Sunday, 10 August 2014

4 Ways to Spot an SEO Scammer


Have you ever had an email from someone wanting to guest post on your blog, when you have no idea who they are?

Have you ever thought it seemed a bit...odd? 

Ever since I started blogging, I've been inundated with emails that look a bit like this. (The emails are all worded slightly differently but they're more or less the same.)
"Request for Guest Article. 
Hi 
Hope you're keeping well! 
I'm an avid reader and blogger, a passion which I think we share.  
Your blog "themilelongbookshelf.com" is by far the most interesting I have come across in the recent past, hands down! 
The writer in me is yearning to write a piece for your blog. 
The best part is I won't be charging you a penny, but in return all I need is just one link within the article. 
Awaiting your reply."
Or maybe it looks like this.
"Surfing the net and your website "http://www.themilelongbookshelf.com" caught my attention. Really liked the site’s content and the best part I found is similar to the site I'm working for. 
I would love to contribute a guest post, which is unique and written by an author with a great track record. 
The content, I assure, is free of plagiarism, fulfil all the terms and conditions, and will certainly educate the readers. 
In turn, we would request you to provide us a link for our website from the article. 
Eagerly waiting for your approval."
Chances are that if you're a blogger in any niche you will have had a similar email at some point. Like me, you probably pondered over it for a little while. It was an odd email - the writer hadn't even included their blog link. You want to know why it seemed like an odd email? Because it's spam. Simple as that.

SEO = Search Engine Optimisation. The better your SEO is, the higher up you'll rank in Google's search results. This is important for everyone with a website but especially if you're a company, as good SEO = more exposure = more customers and more money.

If a company is struggling with this, they'll usually get someone to increase their SEO. This can be done by placing a link to the company on a website with good SEO... such as mine. And yours. Unfortunately, these people are lazy, and usually they resort to improving their company's SEO by doing two things:

   a) Spam comments. 
Ever gotten a comment half-relevant to the post the comment is on, but with a weird link at the end? If you publish it, your blog is then linking to them. That's why it's a good idea to moderate your comments because you can easily get rid of spam comments, and your own SEO remains unharmed.

  b) Guest posts.
Guest posts require more effort but it's the same technique as before. They're ultimately including a link to the website requiring improved SEO amongst the text of the post, meaning you (with good SEO) are linking to them (with bad SEO.) It's hard to explain, but imagine a car being jump-started by another car, and that's what it's like.

But how do you know if it really is spam?

Most of the time I ignore these emails, but occasionally I'll reply and ask for the writer's blog link just out of curiosity. Last time I did this the email I got back was just a link... going to some website about getting a fake visa. Right. Nice blog you've got there. Yep. *deletes email*

If you can't be bothered to reply, there are several signs that the email is spam.

The writer of the email doesn't include their own web address.
This is because they don't have a blog, even if they claim to have one. Of course they don't have a blog - they've just been employed by a company to reach out to other website owners, and most of the time they attempt to earn the trust of whoever they're emailing by claiming to have similar interests. Note the fact that the email I received mentions reading and the 'fact' that the sender is a blogger too. 

     They mention that they need to include a link in the guest post.
Imagine if a genuine book blogger (or any kind of blogger, for that matter) emailed you asking if they could guest post on your blog. They wouldn't ask to include a link to themselves in the post. They would either just do it, or you would include it somewhere in the post yourself. That's just how it is. So the fact that a 'blogger' is mentioning that they 'need' to put a link in there (and who knows where the link actually leads to, as they never say) screams the fact that they're just trying to improve their own SEO at your site's expense. 

They refer to your blog using the whole URL, and it's in quote marks.
This is a pretty big giveaway. If every time they refer to your blog they use your web address instead of your blog name, and it's in quote marks, you can safely assume that they're using Mail Merge, i.e. sending the same email to hundreds or even thousands of other bloggers with the click of a button - the URL changing automatically and accordingly each time.

 Their replies - if you start a conversation - are vague and often include spelling mistakes.
Using the same example as I have been in the rest of this post, after asking for the writer's blog link (which went to a spam website) I said I couldn't have her on the blog. Her reply was:
"Do you have any blogs to post  in future remember me as i am good  writer"
I didn't reply because I'm not entirely sure what that says.

