How Link Spammers Killed My Wife’s Web Site

If you’re link spamming, you suck. If you know someone who is link spamming, they suck — and you should tell them so. If you don’t know why you suck, here’s a story about the human impact of what you do.

About a year ago, my wife Lorna Harris launched a social news site for woman called Boudica. You won’t find anything there now. The site’s closed due to a link spamming attack and will probably never reopen.

Lorna wanted a place where women could share stories relating to women but without a predominance of “mommy” content she’d found in some other places. Not finding what she wanted, she dived into creating Boudica.

She assembled the site entirely on her own, finding a programmer, working to develop the features and watching over the small community that made use of it.

Most of her time was spent dealing with the inevitable spam attacks that a community site faces. While her site had some defenses, this latest attack was too much. Someone decided the world needed another 500+ links about discount prescription drugs.

Wiping the links out would be fast work for a programmer that knows Drupal, which her site was based on. But that’s still time and money for a small site that hasn’t generated income. Plus, the version of Drupal that she’s running really needs to be upgraded to prevent future attacks. That’s more time and money that’s not likely worth spending.

If Boudica had been more successful, doing the work would make sense. But it has remained small, and the link spam attack will probably tip her over to a decision she’s already been debating, of whether it makes sense to continue working at it. She doesn’t want to feel a failure if she abandons it; my feeling is that she’s learned much from doing it, so look at it as a building block for future success.

Still, being small doesn’t excuse the attack. Nor do other excuses that typically get trotted out carry much weight with me, such as “You get what’s coming if you don’t have strong defenses” or “it’s Google’s fault — they created the link economy that drives this demand.”

No, the core problem is that the web has people who think nothing of vandalizing other web sites. That’s what link spamming is. You’re not adding value to a site. You’re simply spray painting garbage on someone else’s property, for your own personal benefit. You have no manners. You have no morals. You ought to be ashamed.

Ironically, I was in a debate this week where I was sticking up for the SEO industry (see SEO FAQ That’s Not From The Land Of Unicorns). To some, that means I’m sticking up for link spamming, since they see the SEO industry as synonymous with link spam.

SEO doesn’t mean link spamming in my book. There are SEOs who also link spam, clearly. Aside from hurting individual site owners, you give the entire SEO industry a bad name. You should stop. Or call yourself something else — perhaps link spammer would be a good title?

I’ve written against link spam before. Back in 2005, I tried to get some consensus that automated link spam ought to be condemned by those in the industry overall. One example I pointed out during that campaign was Mike Grehan’s classic story of fending off link spam of a memorial web site in 2004.

Seriously, who wants to stand up in defense of dropping links on a site dedicated to a dead man?

Who wants to stand up for causing someone (me) to take time away during Thanksgiving last year to deal with link spam (see Crappy MP3 Sites, Comment Spamming & Enough Already)?

Who wants to stand up for killing a site that a mother was making time for in between the already full-time job of watching her kids?

In the US, we got CAN-SPAM primarily to help get junk spam email in control. It’s helped, though clearly spam email hasn’t gone away. Still, I think the time is overdue to look at updating CAN-SPAM to include link spam. I intend to explore that further.

We shouldn’t need laws as a deterrent, of course. Basic human decency ought to be enough. Those who are link spamming should be able to ask themselves one simple question about what they’re doing and know they shouldn’t go forward:

Is that the type of thing you’d be proud to tell your own mother about?

Postscript: By link spamming, by the way, I include comment spam as that’s often done solely to gain a link.

Postscript 2: Peter, below in the comments, sees this as a crybaby post. It’s not. Let me clarify a bit more, if my points above didn’t make this clear.

I’m not naive. I understand that sites should have anti-spamming filters in place. Lorna’s had some. It could have more. But I’ve also seen spam get through anti-spam filters on my own Sphinn social news site. That site employs multiple-CAPTCHA barriers, along with an array of other deterrents. It also has human moderators. Link spammers still attack it. Link spammers will attack ANYTHING out there, and nothing is foolproof. The first programmer that tells you they have a perfect anti-spam solution will soon after encounter another programmer who will blow that fallacy out of the water.

For success with a social site, or any site that allows user-generated content (such as a blog allowing comments), you have to be prepared to fight spam. Lorna expected it and has been fighting it. She could, if she wants, get this latest huge barrage of spam cleared out on Boudica and improve spam filters going forward, if she choses. She’s currently debating this. It just may be, as I explained above, that this was the thing that tips her toward closing the site, something she was already considering because of low usage.

But the main point is that decision shouldn’t be something forced upon her through an act of vandalism. That on the web, I feel we kind of accept that this type of spam happens, and you have to live with it. It does, you do — but I’m hoping for more than the usual rant that is all those impacted by it feel they have. I’m hoping in a small way that some of those who engage in these actions take a moment to think further about what they are doing. Or that perhaps some who know others who link spam will send a message out to knock it off.


Comments

  1. Andrew Thompson says

    With you 100% Danny. This is why we don’t use common CMS. IMO, they will always be vulnerable to this sort of thing. Bespoke is not bullet-proof, but it’s a lot less vulnerable.

  2. says

    I’m sorry to hear that, Danny. I wish I had a suggestion, but I don’t. Human moderation is really the only thing that can prevent these sorts of spam links from getting through, but who has the time?

    I’m sure your wife learned a valuable lesson here, and hopefully that lesson will make her next project ten times more successful.

  3. says

    There is always a contingent of people who will do anything for money, ethics, morals, politeness, and decency be damned. I wish it weren’t so, so that I didn’t have to spend so much time fending it off myself.

  4. says

    Thanks Andrew and Kevin. Trust me, I know well how a non-standard CMS or human moderation can help. That’s not the point, though. While I readily acknowledge that you need defenses, it is sad that we have to have them at all. There are some people who just don’t give a damn. They’ll link spam whatever they want, rationalizing it however they want (or not even bothering). I’d like more of them to take a second thought about what they do. I’d like people who know them to start pushing them away from those actions, as well.

    Put it to you this way. If you had a friend who constantly burned down buildings, eventually you might feel compelled to say that while you like being friends, the whole burning building things isn’t cool, isn’t going to fly, so they really need to change their behavior.

  5. Peter says

    What a lame crybaby story. It’s bordering on linkbait.

    For under $25 you prob could hire someone off odesk or guru.com to update the CMS. So you’re valuing the site at less than that!

  6. says

    I feel sorry for your wife too, Danny. Its absolutely not fair to her – or the many others that gets their online work destroyed.

    There are many greedy idiots on the web or people that just like to act as “super trolls”. Some of them destroy good communities for links – others do it for whatever other stupid reasons they may have.

    The last couple of communities that I watched slowly die didn’t suffer from comment spam created for links – in fact there was hardly iny links in the posts, but they nevertheless ended up degraded those communities to a level where they are just not usefull any more.

    The only solutions I have found to work over the years are a combination of really strong moderation and the right technologies. I fully understand that both is hard – if not impossible – for many private people, such as your wife, doing great things on the web. I just, personally, haven’t found solutions that works perfectly for them.

    An extension of the CAN SPAM act I don’t think is a good idea. To be honest, (as you probably know, Danny) we mostly laugh out loud over that law in most of the world outside the US – its too weak. As far as we see it it allows spam – not the opposite. In many countries in Europe you are not even allowed to send that first email.

    In any case – the laws you and we both have, have not proven to be able to stop spam. What have stopped spam for me is some really good spam filters. I still get approx 1000 spam mails a day in my personal inbox but only less than a handfull slips through – often less.

    I think it would be easier and faster to stop a lot of link-focused comment spam by convincing the search engines to discount it far more. The fact is that it still works. You can comment spam your way to a fortune. And its not even illegal. Why would hackers rob banks and help dictators when they an make more money this way – risk free?

    And because it works some people will continue to do it. It don’t take many programmers – just a few + a good network – to comment spam all communities in the world.

    Anyway, its a good discussion – so thanks for bringing it up. I am sure we will continue to have it for a while …

  7. says

    I feel for you and your wife. About 5 years ago i thought I would start a forum for locals here in Vermont. In no time I had to shut it down because of spam. I have learned alot since, but the feeling was awful. Many people pointed the finger at me.. That has been overcome but the thought of itis aweful.

  8. Bruce says

    It’s a shame that link-spammers can cause so much damage. It’s a shame they exist at all. One would hope that evolution eliminate such creatures in time, but it doesn’t look like it’ll happen in our lifetimes. Until we can find a way to make spamming backfire on the spammers, it will continue.

  9. says

    Good point about not using a common CMS. We turned off the forums on our site (phpBB) because there was so much link spam. We have new forums ready to go up, but won’t put them live until we can make sure this isn’t a problem again.
    I’m curious about how much of the spam you mentioned is from automated programs, since you said there were 500 links. Would a simple captcha have helped eliminate most of your wife’s spam links? (That is something we are hoping will work.)

  10. dlperry says

    “We shouldn’t need laws as a deterrent, of course. Basic human decency ought to be enough.”

    You’d think!! And, sadly, as long as people continue to demand legislation to keep people from doing things to people that people already know are wrong – there will always be BIG government.

  11. says

    Julie – the main problem with most web publishing software is that it is very hard to update if you are not a programmer. And as comment spammers – and other intruders, evolve so will the software security have to too.

    Capcha’s used to be a pretty solid method for keeping comment spammers out but now there are many capcha breaking programs out there and other tricky methods. Today you need a rule based system with several security checks. Capchas can still be one of them.

    It took WordPress many years to get to the automated updating system they have now. But they have it now and it works great to make sure users of that software always have the latest version.

  12. says

    Obviously the people who do this are not going to be shamed out of doing this. Most of the link and comment spams are probably bot-generated anyway. But the deeper issue is more like tragedy of the commons. Thought you put your soul and passion into a website, if it’s public, it’s public. And that means people are going to walk right over your flowers, stopping long enough to grind them beneath their feet.

    It’ll only stop when the action is no longer profitable, usually when you get saturation- grim, isn’t it? Laws unlikely to pass and nearly impossible to enforce. Unlikely police will ever trace them down to individuals. But one thing that can be done, if someone can create a tool that’ll trace links back, making it easier to identify individuals who do these things – but if they are in India, Russia, China or North Korea, neener neener neener. And if CMS’s get plugins and tools to catch them – WordPress has some measures built in.

  13. says

    Peter, I’m not a crybaby. I oversee a community site with sophisticated anti-spamming tools in place. That’s not the point. You’ve clearly missed it.

  14. says

    What is the point of going on about this despicable practice, the people who do it are too ignorant to do anything else and the authorities simply don’t care.

  15. Mark says

    Danny , Firstly I feel for your wife…as a mother working part time on this..do mums get any free time?? …this really sucks. Peters comments are ridiculous and I suppose are typical of the type of people we are trying to fight against. Also Dennis.. to answer your comment…there is a point as we are the majority and on the net community rules…..we have the voice and the backing of thousands…..there must be a way we can combat against this….but until then I hope you find a way to fight back and get that site back up and running……any help I can give let me know

    Mark

  16. says

    I agree 100% about the problem with link spam. The other month I decided that I wanted to learn more about running a forum so I spent a couple weeks setting up the permissions the design of the site the categories and got it working well, only to be attacked daily with hundreds of link spam. It was a phpBB site with the captcha’s in place so that cut down on the auto spam but there were still at least 20+ comments a day in each category that was human link spam. I didnt even get a chance to put real content on the site before I decided I didnt have enough time to deal with all this BS and shut down the forum.

    The problem is that people dont see it as anything wrong because they are only looking to make a quick buck. And if only 2% of your sites visitors click on these links then that means these spammers have to submit thousands a day just to help make some money.

    Blame infomercials telling people how to make millions on the internet and most of them are promoting the “idea” of link spamming as a way for you to make sales. Or the poorer countires who we pay pennies to a day for people to just send out these links and fill out these captchas so they can feed their families.

    When it comes down to it, telling someone not to put a “harmless link” on someones site when it stands in the way of money or food, well people are always still going to do it.

  17. says

    This is so unfortunate. Imagine how many sites have suffered similar burdens — but have no channel to call attention to the abuse!

    A good friend recently saw the demise of her site due to similar forces. A bit like Boudica, it focused on an underserved audience, offering free materials for teachers and social workers worldwide. The focus was on non-religious meditative tools and practices, to aid children in gaining emotional and intellectual focus. Non-profit; volunteer; open source. They were forced offline by a constant flow of thoughtless and pointless crap from a very focused crew of abusers. It’s truly unconscionable behavior.

    Even internal peer pressure can fail to deter a dedicated troublemaker. We have what amounts to the ultimate captcha at Googlewhack.com: you need to find a Googlewhack before you can post a comment! But, one of the old-time regulars still figured out a way to irritate and anger everyone else who enjoys the site.

    He decided privately that it was “too easy” for other people — especially newcomers — to find a whack. So, he gathered what he considered “easy” words from the last 2,000 whacks. He posted them all on one page of his blog, largely eliminating most prospects for the most popular words. The rest of the regulars give him bloody hell every time he appears on The Whack Stack, condemning him for ruining so many others’ fun, and asking him to take down his disruptive blog posting.

    I’ve IP-blocked him several times, for several days, when he becomes abusive toward others or the service itself. I’ve blacklisted his blog, so it won’t generate non-organic whacks. But, he contaminated the workspace for hundreds of words, thus limiting the enjoyment of many people, every single day.

    Here’s a laugh: he now complains that HE is the victim of a “mentality” — which is really a collective culture evolved through millions of visitors, hundreds of thousands of users (and whacks), tens of thousands of inbound links, and everything from research papers to off-Broadway shows. Eight years of free (and entirely non-profit) enjoyment — for people from a dozen countries joking and relaxing every day — and one guy corrupts it because he doesn’t “like” how other people use it. Wow!

