Month: July 2007

Spotting comment spammers and link droppers

I have an existing policy on comments on this blog, you can see it at the bottom of this post. For those too lazy to scroll down, here it is, with a link to a little rant of mine some time back.

Please do not spam or post multiple urls to your site or sites you earn from. All comments are moderated.
Your comments are your own. I reserve the right to edit anything I find objectionable. This includes the use of anchor text, links to moody stuff etc. If you don’t like these terms, then please go elsewhere, do not self promote or
promote others. Say something that adds to the conversation. Spammy me2’s and yeah I agrees aren’t welcome.

Seems fairly straightforward if you ask me, yet people still try it on and expect me to just let things slide. So to help reinforce this I just thought I’d update things a little to help account for some of the more imaginative ways that people are trying to get these things called links and anchor text.

Hey, let me get things straight here 1st, I have no problem in the world with people being creative and finding ways to promote themselves or their clients. I do it daily, it’s called link building. Lots of others do it too, it’s the way of the search marketing world.

Blog comments are a great way of getting yourself out there. Heck, I should do it more too, but I don’t, because most of the time I’m too damn busy doing stuff that will, over time get links anyway, its called building good useful content.

 Lately see, I’m getting comments from people who turn up and call themselves all manner of names full of anchor text to TLD’s and client promotional stuff. 

Let’s just make it clear here. I really don’t want those types of commenters here. 

When you turn up and drop a link to your stuff 1st time with your anchor text to your site then straight away my hackles are up. Even if your comment is good I find myself thinking hold on a minute, this cheeky bastard thinks I was born yesterday, they think I’m gonna let their link stand. Uh uh, no way. If you comment on my blog and are respectful enough to have engaged in a thread or two, then you know what – I might just think to myself, hell I like this person, I like their style. As a result I’ll probably write about you at some point too and tell people how cool you are and why they should go and look at your stuff. I just won’t be mugged off by people who think ooh cool this is a dofollow blog, I’ll dive in there and get a free juicy anchor text link.

So as a little helper I thought I’d share 3 small observations I’d noticed, hell maybe it’ll help strengthen a plugin or two.

I won’t mention the obvious ones like links to Pr0n or Ph4rms or G4mbling type sites they are easy.

3 red flags for dodgy comments

  1. 1st time commenter has a name  like ‘Electrical cool Gadgets’

    Not many people were christened with this monicker. It’s most unusual. There have been isolated reports of forward thinking SEM’s naming their kids Viagra or Cilais or Ringtone Julie, but generally these are in the minority and are a pretty good indicator of some kind of spammy activity.

    Where I see these, if the topic is on target, then I’ll generally delink their URL and delete their email address from their comment. This prevents them from attaining approved commenter status and allows me to moderate any subsequent incursions.

  2. The commenter links to a non blog website.

    Blogs for me, are a conversational medium.Whilst not everyone has a website or a blog, some people see blog comments (especially dofollow) as an easy target for a link back to their or their clients URL. If a commenter isn’t linking back to theirblog, then it could be a case of them trying to use you for a one stop singular IP link back.

  3. The comment is short and praiseworthy but not much else.

    Akismet catches most of this stuff, but sometimes it slips through. Don’t let your ego fool you. A person wading in with a ‘hey great post thanks’ type message, isn’t necessarily sincere. They are most likely just trying to rump you for a linkback. Be mean, be ruthless, delink their ass.

 There are others, some are funny and some where you’ll just have to use a degree of commonsense  decide for yourself.

  •  Free email addresses not related to the blog

    Not all free email addresses are red flags for example. I use a hotmail account for this blog, its just easier to manage. I sign all my comments with my url and my hotmail address.

  • Dumbass email addresses that shout hey I’m gaming you

    One recent commenter was dumb enough to use an address of which sort of made me laugh, but is probably an exception rather than a rule. One guy who is aligned to a well known comment spamming system discussed in the blogosphere recently had the shortsightedness to use an email address which helped me identify him as just that. Suffice to say his IP address was duly noted.

  • Iffy looking TLD (domain extentions)

    Look out for TLD’s like .info or .ru or .cn or any other number of obscure cheaply acquired mass abused domain extentions. Most (not all) are fine purveyors of spam who will link to stuff that might look ok, yet might be switched to something dodgy at a later date.

