Mar 4, 2011

SEO is very sophisticated (and.... we're back!)

Sorry all for the 2-month posting hiatus. I've been travelling and job searching for much of the past 10 weeks, so decided to put the blog on hold for a bit. Posting shall now recommence, with planned contributions from other authors (if I can convince them).

To get started, I want to mention a new phenomenon that I've begun to see in my inbox. Every few weeks I get an email that looks like this:

Hi Jake,

My name is -----------, and I'm writing in regards to your site. I'm currently working with -----------.net, and we recently published an article entitled "10 Most --------- ----------- Computer Labs In the Country". You can review the article here: (http://-------------/computer-labs-in-the-country/)

If you find that this resource would be of interest to your audience, please feel free to share it with them at your discretion.

Either way, I'm glad to have come across your blog. If there's anything else on our site that interests you, please feel free to let me know. Thanks again for the great content!


Sincerely,
----------- -----

So I'm both amazed and a bit confused. The site in question advertises online colleges and universities, and it's clearly (mildly) spammy. I've dashed out all of the identifying information in order to avoid giving them what they are fishing for, which is a boost in their search engine rank. (If you'd like to check out the site, it's http colon slash slash onlinecolleges dot net)

This is quite plainly the practice of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), known to be a rising trend on the web. The New York Times recently published two articles about SEO, and Slate also put out an entertaining piece. The main idea is that web traffic is driven by search queries, and for a large number of search terms it's relatively easy to game the ranking algorithm of Google, Yahoo, etc. -- as long as one can manage to get several links to the desired site embedded in enough relevant pages scattered around the web. So let us observe: the blog you are currently reading contains the word "computer", "online" and "learning" many many times -- hence it's a prime target boosting one's ranking for queries such as "online university".

So what about this surprises me? Up until now I was under the impression that SEO manifests itself like all other spam we see. A company hoping to boost the ranking of site X pays an SEO firm to spread links to X around the web via content farms, unmoderated blog comments, etc. -- but all of these practices can be done via scripting and web crawling, i.e. it's all automated. I've actually done some work on detecting such "web spam", i.e. hosts and pages generated solely for the purpose of optimizing search rankings. When this research was published nearly 4 years ago I and my coauthors emphasized a key observation: "good" sites rarely link to "spammy" sites. This makes detecting spammy sites relatively easy, since they don't get a lot in-links from trusted sites. That is, sites where SEO companies can easily embed links can be quickly discovered and tagged as untrustworthy sources for ranking.

But what we have here is different. It appears that an actual individual, a human being, looked at this blog, determined my email address and emailed me to request a link. The hope here, of course, is that I'd be so flattered by this personal request that I might actually advertise their site. This suggests a rather different economic model from the usual approach to spam -- indeed, should we even think of this as spam? It also hints at the value of an endorsement from a trusted site, as the individual who contacted me had to invest nontrivial human time to find the blog and make the request, with a likely low chance of having me bite. Another email I received 2 months ago was even more explicit:
One more thing, are you interested in receiving a payment for adding a link on one of your pages? The link will go to an education site.

My budget is $100 and can pay via PayPal. Let me know if you are interested and I can follow up with an email or a phone call.

(I ignored the request, although for $250 I might have considered it...)

This new approach, actually paying for endorsements, will likely prove very challenging for search engines in the future. Classifying spammy links is easy when they are all coming from a small set of nefarious pages/hosts. It looks like SEO has gotten quite a bit more sophisticated, however, as it now manages to get links and endorsements embedded in otherwise genuine content.

Do any of you out there have similar stories about link requests?

45 comments:

  1. I find SEO really fascinating. One "similar story" is of paying for crowd-sourcing of web/socialnet/etc spam using Mechanical Turk. See e.g. this post. The rates there are much lower than $100 but OTOH they're buying more reputation.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Same thing with Captchas - most captcha solvers can't compete, so spamming companies pay people to write in captchas.

    OTOH, I don't think your email is that hard to rip with a script.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Sorry all for the 2-month posting hiatus. I've been travelling and job searching for much of the past 10 weeks, so decided to put the blog on hold . www.line-sticker.com/

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sorry all for the 2-month posting hiatus. I've been travelling and job searching for much of the past 10 weeks Guaranteed Niche High Quality Backlinks

    ReplyDelete
  5. Posting shall now recommence, with planned contributions from other authors (if I can convince them).


    ReplyDelete
  6. So I'm both amazed and a bit confused. The site in question advertises online colleges and universities, High Quality Back Links to your website

    ReplyDelete
  7. This is quite plainly the practice of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), known to be a rising trend on the web. Blog Comment Service

    ReplyDelete
  8. This is quite plainly the practice of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), known to be a rising trend on the web. Blog Comment Service

    ReplyDelete
  9. I want to mention a new phenomenon that I've begun to see in my inbox. Every few weeks I get an email that looks like this: High Page rank Back-links

    ReplyDelete
  10. This is a amazing products you want to see.
    SEO Singapore

    ReplyDelete
  11. This is a very good post for me thank you Admin... :D
    SEO Singapore

    ReplyDelete

  12. SEO Experts Sydney not only promotes your website, it also increases its visibility. Search engine optimisation is important if you want your web presence to be solid. In case you have missed the opportunity to optimise your website, it’s about time you should. Once your website is optimised, you will enjoy the manifold benefits of SEO.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Webmasters and content providers began optimizing sites for search engines in the mid-1990s, as the first search engines were cataloging the early Web. where can i buy $1 seo services

    ReplyDelete
  14. This makes detecting spammy sites relatively easy, since they don't get a lot in-links from trusted sites. That is, sites where SEO companies can easily embed links can be quickly discovered and tagged as untrustworthy sources for ranking. FREE SEO 14 Day Trial

    ReplyDelete
  15. Actually SEO is not a quicker process and present GOOGLE algorithm is very smart. That's why it is very much vital to know and learn the perfect SEO and should implement the process in according to the terms and condition of GOOGLE. Also patience is the key of SEO, so without having patience and good quality work it is not possible to get good results. Thanks :)best marketing methods

    ReplyDelete
  16. We only promise what we can achieve ethically. Hence we provide you with a FREE TRIAL so you can decide if our seo company in dallas texas services are for you.

