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October 21, 2009

Spam | Where the Wild things are

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So I have a pretty standard ritual most mornings when I come in the Bruce Clay Australia Offices. Generally, I will come in, boot up the PC and open my Outlook. While my plethora of emails download I will mosey down to my local cafe and get a caffeine fix in the form of a great cappuccino and the culinary highlight of my morning, banana bread, toasted with some butter ( yes I know unhealthy, but I am a hedonist at heart).

I’ll then return to my PC and on any normal day and see between 5-10 mails arrive in my blog comments folder. Before I open it, my colleagues often hear me hoping and mumbling under my breath “No spam, No Spam” or ” be a proper productive comment, plleeeezzzz“, they think I’m a little odd ( that’s probably a nice way of putting it ) I just think I’m indulging in the power of positive thinking.

Unfortunately, it is normally an effort in futility as 95 % of the blog comments I get are spam. Now I know we could implement more anti-spam measures but that would also filter out some genuine blog comments, something I am not prepared to do. I have been monitoring blog comments (in various capacities) for a good few years now and have noticed a pretty sizeable shift in terms of where these blog comments are coming from. So where are these wild things (spammers) that continually pollute my blog coming from and why has their location changed?

I will give you a clue. It is the biggest country in the world, they value vodka over wine and this particular country is home to the Czar’s and that scoundrel Rasputin. To those who correctly guessed Russia, congrats, for those who guessed Finland or Paraguay, I think it’s time to brush up on your General Knowledge. Over 70% of my spammy comments come from Russia (calculated from Russian email addresses and some very basic I.P analysis).

The other spam pretty much comes from various other sources but a significant proportion comes from Bill Bartman (Bill, I know you think “Your site was extremely interesting, especially since I was searching for thoughts on this subject last Thursday” but please vary your message every 20 comments or so). Some other comments, especially from my Russian comrades are particularly funny or strange, here is a selection of my best (I have no idea what kind of value these comments would add, if you have any ideas let me know, my thoughts on the comments in brackets):

  • If the plural of tooth is “teeth,” why isn’t the plural of booth “beeth”?
  • Hello from Russia ( Well hello from Sydney Russia)
  • This is a test message, please ignore it ( No Problemo)
  • Generally I do not post on blogs, but I would like to say that this post really forced me to do so, Excellent post! ( thanks again Bill)
  • How much money do book editors make on average?
  • Why do we say “heads up” when we actually duck?
  • Obviously. Apple manufactures the Mac. ( wow a revelation)
  • Where are you from? Is it a secret? :) ( Big Big secret)
  • Excellent site, keep up the good work ( Once again thanks to Mr Bartman)
  • charming post. upright one decimal where I bicker with it. I am emailing you in detail.(how bizarre)
  • hi, how are you? http://google.com – Google (Hi Google)


That is but a selection of the most amusing. When I started monitoring blog comments, the majority actually came from the US, but why and how does most of it come from Russia these days? Has Russia started offering attractive tax breaks for all those spammers out there? Hmm I don’t think so. According to Project Honeypot , Russia is the 4th leading comment spammer in the world, although I don’t have any historical evidence of this, I can anecdotally say this was not always the case. So why has Russia become this spam superpower?

One of the reasons may be that the ISP’s and the internet controlling bodies in Russia lack DNS blacklisting and network spam filters that other countries may have. There are also some very very smart Russians out there that are constantly developing new tools and techniques to circumvent existing anti-spam protocols. Russian Internet usage is also growing at quite a staggering amount, with growth rates reaching 40% annually during the mid 2000′s. Pursuant to this, Russia’s spam share rocketed from 3 percent during the beginning of 2007, finally reaching 8.3 percent towards the end of the year. As of today, there are almost 58 000 identified spam accounts within Russia. Russian Botnets are also on the rise. One particular Botnet was discovered to have over 70,000 compromised computers at its disposal. There have also been accusations from several security organisations that it is Russian Spammers who cracked the CAPTCHA code, In February 2008 it was reported that spammers had achieved a success rate of 30% to 35% in circumventing spam, using a bot.

But how is this related to SEO? Well every few months or so there is a spiteful post done where SEO’s are held responsible for all the spam in the world? This happened pretty recently many people came to both the defence and attack of people in the search engine optimisation industry. I dont like being lumped in with spammers, it’s bad for my fragile psyche. Anyway Danny Sullivan has articulated his opinion in a series of articles through the years, his most recent post Thoughts On Web Developers, SEO & Reputation Problems has some great insight and he has a personal interest in the matter after his post How Link Spammers Killed My Wife’s Web Site.

My final point is that people associate SEO with spam, this is generally incorrect, however the more spam that gets through peoples defences, the more the SEO=spammers view will be perpetuated. If a rallying call from Danny to stop spam isn’t going to stop it, then mine definitely won’t. However, if more and more people come out against it, we have a chance to stop the deluge of spam. I can personalise this message though, for all you Russian Spammers out there ???????? ??? blog ? ?????!





No responses to “Spam | Where the Wild things are”

  1. Richard writes:

    2 points – the vast majority of SEO – in fact all the bleeding edge practitioners – are black hat.
    And I’m not sure how you made the jump from email spam to SEO, but in terms of SE spam, it’s 100% from SEO’s. Ask Barry from SMX, he’ll be the first to admit he’s an old spammer from way back. It’s good training ground to know what NOT to do for legit clients.
    SEO has a bad image because everyone comes across shill sites when they are looking for real content. No one likes internet pollution

  2. Richard writes:

    PS – you wouldn’t receive so much comment spam if you had a decent blog platform and industry standard plugins like Askimet! Movable Type? Version 4.25? No one to blame but yourselves!

  3. Marc Elison writes:

    i completely agree with you, we are in the process of migrating to WordPress, thanks for the advice :)

  4. Gavin Schlabaugh writes:

    Heya i got to your site by mistake when i was searching bing for something off topic here but i do have say your site is really helpful, like the theme and the content on here…so thanks for me procrastinating from my previous task, lol



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