Why spam pays
by Brian Turner
Spam pays. Pure and simple.
It’s an annoying fact of life, but when business follows evolutionary principles where the winners are those who can out-compete rivals, it’s an approach that some business models can thrive on.
What do I mean by spam?
For many people, when talking about Google, spam is nothing more than SPAM = Site Positioned Above Mine.
In other words, the person complaining has a crap site, applies crap SEO methods, and generally resorts to spam reports because their own marketing methods are so lame that the only way to get ahead is to try and remove market leaders.
In real business terms, spam on search engines: spam = high risk SEO methods. Methods which work against Google’s guidelines and could invite punitive action.
Google refers to the results of such tactics as “webspam”, which means a poor user experience is being delivered in some way – as Google see it.
High risk and user averse methods include cloaking, spammy text, doorway pages, and industrial link development programs – all of which seek to mislead users as to the relevancy and authority of the website.
High risk SEO methods are usually frowned upon in mainstream SEO.
This is because regardless as to whether you’re working on a client site or your own site, the goal is set in the long-term, which means risk needs to be kept to a minimum.
However, there are clear examples where webspam will achieve clear rewards.
A recent example is moneyexpert.com, which currently dominates some of the most competitive keyword searches in the UK financial services sector.
The reason it ranks top for insurance and loan keywords, is because it has a huge number of links pointing at it from the DigitalPoint Co-op network.
I’ll be honest – a few years ago I happily used the DP Co-op network, but now I wouldn’t dare touch it because risk aversion is built into my business model.
Whatever the good intentions of DigitalPoint’s Shaun Hogan, the co-op network has become nothing more than the biggest link spam network on the web.
And it’s free. And easily accessible.
DigitalPoint Co-op Ad Network
Certainly there’s a clear footprint built into the model, and certainly any website that displays DigitalPoint Co-op ads invites an algorithmic penalty of some kind by Google.
The trouble is, changes made over the years to the DigitalPoint Co-op network means that it would be easy to cheat the system while minimising losses.
I’m not going to tell anyone how – use your own creativity if you must – and I’m going to avoid using any such methods for as long as possible.
But temptation grows the longer sites such as moneyexpert.com are cleaning up the UK financial sector.
The difficulty for Google
Of course, the conundrum for Google is that no one can easily prove that moneyexpert.com is using the links directly for their own benefit.
Even when I used the co-op network a few years ago, third party websites were routinely added to the mix, to make it harder to tell who was actually playing the system on purpose.
So is moneyexpert.com directly using the DigitalPoint Co-op network for themselves?
That’s not proven, but what is proven is the extensive financial benefits being provided by links to their site being on that network.
Short term enrichment
Take “car insurance” as a keyword – I’m reliably informed that a Top 5 position for that keyword in the UK will typically generate around £50,000 – £100,000 per month in revenues.
Apply that principal across other financial services – mortgages, loans, insurance, protection plans – and immediately the short-term benefits of spamming your way aggressively to the top of these keyword searches has to become apparent.
Now moneyexpert.com ranks top for that keyword mainly on the basis of co-op links, and the (possibly cloaked) page sends users of Google to nothing more than an affiliate link to confused.com.
Simple. Effective. Enriching.
Now consider the actual cost of doing so – all you need is a couple of established but disposable websites, and maybe a couple of thousand in cash for coding, design, and content development.
Contract that with potential six-figure revenues on a monthly basis if you succeed, the lure is clear.
In other words, the short-term financial rewards can be huge.
Moneyexpert.com must certainly be raking it in, and even gocompare.com, publicly humiliated and penalised for clumsy link buying, is back around a Top 10 position.
That point really needs underlining, because it covers two issues:
1. spam pays, and if the business model is set up around the short-term, the investment required can be ridiculously low by comparison.
2. if you can make your brand strong enough, you can spam your heart out and receive only short-term penalties as a result
So where’s the disincentive to follow this model?
SEO’s as problem solvers
Many SEO’s are in the industry because they are excellent problem solvers, and problem solvers enjoy solving problems.
While it’s great to be paid good money for good work, problem solvers are not primarily driven into business by greed.
And problem solvers are rarely keen on aggressive practices for short-term gain if their business model is built on long-term principles.
After all, mortgages are usually repaid in terms of years, not months, and that needs planning for. Definitely if you have kids.
Yet it has to be glaringly obvious that while opportunity for massive short-term gain remains, temptation to use high risk methods as part of a short-term strategy has to increase.
This isn’t Google’s fault – consider their position carefully, and the need to presume innocent until proven to be guilty as applied, and place that into the context where spammy links can be paid for by anybody to point at anyone – and Google’s position becomes increasingly difficult.
Add to that the point that I know how their attempts to devalue co-op websites and similar from passing link value can be circumvented (and quite easily so), and you can see why Google would want to look at devaluing links-driven results in lieu of human user generated ones.
Spam as temptation
Email spam plagues inboxes around the world because it pays to do so.
Blog spam plagues blogs around the world because it pays to do so.
Webspam tries to invade Google’s results because it pays to do sos.
It has to tempt at any point when you realise that you have the competence and ability to engage in short-term spam methods.
The reason that temptation is normally passed by is because risk-averse methods pay back more securely in the long term.
The real temptation is when you realise you can afford to invest in both long term and short term strategies.
So long as sites continues to gain competitive advantage through extreme and spammy means, that temptation can only continue to grow.
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