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On The Receiving End of Link Building Campaigns

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We’ve blogged before about ways to reduce website spam:

http://www.scirra.com/blog/61/reducing-website-spam

However the inevitable was going to happen at some stage or another. Like a swarm ants spammers always find ways through the cracks and we’ve been hit with quite a few recently. (Big shout out to our excellent moderators and users who report this stuff quite quickly!) As webmasters and communities if you ever stop your efforts they will win — given enough time.

Bad quality link building (the focus of this post) is the sort you would pay a small fee for and someone will run an automated tool designed to make forum posts and blog comments on as many websites as possible linking to your website. There are plenty of tools out there designed to do exactly this. The objective is to game Google’s algorithm with the goal of improving the linked to websites position in search results.

What’s particularly interesting is that from some points of view the link building service isn’t regarded as spam. Naive webmasters and business owners will purchase these services under the guise that it’s a legitimate above-board SEO strategy that is just one of those things you need because they are told it’s what everyone else does, and they will be at a distinct disadvantage if they don’t also engage in it.

On the other side of the coin are webmasters who operate sites that are spammed, and the users who use these websites will perceive it as nothing but spam.

Both points of view resolve to the same action, a website being junked up with content designed only to improve search engine rankings by attempting to piggyback off your hard earned reputation. It’s lazy, greedy and is attempting to solve a problem the wrong way at other people's expense.

Why should people be annoyed? Firstly it wastes everyone’s time. Admins on the sites and volunteer moderators as well as users who accidently view the spam and take time to report it are all having their time wasted and will experienced a degraded overall experience as a result. As individual isolated events critics will dismiss these complaints as minor inconveniences and inexpensive for us, but that's nonsense! Due to constant spamming, the hours and hours over time of physically cleaning up the spam adds up. This is time that could be spent doing anything else far more productive. Also time invested in building preventative measures can be significant. Ethical website owners are the ones who ultimately end up paying for these link building campaigns.

There are ethical link building campaigns and people who offer these services but unfortunately they are drowned out by the bottom rung link building sellers who prey on people's greed and ignorance. The people who buy these link building services often turn a blind eye to what they are actually paying for or are oblivious to it. Either way they are the consumers that are funding a huge arm of the spam industry and it might be beneficial to everyone if they are made aware of the industry they are actually funding.

As site owners sure we can add more gates, tests and preventative measures. We don’t really want to though as this tends to impede the experience of legitimate visitors. As mentioned in the previous blog posts adding barriers such as CAPTCHAS is in our opinion generally a bad idea for accessibility reasons. Nofollowing links of course is a safe way to reduce effectiveness of the spam but in regards to actually stopping spammers it’s very ineffective. Actual human spammers aren’t uncommon any more either, and they are immune to just about everything you can put in their path.

Thankfully Google appears to be very proactive in reducing this spam market. It’s in their interest, and it’s in the interest of anyone who searches on Google. They are improving their algorithms to reduce the advantage these types of spam yield. It’s unlikely any of these link building spam campaigns will result in any long term benefits but I’m sure the people selling these services will tell you that they do. It’s easy for sellers of links to dress up a failed link building campaign as a glorious success with creative metrics and a naïve customer. As long as people think it’s a good idea they will continue doing it regardless of if it actual works or not.

People need to stop seeing these automated link building campaigns and services in any way other than outright spam. Link building campaigns are the campaigns that deposit spam in generous quantities all over your website. We need to find ways to stop naive SEO customers funding this part of the spam industry.

These link building spammers should be met with the same level of contempt that email spammers are met with, they are on the same moral footing yet for some reason they seem to operate in the open with very little contest to their ethics.

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