  • Thin or shallow content.

    Is the person you are linking to for real? Maybe their blog or website looks a little thin on content and substance, yet on the whole it isn’t too bad or innocuous. be cautious with this as it could be a bait and switch waiting to happen. 2 months down the road the guy decides to redirect the traffic to his latest money making program or worse still something morally objectionable.

It goes without saying of course that ultimately it’s all about what people say and how they say it. I’m all up for rewarding my commenters with a little link love, it’s one of the reasons why I removed nofollow from this blog and why I installed the top commenters plugin too (see sidebar). A good commenter will take the time to read what you have said and offer a genuine considered view on your perspective. Their interest in what you’ve written will in most cases shine through.

It isn’t always easy though and there are lots of borderline cases that make you wince a little and think…hmmn I’m not sure about this one. No one wants to alienate a genuine commenter, well not me anyways.

Heck its clear that there is certainly a need for some kind of network lookup plugin that periodically checks the content that you link to for dodgy words or imagery. Maybe those smart chaps at wordpress can come up with something useful, maybe I could even if I weren’t so lazy  😉

What do you do to identify your comment spammers? Do you even think twice about the name they use, or the type of stuff they link to?

Podcast your blogs – turn your blog posts into audio files odiogo

 Turn your blogs in audio MP3 files – Give your readers the option to  listen too

I’ve expressed an opinion on podcasts in the past , today I sold my soul to the big audio devil in the sky and added the odiogo WP plugin to my blog.

You’ll see a little icon at the top of my blog posts where you can listen to an mp3 file of the content.

Odiogo grabs your rss feed and converts the text into an audio file. The voice isn’t perfect of course, but nonetheless I think its a cool little extra. They also host the content meaning you will not get hit with a huge bandwidth bill from your host either.

From the official odiogo site

Turn readers into listeners, and transform your blog into a high quality, ad-supporting broadcast that can vastly expand your audience reach!

At present the service is completely free. I’d imagine that as they build up sufficient traction and user base, they’ll seek out monetisation options, probably via the use of inserted audio ads at the end or beginning of ones content. Perhaps they’ll offer a paid or a pro version enabling you to opt out, we shall see…

Thus far, I kinda like it, let me know what you think.

You can subscribe to the feed for this site here

Here’s what a few other bloggers think of it, do you have a view?

Transform your blog into podcast using autocasting

TypePad Odiogo ListenButton Widget Installation Process

Instant Podcasts with Text-to-Speech Odiogo

Odiogo For Audio Blogging

How to Use OdiogoOdiogo Ties together blog posts and Podcasts

Odiogo adds listen button for enabling read aloud blog posts

My Odiogo Podcast

Full RSS Feeds And Odiogo– Now You Can Listen To Posts At

Odiogo podcast on my site

Referral Ads by Adsense – Monetising your content with specific targetted advertisers

Referral ads by Adsense 

The other day I noticed in my adsense account that it had been ‘upgraded’ and that I had some new monetisation options.

Apparently its been live since June . I won’t say too much about what the program offers as much of it can be read over at the previous link, that said it might be useful to look at the headlines and make a little comment on each.

  • Expanded product inventory: Basically they’ve opened up their network and allowed publishers access to all manner of markets and products. Its almost like a Commission junction or a tradedoubler albeit without all the fluff and nonsense associated with having to ad extra code or apply for individual programs. In other words you can find the product and include it in your content.
  • Category and keyword targeting: This is cool, I like this. The ability to find and output ads based on keywords is very good indeed. On this page here for example, you’ll see that the referral ads I show are linked to the tags I use to tag this post. In this case adsense.
  • Ad unit optimization: A little bit of Google mumbo jumb in my book, but essentially they are saying that they’ll select best performing ads for your site. This would usually mean the highest pay ads or those that received the highest click throughs, or perhaps its the highest converting..hmmn, you know what? I’m not entirely sure which aspect they are referring to, perhaps its all three, maybe someone could clarify.
  • Better targeting for pages with multiple themes: Whilst I like the ability to be able to specify keywords per ad, I do wonder what they mean by all of this. A page with multiple themes that linked through to multiple ads might be a little thin content wise and might even look a little sploggy even. That said, I do like the ability to be able to specifically target ads via keyword, especially if m writing something about a variety of topics. The downside is of course that a page that contained multiple themes with big old links and ads to adsense type ads, might look a little suspect, but hey…
  • Greater compensation for high-quality traffic: Looking through the inventory, there all manner of products and services with different levels of compensation. Payments are based on CPA (Cost per action) rather than cost per click, so the value to the advertiser is greatly increased. This should in theory, mean that click throughs to such ads from highly targetted content should result in a greater number of sales. The quaility of the product is very important too, so I’d choose ones ads with a thorough eye and do a little evaluation of the product 1st.
  • Add your seal of approval: The fact that they allow you to make specific references to referral ads on your site is a great plus as it effectively opens you up to write good specific product related content.
  • So do I like it? Yes on balance I think its pretty cool. I think it might well lead to a whole lot more writing about various products and services in the blogosphere too. Savvy bloggers who write paid reviews that pay once, might decide that it could be more lucrative to write about products for which they could be paid for multiple times.

