If you are a blogger, you will have almost certainly come across seo/link spam – this takes the form of irrelevant comments left on a blog post solely for the purpose of getting a link back to their site (ideally in the comment itself, but also as the link associated with the name of the poster). The ‘wisdom’ is that these links help boost the originators site in search rankings (with a bonus that someone might actually click on it).
Thankfully anti-spam plugins, like Askinet for WordPress, do a really good job of identifying and removing most of this kind of comment, however occasionally some slip through and one in particular caught my attention-
I received the following comment notification (for clarity this all happened back in November 2012, I am a little behind with my blogging!!):
A new comment on the post "Initial look at Kampa Carbis 5 family tent" is waiting for your approval http://philsorrell.com/2012/07/31/initial-look-at-kampa-carbis-5-family-tent/
Author : James Motor (IP: NOT PUBLISHED TO PROTECT THE GUILTY)
E-mail : NOT PUBLISHED TO PROTECT THE GUILTY
URL : http://www.tauntonleisure.com/
Comment: Fantastic post and very useful! I am a huge camping fan so this has definitely given me something to think about when it comes to buying a tent for my own tent!
As a rule of thumb, a lot of this kind of spam usually involves praise about your post (“I will tell my neighbours how wonderful your site is” etc), so that was an initial warning sign. The bad grammar (“buying a tent for my own tent!! What does that mean?”) also made me take a bit more notice. The post itself was mainly about how the tent blew down in strong winds the second day it was pitched, and I struggled to see how that was ‘fantastic’ and ‘very useful’ – alarm bells were ringing that the comment author had not even read the post. Finally I spotted the url – clearly this comment was posted by someone trying to gain search engine benefit for Taunton Leisure – it is 100% seo spam.
I had actually heard of Taunton Leisure – an independent outdoor store that are expanding their reach by running an e-commerce site (similar to White and Bishops and The Outdoor Shop, who are both local to me). They had interacted with me on a recent holiday to Devon / Cornwall on Twitter, but thanks to spamming my blog my feelings towards them went from warm and fluffy to outright negativity – and I tweeted how unimpressed I was on Twitter. Now 1000* people are thinking negatively about Taunton Leisure (* gross exaggeration, although I think it might have been re-tweeted) – the damage to Taunton Leisure’s brand is now significantly greater than any benefit they got from spamming my blog and any good will from previous social media interactions was reversed.
[Incidentally I use a plugin where you have to post several comments before gaining any search engine benefit from links in comments anyway – so even if the comment had been approved it would have been quite fruitless.]
Thankfully for Taunton Leisure, Luke, who manages their Twitter account, was on the ball – he spotted my tweet and immediately got in touch to apologise –
Hi Phil. Please accept our sincere apologies. Unaware of this being done by our seo guys, we’re currently investigating.
Later in an email, Luke (who represents Taunton Leisure Online, and gave me permission to use them as an example) went on:
As you may have guessed, we do use an outside seo company to help us with search engine results.
Once again we’d like to apologise for the comment that appeared on your blog. That’s not really what we’re about. We are a small independent company that is full of outdoor enthusiasts who are only too happy to contribute in genuine discussions on kit!
We have contacted our seo company and are currently in discussion with them regarding posts of this nature.
I am back to warm fluffy feelings about Taunton Leisure again – they clearly understand the social space more than their seo company. But that is my point – when you hire an external company, whether it is an online marketer, an ‘seo expert’ or even a web designer / developer – you need to make sure they get it and that they get what you are about and what you stand for.
There are two things ironic about these events – firstly they ended up with a nice link on my blog anyway (but only because of Luke!). Secondly, during the email conversation with Luke, he actually mentioned something about the tent I was talking about in the original post that would have made a perfect comment! That is my second point – I, and I assume other bloggers, are more than happy for comments from brands and companies as long as it is relevant and contributes to the post – why pay a third party to post irrelevant spammy comments, when your experienced and knowledgeable staff can post useful relevant ones?
Search engines want to display the most appropriate content to a searcher. Make sure your website is built properly**, write good content often, share your expertise, knowledge and enthusiasm, and interact with others. Do this and Google (and indeed bloggers) will reward you accordingly. Only then consider hiring an actual seo expert (they exist, but are few and far between!).
** by properly I mean in a way that means your content has maximum visibility to search engines (as an added bonus that also means the content is accessible to blind / visually impaired users).
There is a great audioboo on the subject of search engine optimisation: