It's no secret that Microsoft is having trouble catching up with Google in search engines, despite owning the second and third most popular search engines in the world (Bing and Yahoo). I had the strangest comment spam come in earlier this week.
If you don't know what comment spam is, it's sending people or bots in to get links to your website (most often with targeted anchor text - i.e. "Buy Viagra" but sometimes without, just with a name like "James" or "Cindy"). It's an open question whether Google continues to count comment links (Google should be able to read comments as such within WordPress and the principal weblog software). My experienced guess is that those links don't count for much but they do count for something.
A reasonable number of links from comment sections linking back to your site show reasonable activity around your site.
Don't follow links definitely continue to score something. I wouldn't even say it's less than normal followed links but differently. A certain number of them are expected among your link mix. Having them there gives you a bonus for healthy external activity around your website.
Anchor text (i.e. the name in the comment form) used to really help: Google would just add up all those mentions with anchor text and decided that your site was about that text. These days, targeted anchor text is just as likely to get your site demoted. I.e. Google can see that you are going after a specific term and take it away from you, unless you have overwhelming alternative ranking factors (huge high profile links for instance from authority sites). On the other hand, if you have overwhelming alternative ranking factors why would you be paying someone to comment spam?
Coming back to Microsoft, here's the comment spam I received this week:
microsoft hiring blog comment spammers
Let's evaluate this:
Anchor text: Search Engines
Target URL: bing.com
Return address: email@example.com
IP address: 220.127.116.11 (Lima, Peru)
Anchor text is definitely spam. No one is named "Search Engines" (there are some Googles and Bings out there no doubt).
Target URL Bing.com would definitely benefit from the anchor text of "search engines".
Email address: Gmail, the home of serious spammers these days. Disposable accounts which get through spam filters. Good job Google, underwriting the IT structure of the world's spammers and making it almost impossible for us to keep them out of our inboxes (most spam which gets through my Bayesian filters is from Gmail). Slightly exotic but white woman's name - "kaylene" - standard for serious spammers. For some reason men and women react better to a pretty name.
The IP Address is strange. Why would Microsoft be running an operation out of Lima, Peru. A quick look in Google reveals that the main Microsoft event in Peru was a 2012 car accident which killed Lee Dirks and Judy Lew (RIP), company directors in the research and universities division and a battle against open source in Peruvian public institutions dating back to 2002.
Normally I would think a comment spammer might be trying to get an email address approved for automatic comment approval (NOT RECOMMENDED: all our clients are on individual comment approval, the web works much better that way, get an unpaid intern if you have to). But a competent comment spammer wouldn't do that with such obvious comment spam.
Perhaps the point of the exercise is to demonstrate that comment spam does work against Google. By later publishing the weaknesses of their rival, Bing executives hope to inspire SEO's to destroy the quality of Google's index with a tidal wave of comment spam.
Who is Kaylene Hofmann? Who does she work for? What does she want? Does Microsoft have secret contractors in Peru or a worldwide experimental comment spam program?
Answers and suggestions welcome.
Alec has been helping businesses succeed online since 2000. Alec is an SEM expert with a background in advertising, as a former Head of Television for Grey Moscow and Senior Television Producer for Bates, Saatchi and Saatchi Russia.