This post is in reaction to a Spam comment that was posted to this blog last night. There is nothing new in getting spam comments, I probably average one a day, with the highest number of spam comments in one day so far being fourteen.
Fortunately I use WordPress with the wonderful Akismet spam blocker plug-in. Akismet checks all new comments and presents me with a neat list of all the comments that it considers to be suspect. All I have to do is check the content and click the delete button.
Comment spam comes in a few flavours but all have the purpose of building back-links to the spammer’s site. The clever bots out there always pop the comments on old pages well down the history, in the hope that they will not be noticed. The flavours of spam that offend me are;
Flavour: Irritating (Valueless praise with author link only)
“Wow. Great post, lots to think about.”
A difficult comment to judge but when this is a comment on a mediocre link page, you see it for what it really is, SPAM.
Flavour: Severe Irritation (Generic praise with guilt payload)
“Wow. Great blog, I found this by accident and just love your posts. Definitely going to subscribe to this blog.”
Oh no! Is it a new subscriber? What if you delete his/her (actually ‘its’) comment, will you lose a subscriber, offend a fan? You have just fallen into the “Greed & Guilt” trap. The comment has a payload that makes you believe you are receiving something (a new subscriber = greed) and that your possibly ill-considered action will offend (guilt). The reality is, SPAM.
Flavour: Annoyance (Undisguised links)
I get more annoyed that they bother with such an undisguised attack, surely no site owner will leave this type of spam on his/her pages. The reality is that the spam is auto generated by bots that play the numbers game. For every site that cleans them away there are sites that don’t and dormant sites that owners no longer maintain but have left the comment options open. It adds up to lots of back-links, it adds up to lots of SPAM.
Flavour: Severe annoyance (Disguised links)
“Hi, <link;”Http##….”,” “> Really like <Link;”http##…”,” “> your site <Link;…
Just like the previous example, except that they have tried to hide the links from casual view.
Flavour: Anger (Blatant, undisguised, ignorant abuse)
This is the comment that started this post. I have disabled the links, keywords and site URLs.
Posted by FeemSwibiawal
Submitted on 2009/07/30 at 2:45am
http[SPAM_SPAM]/guru/viewbio.jsp?EID=1517906 asian tran#ny po#rn
http[SPAM_SPAM]/guru/viewbio.jsp?EID=1517900 tran#ny c#all gir#ls
http[SPAM_SPAM]guru/viewbio.jsp?EID=1517773 shem#ale patt#aya
http[SPAM_SPAM]/guru/viewbio.jsp?EID=1517721 hun#g shem#ale wa#nk
http[SPAM_SPAM]/guru/viewbio.jsp?EID=1517923 ero#tic shem#ales
http[SPAM_SPAM].com/jr/online/thick_co#ck_shem/ shem#ale pool pa#rty
http[SPAM_SPAM]/guru/viewbio.jsp?EID=1517930 shem#ale cors#et
http[SPAM_SPAM].com/jr/online/american_tran#ny/ hot tran#ny on por#nucopia
http[SPAM_SPAM].com/blo#wjob_ladyb#oy asi#an ladyb#oy m#oo
http[SPAM_SPAM].com/members/monthly-carnsurance.aspx car insurance services
http[SPAM_SPAM]/guru/viewbio.jsp?EID=1517677 ladyb#oy forums
http[SPAM_SPAM]/guru/viewbio.jsp?EID=1517774 shem#ale so#lo
http[SPAM_SPAM].com/members/commercial-insurance-safe-auto/default.aspx iaa insurance auto auctions
http[SPAM_SPAM]/guru/viewbio.jsp?EID=1517943 shem#ale ren#evge
http[SPAM_SPAM].com/jr/online/tran#ny_gold_lam/ tran#ny awards
http[SPAM_SPAM].com/ladyb#oy_cho#mpoo banc#hok ladyb#oys
http[SPAM_SPAM]/guru/viewbio.jsp?EID=1517905 tran#ny sau#na melbou#rne
http[SPAM_SPAM].com/jr/online/th#ai_lad#y_bo#ys/ ladyb#oy har#dcore th#ai
http[SPAM_SPAM]/guru/viewbio.jsp?EID=1517738 se#x shem#ale daily
http[SPAM_SPAM].com/jr/online/mr_lo#pez_tran#ni/ im tran#ny
So what do you think? Harmless? Just an irritation?
This pile of S##T links point to Adult sites, if it and any of its siblings are left on the site then when the search bots rank the site, it may become listed as “Adult” and so drop off the radar without you knowing why.
Right, I have now finished ranting about my daily spam cleaning, but how does this tie into the title of this post and how does it affect us all as writers?
Unfortunately at some point as a writer/author you will have to start spamming. I hear cries of “No” and “Never”. Sentiments I can fully appreciate but let’s look at what spamming is.
It is putting an unsolicited message in front of somebody who doesn’t know you.
It can be done in an acceptable way, otherwise known as advertising or in a unacceptable way, which is deplored as spam.
One of the ways promoted for a writer/author to build their platform is commenting on blogs, forums and other social media. By commenting and adding value, an awareness of you is developed and that gets people tracking back to your site(s) and taking an interest in you.
So basically you are putting an unsolicited message in front of people who don’t know you (sound familiar?) and you had better make sure you are doing it in an acceptable way.
But do it in any of the previously detailed ways and more harm than good will be done. No matter how inviting it seems to cut and paste from a list of generic comments, don’t. There is no value or return from that shortcut.
So what you need to know is,
How To Comment SPAM Without Causing Offence
Site owners aren’t born yesterday, they know that many of the comments on their sites are there partly for self-promotion. However if the spam comment is of the flavour “acceptable” then Akismet, the site owner and most importantly the other readers will accept it. So, just what is acceptable spam?
People will accept you and your message if you are providing them something. If you are perceived to be giving and not just using. The gift can be knowledge, links, humour, alternate perspectives… anything that is giving and not self-serving.
Here are my thoughts on how to approach it when you need to start doing your own comment spam.
1, Read the site content and take an interest. There is a chance you may learn something.
2, Lurk a while, don’t be in a hurry to post. Try to figure out where you can add value.
3, Only post if it adds something. This can be information, support to another comment, relevant links, other considerations, humour.
4, Provide far more links to other sites than your own, (your avatar will always contain your own URL).
5, Ensure your avatar has the correct URL. If you have an author’s page or a product (book) page, use the appropriate one.
5, Only ever link to your own content if it is absolutely specific to the thread and it adds value.
6, Be yourself, it’s fine to disagree or even openly play the devil’s advocate. As long as the tone of the comments are kept mutually respectful. Playing the role of a sycophant is a no-no.
7, Don’t be drawn into personal attacks (no matter how much that other poster needs to be brought down a peg or few), keep it civil and if trollish behaviour starts, withdraw.
8, Be interesting, be informative and your readers will follow your trail of bread crumbs back to your site.
I feel that these thoughts should be obvious but unfortunately the quantity of spam, of all flavours, that have to be clicked away each day, indicate that some people need a little help with the obvious.
Of course, all this takes time. There is no quick way, no “comment trick”, it takes effort and sincerity. So it is important to select the blogs, forums and communities carefully. It is simply not efficient to spend time in small communities or in an off target community e.g. in a writing community rather than a book review community.
The bridges you build in these communities will also help an eventual blog book tour. Not only with the sites which are prepared to host it but also with how effective the tour is on each of these sites.
So please, when you cook your spam, please make sure it has an acceptable flavour.
Photo: Spam Pizza, cc Cookipediachef