    Yes, a different scenario, with different motives and results, but just as selfish and thoughtless toward the community and those who would serve it. (Luckily, I have enough control of the internals to tweak the program and configuration, and stay online.) When Danny decries a lack of “basic human decency,” and the work lost to it, I’m struck by the parallels…

  18. IncrediBILL says

    Danny, I would’ve also said this was a bit of a crybaby post because the technology is out there to thwart this nonsense but I see your wife more of a victim of software developers that don’t properly secure their product and could give a rats ass about the amount of mental anguish they cause the users of their products.

    Captcha’s aren’t the only solution, they’re just one solution, as well as obfuscating the forms in javascript so the bots can’t find them, as well as making the page name something random for each submission, as well as random field names so spammers can’t detect it, as well as validating user agents for validity, etc., etc.

    For instance this very comment submit form is so easy to find it just cries SPAM ME!

    form action=”/wordpress/wp-comments-post.php” method=”post” id=”commentform”

    Yup, that’ll slow them spammers down.

    The form action could be “syz1849sw.102″ or some garbage number tracked in a session meaning that only the session holder can submit to that page.

    Of course the bots can also hold sessions but making them read a page first before attempting to spam a page, assuming they knew that random page number was a page to spam in the first place, requires slowing the spammers actions by 50% to process two actions instead of one and slowing them down means half the spam ;)

    As long as all the sheep keep using crap software and depend on many of the laughable anti-spam solutions out there, this kind of thing will just keep happening.

    The truly sad thing is that the technology required to stop the spammers also tends to stop the accessibility software used by the visually impaired so we go round and round with the bad guys because the people making tools for the visually impaired can’t keep up with technology.

  19. Zoran says

    I have to say that people overreact sometimes… if your wife’s website started to taking off it will not be killed by any spammer on this world. There will be enough founds to have part time developer/administrator/consultant or on the end you know I was deleting 300-500 posts on the forum and review pages by hand… busting it out till worked out.

    I am not negative I also hate spammers from the bottom of my heart because of them I have learned how to protect forms with ajax, cookies, sessions, javascript… even still able to protect my website without engaging capcha… but it made me better programer, I am on the front line and do not whining… what I hate meore than link spammers are whiners.

  20. Zoran says

    One more thing… if your wife website would not get some of juicy links thanks to your huge authority it would not have high page rank and most probably would not be so high on the target list of spammers.

    I am big fan of Darwin theory of evolution on the web… evolve or die.

  21. says

    Thanks for the post and I’m sorry about your wife’s site. I’m glad to see most of these comments, especially Mikkel’s. And to some of the other comments — I wish we could agree to blame abuse on the abusers, and not shift the primary blame to others. Danny, you’re one of the most influential figures in the SEO industry, and I think you’ve always done a good job of promoting ethical SEO. There was a recent video where Matt Cutts and Michael Gray got together and called on SEOs not to trash other people’s sites. It’s easy to laugh at those efforts as silly, but sometimes it can be helpful to have some clarity of what’s unacceptable. I never worried at SMX that somebody would steal my wallet, but I definitely worry that some of these people will trash my site. Let’s say we ignore the perhaps ethically gray area of “Black Hat” tactics that don’t directly trash other people’s hard work, is there more the SEO community can do, perhaps in partnership with the search engines, to fight the vandalism you’re talking about?

  22. says

    Danny, sorry for your wife’s site, it looks like some SEO’s started evolving since that rant last week (I certainly have), unfortunately too many people call themselves SEO’s and do these kind of things that simply pollute and kill the internet. Thanks for sharing your thoughts… its an inspiration.

  23. says

    Thanks for a post citing a real world example of how these link spammers are hurting legitimate sites. I also appreciated your Land of Unicorns post, and I would like to see legitimate SEO people as a whole work on destroying the myth that link spammers and SEO are one and the same. They aren’t.

  24. yankeerudy says

    Danny, you are spot-on. I also am experiencing this heinous behavior with a social learning site, and have to spend time almost daily to weed out link spam. On some levels, it’s a “oh well what can you do this is life” sort of situation, since many link spammers out there are rooted in this behavior and won’t change. Hopefully, your plea will reach those (like Anakin Skywalker) who are dancing on the edge of the dark side and don’t realize they are slipping in the wrong direction.

  25. Martin Kalushkov says

    Well link spam will not stop anytime soon and you can do nothing about it. As someone pointed out above human moderation is the only way out but I image this for a big site :D Just open GAF and check out the job postings for captcha submissions – the rates are about $0.60 per 1000 captchas done with a min of 2000 daily, and some captcha entry teams are offering up to 40000 captcha submissions per day. Spam will always exist and you can do nothing about it :)

  26. says

    Danny,
    I am really sorry when it happens to an entrepreneur, in this case your own wife, that develops a good idea related to a social community site.

    I suffered my own link spam in one client blog and thanks to WordPress plugin such as Akismet, I got most of the problem solved but it takes time to sort the right plugin out.

    Please tell your wife not to give up with internet entrepreneurship specially in this times !!

    Good Regards from Spain

  27. says

    There are plenty of mothers, fathers, students, people working full-time while also part-time on web projects, and they don’t let something like spam stop them. And can we preach to and blame the vandals for robbing the business that we built in a high crime area, and didn’t bother to secure. We know spammers exist and will never be stopped so who’s fault is it? Maybe she should give it another go with the proper steps taken.

  28. TallTroll says

    Firstly, I sympathise. I really do.

    >> SEO doesn’t mean link spamming in my book.

    Agreed, but the problem is that link spamming is easier than SEO, and works just as well a lot of the time. That’s the SEs fault for making fundamentally stupid decisions about how SEs work. And the vunerability of Drupal (or any software package, for that matter) is the result of developers not knowing any better, or not caring enough to do better.

    >> Seriously, who wants to stand up in defense of dropping links on a site dedicated to a dead man?

    Excellent point, but sadly, it’s the wrong question to have asked. Sites that allow UGC get link spam, it might as well be a law of nature, like gravity. It needs neither advocacy nor defending, it will just happen whatever you or I think of it, because it has value (in monetary terms, at least).

  29. John C says

    … I was going to do a long rant here, but just like moaning about spammers, it wouldn’t solve anything. I just can’t believe I’m even reading this article from you of all people Danny.

    If this was meant to be link bait, then well… I guess it kinda worked. I see no other real reason for it being here.

  30. Lukas says

    I hate spammers too, but I totally agree with Peter!
    Sorry Danny, but the idea “CAN-SPAM to include link spam” is really ridiculous … If someone decide to put you in trouble, he can just spam on your behalf (with links to your site). So that measure is not the answer to tell the truth …

  31. says

    This entire situation is unfortunate, but is quite common. Several years ago, I started a site using the Pligg platform. Less than a year after opening the site, the daily spam and nonsense became too much and w/ little to no income being generated, I faced the same thing Danny’s wife is now – so I shut it down.

    While shutting it down made sense financially, I did enjoy the experience and learned from it. That said, I do believe it was valuable to the community and feel bad that a resource (like it) it not available any longer.

    If it is your passion, defend it & fix it. If it is an experiment or other time waster, let it go & grow from it.

