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  • Black hat SEO spam

    Pssst... hey, bud, wanna buy an unlocked iPhone? Running shoes? Wanna know how to convert a video to play on your smart phone?

    We've all seen plenty of those spam threads here and elsewhere. A spammer, typically on one of his first posts on a BB starts a thread advertising some gray market ware. It's obvious what his intent is.

    But there's a more insidious form of spam that moderators here and elsewhere have to deal with... link spam. And the use of it is one of the techniques that falls under the rubric of Black Hat Search Engine Optimization...

    Link spam attempts to manipulate search engine results by manipulating what, in search engine circles, is called reputation.

    is sort of an index of the number of sites that point to a given site via links. Search engines tend to weight links from related sites higher -- but any link adds to a site's reputation -- unless the search engine company goes out of its way to deal with the problem, which often requires manual adjustment. Since search engines are hugely automated and investigation and adjustment is man hour intensive, such adjustments are expensive.

    Search engine managers from Google or Bing (Microsoft's search engine, which also powers Yahoo) recognize that their own reputation -- the real kind -- rests with their ability to deliver unmanipulated results -- and to direct those who want to buy good placement in the form of clearly marked paid placements and other adverts to their own advertising departments.

    They jealously guard the inner workings of their search engines and work to try to keep so-called black hat SEO optimization from skewing those results.

    Reporters at the New York Times noticed during the 2010 Christmas shopping season that one large U.S. retailer was getting what seemed remarkably high rankings in non-paid search engine results at Google: J.C. Penney.

    They went to a search engine researcher and asked him to find out why.

    The result is the article below from the Times on black hat SEO spam that reveals the seamy side of internet marketing -- and will probably help explain those often nearly nonsensical posts you will often see on internet bulletin boards and comment threads on blogs and media sites, all with links embedded in their text or in the user's signatures -- as well as those barely there websites that seem to have little content aside from some very general information on some topic or other -- often plagiarized from legit sites -- but the real payload is in the form of links to the sites of customers of such black hat search engine optimization 'consultants.'

    Does Google care about being manipulated?

    The answer is a definite yes.

    In the wake of this article, J.C. Penney Google rankings in many fields went from the top or near it to rankings down in the 70s and 80s as Google's enforcers 'manually' adjusted J.C. Penney's rankings.

    J.C. Penney has denied any knowledge of such perfidy ( ) -- but they did round up the usual suspects -- firing their SEO consultants, an outfit called SearchDex (who failed to return calls to the NY Times -- imagine that).

    NY Times: The Dirty Little Secrets of Search

    So, when you see a new user posting on your favorite BB with an off topic subject or nonsensical post, look a little closer and you're likely to see links to third party businesses embedded in their text or in their signatures. Don't be afraid to report them. You'll be doing the internet a favor.

    music and social links | recent listening

  • #2
    From the NY Times article -- regarding what happens when Google finds out someone's been gaming the system -- these were some results after the NY Times forwarded their findings to Google...
    [COLOR=#000000][FONT=Times New Roman][COLOR=#333333][FONT=Georgia]At 7 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, J. C. Penney was still the No. 1 result for

    music and social links | recent listening


    • #3
      TechCrunch had a related article this morning:

      RIP: Nite Owl Jazz


      • #4
        A while back I reported a website at WoT. The website's owner -who is a WoT member- contacted me about it. I pointed him to the post in question. I had taken a screenshot and it showed a word that had a URL pointing to his website. To make the long story short, he was (supposedly) unaware of this and fired his PR firm. The spam in question was promptly removed. I had not seen any spam from his company before, or since. I removed my rating at WoT. Unfortunately he handled things improperly with other WoT members so his website still has some negative marks.

        More recently, a person mentioned at the WoT forum that a company may be unaware that they're spamming, and that spam can be the result of SEO strategies. I told him that IMO it is the responsibility of the company to be aware of the activities of any marketing companies they hire. I report over 90% of the links I find from suspected spammers, after looking for previous spam here and elsewhere, and doing a Whois search.

        I highly recommend using WoT, Site Advisor, Spamcop, etc., to report spammers. Unfortunately I haven't found a way to deal with those spammers who sell electronics and post email addresses. I have reported them directly to the email providers, but never saw any results.
        The services I mentioned are far from being perfect. At WoT, for example, some spammers have superb reputations while good companies have poor reputations. These instances seem to be the exception rather than the rule, though, and results will improve as more people report the spam they see.

        I don't know if it's possible to prohibit users from posting links and from having a signature until they've reached a certain number of posts. That would take care of a lot of spam here, including the tricky signature spam. Some spammers seem to be real contributors to the forums.


        • #5
          Forgot to add that URL shortener services are another source of spam, and the links may be from reputable providers such as Google or Twitter. I avoid clicking on any shortened URL.


          • #6
            Is the WoT you mention this site? http://www.mywot.com/en/forum? (I tried just wot-dot-com but ended up at one of those spam pages that some sleazy domain registry resellers put up.)

