Well, the SEO spammers have definitely found this blog. I’m getting about one spam comment an hour. Cleaning up this spam is taking more time I want to spend so I’m disabling comments from anonymous people. If you already have an account you can still comment. If you want an account please send an email to the address listed on the “About” page.
So what is happening here? Let’s imagine you sold books about penguins and wanted to use the Internet to increase sales. You set up a website to sell your books but at first, no one visits. This is surprising because you happen to know your penguin books can’t be beat. So you go to Google and type in “Penguin Books” and find that your website is 24,001st of 1.7 million results. With Google search results, being number one is what counts. If you are not in the top 5 you are essentially invisible.
Rather than wait for the world to beat a path to your door, you hire a company that promises to raise your Google rank. This company hires a legion of low cost workers to find blogs which might be related to your business and add comments with a link back to your penguin site. Google interprets this as general interest in your site and your rank begins to rise. People come to your website. You’re happy, the SEO company gets paid and all is well.
From the perspective of a blogger (e.g. me) this is terrible. Suddenly, my site is no longer a place where friends, family and the occasional interesting person from Japan can read and discuss our round the world trip. Instead I’m asked to approve an increasing number of badly written, irrelevant missives filled with links back to porn, organ enlargement and other sites not even tangentially related to travel. At least not my travel.
There are technical solutions to this problem but there is a huge imbalance of power. The SEO spammers represent a multi-million dollar business that exists to fill the Internet with garbage. I’m just a guy who wants to put up pictures and funny stories about travel.
It isn’t clear where this story ends either for me or the Internet in general. The worst case scenario is that small independent voices get overwhelmed by legions of people paid to scream PORN! at the top of their electronic lungs. Even Google, who’s business depends on getting what you want when you search, is having trouble keeping up.
Enough doom-saying. Back to some travel writing.
Update Jan 22, 2011 – Google responds to spam criticism: