Friday, November 7, 2008

OnlineSpin: SEO Spammers Are Corrupting The Social Media Commons

Last week Max wrote "The Problem With Full Disclosure Is That It's Not."

Terry Heaton wrote in response, "Max, our experience with news clients attempting to seize the high ground brand of accurate and trustworthy is that one cannot say they are transparent or authentic (two hugely important values for 21st century journalism, BTW); one can only say they are 'trying' to be accurate, trustworthy, transparent and authentic.

You are absolutely right that human beings are incapable of these attributes 100% of the time, and the people formerly known as the audience know it."

Friday, November 7, 2008
SEO Spammers Are Corrupting The Social Media Commons
By Max Kalehoff

Comment spam on blogs is reaching unprecedented levels of desperation.

As an author and editor of several personal and professional blogs over the past five years, I know that comments used to be completely decipherable as either legitimate feedback or spamdexing. They were black or white, with no ambiguity whatsoever. Genuine comments exhibited intelligence and spontaneity. Spam comments, by search-engine optimization blackhats, were typically automated with robots, copy-and-pasted or written by someone with no command over my primary language, English. Spam was easy to spot and manage.

However, the blogosphere has been getting attacked with increasing intensity by comment spammers who leave seemingly thoughtful feedback. The latest breed of spammers is investing the time to manually process writings and other content, and then leave unique comments that pass for partially engaged, albeit random readers. Except they never fail to link to e-commerce and affiliate marketing sites, often selling junk like prescription drugs, insurance or online gambling services. These are the lowest of shills. They're cheap salesmen who act genuinely interested, come into your space, and then deliver a meaningless pitch.

This sort of spam is especially troubling because it so effectively sneaks around technological and human spam filters. It's one thing when spam filtering requires only an automated filter -- or minimal human review and deletion, to catch the minority of spam that penetrates automated filters. However, it's another when you have to invest significant cognitive resources to catch spammers who sell their souls by engaging in semi-coherent dialogue, only to plant a link to artificially build search engine reputation.

These tactics are calculated, deceitful and intrusive. They're hijacking our most sacred asset: attention. And if you're the host of a blog or community, you'd better watch out. Search engines may punish you for being associated with such scum. The dirty breadcrumbs left in your comments may hurt your site's search engine reputation.

There will always be desperate and evil people -- including, blackhat spamdexers. What's the solution? Certainly, the individual perpetrators doing the dirty work must be held accountable. They should be identified and blacklisted in a universal database.

More importantly, all the businesses that blindly hire such SEO spammers should be held accountable. Businesses and affiliate marketers that turn a blind eye or knowingly fund such practices are nothing more than enablers. They should also be blacklisted in a universal database. They're corrupting our social media commons.

Max Kalehoff is vice president of marketing for Clickable, a search-marketing solution for small and mid-size businesses. He also writes

Online Spin for Friday, November 7, 2008:

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