Who Benefits from Blog Comment Spam?

Photo by chotda used under Creative Commons

Photo by chotda used under Creative Commons

Over the last month or so, blog comment spam has surged here.

You may have noticed, or not. I try to mark the ones that Disqus doesn’t trap, but some inevitably leak through into the wild. Not a big deal to me really because they’re more annoying than offensive.

Initially, I thought that spammers had figured out a way to skirt Disqus’ spam filters, and I went to Twitter, my de facto source for technical information, with this question. Daniel Ha, Disqus founder, and his team were very quick to respond, which was greatly appreciated.

Turns out I was a little right and a little bit wrong. Apparently, these spam comments are posted by real people (vs. the normal bot postings), which made them harder to detect. Disqus is working on improving their filters, and I’m not really that bothered by the spam. It’s not a big deal to me, since we’re pretty small and don’t get that many.

But what I’m wondering here is who benefits from this cottage industry?

I’m thinking this might be a Mechanical Turk project. If you’re not familiar, MTurk is an Amazon service that allows you to farm out tasks to a distributed workforce.

“We give businesses and developers access to an on-demand, scalable workforce. Workers select from thousands of tasks and work whenever it’s convenient.”

Nice idea. Amazon uses MTurk to provide the results for the Amazon Remembers, a cool feature of their iPhone app. However, the service has its critics, and it’s been outed in the past as a way to falsify content on the ‘tubes. Most recently, a Belkin representation is alleged to have used MTurk to get positive reviews on Amazon.

Someone must be paying people to write spammy blog comments, right? I can’t imagine someone would do that for free, especially since very few of these comments have an outwardly discernible agenda, e.g. “great article!, grats for u site :)”, that would point to self-promotion.

So, what do we know? 1) There are people writing these comments. 2) They’re not rabidly promoting something.

I’m assuming they’re getting compensated to do this.

I want to know what the agenda is. Do you know? Have an idea?

INSERT INTO “comments” SELECT thoughts WHERE user = “you”;

Update: Thanks to Chet for correcting my insert syntax. I won’t be passing my DBA certification anytime soon. Should be something like:

INSERT INTO comments (witty_rejoinder)
SELECT thoughts
FROM chets_big_book_of_knowledge
WHERE user=’you’;

AboutJake

a.k.a.:jkuramot

28 comments

  1. Yeah, but Disqus doesn't surface that link in the blog, e.g. I don't see yours here. So, that's a fail. Plus, some of them, including the example I gave in the post, do not have links, just IPs.

    Seems random at best.

  2. good post u are very wise!!!

    Seriously, I hadn't even thought of the “compensation per comment” angle. I just assumed that commenters were just too inept to put the actual spam link into their comments. But you may be right. I'll have to scan my bizarre comments to see if they include numeric or other identifiers that could be picked up in a search.

  3. Daniel's point is the best one so far, since even though Disqus doesn't surface the site you include, it does show up for Google (and those others) to crawl. SEO makes sense for whomever is paying for the spam. Still, it's a stretch and not nearly obvious enough. Besides, I'm not sure a site about pregnancy symptoms is interested in camping on the keywords that bring people here. I could be wrong.

    The other side of the spam, the human entering the spam comments, is even more interesting. I have a picture in my mind of a sweatshop of people entering comments. Weird.

  4. INSERT INTO “comments” SELECT thoughts WHERE user = “you”;

    When doing an INSERT statement it is a very good practice to explicitly name the columns. And since you're using Oracle for a backend, you don't need the double quotes unless of course you created the tables as such. Oracle table names are not case sensitive.

    Also, you are missing your FROM clause.

    FAIL.

    😉

  5. Doh, I did drop the FROM during my copy-paste. Obviously, there's a reason I no longer write code. I usually use the brute-force method, i.e. keep hitting it until you get the right syntax.

    You win at splitting infinitives 🙂

  6. I wonder…if a login has a large percentage of 'link' comments (like 100%) a spam detector may highlight it for investigation. If that same login make a whole load of verbiage without links, it may not come in for the same scrutiny.

  7. I think that's what Disqus is starting to do. They may be trapping phrases too, since there were a few that were repeating. I'm still wondering why?

  8. You ask why , what are they getting from blog comment spam? its for seo benefits, they are trying to increase there page rank with outward links, this page has a page rank of 4 unfortunately posting a link from it will have no effect as your blog software has the nofollow attribute but commenting systems that dont have that such as the older ones will pass page rank. They also establish relevance by posting to certain articles sites etc http://www.storecoders.com

  9. Thanks for the explanation. I assumed it was related to SEO, but some of the spam comments didn't have overt links, but as Daniel mentions, even if Disqus doesn't surface a link, it's in there somewhere.

