The Non-Meat Kind
With Google handing out around 400,000 manual penalties every month, it’s critical for brands to follow the online rules. And that includes online spam. In this post, I’ll explain the different definitions and types that should not be a part of your online marketing arsenal.
Many of us first think of unwanted emails when discussing the topic of online spam. These are messages that contain irrelevant or inappropriate messages. It’s the digital version of junk mail that clutters up our mailbox. Typically email spam sent to a large number of unsuspecting people. Happily, many email providers are getting better at filtering these out of your inbox.
In 2003 the CAN-SPAM Act was put into law. It established rules for commercial emails, setting guidelines and enforcing penalties. The law covers all messages — even ones to current and past customers. The most notable precautions you need to take to avoid this type of online spam are:
- Be truthful. No false or deceptive routing information (e.g., who the email is from). This also includes misleading subject lines.
- Opt-out protocols. Recipients should be able to opt-out of your email. Provide clear instructions and honor their requests promptly.
- Monitor vendors who handle your email marketing closely. Your business is still on the hook even when you outsource this marketing function.
Comment spam is a type of online spam that’s related to website comments. Most likely you have a blog that allows comments from visitors and you’ve seen comments that are completely irrelevant to the post, your business or industry.
Theoretically, blog comments are a way for Webmasters to build readership and community. Sadly, this practice has been horribly abused. Grey Hat SEOs use scripts or software to generate and post spam comments. Here are some suggestions to deal with this type of online spam:
- Use anti-spam tools. There are plugins like CAPTCHA that requires users to prove they are human. While it blocks the software-generated comments, it still allows humans to post spam.
- Enable comment moderation. The first line of defense is to block automatic posting of this type of online spam. In WordPress, we use Akismet which is a popular plugin that checks comments against a database to see if it looks like bogus or not. Akismet has a community of users, so the web service learns and shares its knowledge as it protects websites from spam comments. By moderating your blog, you can pick and choose what’s approved (become visible) and what gets trashed.
- Disallow hyperlinks in comments and block comments pages using robots.txt or META tags. These are technical settings to block online spam and your Webmaster should know how to handle it.
With the explosion of mobile devices, spammers are now using unsolicited texts to reach potential markets. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) protects consumers and their smartphones. It’s clear that if a business uses texts as part of their online marketing channels, they first must ensure that recipients gave consent prior to any messages sent out. The laws don’t apply to emergency texts. And because texts can sometimes appear as an email depending upon how they are addressed, the CAN-SPAM Act also has jurisdiction.
Online Spam via Websites
I’ve left the best for last… explaining the different types of online spam that relates to how a website is managed and optimized for organic search.
- An Unnatural Link Profile – can mark your website as a spammer. Google looks at the links themselves as well as your overall link portfolio. If both links to and from your website are unnatural (irrelevant, manipulative, and purposely deceptive), your website is flirting with a manual action. A manual action can take many forms, including a penalty to specific links or one that can affect your entire website. This type of online spam is very dangerous, as it can relegate your organic rankings to page 50+ in a SERP. Basically, that means your website is invisible.
- Guest Blogging – Goes in and out of fashion all the time. Matt Cutts officially said that this technique is dead back in 2014. Since then it’s been resurrected and died a few times. In our opinion, in small and strategic doses, guest posts may be ok. For example, guest blogging makes sense if you write for a trade association blog.
- Cloaking – the practice of delivering content or URLs to search engines that’s different from what’s presented to a user’s browser.
We’ve covered the major types of online spam. Is there a type that you particularly dislike?
How can we help?
Need help promoting your online brand? Is your visibility in organic search lagging behind the competition?
We are The Spectrum Group Online, and we offer strategic and tactical consulting so you can monetize your online presence. Call us for a complimentary 30-minute consultation to discuss your website’s user experience and translate that into sales.