Thursday, June 28, 2007

"Link To Me" Spam

If you run a website with any appreciable amount of traffic, or perhaps even if you own a parked domain, you will get spam from sites which want you to link to them. Often these emails are obviously machine-generated - because nothing could warm me to the idea of linking to a site than receiving impersonal, form email SPAM.
On 6/26/07 1:25 PM, "Anne Moore" wrote:

Hi Aaron Larson,

This is the owner from

Today I visited and i really like it. I am interested in your site because it is relevant and would make a good complement to my existing content.

I have already added your web site link to this page on my site:

We would greatly appreciate a reciprocal link. Aaron Larson, if we do not hear from you it will be assumed you do not wish to exchange links and your link will be removed.

You can edit your link here:***.html

How Your Site Appears:
Title: Workers Compensation Resources
Description: United States national resource for workers, providing legal information, forums, and links to state and federal resources.

If you would like your link to remain active, please add us to your site. Here are the suggested details:

Title: OSHA Training Los Angeles
Description: Osha compliance training organization helps industries maintain compliance with federal labor laws. Sells safety training videos and planning manuals.

We hope to continue a long lasting, mutually beneficial relationship. Feel free to drop me an email or call if you'd like to talk more about this.

If you wish to decline, simply do nothing, or respond to this email with the words 'unsubscribe' in the subject line to stop receiving further requests.

What does this campaign obviously do wrong?
  • Form email with awkward personalization ("Dear Aaron Larson")
  • Obnoxious demands - I like your site enough to link to it, but if you don't link back the same link-building script which spawned this spam email will delete the link.
  • Carelesness. The person who programmed their link building script forgot to capitalize "OSHA" in the preferred description for their site.
But really, it's worse than that. After looking at the page on which the described link appears, I decided to take them up on their invitation that I drop an email:
The benefit to me of having a "rel=nofollow" link on a pagerank zero page on your site would be, exactly, what?
In a perfect world people would link to sites or good content that they like, because they like it. The exchanging of links has, for some years, been used to build the profiles of pages. Pages with more links have historically been treated by search engines as more deserving of high rankings. While the exchange of relevant, quality links may still help the sites at both ends of an exchange, search engine algorithms now try to discount or eliminate any weight given to link exchange schemes meant only to build an illusion of popularity.

This scheme appears to try to compensate for the probability that a search engine will quickly spot it as a link exchange, and algorithmically discount the links, by tagging the links "nofollow" - meaning that spiders will see but not follow the links. Also, their script-generated pages have been assigned no value (PageRank: 0) by Google. Although the public PageRank tool only estimates that value, with Google keeping the current details to itself, it is safe to assume that this set of pages will never have appreciable PageRank, and will likely remain at "0" as long as it remains online.

My interpretation: In exchange for your link to their site, they hope for "a long lasting, mutually beneficial relationship" in which they provide nothing of value and reap significant benefit.

(I'm still waiting for a reply to my email.)

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