Thursday, August 30, 2007

When Does It Cease to Be Link Marketing And Become Link Spam?

This little blog gets a fair amount of traffic and its share of spammy comments. I turned comments off a while ago when my irritation surpassed the novelty factor but brought them back when I decided to be a good blogging neighbor and embrace posting, linking out and comments even though they could be a pain to manage.

I get the usual "great info, thanks for sharing" or "very useful post" type comments that are not only unimaginative, but also a dead giveaway you’ve been hit by drive-by blog spammers. They almost always come from off-topic sites which I just delete.

But lately I've been noticing a number of comments pop up on posts I made 18 to 24 months ago sitting on URL's with a bit of PageRank showing. Even though I know these comments are being strategically placed, they're so well written I can't help but be impressed. These aren't the moronic "very useful post" type comments you see brought in by the auto bots but thoughtful well written pieces of marketing prose. They're longer, detailed and use shared keyword phrases found in my blog posts and in the Title or content of the site the link points to! Someone's been thinking here.

And like their spammy cousins, these link drops are from businesses in unrelated industries sharing keywords. For example, someone recently submitted comments on a post I did in early 2006 titled Nascar Links . The guy left a well written paragraph which incorporated keyword terminology from my blog post plus a couple of his own. The link he left pointed to a strategically optimized site for Nascar products.

My post had nothing to do with Nascar, it just used terminology and people associated with the sport. I feel fairly certain this was a human generated link drop and not something done by an auto-bot given the tone and depth of the comment. Someone had to read the post and figure out a way to incorporate what I said with their keywords. Really, it was pretty slick. (I'm taking notes ;)

And while I thought the post was savvy from a SEO perspective, I reluctantly acknowledge the link drop wasn't made as a good blogging neighbor. It was a calculated move done to affect rank. If I had left the comment up there, could someone have reported me under the new snitch rules? After all, the link was purposely put in place to manipulate Page Rank.

So I wonder... for all those bloggers out there who have open comments on aged sites with Page Rank showing, are they unknowingly setting themselves up to be reported as a link scheme? Does the fact this tactic was done through blog comments make it less a marketing tactic than cold-calling for links from blogs and websites?

When does it cease being a marketing tactic and move into link spam?


Wiep said...

Great info, thanks for sharing. Very useful post.

No seriously, I guess link marketing turns into link spam when it's automized. If you are submitting your links to whatever page automatically, but you wouldn't do that if you had to do it by hand, than it's link spam.
If you submit your link manually to whatever page and the owner or the visitors don't think it's interesting or relevant, or even think it's annoying or irritating, than it's bad link marketing.

Sebastian said...

Doh! It was working so well. Now I've to lay off 30 comment whores. Suckers, they were told not to bother with blogspot URLs due to the nofollow crap, shame on them.

Seriously, I've seen these comments for ages. It's fun to change the URLs to my own stuff or clients. Most bloggers won't get the intention though.

Ramon Eijkemans said...

Link marketing becomes link spam when the intention is to spam, no matter whether it's automated or not. But spam is also a question of your personal viewpoint.

Like you said: 'After all, the link was purposely put in place to manipulate Page Rank.'

That is spam, but on the other hand: if the comment ADDS some value for your page also, you profit from it. That would probably be the perfect spam comment.

Marios Alexandrou said...

I run in to the same thing and I struggle with whether I should consider the motives behind a comment rather than just the contents of the comment.

In the end I settled on a solution that keeps me a good neighbor while also "protecting" me. That solution involves using a WordPress plugin that will remove the nofollow only after multiple comments from the same person.