A QUESTION FOR READERS.

The number of robot spam comments this site receives is fast approaching two hundred a day. You never see any of them—nor does Dr. Boli, thanks to a clever Ukrainian plugin called Anti-spam, which Dr. Boli earnestly recommends. He knows the figures only because the latest version of the plugin has added a count to the comments page.4258 spam comments

The count began at 0 a few weeks ago.

Obviously, someone finds it profitable to bombard the Internet with comments in which links to “louis vuitton sale” are embedded in otherwise irrelevant or meaningless verbiage. 

But how is it possible that anyone anywhere ever makes money this way? Intelligent people are not likely to click on a link in an obvious spam comment. Stupid people are not likely to be able to pick out the link in the mass of irrelevant verbiage. Perhaps it is possible to imagine some forlorn soul whose monitor has gone black sitting in his lonely room randomly clicking here and there out of sheer nostalgia for the experience of surfing the Net, but short of such an unlikely situation it is hard to imagine how anyone ever follows those links.

So here is the question: Has anyone here ever spent any money as a result of a spam link in a blog comment? Even one reader here answering in the affirmative would be enough to show that spam comments can be profitable. Are you that one? What were the circumstances? Did you get the thing you paid for? Would you buy it again?

 

Comments

  1. Ben Ieghn says:

    It has long been my suspicion that such spam mostly emanates from Anti-spam plug-in companies, some located in the Ukraine…perhaps they find it very profitable…or at least a mildly amusing diversion from Russian, ah, I mean, Separatist rocket-fire.

  2. antiplanner says:

    The brilliance of spam is that it is deliberately stupid so that only stupid people fall for it. Spammers don’t want to waste their time dealing with people smart enough to see through their schemes.

  3. The point of such spam is that a few million such links end up posted on dead or long-abandoned forums visted only by spambots…and search-engine webcrawlers. Which see a few million links to the spammer’s site with “Louis Vuitton Sale” closely associated in the text with the link. Thus, when someone actually looking for Louis Vuitton luggage or whatever types those terms into a search engine, the search engine’s algorithm makes a quick count of how many sites with similar language had links to which handful of sites selling Louis Vuitton…and all those millions of spam links push the spammer’s site higher in the relevancy rankings.

    It’s called Search Engine Optimization, and while there are legitimate ways to go about it (embedding “keyword” headers in the HTML of your page to help search engines categorize it, tagging your images, etc), posting spam links on forums or blog comments is one of the more insidiously evil ones.

    • RepubAnon says:

      And here I thought it was all based on someone accidentally clicking an embedded link every now and then. As spamming is largely done through hijacking other people’s computers, there is very little cost to spamming the world.

      Besides, spammers can install malware on any insufficiently-defended computer accessing the link. There are lots of ways to monetize spam, it seems.

    • Jason Gilbert says:

      This.

      Another instance of this kind of behavior. I used to curate a small religious museum that eventually folded. After it closed, it did not occur to anyone to secure the URL, so when our certificate lapsed, someone in Israel bought it. They have kept most of the content of a cached beta version of the site up but embedded links to various other businesses here and there. I assume the sole purpose is convince databots that more sites are linking back to the content they are pushing.

  4. If Dr. Boli himself never sees spam comments, then where does he get the material for some of his more esoteric “reader mail” items, which glean the few nuggets of gold from the massive pile of mine tailings that is the pseudorandom text spat out by many spambots? His email inbox?

    • Dr. Boli says:

      They usually come from other sites in the Publishing Empire that do not have the same spam protection. Father Pitt and the other sites on WordPress.com use Akismet, which bumps spam into a dump where one can look at it if one wishes; some of the non-WordPress sites have much more primitive spam protection. For example, for the past three days, some spambot has been thoroughly convinced that eventually its advertisements for Celine luggage will appear on one particular article on the Illustrations site. It bombards that article with dozens of messages a day. They all fail, but they go into the moderation queue, because that site uses Nibbleblog, which is much more simpleminded than WordPress.

  5. Captain_DaFt says:

    Well speak of the Devil!
    I’ve seen a lot of these on this site, and wondered if they’re posted by some malfunctioning spambot, or whether the good Doctor is utilizing them to increase his own search rankings… not that he’d ever do such a thing.

  6. Dr. Boli says:

    Were you speaking of the link to “Studies in On-Line Behavior?” (It appears at the bottom of the stack of comments.)

    “Trackbacks” like that are generated automatically when one post links to another. Dr. Boli leaves them in so that readers can see other articles that refer to the article they are reading now.

    It is a curious fact of the WordPress commenting system, however, that Dr. Boli can set it to approve comments from previous commenters like “Captain_DaFt” automatically, but every single trackback from his very own site goes into the moderation queue. The one source WordPress refuses to trust under any circumstances, it seems, is itself.

  7. Captain_DaFt says:

    Curious. When I posted the comment above, it was as a reply to the “Trackback”, but it didn’t show at the time.

    I just assumed that the link had been flagged as suspicious, and replies weren’t allowed.

    From your answer and various other posts, WordPress appears to be a rather quirky program.

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