            When I googled WoT -- most of what I got was for something called Wheel of Time -- which I presume is some sort of online game or such. The one above was the only one that seemed pertinent that came up in the topmost returns... of course, maybe they gamed their way up.

            Whenever I notice a shortened URL in the Songwriting Forum (where I'm a mod), I check it out and try to remember to post an explicit link. Shortening is a great thing if one uses Twitter (yeah, right -- my robots use it but I never bother) and one can use the features at places like TinyURL that allow the surfer to visit an intermediary page on their servers that that shows where one is being directed -- but shortened links can obviously disguise spam or malevolent links. That said, any link in most BB's can be disguised: www.blahblahblah.com

            music and social links | recent listening


            • #7
              Search engines are the ultimate find the needle in a stack of needles proposition ...... Google can change the algo's ad infinitim and folks will continue to find ways to scam and improve their positioning . SEO is just a microcosim ... almost biological or darwininan ... the battle over diminishing resources ( customers who actually are willing to pony up instead of free loaders )

              I have friends who are starting web based buisnesses and are thinking of paying consultation fees to SEO guru's . Should they spend on that ????? How much does the average person go beyond the first one or two pages of a search ??? I don't think they can expect to beat out the big boys and end up at the top of page one ; or ???
              First kill the goose by refusing to feed it , then blame it for dying and not giving anymore gold eggs

              Professionalism is an attitude and , not a possesion that you own forever once you have acheived something.

              "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones."

              Albert Einstein



              • #8
                Yes, that's the Site for Web of Trust.
                You're correct that any link can be disguised, as was the case with the spam I reported from this forum, but with URL shorteners there's no way to see the end link. With a disguised URL it's as easy as hovering over the link with the cursor. Using WoT I can also right-click on a link and get the option to "View WOT scorecard..."
                When a site is improperly rated, sending a message to the raters often solves the issue. I recently rated hundreds of electronics sites using their mass-rating tool, and one was improperly classified as a phishing site. The person who made the mistake in classifying the site sent me a message, and I promptly removed the negative rating for that one site. The mass-rating tool is great for rating fake pharmacy sites, online casinos, replica watches, electronics, male enhancement herbs, etc. This sites are often from spammers in China and Russia.


                • #9
                  Ah, yes... I do recall WebOfTrust now that we talk about it. In fact, I think it was in conversation with you that I first came across it. Looks like it can be a useful tool. As with anything in the real world, looks like it's not perfect in the eyes of all, but what is? It gets a reasonably good write up in a review of security/trust sites from PC Mag. (I'm not a fan of PC Mag, anymore, but writer Neil Rubenking seems like a pretty straight up guy.)



                  music and social links | recent listening


                  • #10

                    Google Launches Chrome Extension to Block Websites From Search Results

                    Google says that this Chrome extension is all about curbing the rise of content farms, websites that create vast quantities of low-quality content and rely on search for their traffic. When users block such a site, that information is transmitted to Google, where it could potentially be used as part of the company
                    RIP: Nite Owl Jazz


                    • #11
                      When I googled WoT -- most of what I got was for something called Wheel of Time -- which I presume is some sort of online game or such.

                      It's not a game, it's a book series in the fantasy genre. Very popular, and my personal favorite series. Robert Jordan created a truly impressive world and story in those books.
                      Powered by squirrels.


                      • #12
                        It's not a game, it's a book series in the fantasy genre. Very popular, and my personal favorite series. Robert Jordan created a truly impressive world and story in those books.

                        Ah! It certainly has a virtual lock on the WoT acronym.

                        music and social links | recent listening


                        • #13
                          Ah, yes... I do recall WebOfTrust now that we talk about it. In fact, I think it was in conversation with you that I first came across it...

                          Yes, we had talked about it a short while back. They've just been sued:

                          "The companies bringing up the case are Career Network, Inc., Three Stars Media, Inc., Three Stars, Inc. d/b/a Threestars of Central Florida, Inc., Internetcompany, Inc. d/b/a Internet-Company of Central Florida, Inc., Medialogic, Inc., Power Applications, Inc., MonkeyJar, Inc., and Buzzgrub, Inc. The person behind all the companies is Mr. Ayman El-Difrawin, also known as Alec Difrawi, Michael Difrawi, Alec Defrawy, Michael Jensen, David Mellon, Alan Madison, David Katz, Alec Simon, Alexander Simon."

                          Looks like they're doing a good job


                          • #14
                            Black hat SEO is defined as the techniques that are used to get higher rankings in an unethical manner. Black hat SEO is mostly used by those who wants to get a quick financial return on their website, rather than a long term investment. Sometimes Black hat SEO can result in your website being banned from a search engine, however the focus is on high return business models, most experts who are using Black hat search engine optimization tactics consider being banned from search engines a somewhat irrelevant risk.


                            • #15
                              Ah, the irony.........
                              "If you don't know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else" - Yogi Berra, 1925-2015


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