  32. says

    IncrediBILL, I’ve tried to explain in the postscript (and thought I’d explained in the original story) that this isn’t about having the correct defenses in place. This post isn’t aimed at the webmaster who is starting a site and doesn’t have those up. They should, obviously. Lorna also had some in place. But this is aimed at those who actually do link spamming to try and get them to take a second thought.

    Look, I know about defenses. Sphinn has layers and layers of them. This comment form? It’s fairly open to you, but behind the scenes, I’ve got over 2,000 pieces of spam blocked in the past week or so. I’m not running the standard WordPress spam blocker — I’ve added SpamKarma2. I’ve also tweaked that behind the scenes. I’ve blocked IPs. I’m at a good level right now. If it gets worse, I’ll ramp it up, perhaps to require registration as I used to.

    But I or anyone shouldn’t have to do any of this, any more than a store owner shouldn’t have to put those security tags on merchandise. But people steal, so you have to. But we also, as a society, take a strong negative view toward stealing. People wouldn’t brag or talk about how they make their living by stealing (except perhaps to other thieves). People generally wouldn’t consider stealing as an acceptable career choice. But we have people who do view link spamming as acceptable behavior, “anything goes.”

    So to you and others focusing on the defense aspect, understood. Got that. Knew that already. I want you to focus on something different, the human deterrence that needs to be out there, in terms of unacceptance. We could use more of that as well as the tech fixes.

    Zoran, I add you to the list of people not getting it that this isn’t about whining. And oh, her site actually didn’t have much authority. But no need to actually read or research before commenting, I suppose, right?

    Martin, similar to what I said before, I know CAPTCHAs can help. But they don’t stop it all, which I also know from my experience on Sphinn. Layers and layers, and we still need a staff of human moderators to keep it under control. Time is cheap for some people.

    Darrenz, I’ll try to make this clear again. Her site hasn’t been that successful. She’s been pondering closing it before this happened. This was just a tipping point. It took a decision away from her, because someone decided to dump a load of garbage on her property. She might restart it; she might not. But she (nor anyone) shouldn’t have those decisions taken from them.

    And yes, to anyone, understand — have security, don’t whine if you don’t have it, got it. Developers should build better blocks into their software, yes. I agree. I know this. I know this stuff cold. I’m not looking for those saying this to preach to the choir.

    This isn’t a post about how you shouldn’t have security. This is a post asking those who spam to think about the human pain they can cause.

    Because you know, when you’re building a web site for a dead friend, as was the case with Mike Grehan, top of your mind is how you’d better make sure you block the spam.

  33. says

    John, I think a little attention to the human aspect isn’t moaning and is worthwhile from time to time. Sorry you disagree.

    Lukas, I think there might be ways to look at laws to prevent this. They wouldn’t be perfect, as CAN-SPAM isn’t. There’s potential for misuse, if not handled correctly. But I wouldn’t mind having a legal threat out there as a further deterrent.

  34. DS says

    Agree with you that link spamming sucks. Looking in the spam folder of my email makes me believe that your statement that CAN-SPAM has “helped” with email spam is dubious at best…

  35. says

    Danny,

    I am sorry to hear this. I had a similar issues last year with iframe injection viruses which took down two profitable sites I ran which were on the WordPress platform. Given that they were not my primary source of income, I just have not been able to put the time an energy into rebuilding them – which really stinks as one was a very profitable niche site. It did, however, get me to investigate some better options for securing my WordPress sites, but of course, in a perfect world, we would not need such defenses.

    I do hope that your wife is able to recover her site and revive her community.

    ~ Anthony

  36. Steve G says

    Welcome to the club.. I’ve shut down plenty of sites due to spam.. And all of them were not making much, if any, money, just good ideas or something fun to do.. The sites I care about I take the time to secure.. Or help my wife secure hers.. I’m sure you could have offered to help yours rather than give up :)

  37. kevin says

    Isn’t there a good solution for this (not great)? Can’t you use a simple captcha and some IP banning and take care of 90% of the problem? I’m not being a smart-ass, I just want to know what I’m missing, so I can learn something from the experience. It would be really nice to hear the specifics. Did they come from all different IP addresses? Did you implement captcha and they got around it, etc?

  38. Steve G says

    Added after reading your latest post,

    Expecting spammers not to spam unsecured sites because it is ‘wrong’ is like leaving the front door of your house open and expecting criminals not to steal your stuff because it is ‘wrong’.. Laws don’t stop them, proper security slows them down.. You will get a lot of people agreeing with you, but you’ll never get the spammers to back down, its easy money to them and they simply don’t care about us..

  39. says

    Kevin, I think her site had basic registration requirements. Until now, that was fine. She had spam, but it was something that took a little time to deal with each day. This was a mass onslaught. In her case, as I said, she could get it cleaned out and also get the software overall upgraded to add a CAPTCHA and some other tools. She might. As I’ve also said, she was already debating continuing the site to begin with. This might just push her to keeping it closed permanently. It’s just a decision that should have been left to her.

    Over at Sphinn, we have CAPTCHA (multiple ones, I think). Requirements of things you need to do before you can post at all. We’re not using off-the-shelf software (we dumped Pligg earlier this year, and the version we were running was heavily modified). We have an array of tools to auto-detect spam. And people still do spam manually. Time is cheap for some people. So we also have human review as a backup, with yet more array of tools designed to completely wipe out accounts, ban IP addresses and so on.

    Steve, got it. And I’ll just say it again, I’m NOT saying people should expect some unicorns and fairy world where they don’t need to lock doors because there aren’t spammers.

    Yes, you need security. YES, YOU NEED SECURITY. I KNOW THIS. I’m typing big not out of upset just simply to maybe catch people who keep missing that I’ve said this.

    But you know, it’s not just laws and security that keep people from breaking laws in the real world. Many of us encounter opportunities where we could steal safely. But we don’t, because on top of everything else, society generally frowns upon it. That’s a deterrent, as well.

    That’s all I’m saying here. To those criminals out there who might stumble across this, or to those who might know them, you do damage. You might not realize the damage you do. Maybe you haven’t cared about it. But you ought to, and perhaps this will make you think more.

    Realistically, I’m not expecting a change. It’s hard enough to get some of the good-hearted people commenting here to look beyond the “you should have better security” aspect. Getting actual criminals to think differently is an extreme long-shot. But sometimes, you want to try.

  40. TallTroll says

    Danny, you are fundamentally too nice, even after all this time. But at least you try. I’m considerably more cynical than you, I suspect. You’re hoping that people can rise above their own natures. Maybe one day… but probably not today, sorry. I always thought that the www was a very human place, not the tech dream that many see it as. This whole thread simply makes me more certain that it true

  41. says

    > I think a little attention to the human aspect isn’t moaning and is worthwhile from time to time.

    Danny, this is exactly why some of us love you so much. You are just such a good person by nature and you really want the world to turn better. I do too :)

    I just really don’t like going the legal way on this – because most of the legal restrictions I can think of would hurt legitimate businesses and individuals so much more than any Russian spammer.

