take the high ground? Only if the people they are appealing to can recognise what they are doing and apply additional kudos or moral credit and choose them over the competition.
    How far do you go? I wonder for example did you consider carefully the use of the word “dirty” and “sexy” in your blog title. How many hits did you get for this post compared to previous ones? I would be very interested to see the stats.

  5. Great to see the honest take on things here. I suppose it's like anything that can be gamed if there is enough of a reward people will try to milk the system. See it coming more and more in to our line of work now as well especially Twitter