    I also touched on how it made it easier for affiliate marketers to sign up for new programs via a one code paste route, without the need to have to apply to individual programs.  It’s not so much of a big deal, but it can be a little bit of PITA sometimes having to mess about with hanging around waiting to  accepted into programs.  Its for this reason that I love the instantaneous way in which I can select an advertiser and write about them immediately.

    The ability to target individual advertisers, is a real boon for the  niche blogger presenting great opportunities for well written content that performs well.  Google’s huge market share in online advertising also means that I’ll have access to a consistent number of new opportunities.

    As content matures and ages.. 

    A potential downside  is that if you write content that is too specific to the advertiser you are reviewing then overtime, it could become a problem. What happens if the advertiser leaves the program or goes out of business? Any content you wrote would become effectively dead.

    Personally, I’ll probably stick with generic  safe bets on my blogs and stick to general related topics.

    The question train – this one stops at SEO central

    The question train…where will your train stop?

    If you have a question related to Internet marketing or SEO or social media or any related stuff, then drop me an email to watts underscore rob at hotmail dot com, and I’ll do my best to answer it.

    Please don’t ask me questions in the comments. Email only please.
    The type of questions I’m looking for are those that can be used to flesh out a full post.

    Those that require a little bit more than a yes or no type answer 🙂

    Maybe a good FAQ will be an outcome, maybe it’ll just stimulate an interesting post or debate even.

    Make your own question train get your readers talking 

    Why not make your own little question train?

    We all have our  specialisms and areas of expertise, why not ask your readers to ask you stuff too?

    David could invite people to ask him questions related to Graphic Design, Robyn could get people to ask her questions related to the mind, Meg could get people to ask her about some of the great sites she has built or how to be a good blogger, Jason could get people to ask him questions about raising funding for new ventures, Darren could get people to ask him how to make money online, Andy could get people to ask him question about blogging and niche marketing, Shoemoney could get people to ask him questions about affiliate marketing,  Shane on Business ideas,  Mike about tips on drawing cartoons , Lyndon could answer questions on Linkbait , Liz could answer questions on good communication and successful blogging …

    The list is endless really, we all have our strengths, you know your own far better than I. Share your knowledge, reach out to others, you might just be surprised at how they respond.

    Blogspot domains identified as fine purveyors of Spam

    Free content based domains are beacons for Spam

    I was over at Bill Slawski’s excellent blog earlier today researching text to link proximity stuff, and stumbled across a post Microsoft Follows the Money to Find Spammers which referred to this interesting Spam research paper from Microsoft entitled: Spam Double Funnel: Connecting Web Spammers with Advertisers. For the geekazoids amongst you there’s lots of interesting snippets and observations. Bill’s already covered most of the headlines over at his blog, so I won’t regurgitate that.

    What stuck out to me was set amongst the conclusions, the main one being that blogspot domains were the biggest culprits when it came to originators of spam.


    …doorway domains, we showed that the free blog-hosting site had an-order-of-magnitude higher spam appearances in top search results than other hosting domains in both benchmarks, and was responsible for about one in every four spam appearances (22% and 29% in the two respectively, to be exact). In addition, at least three in every four unique blogspot URLs that appeared in top-50 results for commercial queries were spam (77% and 75%). We also showed that over 60% of unique .info URLs in our search results were spam, which was an-order-of-magnitude higher than the spam percentage number for .com URLs.


