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Saturday, 30 June 2018

How to Stop Companies From Spamming You

Stamp out spam!
As a blogger, I welcome comments.

Heck, let's be honest, as a blogger, I almost live for comments. It's always a treat to hear my phone beep, check it, and discover that someone has left some feedback on a blog post.

Except when it was from Subarna. Or Abdur Rahim.

These two individuals left comment spam on my blog on behalf of two companies for well over a year. They both left "generically positive" comments that were vague, applicable to any blog, to any post. In fact, I searched the text of those comments and came up with many, many other places where those exact words were found.

Check it out...

Generic comments that serve no purpose...

The only objective of these types of comments is to gain a link. That said, it's hard to believe that any company would employ such tactics in an effort to improve search engine optimization (SEO) results for their sites.

The links referenced by the terms web design austin tx, austin web development, etc. point to a company that I had early luck with, because the owner was decent enough to respond to my first email with a promise to "work on" resolving my spam problem. It took another email to finally put an end to the problem, but at least the company was cooperative.


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The links referenced by the words Microsoft Server 2016 Installation Support (and all the permutations and combinations thereof) lead to a company that did not respond as I would have liked. This company was not as forthcoming as the first one to take responsibility for the spam that I'd been getting, instead choosing to deny that the problem was theirs.

In the original version of this blog post, I had fully intended to "feature" this company. Given that the spam on their behalf has now stopped, I'll back off. (While their name can still be seen in one of the images, it's not actual text that can be tracked.) However — unfortunately — that's not to say that there aren't still individuals out there who think that black hat SEO tactics are perfectly acceptable.

Even if you don't know the actual definitions of black hat SEO and white hat SEO, if you find yourself conjuring up images of old western movies, you have the general gist of the idea. Good guys don't resort to black hat strategies.

If you're being hounded by such comment spammers and want it to stop, here's how I successfully dealt with it.

Step One: Identify the Culprit

Before you can complain to someone, you need to identify who that someone is; i.e., what URL or link is the spammer trying to propagate?

There are two obvious ways that a comment can leave a link. First, inside the text of the comment, there can be a link to an external site. Ironically enough, this method may not actually work.


Identifying what links are being left via spam comments..

In the above, the text for Server 2016 and Microsoft Server 2016 Support is only clickable from within the original email. Once published as a comment to my blog, the link text no longer operates as a link, it's just text. That's right: this person wasn't even able to leave the links that he thought he was leaving.

The other way for a person to leave an outbound link is by creating an identity containing a direct link to a specific site. I'm not going to show you how it's done, but I left this type of comment on one of my own posts. (This will usually only work if you allow anonymous commenting.) The following graphic shows you how you can find out what link is associated with such an ID.

Another way of leaving a link via a spam comment...

Instead of using my Blogger account, I created a name and tied it to a URL. If someone leaves this type of comment, you can hover over the name and see in the bottom left corner what URL is associated with that person. (In this example, it was my own blog address.)

Anyway, if you're suffering from someone leaving consistent spam on behalf of a company, those are two ways that you can find out what that company is.

Step Two: Initiate Contact

Once you know who is being promoted in the spam, the second thing is to get in touch with someone from the company to let them know you don't appreciate it.

As I said, the first one I reached out to was encouraging. Here is what I sent via the website contact form:


Within minutes, I received the following response:


I was pleased that someone had replied so quickly and had taken responsibility for the issue. But that wasn't quite the end of it.

Step Three: Apply Hammer if Needed

I gave it some time, but the spam continued. I contacted this person again later in the year. The whole of the message hasn't been reproduced here, but this is the main part of it.


Again, I received a response fairly quickly (with the CEO expressing outrage that the practice had been continuing), and to date the spam in support of this company has stopped. Whatever he ultimately did to stop it, it did, in fact, stop.

In the case of company #2, I began with an online chat, getting the runaround with responses like "we didn't post that" (when the individual couldn't even see what had been posted, since it had been removed from my blog before I started the chat), "someone from outside the US is doing this; we are a company located in Dallas... we've had a couple of complaints about this before" (indicating that while he knew about the problem, it wasn't his problem) and finally, an out and out dismissal with "you have a nice sewing blog; have a nice day".

With the problem unresolved, I went to the company's website some time later and sent the following message:


I received no actual response to my complaint, but Abdur Rahim has not shown up in my comments ever since.


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Why did I bother? We can't control many of the bad aspects of the internet that are steadily rising above the good, but the proliferation of spam comments isn't something that should be tolerated as part of the experience. Not only that, a blogger who doesn't remove these types of comments comes across as a lazy blogger. That said, mere removal doesn't send a message to the companies who are actually paying people to do this moronic "work".

We need to do our part in maintaining an online environment where we can share information and do business without the interference of scammers and spammers. Therefore, small wins like this do make a difference and are worthwhile and meaningful in the big picture.

I hope you think so too.

By the way, you may or may not have known that Blogger recently had a month long issue with email notifications of comments not being properly received by bloggers due to Google's roll-out of increased privacy rules per the European GDPR.

The upside of the problem was that these spammer folks took a holiday from bothering people. I've noticed in the short time since our Blogger issue has been fixed, however, that I have gotten an increase in spam... :-(

So far, I've just flagged them as one-time spam. But if these folks become persistent, you can be sure that I'll pursue them.



Tomorrow is Canada Day. I'm feeling extra patriotic these days even though our big 150 celebration was last year. In the big scheme of things, I am just thankful beyond words... have a great day if you're celebrating.


3 comments:

  1. You go, girl. I'm impressed at your tenacity, Rochelle. I would never have thought to do what you have done, but you've inspired me, as I can see it's produced +ve results. I've also noticed an increase in spammers since Google has resolved the recent hiccups. I try to religiously remove spammy comments, as they annoy me, and also don't look good. I'm now going to go through my spam comments and see if there are repeat offenders over time. Thanks for the post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just checked - people seem to leave one or two comments, and then disappear. I've been lucky, but I'll keep an eye out.

      Delete
  2. Excellent advice shared here, Rochelle! I haven't had too many spam comments, but will keep your ideas in mind if it becomes more of a problem. In the past, I've just "blocked" those names so they can't repeat their dirty work in the comments. One thing I've noticed in the past few months are the spam followers I've gotten. All are women's names, followed with 5 digits. When I click on their profile, there is a link with "sexy" in the url. None of them comment, but just become followers. I think I have about a dozen of them. So glad your perseverance paid off, but what a headache!

    ReplyDelete

You have the power to brighten my day. Leave me a comment; I'd love to hear your thoughts... you can even remain ANONYMOUS! And rest assured that I acknowledge all comments, either here or via email. (That is, if you don't see a response from me here, I would have responded privately to the person.) Spam and generic comments with unrelated links, however, are promptly removed... and I may take appropriate action or report you to Google. Thanks for reading! (✿◠‿◠)