Thankfully, in recent years, email spam filters have improved at almost the same rate as spammers. I’ve been getting relatively little junk, despite the fact that my mail system gets a very great deal. And I imagine most of us humans now have a pretty good built-in filter for the ones that slip past: messages which claim to be from ‘Kate Smith’ but have an email address of email@example.com don’t stay in my inbox for very long, for example.
The big effort by spammers these days has gone up one level – they’re less concerned about getting humans to follow links than they are about getting search engines to do so. Email spam doesn’t help much with your Google juice, and I gather, young reader, that the youth of today doesn’t use email much anyway? So ‘comment spam’, where people try to get a more connected web presence by posting comments on all sorts of blogs and forums which include embedded links to their site, is today’s weapon of choice.
A common example arrived this morning – I wrote an article a while back about the Sony eBook reader and somebody tried to post a comment which seems banal enough: “Nice blog adding this to my twitter now”. The punctuation is somewhat sparse, but I can imagine many would be taken in by such a comment and allow it through – not noticing that the link associated with the name (which would appear on Status-Q), would take you to a commercial site. The rogues no longer try to put compelling advertising or even keywords in the message, they just try to make it inoffensive enough that site owners will allow it to be attached to pages with a relevant theme. It’s highly unlikely a user would click it, but search engines might well follow it and so form some conceptual link between eBooks and the originator’s accursed site.
Another example a couple of days ago said something like, ‘Great post – very useful. The page doesn’t finish loading correctly in Opera 9, though’. I might have been tempted to let this through or waste time investigating, if they hadn’t also tried to post a second comment on another page claiming, in the same format, that it didn’t load correctly in IE8…
This morning’s one, though, was yet one step further removed from the spam of old. It was spam linking to a site about SEO – search engine optimisation. (This is about helping search engines find your site when people do relevant searches, in the same way that advertising is of course about helping people to find your product even when they don’t know they want it yet.) What’s more, this post wasn’t even about SEO, but about books about SEO! A comment, on someone else’s page, pretending to be about twitter, and in fact linking search engines to a page about books about how you can get people who are searching for eBooks to find your site… How many levels of indirection can you get?
Of course, the fact that the author of the post was someone named ‘SEO eBook’ was a bit of a give away…