Most of the comment spam that I get on this blog is SEO spam. SEO stands for search engine optimization and is a means through which you can get your site to show up in more search engines, ranked higher and generate more traffic. I suspect, as anything, there is probably some legitimacy behind the practices. But I also get the feeling that, in general, it is a pretty sleazy business. And large part of my perception on that comes from the comment spam generated by SEO products and advisers.
Fortunately, the spam system traps most of these comments and they never see the light of day, but I scan through them every once in a while (looking for false-positives) and lately, I’ve been surprised at just how much of the overall spam is from SEO people and products. And most of them use the same tactics. A typical comment goes something like this:
After reading your blog post I browsed your website a bit and noticed you aren’t ranking nearly as well in Google as you could be. I possess a handful of blogs myself and I think you should take a look here: [site redacted]. You’ll find it’s a very nice tool that can bring you a lot more visitors. Keep up the quality posts.
Another variant goes something like this:
I’m sorry to annoy you like this but I just stumbled upon your blog and must admit it’s impressive. A little something which I believe would help you however is the [product redacted]. It’s in all honesty the best quality SEO plugin for wp that is available today. In exactly Five days my blog jumped from obscurity to the very first page of the search engines after making use of the [product redacted] plugin. In case you are at all serious about your site you can get it here: [site redacted].
My spam software traps dozens of these comments each week. They read to me like really bad pickup lines, delivered by someone without a good grasp of social interaction. For another, they simply don’t do a good job of selling their tools. If their tools really worked, they’d speak for themselves and have legitimate means of advertising them. There would be no need to carpet bomb a hundred thousand blogs to get the word out. That comes across as both desperate and sleazy in my book.
How do I know that there are carpet bombs and not targeted? Just look at what they say:
“I browsed your website a bit and noticed you aren’t ranking nearly as well in Google as you could be.”
How do these two things connect together? By browsing a website, how can you tell how well one is ranking in Google. You could, I suppose, do a search for the key content of the site and see how it shows up in the search results. Of course, this is trickier for blogs, since they often have a variety of topics, but even there, some topics are more central to the blog than others. So, is this blog not ranking nearly as well as it could be? Well, one of the features on this blog is my Vacation in the Golden Age. So I went ahead and did a Google search for “Vacation in the Golden Age”. Here are the results:
My site comes up in the top six positions for the search of that term in Google. So explain to me SEO people, how my site is not ranking as well as it could be?
I also write about the tools I use for my writing. Frequent readers of this blog know that I have been a long-time user of Scrivener and that I recently converted to an iPad. Doing a Google search for each of those things independently will bring up tens of millions of results. But do a Google search for “scrivener ipad” still gets you 350,000 matches–and guess who appears in the number three spot? Again, I ask how I’m not ranking well?
I’ve written about how my blog stats have improved over time, and even since that most recent post, they have continued on a fairly rapid upward trend–without the need for SEO. Thanks, spammers, but I’m doing just fine.
Also, I’m not annoying my readers (I hope, anyway) by using SEO products, which themselves can introduce so much meta-data and junk to sites that they make it hard on the audience.
The bottom line, based on my own experience, is that if you’ve got good content and a terrific group of readers who spread the word about that content, you have no need for SEO–something the SEO people will probably dispute, but I don’t really care. I like to think I have some pretty good content, but I know for a fact that I’ve got an absolutely terrific audience. It is that audience that makes a site successful, not some gimmick wrapped in spam’s clothing.
This is an SEO-free zone!
Let the spam-bot attack commence!