    I don’t know if the findings of papers like these bear any weight or consideration in any subsequent re-jigs of search engine algorithms. Only the search engines truly know what is and what isn’t a consideration in any equation. We can certainly say that if a mainstream domain owned and controlled by a party other than the search engines were to be responsible in similar ways, then their tenure in the SERPs (search engine results pages) would be very short lived. Their authority score would suffer, as would their overall trustrank. In essence once identified they’d be dead in the water.

    Search algorithms aren’t changed on a whim of course, its a relatively safe bet to assume that search models are consistently tested and evaluated internally, before any public release. Documents like the one referenced, give interesting insights into the minds of the people who look at webspam.

    Perhaps it’s for these very reasons that people behind other platforms that allow human access to write and create content make such public pronouncements detailing there determinism to eliminate or at least drastically reduce spam in their indices. After all failure to do so, in light of the above for example, could quickly lead to a diminution in trust and authority with the resultant knock on effect of poor ranking ability and negative monetisation effects that would usually follow significantly reduced traffic levels. By publicly affirming their commitment to tackle it, they may well save themselves from the heavy axe a search engineer can wield.

    Jason Calacanis of Mahalo was kinda right when he said

    When I had SEOs on the last CalacanisCast they raved about Squidoo and it’s ability to game the system, and if SEOs love your platform you have a HUGE problem.

    The fact is, that web spammers, (not all SEO’s are web spammers Mr C) will indeed game the system. Some see it as their job to take competitive edges and work with them to the max; the rationale being if they didn’t then somebody else would.

    I guess its up to platform owners to ensure that access and effectiveness are reduced. It’s a big reason why wordpress and all the major blogging platforms introduced nofollow into their software. For those who don’t know, nofollow restricts the ability of a link to pass pagerank, or link juice or link love or whatever else you want to call it, to the page to which it points.

    Perhaps Mahalo and Squidoo and Blogspot should just ‘nofollow’ everything they link out to, maybe they should just close it all off to spiders and bots. They haven’t been created for the benefits of search engines after all…

    Perhaps serious individual content creators should just go out and buy a domain for $20, grab a WP install, get some cheap blog hosting and just run their own show. It isn’t exactly rocket science after all. It does make you wonder why a person would bother writing content and help make some other guy rich …unless of course you we’re writing it to funnel people elsewhere and monetise it to your own ends.

    I do have some sympathy with what those guys say though, It narks me a little though, as it suggests that people like me are scum sucker sleaze buckets. Most of us aren’t, it’s just a small minority of uber spammer who spoil it for everyone else.

    Maybe the likes of Mr Godin and Mr Calacanis could help by using the term web spammers instead of SEO’s. It’s a far more accurate descriptor.

    Meantime, if you are blogging and on a free platform, then perhaps you ought to at least consider moving on..

    Learning from your blogging mistakes – 5 things to avoid when blogging

    Some of your blogs will just suck bottom

    About a week or so ago I decided to offer someone somewhere a free SEO review of a site they thought might need a little help.

    It was a spectacular failure of a post! 😀 Not one person has played the game.

    I thought it was a well balanced win win deal that would have stimulated a little activity and garnered some links in for me and a little stimulus for others, oh and of course a free SEO review for some random site somewhere.

    The key factor  for those who wanted to blog on it was this

    You can write about a site that you think is really cool, or a site that you use daily that isn’t mainstream and that people should know about. It could be one of your own sites, or it could be a site of a friend or a relative even. By writing about them you will be raising an awareness and giving them some all important link juice too.

    With a payback for me being

    If you’d like me to consider the site for a review then all you gotta do is link back to this post and hopefully I’ll pick it up and have a little look. In an ideal world you’d choose one of these sets of phraseology, “Rob is offering the chance for some Free SEO Advice ” or “Rob is offering a website review“, but I’m cool with a rob or a yackyack or a click here even!

    So why did this bomb? Don’t people want Free SEO reviews or SEO advice? Sure they do, but not amongst my readership it seems.

    Most of the people who read me, are after all pretty savvy guys and girls. Most are already busy building stuff for their clients or themselves; they know all about SEO and what is needed to rank well and get spidered.