    ReplyDelete
  17. To get started, I want to mention a new phenomenon that I've begun to see in my inbox. Every few weeks I get an email that looks like this:seo services on sale

    ReplyDelete
  18. For a period of two weeks the spiders crawled -- and we had the opportunity to go back and see what happened. http://www.socaldigitalmarketing.com

    ReplyDelete
  19. this blog is very nice and unique.thanks for sharing.

    Cheap SEO Packages

    ReplyDelete
  20. The main idea is that web traffic is driven by search queries, and for a large number of search terms it's relatively easy to game the ranking algorithm of Google, Yahoo, etc. -- as long as one can manage to get several links to the desired site embedded in enough relevant pages scattered around the web. affordable seo service

    ReplyDelete
  21. I've been travelling and job searching for much of the past 10 weeks, so decided to put the blog on hold for a bit. Posting shall now recommence, with planned contributions from other authors (if I can convince them). SMO digital marketing

    ReplyDelete
  22. Thanks you very much for sharing these links. Will definitely check this out..
    Cheap Blog Comments Service

    ReplyDelete
  23. This is a great inspiring article.I am pretty much pleased with your good work.You put really very helpful information...
    best backlink gig fiverr alternatives

    ReplyDelete
  24. To get started, I want to mention a new phenomenon that I've begun to see in my inbox. Every few weeks I get an email that looks like this: Orange County seo

    ReplyDelete
  25. I've learned that Google and possibly other search engines actually penalize you if you create duplicate content. SEO Terms for Beginners Part 1

    ReplyDelete
  26. I can't sue the SEO company for non-performance of their SEO duties. website

    ReplyDelete
  27. Really an excellent way of presentation, thanks for your valuable info.
    Social Media Marketing Singapore

    ReplyDelete
  28. To get started, I want to mention a new phenomenon that I've begun to see in my inbox. Every few weeks I get an email that looks like this: SEO training service

    ReplyDelete
  29. Design Village is a professional advertising, SEO, website design, branding and printing company in Kenya. We are focused on giving quality work for less.advertising in kenya

    ReplyDelete
  30. To get started, I want to mention a new phenomenon that I've begun to see in my inbox. Every few weeks I get an email that looks like this: Phoenix SEO company

    ReplyDelete
  31. Thanks for the good article. keyword research, competition analysis, on-page and off-page are the topics included in seo tutorial. this website is offering free seo tutorial with practical explanation. google seo guide

    ReplyDelete
  32. Dallas SEO Service specializes in helping small businesses get more search traffic. Expert consulting available across DFW SEO company Dallas.

    ReplyDelete
  33. To get started, I want to mention a new phenomenon that I've begun to see in my inbox. Every few weeks I get an email that looks like this: gold promotion

    ReplyDelete
  34. It is free, but keep in mind it is really designed for a single domain site, and presents other issues with some other 3rd party modules. If you fall into that category, I'd suggest you purchase the full version, as it adds additional functionality you'll need and want. wikipedia page creation service

    ReplyDelete
  35. You have done really a good job. I like your post. Thanks for the informative post.
    Digital marketing agency Singapore | Social Media marketing singapore

    ReplyDelete
  36. Thank you for posting such a great article! I found your website perfect for my needs. Music classes Sydney It contains wonderful and helpful posts. Keep up the good work!

    ReplyDelete
  37. Seo Administrator is an integrated suite of web promotion utilities that cover all aspects of website optimization and promotion. Best blog comments service

    ReplyDelete
  38. Your web presence and business goals are unique to your company. Our proven SEO process is customized to meet the needs of your business, http://geeksworking.com/seo-malaysia

    ReplyDelete
  39. Affiliate marketing as grown quickly since its inception. One report points out that the worldwide affiliate marketing industry is worth $6.5 billion across sectors . seo tips

    ReplyDelete
  40. This is my first time i visit here. I found so many interesting stuff in your blog especially its discussion. From the tons of comments on your articles, I guess I am not the only one having all the enjoyment here! keep up the good workwww.commentmonster.com

    ReplyDelete
  41. Thank you very much for your post, it makes us have more and more discs in our life, So kind for you, I also hope you will make more and more excellent post and let’s more and more talk, thank you very much, dear.
    unblocked games| unblockedgames| unblocked games at school| unblocked games for kids
    friv| friv4school| friv 4 school| monster high games| monster high| monster high drees up
    happy wheels| happywheels| happy wheels demo| happy wheels unblocked| happy wheels hacked
    shooting games| shooting| tetris| tetris unblocked| tetris game| tetris online

    ReplyDelete
  42. t is free, but keep in mind it is really designed for a single domain site, and presents other issues with some other 3rd party modulesvSEO expert San Francisco

    ReplyDelete