If you haven’t already noticed, we use a service called Disqus to manage the reader comments found at the foot of our posts.
It’s a pretty cool tool. For example, it allows users to log in using their Twitter, Facebook and other social media accounts to leave comments and share their online movements with their friends and followers.
Of course, it also raises awareness of our brand, in the process, and increases the number of valuable backlinks to our site.
One thing that it does particularly well is learn, through the actions of many, what comments are likely to be the work of comment spammers.
What is a comment spammer?
Now, I’m not talking about the type of spam that arrives in your email account offering discount viagra and the riches of fallen Nigerian royalty.
I’m talking about the machines that now spray meaningless chatter throughout the bloggersphere, as comments, hoping to get a click back to the offending site.
For example, there is a big distinction between reading an article, leaving a thoughtful comment and then inviting readers to check out your site or service elsewhere — as a real human being, engaged in the conversation — and programming robots to isolate keywords and dump random comments that hopefully somehow reflect the substance of the post.
For example, christopher copywriter is a real person and sometimes leaves comments to complement Anthill articles, such as this one: The eight scams peddled by SEO consultants. In the example given, he also invites readers to check out his activities, views and credentials on his own website as an extension of his comments.
That is perfectly okay. Christopher is adding to the discussion.
What is not okay are comments such as:
I like your work!, http://intense[sic].com/people/buyhydrocodon. Buy buy hydrocodone, duyh.
This comment appeared last month at the foot of a generic introduction to an innovation feature posted in 2007. The article was not work worthy of praise. But, aside from the misdirected positivity, it’s not hard to second-guess that the comment is text-book spam.
Indirect Comment Spam
Another, less transparent tactic is to not include a link in the comment box at all but say something that’s also slightly flattering and hope that the reader (usually the author) will click on the link associated with the name of the comment author to discover the identity of the person so generous in his or her (or its) praise, such as:
This is my second visit to this blog. We are starting a brand new initiative in the same niche as this blog. Your blog provided us with important information to work on. You have done a admirable job.
This second example, was published by an author adopting the name Business Electricity. The name linked back to an energy provider. Once again, it doesn’t take long to figure out this comment also generates the odour of spiced ham.
Spamming for Kylie Minogue?
However, spammers are developing even more veiled, yet targeted ways to get readers attention and convey a message.
This month, we received several comments on posts throughout our site mentioning Australian singer Kylie Minogue. It’s worth pointing out that none of these articles, where the comments temporarily appeared, are specifically about the pop songstress.
Quite simply, we reference all manner of Australian and international identities in the course of writing about business. (Our June 2009 piece on marketing, titled ‘Michael Jackson is not dead’, continues to attract both business builders and mourning MJ acolytes fifteen months on.)
For example, this comment by Gaynell Galeana includes no meaningful link, not even as a link from the author’s name, just this random statement:
Kylie Minogue’s new single, ‘Get Outta My Way’ from her latest album ‘Aphrodite,’ is sure to burn up the dance floor and the charts. She is definite with her UK tour early 2011 to promote this album.
The email address accompanying the comment has all the hallmarks of a mass generated Yahoo! account, made up of a string of numbers and letters.
This comment arrived around the same time from less dynamically named Meagan Thuman:
It was a great surprise for people in one of the pubs in England when Kylie Minogue performed. She was very friendly and down-to-earth. She didn’t make any demands and she was very polite.
Once again, the comment features no meaningful link, although it was posted referencing a far less suspicious email account.
Is this spam?
As I mentioned above, one of the great things about Disqus is its ability to identify trends and, in doing so, block spammers. In both instances above, Disqus smelt something spiced-hammy (metaphorically, of course) and flagged both comments as suspicious.
This, of course, has left me wondering. Has Kylie Minogue made a deal with the dark-side of internet marketing in a bid to keep her record career rock’n’rolling?
Or has her record company hired a ‘social media’ agency that somehow mistakenly believes astroturfng qualifies as a reputable strategy?
Or maybe we simply have a rogue fan on our hands, with a talent for coding and a passion for gold hot-pants?