SEO Spammers Are Corrupting The Social Media Commons

SIERRA MADRE, CA - MAY 29:  Spam, the often-ma...
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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.

The above also was my latest MediaPost column.

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Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

Join the Conversation


  1. Most comment forms use a no-follow tag, which keeps the search engines from spidering them or giving credit for the links. In my experience it isn't so much SEO black hats (who only flock in if they know you've removed the no-follow as many of us do) but rather it is the commercial spam scripts like XRumer.

  2. Yeah, read you, and Disqus comment system helps me solve the search
    reputation problem. I'm very familiar with the spam scripts. But I've been
    getting hit hard with very, manual sneaky comments — from imposters of the
    intelligent, human kind.

  3. This has to be taken on a case by case basis, IMO. If a commenter stumbles upon a blog for the first time, makes a comment, and then offers the opportunity for more info with a link, isn't that part of being “social” with social media? Most bloggers that provide dofollow comments also moderate every single comment.

    If a link in comments is related to your site, I don't see a problem with a commenter posting it. When something is completely unrelated to your blog, that creates a problem. That is spam. Wouldn't you agree?

  4. Jonathan,
    If a link doesn't add value (and links back to some random e-commerce
    storefront, or casisno) that IS spam. The SEO spammers I describe above are
    like sleezy guys who engage with women only to get into bed with them — but
    otherwise have no interest. That's what I'm ranting about.

  5. I've noticed this on my blog before…its hard to delete because sometimes there is a thin line…but you can tell quickly if they are legit or not by looking at the links back. IE – if their URL is some blatantly spammy e-commerce site, you know it's spam and can delete it.

  6. Of course, like with any single-topic view, perception tends to get dreadfully skewed. It’s not as if all of Wikipedia can legitimately be rated a cesspool of spam, corrupt information and manipulated entries servicing undisclosed agendas. That would obviously be a gross and exceedingly myopic exaggeration.
    john edwin

  7. Lets see… one thing is for sure, 90%+ bloggers who post comments, use their website on them, right ?
    its like, I comment your blog with my blog, and the other way arround. Its true that many dont use their blogs in the comments, but other class sites. What I can agree are the CASINO/ADULT ones. But forgive me if I am mistaken, as fa as I know a well known form of whitehat for link building isnt it blog comments ? Its like, I give you a nice comment, you moderate my comment. This way, I get a backlink, you get a comment, and so on.

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