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The long-term consequences of spam

July 14, 2008

Rarely can I claim to have ever been at the start of anything (should I really brag that I saw Alanis Morissette at the Tower Records parking lot before she got famous?) but I wonder if my blog about link spam was a first? I haven’t researched it, perhaps other bloggers caught it first (and of course I wasn’t the only one to see Morissette before she got big either!)?

And like Alanis’ talent, there is some controversy around my claim that link spam is indeed spam. Here’s the question in a nutshell… Can it be considered spam if someone pays you to post a link to a spam term? Is it advertising or spam?

It’s the latter. It may not look like the Nigerian-viagra-big titted whores-HYIP spam you get in email, but it is spam. When someone asks you to post a link on your blog that links to ads about Viagra or [insert your favorite spam phrase here], it’s spam.

But, they’re going to pay me for the link, so it’s advertising, right?

Wrong. It’s spam. Instead of cluttering up your in-box, they’re cluttering up your — and my! — search results. Every time you link back to a page, you are enhancing a site’s page ranking. Better page rank means higher search rank. Over time, it has the insidious effect of crowding out other legitimate pages. If you scan the terms that the spammers are using…

… you notice that they’re normal words that link to spam terms. The next time you do a legitimate search for vitamins you may find a spammer’s page about Propecia (which, come to think of it, I could use ;) ).

Will it work? Yes, over time. When enough people link back using these terms and URLs, it will have a cumulative effect. I think it will be very difficult for even the brilliant developers at Google to weed out these spam links via a search algorithm.

Therefore, please, just say no to link spam.

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