But sometimes the company doesn't know their SEO is being 'improved' this way.

The two options I've mentioned in this post are the wrong ways to improve SEO, and are usually employed by lazy people looking to do their job in the easiest way possible, never mind whether it's morally right or wrong. This can go unnoticed by whoever is in charge of the website, and if you've got one of the dodgy links on your site, you might get an email like this...
"Dear Website Owner: 
We have discovered that a company we hired to help promote our website has used a variety of questionable techniques to secure links to our website. These links were placed purely for SEO purposes, with the intention of manipulating search rankings. 
It appears that there may be links like this that have been placed on your site. 
The presence of these links is harmful to our site's good standing with search engines, and unfortunately, retaining them may also be potentially harmful to your own website's reputation. 
We respectfully request that you please remove any links on your site that link to us. 
So far as we are aware, there is (or has been) a link at this URL: 
http://www.themilelongbookshelf.com/2013/06/blog-tour-interview-with-author-cathy.html 
We would greatly appreciate your help with resolving this problem. 
If you need any more information from us, please email me and I will be happy to assist. 
We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused you and do appreciate your help."
The link had been in a spam comment which must have slipped through the net last year. I deleted the comment including the questionable link and replied to the email to let the company know.

Hopefully this post was helpful to some of you, and if you have any questions feel free to ask me!

Have you ever had an email like this?


15 comments:

  1. I've never received one of these emails (yet). Kind of crazy that this stuff goes on!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I haven't had these, only the self pub requests and a few companies wanting to advertise weird products, unrelated to books, on my blog. Good to know this though, and I will be looking out for these.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I've never had a problem with guest post requests, but have had indie authors spamming me once in a while. It's sad to know that people actually do this.

    Amelia @ YA Bookologists

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you haven't had these requests. I don't think indie spamming is anything to do with this though :)

      Delete
  4. I haven't encountered this yet but this is really good information to know! Thank you for writing this post. Usually, I can kinda tell when an email is spam but sometimes they really do sound genuine. It's nice now to have something to flip back to like this post whenever I do come across something a little strange. (:

    ReplyDelete
  5. I've had loads, usually claiming to be freelance writers willing to write on any topic in return for permanently placing links/adverts in my About Me page. Hell no!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I get the spam guest post requests all the time, usually several a week. I just ignore them.

    ReplyDelete
  7. These sort of comments and emails always scare me.
    I've only ever once got a spam message but I seam to get a good few spam emails. At first it freaked me out but now I just ignore them.
    Very interesting post - I never knew anything about SEO.
    Marian ^_^

    ReplyDelete
  8. I actually haven't had an email like that... Or, well. If I've had an email like that, I've never really read it because on my own blog I've always stated that I do not accept guest posts/review requests so anytime I got those things I would delete it. (If they're not going to read my policy, then why should I read their email?) But I'm sure they do get sent around! Hopefully this helps others who have to deal with it!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I have had these! I've also had the ones who have a post written already and will 'ALLOW' me to feature it on my blog. Eh, no :) I never reply to anyone asking to guest post, seriously, my blog isn't that big. Why would they want to?!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I don't have a heavy hitting blog so I have no experience with things like this, but it's good to know about! I literally had no idea about this before!

    ReplyDelete
  11. hello Amber. i liked your artical. however every e mail i send has spelling mistakes,(dyslexic) i hope people dont think im a spammer @JYparadoxchild

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sure they don't. When I said about spelling mistakes I meant in combination with the other things I listed :)

      Delete
    2. thanks for the reply Amber. I am following you on twitter and i also like your facebook page. keep up all your great blogging :)

      Delete
  12. So far I haven't received any e-mails like this. The only weird SEO related e-mail I once got was from a company that had been duped this way, someone who worked for them in the past had commented on lots of blogs to improve their SEo and now they got blocked by google and tried to restore their SEO. They had commented on my blog and I hadn't noticed it (that was back then on blogger). They asked if I could remove the comment and I did. Must be hard to track all those blogs that person commented on.

    Thanks for the tips on how to know it's spam! Some e-mails can be so weird that you don't know whether it's real or spam.

    ReplyDelete

Feel free to leave me a comment. I will get back to you as soon as I can! :)