    It’s funny but I thought that some people might just want to take a slightly philanthropic view and just reach out somewhere and say hey this site here is the dogs bollocks but it doesn’t rank for shit, they could do with some help. Yet, nobody did, or at least no one has thus far.

    Then of course I looked back at the post and thought actually Rob, that was a bit of a dumb arse post really. It has link back to Rob written all over it.

    So much for my own philanthropy.

    So in view of this, Ive changed the rules a little and dropped the need to link back. Just mail me or PM me or hey link back to me even 😉 Just to let me know.

    A few other things occured to me to. I categorised them as blogging mistakes as we all make them on occassions, we are all guilty of losing the plot and forgetting about what we are trying to say and to whom, so without further ado, here are 5 things to avoid or resist the temptation on when blogging.

    Maybe you can share yours in a little meme even, feck I’ll tag a few people too.

    I’m sure John Chow has a few to share with us, I wonder if Darren Rowse can share a thing or two, and how about Meg and what about bloggers like Link baiter Lyndon or Super SEO Consultant Joe or ace Graphic Designer David.

    5 things to avoid or resist the temptation on when blogging.

    • Don’t forget who you are writing to and from where they come from. Respect the intelligence of your readers and don’t try and slip them mickey finns
    • If you haven’t got anything new or original to say then don’t say it, don’t blog just for the sake of filling up some server space. Collect your thoughts and save them for another day.
    • Try not to ramble on too much and stick to the point of what your post is about. Esoteric meanderings are best left for those who like to read esoteric meanderings 😀
    • If you want to create something a little viral then make sure it’s something worth linking to. Don’t get too huffed up in your own sense of piss and importance. Ask a blog friend for an opinion or 2 before you go ahead with your kick ass idea.
    • Don’t sit there too long worrying about your crappy blog post that got no comments. Recognise that you aint shakespeare and that everynow and then you’ll write a stinker. Learn from it and move on.

    Just another iphone blogpost? Yeah probably

    iphone – do you want one?

    Everyone is talking about the apple iphone it seems.

    According to technorati there are currently

    245,603 blog posts about iphone

    That’s a lot of people talking about a product that’s just recently been launched.

    I watched an ebay auction the other day and this iphone went for $1099.00 USD that’s like 500 quid at todays exchange rates.

    So what is it about this thing? Why is it such an ‘iwant’ item?  Engadget   say that its been one of the most hyped items of 2007. Robert Scoble is seemingly amazed reporting how stores in SF are sold out. 

    The whole gig reminds me a little of the wii phenomenum over here in the UK. When the wii was launched everyone wanted one. The seductive little tunes and raindrop like clicks and flicks, the cute little round headed smiley guys and girls, that whole fluid movement of the players and the killer idea of gaming physically, as in  jumping around your bedroom or sitting room in your pants playing tennis or baseball had a big appeal. The reality of course was a bit of a let down, but hey I’m a big satisfy me kid at heart with needs that need gratifying. My son thought it sucked eventually too, so we traded it up for an xbox360.

    In other words, the representation did not live up to the reality.

    Nothing new there eh? Thats generally how advertising works. Sells you an idea, taps into your emotions gets you all excited then fails to deliver.

    Whilst I think it looks kinda cool, (a little like the 80gb video ipod I bought recently) I’m very sure that for me its just not one of those ‘oh I must have items’ .I like to think I’m past that whole ‘oh I gotta have one’ thing, I’m nearly 39 FFS! Yet, if I thought for one moment that it would negate the need to carry around multiple items, then on a practical level I might be convinced.

    Its a poor example, I’m sure there are better but I’ve got to say that when I head off out on my bike to burn up a few miles, it is a little bit of a pain having to take a little backpack just so I can carry my phone and ipod and reading book. A gadget that would let me be contactable, allow me to listen to music and read a book on say amazon in pdf format, whilst sweated up panting in some obscure field in the middle of nowhere on some bright sunny day could certainly have its pluses , oh and lets not forget  built in GPS for when I get lost too, oh no wait it doesn’t quite have that yet, thats’ not due until 2008.

    I’m sure I’ll have a device like this one day. If money were no object then yeah I might even make a vanity purchase, but for now I think I might just survive without it.

    What about you? Will you be getting one of these things? Are you a gadget dude or dudette?

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