    I do think that a better way is to remove as many incentives as possible. Lets start with the major search engines (have them discount link spam better – they CAN if they want!), then move on to contextual advertising networks (partly the engines again), affiliate and banner networks that makes it really profitable to link spam.

    When there is nothing left to gain from link spam it WILL slow down. And only then.

  42. rcjordan says

    >this is aimed at those who actually do link spamming to try and get them to take a second thought.

    You’re howling at the moon, Danny. But while you’re at it, how about getting rid of the paid blog anchor text, too?

  43. Steve G says

    Danny, I would love to agree with you.. I really would, but I’m far to cynical to ever think anything will ever slow it down.. Even on the Sphinn home page there is a link to an article called “Buy Text Link Ads With These 101 Sneaky Tips On Paid Links”.. I don’t think that its logical to think that you can complain about spammers not following the rules when one of your own sites promotes what many others think is just as evil..

    Removing pagerank from the toolbar will help.. SEs being more aggressive at devaluing link spam would really help.. Convincing users to report those posts rather than click on them will help.. Improving security will help.. It is nice to think more laws would help, but they won’t.. The guys that are doing this simply don’t care about us.. They never will.. DeCaptcher and Xrumer are proof of that..

  44. Alain says

    If the site was so small, why wasn’t she using mod approval for comments? Maybe grant a few good users with a bit more time on their hands comment-moderation privileges (and posting privileges?)

    Sure, a constant arms race with them with purely technological methods could result in success, but human moderation is effectively a guarantee.

    That said: I do wish you good luck trying to reduce the amount of link spam out there. Even a 20% reduction would make the web suck less.

  45. Pablo says

    I’m not clear what the value is in link spamming? Most sites I have seen apply the “nofollow” modifier to user-contributed links, which, as I understand, prevents it from affect page rank. So what’s the value in doing this? That the site’s viewers will click through? Sounds tenous. Clear it up for me, what’s the motive?

  46. says

    Steve, Sphinn’s a community site where people discuss articles. That’s different than actually publishing them. Most of the discussion right now is from people who think those are good tips. I’ve no doubt there are people who disagree with them and who might also speak up.

    Also, it’s important to distinguish between paid links and link spamming. Google says buying paid links is bad. Not everyone agrees, including Bing which official kind of frowns on them but doesn’t rule them out. Some people want to buy links and have good arguments why they feel they want to break Google’s rules. The wise people who do this also don’t complain if they get caught.

    Link spamming isn’t the same as paid links, not in my book. They are separate activities. With link spamming, you’re dropping links on a web site without adding any value to that site, without any purpose behind it other than to get a link. Whereas there’s a healthy debate over paid links, there are few people who stick up for link spamming. There are plenty of “black hat” folks who hate link spam as much as “white hat” people.

    So my post isn’t about following rules but more about not being a jerk. I’m not worried about whether link spamming is against Google’s rules or not. Those discussions, I know from experience, go nowhere. It’s about the fact that link spamming just sucks, rules regardless.

    Mikkel, as for the focus on the major search engines as if they have the solution, they don’t. That’s what nofollow was supposed to be about. I have nofollow on the outgoing links in comments here. That doesn’t stop people from manually spamming. I just had to delete a comment in this post for that very reason.

    They are part of it, of course. Site owners need to have good security. The search engines or others who fund sites that earn off link spam need to crack down on those sites, so they can’t earn. And we need more of an attitude change through the web about it. I think plenty of attention has been focused on the first two. I just thought it was time for a little attention on the last one, the human side.

  47. TallTroll says

    Pablo, you think nofollow is worth the pixels used to print it in source? Because if you do, I have a bridge I want to sell you…

  48. says

    Sorry – just one more comment from me – and the project of changing human nature. It CAN be done – but I am not sure its easily possible on a global level. But on a local level you can indeed. Let me give you an example …

    I live in Denmark. When I was young it was considered kind of cool to be able to drive your car home even if you where drunk. Cool right? No, it kills peaole. Real people die from drunk drivers! Its even worse than link spammers.

    In Denmark we have spend a lot of money over the past 10-15 years to change that – and you know what? We have actually succeeded to a great degree. Today it is absolutely NOT cool to drive drunk among most people. Really, people here have changed. Off course not everyone – but the far majority have. Even most young people don’t think its OK anymore. I think most have seen too many dead teenagers by now to accept that kind of actions.

    But it has taken many years to change people here. To do the same – with link spam – on a global level would take forever I think.

  49. says

    Alain, she hadn’t encountered such an onslaught before. That’s why she hadn’t enabled mod approval of everything. But I’ll repeat myself again, this post isn’t about security. I readily admit there’s more she could have done. I readily admit, everyone running a user site has to consider the spam issue. This is understood. It’s also not adding to the discussion I have here to keep raising it. That’s because even with the best security, you still have this onslaught out there because stuff still gets through. So I’d like to focus on reaching the people who do this, or those who know of them, about why this is such a harmful, unacceptable activity.

    Look, we have freeway signs that get graffiti on them. You can put up barbed wire, and in some places you’ll have to. But you don’t constantly say the problem is we don’t have enough barbed wire up around the signs. At some point, you acknowledge that part of the problem is that we have bad behavior with some people out there, and that we need to also encourage a change in that.

    Also, trust me, human moderation isn’t the guarantee you think it is. Someone will come along and put in 500 submissions by hand. They will, and they do. That pollutes finding the real submissions you want to approve. And yep, you can have other tools that will try to prevent this. And they get around those. Much can be reduced, I absolutely agree. But a little attention to the human side is what I’m asking in this post.

    Pablo, automated tools don’t care about nofollow. They’ll fire off submissions in hopes of finding links in places that don’t use it. Not worthy checking, when they’re automated. Some people also don’t care. They’ll take the link, nofollow or not, just for the click off the page. Remember that some pages will rank for certain terms, so if you get a link on them, you’ll potentially get a visit.

  50. says

    Hi Danny,
    I think you made your point by underlining that a normal person, simple web user (to be read: not a web related PRO – in this case your wife) cannot safely open his/her full-of-passion blog without being a spammer teams target. If that’s what you wanted to say, I totally agree with you.
    However, IncrediBILL has an interesting comment here too. If you wish to create/maintain a website (no matter with type) you need a PRO to watch over it, to patch it, to keep it up-to-date with the latest technologies. This is not an excuse for spammers as I HATE spammers too, but that’s not gonna bring them down.

  51. says

    Link-spamming should be illegal – period. Forget about decent human nature or common respect or what defines a link-spammer. As long as low life spammers can get away with it they will continue to infect the entire internet.

    If the FTC can loosely pass guidelines that go after marketers and bloggers for promoting whatever, then they have too much time on their hands. If they were actually enforcing and improving the CAN-SPAM Act and looking into bots designed to post, comment and email they wouldn’t have the time to delve into matters they don’t understand yet with no or little research.

    As far as throwing insults like ‘cry-baby’, I’m pretty sure I seen this statement somewhere on this site, ‘This is Danny Sullivan’s personal blog”. I think that pretty much makes it where he can post anything he wants. To step into his home and start throwing rude comments is pretty pathetic, in my opinion.

