"Admiring the persistence you put into your site and in depth information you provide. It’s good to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same outdated rehashed information. Wonderful read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m including your RSS feeds to my Google account. My site is [redacted]."This is total BS, of course. It's a fake comment intended only to build back links to their site in order to puff up their SEO reports. For the most part, it's easy to recognize spammers because of their consistently poor grasp of grammar and off-topic comments. But spammers are smart enough to know they're slightly stupid. And they've taken measures to address that. Now spammers try to be personal and friendly and trick you into thinking they're really reading when they are not.
When I uninstalled the Intense Debate comment system from my blog---I was really bummed to do this because it meant losing all of your wonderful comments for over a year, but Intense Debate took a dump and prevented several of you from commenting, and then it prevented me from deleting spam. That was the last straw. So it had to go. The spam that did it was the one from some printing guy that said this on the post about author web sites:
"I am actually thinking of getting my business cards done. It´s essential for Pro bloggers, I should say. Would love to win this. I´m a follower of our blog."
Kay, it's not "our" blog, and there's nothing to win. And note the crazy apostrophes. Then the guy used a different name (but same email address--duh) to post a follow up comment thusly:
"Stopping by your blog helped me to get what I was looking for. I found your site in google. And I will be back next time, thank you."
Right. Delete. Delete.
This spam disguised as friendliness and compliments is fairly easy to spot. But it gets more insidious, I'm afraid. And here's where I really want to warn you.
I received an email from someone off the blog. This means an actual human stopped, looked around for my contact info, and wrote me this email (even if it's a template email):
[extra space that indicates she pasted from a template, redacted]
Just wanted to drop you a note expressing my appreciation for your blog. As a blogger and freelance writer myself, I’m always excited to come across a blog that’s both a pleasurable read and an informative resource. [so far so good, I'm thinking, and even rather flattered.]
[extra spaces redacted]
Although I blog mostly for [redacted], I absolutely love writing guest posts that interest me. I have been reviewing your site and what look like your most popular posts and think I have some twists to those that your readers would like. I’m happy to provide you with content that you can use as you see fit and only ask for link back to my site [redacted] so that the readers can find out more about me and hopefully will subscribe to my blog.
Below you can find some of my recent published Guest posts:
[8 links redacted]
Thank you for your time!
So this person was really nice. And it sounded totally above board, right? The kicker here is the lack of specifics, like the really vague "I have been reviewing your site and what look like your most popular posts and think I have some twists to those that your readers would like." And then, of course, the link back to her site which is not writing-related at all. Nor would it be of remote interest to you.
So I wrote her back. I asked what the "twists to those posts that my readers would like" would be. And she replied saying they would be "5 strange things writers should watch out for" except they weren't strange and were pretty basic items. Maybe freshmen in high school might find them useful. In short, not appropriate for my blog, and definitely not appropriate for my readers. I'm not going to heap ridicule on the lady and name them or her.
So what was this lady doing?
Mike Chen, my Atmosphere Websites partner, insists she is from something called a "content farm" that basically has people do "guest posts" and write real articles with links back to their site to up their SEO rankings. I couldn't believe anyone actually puts man power into that because it sounds so trivial, and does it really result in actual sales at all? Who knows.
The amount of both comment spam and email spam I'm getting these days has increased--and I can't believe it has anything to do with how popular my blog is. Turns out it isn't. It's because I'm a smaller blog and these guys think their links are more likely to make it in. Insidious!
Anyway, to sum up:
- Watch for grammar and typos as a giveaway that the complimentary comment is spam
- Watch for odd spaces or backward apostrophes--backward apostrophes are a sure sign of a user from another country
- If anyone leaves a link to anything that is not writing related, delete it, even if it's benign like "Nice list, some inspiring and laterally thought up designs in there. I do agree that it was a bit long, especially with duplicate examples." No.
- Watch out for vague praise and any request in which the giveback is a link to their site--unless it's writing related, obviously. And even then, what exactly are they giving you?
Keep it strong, people. Our blogs are not fodder for building links back to other people's crappy business web sites.