Back in September, I talked a bit about the increasingly large number of spam comments my blogs had been receiving. While spammers will no doubt always be around, though, lately I’ve been noticing more and more so-called “respectable” companies who are getting in on the game – either by leaving spam comments themselves, or by paying other people – primarily marketing companies – to do it for them. These aren’t the Viagra or Cialis sellers who use free email addresses and never return to the scene of the crime: they’re respected businesses who are repeatedly spamming my, and other, websites, in the hope of getting themselves some traffic. And I’m getting pretty sick of it.
There’s one online shoe store, for instance, that regularly spams all of my own blogs, and one of the blogs I edit, with inane comments which are clearly posted purely for the purpose of getting the link back to their site. One day, the person behind this site posted around 30 comments on the shoe blog I edit, all saying, “I like this”. Even my personal blog has been targeted, with the comment “this is really useful information – thanks” being posted on… an article about me falling off my bike, posted over a year ago. Really relevant comment there, then…
A couple of weeks ago, I had a comment at The Fashion Police on an article about Crocs. The commenter claimed to be a huge fan of these shoes, and went to great pains to let my readers know where he bought his, leaving two separate comments with the URL to an online shoe store on the same post.
Out of curiosity, I looked at the person’s email address, and noticed that the domain in the URL wasn’t a free email, like Yahoo or Gmail, but appeared to be the name of a company. I typed that URL into Google, and lo and behold: it was a marketing company (of some standing, I might add), specialising in online marketing. And when I looked at their client list, guess what I found? Yup, the online store my commenter had gone to such pains to post on my site was a client of this company. Clearly spamming blogs is part of the work this company (and no doubt many others like them) undertake for their clients. My question:is it ethical?
I think not. At the bottom line, it’s lying and deception, and you can’t admire that in a business, can you? This person had come onto my blog and represented himself as something other than what he was: he pretended to be a person who was a genuine fan of a particular product, when in fact he was a marketer, being paid to promote that product.
In cases like this, where I can easily establish who the spammer is, I always send them a quick email to let them know that I’m aware they’ve been spamming my website, and asking them to please refrain from doing it again. Funnily enough, I hardly ever hear back from them. I got no response from the Croc marketer, and I can’t help wondering whether his client was aware that their marketing company were using spam to promote their store? Or, for that matter, how they would feel about it if they did know?
If it was me, I know I’d be furious to think that my business name was being associated with spamming. I mean, would you want to do business with someone you knew to be a spammer? I certainly wouldn’t, and I know a lot of people who feel the same way. Still, though, this trend of companies using spam as a method of promotion is on the increase, which is why I’m very tempted to start naming and shaming those who do it. Wouldn’t you want to know whether the company you were paying to market your website was sending out spam in your name, and with your URL on it? I know I would…