  52. Allen says

    With all due respect, this is just the cost of business in having a site up on the internet. Let me give you an example:

    I open up a computer parts and supply store. I put a lot of hard work into marketing, treating my customers well, etc…

    Guess what, because of the possibility of crime, I need to invest in security system for the store. Guess what, this is completely wasted money in the sense that it won’t add a dime to my bottom line and it will take time away from other more important things for me to research and install a suitable system. Now I can complain about this or just accept that its a part of doing business.

    If 3 months later, my store gets robbed because criminals found a way to defeat or get around the security, then its my responsibility to upgrade. Stores get robbed all the time. You don’t see business owners throwing up there hands and giving up because it happens. (well, sometimes you do.)

    My advice is to look at the world the way it is and stop complaining about how things should be. Of course in a perfect world I wouldn’t need to have locks on anything, but I’d be pretty foolish if I actually lived my life like that.

    Sorry to sound so harsh, but your wife needs to get back up and keep marching forward. If this is something she’s passionate about, then take the time to prevent stuff like this from happening.

  53. says

    The link spammers are the ones that don’t give a shit about anyone or anything except themselves and their wallets. They are greedy, selfish slackers who have no idea what working for something means.
    They are unaware of their surroundings and most probably too stupid to figure out that what they do hurts all of us…including themselves.

    Anyway Danny…I’m right there with you…I am an SEO Crusader!!

  54. says

    Your anti-spam sucks, even if you think it doesn’t I have the free akismet anti-spam on multiple WordPress blogs, and it is effectively flawless. Disqus’ anti-spam is also terrific. Also, you can employ the rel=nofollow.

    I mean, there are people I know who only use the hidden field anti-spam method and it totally works amazingly.

    Even e-mail spam is no longer a real problem. I haven’t gotten an email spam get through a filter in ages. I can’t even remember the last time.

  55. rcjordan says

    >paid blog anchor text

    In general. I’m seeing moderately competitive top 3 slots on G go to well-managed, sustained programs of phrase buying. Easy to pick up if you look, the buyers even distribute the same post copy.

    >this is aimed at those who actually do link spamming to try and get them to take a second thought.

    As it turns out, I’m invited to a little private soiree (I’m getting in under the “Old & Harmless Pass). I’ll ask them nicely for you.

  56. says

    Many here seem to be missing the point. Perhaps some have come upon the scene in recent years, and imagine, “it was always this way.” It was NOT.

    When I first got to know Danny (over thirteen years ago now!), Google and PageRank did not exist. Link spamming barely existed, and had no commercial value. Even the behavior of purposely disrupting other folks’ sites was relatively rare — limited mostly to “bad apples.” With only a little knowledge, you often could identify them (sometimes right down to where they were sitting).

    Most important, in that world, those who behaved unacceptably knew they were doing so. All I see in Danny’s post today is a clear statement that current behavior is UNACCEPTABLE. If you already grok that, OK, go straight to Heaven — but many people apparently do NOT.

    Comparisons to stores, houses, and so forth veer quickly off point. For thousands of years, every society has inculcated some common understanding of private physical property in every adult (indeed in most children), whether it’s respected it or not. A parallel awareness is not part of online culture.

    Try your “lock it up” argument here: presume for a moment that buildings had only been INVENTED thirty years ago, and then only in small numbers. Consider that the first homes and businesses began appearing in buildings within our lifetimes; that burglars appeared only in the past fifteen years or so. Accept that your grandparents never saw a building — or that your parents have never visited one. Recognize that professional thieves only began organizing in the last ten years. In that context, many thieves — many people, everywhere — might have no common awareness that stealing from a building is wrong.

    In that world — the one Danny is describing — you can install all the alarms and locks you want, but ultimately someone must say aloud, “Stealing is wrong.” Knowledgeable, visible authoritative figures must say aloud, “Stealing is wrong.”

    Danny, from such a position, is saying, “Stealing is wrong. And damaging my house while stealing — damaging it so severely that I would consider abandoning it — is very wrong.”

  57. says

    Allen, as I keep saying, yes, you have to have security. Yes, you have to upgrade. Yes, you have to stay on top of it.

    That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t complain about vandalism that happens on the web, and hope to change attitudes, any more than we would in the real world.

    RC, please do ask them nicely :)

  58. says

    Gary, I completely agree with you. I know it’s just words and thoughts, but sometimes those matter. I think the SEO thought-leaders should make strong statements about ethics. At SMX Advanced 2008 one of the presenters said “You’re not moralists, you’re marketers. You gave that up when you came into the business. Do what it takes to get links.” and nobody called him on it at the conference. Lisa Barone wrote a great post on it after the conference http://www.bruceclay.com/blog/archives/2008/06/smx_advanced_goes_dark.html. The comment thread included statements like “I really wish we’d leave the ethics out of it and just talk risk.” We’re not going to get consensus on issues regarding gaming the algorithms. But Gary, I agree with your point that sometimes things have to start with people saying “stealing is wrong.” I hope this isn’t considered comment or link spam, but I wrote more about this on http://managinggreatness.com/2009/05/08/smx-advanced-black-and-white/.

  59. rcjordan says

    >nicely

    Will do, Danny.

    Nice as I am, I’m expecting some minor push-back when I try to convince them to walk away from high-6-$digit annual income. I’ll just have to insist.

    As for the “decency” angle, that doesn’t go very far, I’m afraid. They have about as much contact with the target as a droid pilot.

  60. says

    Gil, plenty of people disagreed with his view and called him out on it, including Google’s Matt Cutts later in the day on stage at that same conference, if I recall correctly. I wrote of many of my own thoughts as well.

  61. says

    Danny what would be your POV on comment spamming by the companies of speakers at SEO industry events?

    It happens… they leave a great comment, sometimes even their real name, even an email address at their SEO company, but the link is to one of their SEO portfolio clients.

  62. says

    Thanks Danny, I didn’t remember Matt’s comments but I’ll take your word for it. Regarding your post that you link to, you wrote “I did consistently hear speakers — when covering blackhat tips — repeatedly warn that such tactics might be risky” and “anyone attending an advanced show should already know there are blackhat tactics out there, [and] have already decided what makes sense for them and their clients.” You also make that point in a comment on Lisa’s post “I also think most speakers were pretty clear about covering the risks involved.” But you’re only talking about risks and about “what makes sense” for you and your clients. Nowhere do I see in any of these posts or comments anything remotely like “If you’re link spamming, you suck.” Although I now see that in 2005 you wrote a post Can We Agree Automated Comment & Link Posting Is A Bad Thing?. And I see in the poll only 57% agreed while 22% said “unethical is too strong a word for me” and another 13% said “No — I just flat out dislike any declarations of standards. All’s fair in love and marketing.” So I guess I’m being naive. There is no consensus even on this. Danny, you’ve been fighting the good fight for a long time, and it’s terrible that your wife’s site was vandalized. I wish you success in stopping this.