    Maybe you can shed some light on the manual human process of recent comment spamming. Obviously, they're not trained to look for nofollow.

  10. Theirs only one reason for link building and thats seo, you may be getting a few that are making you scratch your head and I would just conclude that its a new guy. Linkbuilding is a big bus., seo= alot of money. These companies bring in cheap labor in Pakistan, India etc. or maybe its a freelancer on his first job and is not really sure what hes doing. maybe there first testing the water to see if the post gets auto published, maybe there pros and trying to see what type of software your running to conclude if they can post a dofollow link in the description. Bottom line 1 goal to get a dofollow link on a article related to content on the other site to increase page rank and other seo ranking factors.

  11. I know of some people who call themselves SEO Experts who charge to post in blogs and forums hoping/thinking that the link back ( in the user name or actual post ) would be enough link *juice* to increase page rank. Sad.

  12. Ha, agreed. What's so “expert” about that idea?

    Now I'm thinking about Juice, that movie with Tupac . . .

  13. @Jen
    I understand how some people might think this practice is sad, but you obviously haven't seen a business go from unranked to top 10 using these techniques. I have. Depending on the niche, there's a lot of money to be had for landing a top 10 result.

    @Jake
    It's not so much expert as it is easy. Link popularity building is very difficult for certain businesses, depending on the topic. Commenting offers businesses a chance to (hopefully) contribute to the conversation and include a link to their product or service. As for the random spam without links, I'm still trying to figure that one out.

  14. Contributing to the conversation is what's missing from 100% of the comment spam I see here.

    These are spam comments specifically b/c they *only* seed links for page ranking purposes and offer nothing else. Digging deeper, we did find links buried in the comments that appeared to have none.

  15. Wow people just blab on and on and on about spam, heres my recipe for success don't moderate comments period, once a month I go through and delete the really spam like entries that add nothing to the conversation.

    What I don't understand is why people don't spend more time actually writing decent articles, now that would be a novel idea. You blog may suck but at least your not a spammer LOL.

    A lot of people I know don't even bother to post any more as it seems like most of the time the comments don't get through anyways. When you start getting this anal the bad guys have already won.

    Of course no days God have mercy if you post a link, even if it's on topic it will get deleted. Before you flame me to death yes I deal with spam all the time, it's annoying but not the end of the world. If you can't handle spam find another business cause its not going away.

  16. I don't moderate comments so everything shows up here, including spam comments that aren't trapped by Disqus.

    When I wrote this post, spam comments were overwhelming the real comments, making it tough to track any discussion. Since then, spam has returned to normal levels.

    Sorry if a comment of yours has been trapped by the spam filter b/c it had a link. I'm actually not that annoyed by spam comments, just curious about the economies that drive them, especially the ones that aren't automated.

  17. The post was not directed at you, sorry if it seemed that way. I'm just pointing out the fact that many web masters actually drive away traffic by being way to hard core with comment moderation and deletion of comments. The way I see it a real user has taken the time to go to the hassle of actually posting comments, they are probably more interested in my page then a user that does not post comments. I personally try to do everything possible not to alienate such users.

    I agree though you do get waves of spam from time to time. Some times you do need to take more drastic measures. In general I think your approach seems quite reasonable.

    Something that really helped me a lot was adding a spam section, In the spam section I let people post spam and promotional stuff with few regulations and I allow them do follow. This works great diverting and containing spam posted by humans. Around the comment area of every page I add a link to the spam section. If your blog software allows you to implement this, I would recommend going for it. Saves me a ton of time.

  18. No worries, when I see “angry blogger”, I bring out my outside voice by default 🙂

    Anyway, I really *did* intellectually want to know why actual people were spamming. It's a fascinating little MT project, probably a nice little money-maker abroad.

    I'm not really bothered by spam. I get why it's there, and it's mildly annoying. More funny though, especially the mispellings and hearty greetings and platitudes about my posts.

    Spam section sounds like a good solution, but unfortunately, we can't have anyone overtly promoting just anything here. That wouldn't last long, methinks.

  19. We really think it makes sense to have the comment spam filter is an integral and not optional Blogger. Your comments on the blog, marking it as not spam false positives or false negatives marked as spam will help.

  20. Well Blog Commenting is a good source of getting backlinks for a website or to increase their business by getting social. “Someone must be paying people to write spammy blog comments” – by writing spammy blog comments what do they get from this?? Nothing other than a zero network.

    -Romita Negi

  21. So get a blog comment is to increase their corporate website or social good source of backlinks. Some people have to pay a blog comment spam people in a blog comment spam do they get. Only a network of other zero.

  22. Do you know? I found many website but I can’t see imformation for me. And now, I feel happy because your imformation is very useful. Thank you very much!. 

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