He’s coming for you. With the spamhammer.

A little while back, Google made a pretty big change to their search algorithms with an update that they call the “Penguin” update.

Penguin was specifically designed to punish backlinkers who are using certain black hat techniques such as keyword stuffing and things like comment and article spinning. What happens is that these spammers are checking Google Webmaster Tools (or receiving email updates) and are receiving messages that their ranking is being negatively affected by spam blogs or comments they have left on WordPress.com blogs.

Then, we at WordPress.com get emails that look like this (my paraphrase):

We need to have our links removed from your website ASAP. Below are a few URLs where we found our links. This may not be all of the links on your site. Please ensure that you remove ALL links to our site.

After this they provide us with the URL of their site (it’s usually something that’s basically pure spam) and then a list of all the links they know of across the WordPress.com network. This leads me to laugh, quite often out loud, because:

  1. They have just alerted us to a spam campaign on WordPress.com and likely elsewhere and given us exactly what we need to investigate,
  2. They have just admitted to us spam comments, entire spam blogs, or even sponsored post content that exists on WordPress.com and that we are looking to get rid of anyway, and
  3. The best part about it is that if it’s not that bad we could just leave it alone, do nothing, and possibly punish the spammers more than if we were to remove everything.

It probably doesn’t sound like much to you, but it’s one of those little things that amuses me and causes me to enjoy what I do.

Royal Pingdom:

Go ahead, look through your comment spam. You’ll feel great. Here are people (uh, bots) who really understand you. There will be an abundance of comments mentioning how brilliant, fascinating, intelligent and just plain old great you and your blog posts are.

This has quickly become one of the most prevalent forms of comment spam, because pandering to the ego works. People will reach into their Spam queue and pull these comments back after Akismet flags them as spam automatically, then defend them as legitimate commenters—including replying to them.

And who can blame them? So many blogs rarely receive comments, so when one comes in that not only appears to be genuine, but actually praises the blogger, it’s hard for people to say no.

Want to make a blogger’s day? Leave a comment when you read something you like. (Real ones, not spam ones.)

Harry Brignull on CAPTCHAs and conversion rates:

Users were directed to the sign-up form direct from the homepage before they could interact with the product. As you can see, there was a CAPTCHA at the bottom of the form (powered by reCAPTCHA). With this design, they had a conversion rate of roughly 48%. They then removed the CAPTCHA, and it boosted the conversion rate up to 64%. In conversion rate lingo, that’s an uplift of 33.3%! They replaced the CAPTCHA with honeypot fields and timestamp analysis, which has apparently proven to be very effective at preventing spam while being completely invisible to the end user.

In order for CAPTCHAs to be useful and/or effective, they have to render text in a way that requires a human to stop and examine it closely (in order to prevent machines from reading it).

Slowing down a registration or commenting process makes it feel like more work for the user or potential user. It’s an increase in cognitive load.

From the new website for Whoosh Traffic, which I will not link to because I don’t want to encourage them:

Here’s exactly how Whoosh Traffic works:

Sign up, then log in to our easy-to-use control panel and tell us how many links you want to build and which keywords you want to rank for.

“Sign up and let us know what keywords you want us to spam.”

To ensure maximum success for your link building campaign, we manually verify each of your backlink requests. First, we ensure that the keyword you wish to rank for is getting traffic from people typing it in to the search engines. (Nothing worse than being ranked #1 for a keyword no one types in!) We also send you an estimate of how long it will take you to rank for this keyword, and our suggestions on what else you can do to help your site rank better for your selected keyword(s).

“We’ll double-check your keywords against the other keywords we have been hired to create spam for so we can make sure we get all of our spam in order.”

Once we verify your campaign, our expert Backlink Ninjas take over. The Ninjas are full-time Whoosh Traffic employees whose sole job is to go out to other sites online and add your link to them with the proper keywords. Our database is full of thousands of these sites, each of which allow us to create a profile for you with a “do-follow” link back to your site on your profile page.

“Our well-programmed and automated splog, spam forum post, and spam profile creating robots will be programmed to infect the Internet with as many false and misleading websites as possible, all created in locations where we’ve determined the site owners aren’t smart enough to stop spam.

If the robots aren’t available, well, there’s always Mechanical Turk.”

Next, we add your campaign to our rank tracking tool so you can see what rank you have now, and watch your rank improve over time.

As your links are being built, you can check in on the progress in your control panel!

“We make it easy to see how much crap we’re creating on the Internet for you.”

Finally, we add all of the links we have just built to our custom blog network so that search engines find and index your links. We trickle links out over 1-2 weeks so your links will not all be found on the same day, thus ensuring that search engines find a steady flow of new links to your site! As search engines find your links, your ranking will increase.

“We then create posts on our custom-built splogs, making sure we don’t post very often so we aren’t caught as easily for doing something everyone knows is shady, wrong, and annoying.”


I’m assuming it’s just a natural oversight that one of the questions in the FAQ isn’t “Aren’t you referring to spam?”