  63. says

    Andy, my policy on links in comments is pretty straight-forward. I use the common sense rule, similar to Sphinn or at Search Engine Land. Links are fine if they are relevant to a post. Want to post a link in a comment? If that link really furthers the discussion, that’s cool. Want a link associated with your name? That’s fine if it helps me understand more about who you are or what you’re related to. Someone linking to their client? Yeah, I’d delete that.

  64. says

    Gil, one of the things I talked about earlier this year is the difference between black hat, white hat and crap hat.

    Black hat typically means you do things that are against the search engine guidelines. There is, as I’m sure you’re aware, quite a debate on whether that’s actually bad for the user. You have people who cloak content and drive people to pages that are nonetheless relevant. You have people who buy paid links, feeling like the search engines helped create the link economy and have no right to tell people what they can or can’t buy. And the “morals” of that are get very difficult, especially when search engines themselves will knowingly overlook some transgressions if they think relevancy isn’t being harmed (say that all Flash site that might cloak content).

    I wasn’t happy that we had a show where black hat topics were discussed among an audience of beginners. Nor was I happy that it wasn’t clear that the show itself wasn’t suggesting that people undertake black hat tactics. I think people should be aware of black hat stuff that happens. That doesn’t mean I recommend they do it. Actually, since I’ve first written about SEO back in 1996, I’ve recommended the opposite, that people stay within search guidelines.

    That was the big issue I was dealing in my post. People weren’t coming away saying wow, this guy said there’s no morality, I’ll do anything. The main concern was whether “advanced” SEO meant being black hat.

    Enter crap hat. We continue to have a debate between white hats and black hats. That’s why earlier this year I brought in the term craphat (see What’s A Craphat & Why You Shouldn’t Be One).

    In contrast to black hat tactics, crap hat tactics really have no debate in my view. You can’t argue that relevancy is being helped despite violating search engine guidelines. You can’t argue that you’re somehow helping anyone. All you do with craphat tactics is, well, shit on the web.

    My hope is that regardless of whether you’re a black hat or white hat in terms of search engine guidelines, you’ll agree no one wants to be a craphat.

  65. says

    Sorry to hear about your wife’s project “shut down”.

    Used to be all we had to deal with was PPC (Pills, Porn and Casinos), but we are getting link spammed with everything under the sun. From vacation properties to furniture companies… and still the basic PPC.

    I sent along an offer of help via this site, let me know…

  66. IncrediBILL says

    Danny, I thought I’d explained in my post that you shouldn’t be required to install any security.

    It’s the crap OpenSource software out there that isn’t properly secured out of the box causing all the problems.

    I said, and I repeat, your wife was a victim of bad programmers, not spammers.

    You can blame the spammers all you want but until the lazy ass programmers putting out this public domain garbage get off their collective butts and make their code at least %98 spam proofed the problem will persist.

    I can be done but the lazy bums won’t do it.

    Kind of like complaining about the people that write viruses when Windows is a pile of Swiss Cheese waiting to be infected.

    Remember how Linux used to come with all the ports wide open and your server got hacked while you were still installing it?

    Not the servers come locked down and pretty secure out of the box.

    So why haven’t the OpenSource blog and forum providers gotten the hint?

    It’s not rocket science.

  67. IncrediBILL says

    P.S. I understand the social aspect you’re putting forth but with many of the kiddies it’s a game, just like War Games, you build it, they try to crack it. Therefore, the only way to stop the game is to step up the game of the programmers. The users are the victims and the shoddy programmers are the enablers of the spammers, hackers and crackers.

  68. says

    I agree, link spammers are scum.

    But, it seems naive to assume that you can plop a CMS down in the middle of the wild west which is the web these days and expect it to sit there, untouched.

    I’ve been using WordPress for many years and have been overrun by link spam. Turning on various levels of moderation helps with this as does Akismet. For those who say that CMSs like WordPress are too hard to keep up to date, WordPress has had a one button updater in place for almost a year (the last few versions) and updating a site is quite simple now. It’s far from perfect but it has evolved over time to help us with these sorts of issues.

    All of that said, one still has to be involved in a site: watch for link spam in moderation, send it off to Akismet, delete spam that gets through, etc. But, this is the kind of involvement that someone running a successful interactive site needs to have anyway, spam or no spam.

    Even “self-running communities” need some sort of moderation and the most successful ones have it, less for spam, more for keeping people civil.

    Link spam will get solved some day. What worries me more is aggressive troll-like commenting from human beings who just want to cause trouble and suck innocent people into arguing. Limaugh’s “project chaos” brought these folks out in droves and they sought out and attacked anyone on the left side of the great divide. However, once you get a taste for them you can block them too.

  69. says

    Hi Danny,
    From your answer I think you misunderstood me when I commented about captchas. I’m not telling you that captchas work – just the opposite. There’s whole teams of Indians that can be hired from spammers just to fill in captchas in order to ensure the spam flows and the prices are more than reasonable – $0.60 for 1000 captcha submissions. So yes capthas work for bots but not for human bots.

  70. Ron says

    This isn’t really about the Internet. Vandalism existed before the Internet, and the Internet is just another venue for it. I agree with you, it sucks. It sucks that I have to paint over graffiti on my building. It sucks that retailers must absorb the cost of alarm systems, security guards and “shrinkage” (and it sucks that we all ultimately pay for it). It sucks that I have to deal with comment spam.

    Nothing should be forced upon any of us by vandalism, or crime in general. But that’s simply the way it is, and this is unlikely to change in our lifetimes.

    To live life, you must be prepared to deal with this. Moreover, on a professional level, you must account for this factor in your approach to any business venture, online or offline. To do otherwise is just a head-in-the-sand mentality.

    From a business perspective, I have to disagree with you and say that your post is somewhat pointless.

    From a personal perspective, however, I enjoyed your post because it provoked thought, it perpetuates idealism, and it encouraged me to do more of that as well. Plus, misery loves company.

  71. says

    I am sorry for your wife. I also had ever the spamming problem on my blog. I agree that SEO is not spamming. by the way I wonder, do you the owner of dannyweb?

  72. says

    One thing I got from this was don’t use Drupal (or Joomla for that matter). I can’t even begin to tell you how often I’ve seen this happen on these platforms.

  73. says

    As you’ve no doubt realized, captcha and content moderation are poor substitutes for a service-based spam filter like Mollum or Akismet (both available in Drupal via community contributed modules). Should you decide to clean the spam out of the site database and take a stab at relaunching, I highly recommend Mollum. I’ve worked with several community sites with similar issues that halted immediately once Mollum was turned on.

  74. says

    Sorry for your wife’s site, Danny. I disagree with Mikkel. If
    CAN-SPAM is lame or too narrow, we should try to fix it. We should
    put pressure on those who fuel linkspam with their marketing dollars,
    and those who farm out SEO work to unscrupulous contractors. We should
    also help small site owners to better protect themselves. Illegitimi
    non carborundum.

  75. says

    It’s true, the web is getting more and more complicated. There are two main camps. Those that follow the patterns already set (or try to) and those that innovate and come up with new things.

    There is a learning curve online, however. I do have to say WP currently handles spam better out of the box. For Drupal, I’d recommend just letting users leave comments and try one of the new captcha modules. Unless she’s on *gasp* 4.x or something?

    Anyway, best of luck sir.

    -kpaul

  76. Chris B says

    Im an editor of a site that was similarly hit by the attention of a group of these parasites. Turns out that theres a cottage industry selling a monthly list of sites that are ripe for this sort of exploitation (and the one that included our site has a charge of $5 for a monthly list of 30 sites, and has about 3000 people paying, so someone at least is making money out of this)having spent a couple of weeks fighting off the attentions of these fools we then went hunting through their forums to see what they are doing. in their community there seems a conviction that a) they’re doing nothing wrong, and b) the tag stops the link being followed, but dosnt stop it being counted for calculating numbers of links with search engines. now wether this is true or not is another matter, but its what the parasites believe. We did try warning people who were going to be hit, but till it had actually happened found it incredibly hard to get anyone to take us seriously.

  77. says

    i totally sympathise, spam sucks and was the reason i took my ‘reality tv’ hater site down “vote em out” it seemed russians loved to spam my shout walls and ran up my databases to stupid sizes, even going so far as to try and hack the site which resulted in the data becoming corrupt.

  78. says

    Here you there Danny, I had to shut my forum’s down on 2 of my sites because of spammers. These were localized information portals for folks to find vacation related topics on Lake Winnipesaukee. It really bites people need to ruin your personal love. I lost interest in even trying. Takes to much to clean up all the BS links.

  79. JasonG says

    CAN-SPAM hasn’t helped one bit; in fact the problem is worse now as it’s made commercial spammers’ job easier.

    I hear you with “they should be ashamed” etc… As much as that’s true, do you really think it accomplishes anything (other than personal satisfaction) to say that when this same problem already exists (and has for a long time) in other contexts? Look at “sign spam” for example. Drive down the road, any road, within an urban or ex-urban area in the U.S. and you will see people’s garbage tacked up on telephone poles, stuck into the ground next to the road, etc… claiming you can lose weight, get out of your mortgage, etc… Some are even put up by “legitimate” businesses if you can call them that. Most, if not all are illegal under various state statutes. Yet they persist…

    What if someone stuck signs in your front lawn while you were away and there was no way to find out who did it. Then they kept doing it… They only reason this doesn’t happen is because it’s too expensive for someone to do. That’s not the case on the Internet.

    It’s all a tangential tragedy-of-the-commons and it won’t stop until there are strong laws unencumbered by lobbyists’ demands backed up with strong monetary-based enforcement. What do you think the chances of that happening are?

  80. Bill says

    It’s your fault for not integrating something to defeat the spam.

    The world’s not a rosy place where unicorns and rainbows have tea parties every single day. People are out there to make money online, and if there’s a easy way to do it, it will be done.

  81. IncrediBILL says

    No Bill, it’s not Danny’s fault.

    That would be like buying a new car and claiming it was Danny’s fault he’s picking bugs out of his teeth because he didn’t install a windshield.

    Cars some with windshields to protect passengers and software should come with anti-spam measures built into them to protect users thwart the scumbags.

  82. says

    Hehe… OK, we know linkspam can be disruptive. BUT, which is more incomprehensibly frustrating? Linkspam (which at least must be making money for somebody) or folks who post without knowing what’s in the comments — or even in the freakin’ article! LOL!

  83. Mature Dating UK says

    Hey Danny, it is interesting to hear your story. My suspicion is that this problem may die down in the future, it would not surprise me if google, the driving force behind any such practices, starts penalising link spammers (if they aren’t already) and it will make people move onto something else. I.e. All comment links will be worth very little in terms of a vote for a site and comments with suspicious content will put the linked site in trouble with the big G. What do you think?

  84. says

    I just read your blog about your wifes website. I was wondering if your wife still wanted to work on a site that is work women. Our site is for new parents and of course women being one of them. We are looking for somone to develop content on our site. We are about to launch an updated website with more features. Please email me and let me know if this might work for your wife. Our Site is FreeGifts4Kids.Com
    Thanks for you time.

  85. says

    Hi Danny,

    First of all, I want to commend you for all the wonderful things you’ve done for the SEO community.

    But second, I’d like to suggest you have been a bad husband here. You could move Lorna to WordPress and benefit from WP Spam Free (Akismet gets too many false positives and allows too many bot comments in which have to be scanned so we don’t use it) which shuts bots down cold. We’ve also recently published a WordPress plugin Thoughtful Comments which is really useful on websites with hot discussions like political and SEO sites (i.e. WP Spam Free takes care of the bots and Thoughtful Comments takes care of the trolls).

    Next with WordPress she can go to only approved comments appear automatically.

    If you’d like some help moving this site to WordPress, we are the number one in the world. We also do Moveable Type to WordPress. Why not add Drupal to WordPress?

    We’ll take care of you.

    As Lorna’s husband and a top web personality, it’s your duty to protect her from the spammers. And protecting her doesn’t mean one time rescues. It means putting in structural fixes which will protect her site today and tomorrow.

    Why should your website be a properly maintained WordPress site and Lorna’s site an out-of-date Drupal installation?

    PS. Cool to see you here Mikkel and IncrediBILL. Just like the old Threadwatch days. Made me wonder how Nick Wilson was doing. He’s in a virtual world.

  86. says

    Alec, it was her project, not mine. She had her own programmer and oversaw her own work on it. And she did have some defenses in place, as I keep saying over and over again.

    Yes, those could be better. And I don’t need to update them. She can have her own programmer do them, if she wants to put in some more time and energy on the site. It just probably not worth that time and energy at this point. As I also keep saying, she was kind of at a tipping point with it.

    I’m kind of begging at this point. I don’t need any further comments about technological fixes that could be put in place. That’s why I’m going to close them now. I know that cold. That’s not what this post was about.

    We discuss the tech fixes to death. Understood. People should be prepared for spam, and they should be prepared to improve their defenses constantly. I. Get. That. I agree with that.

    Anyone who was about to comment on that point, STOP. Just stop for a second. Actually go back and READ what’s been discussed, clear your mind of your instant knee-jerk response.

    What I’m saying in this post is DESPITE the need for tech fixes, there’s also an attitude change that should happen out there. That people who are doing link spam should take a hard look at the havoc they generate. That those who know them ought to give them a hard time about their activities. That while we can put up barbed wire to protect property, and we just might have to in the tough area of community-driven content, that still doesn’t make link and comment spamming acceptable.

    I have never said in this post that people should expect a unicorn and fairy world of no spam. I have simply tried to illustrate for the few link spammers out there who might actually have some emotions that they have a terrible impact out there.

    Anyone who wants to disagree, tell you what. Next time someone you know dies, say your mother, a friend, a child, let’s see if putting up spam defenses would be a top priority in your minds if you do a blog post about them. Hey, if you’re at the funeral and it turns out there’s 70 Viagra spam links that show up on your post about the funeral when you get back — because you failed to apply yet another update to WordPress or someone manually decided it was worth the time to get through your supposedly perfect spam filters — then be sure to do your own post about how it was all your fault.

    Alternatively, maybe we can find room for a little humanity and common decency along with preparing for the worst.