WideCircles – Takes Spam Seriously? LMAO

After my last post regarding Wide Circles I exchanged emails with one of their support representatives, with their message being…

We definitely do not tolerate any kind of SPAM at all

Unfortunately the evidence available to me at the time not just on my own blog but elsewhere, was in stark contrast.

Washington Post Spammed – great way to encourage press coverage

Any legitimate service, if they wanted to get press coverage from an international news publication, might issue a press release, and contact a newspaper through legitimate channels directly, or maybe through their public relations company.

Wide Circles seem to have a different approach that might gain them coverage, but for totally different reasons…

First of all we need to look at the Washington Post Discussion Guidelines

3. You understand and agree that the discussion forums are to be used only for non-commercial purposes. You may not solicit funds, promote commercial entities or otherwise engage in commercial activity in our discussion forums.

The first spam is on an article about parental filtering by OpenDNS

Wide Circles Comment Spam on Washington Post

The second is on an April Fools Day security warning

Wide Circles Comment Spam on Washington Post second example

Wide Circles Spamming Wikia

I am sure Jimmy Wales will love this example of “Viral Marketing” – for obvious reasons I don’t quite trust the content, so I am nofollowing the link, and didn’t give it any suitable anchor text.
Wide Circles Wikia Spam

More Wide Circles Spam Examples

Note: I am nofollowing links where they might not get cleared up.

Chris Dockery seems to have been spammed in just the same way I was.

Scott seems to have been spammed by Wide Circles, but he really should nofollow the link to them, both on his blog, and on the sites that syndicate his content, such as Gooruze.

Gobala seems to have had his forums spammed by Wide Circles.

The Blog Herald seems to be a very soft target for comment spam these days, just look at this post as an example.
But amongst the junk, is a very familiar comment
Just curious if anyone ever heard of WideCircles internet viral marketing service ? I was referred to it by another webmaster. Apparently they work by injecting viral messages into various forums, blogs, wiki’s, classifieds and so on. These messages then contain backlinks which help with SEO, as well attract lot of referral traffic. They bill around 0.40c per each post that’s been active for 5 days and say a single post can easily attract 100 or more hits a day, I am going to give them a try today and see how it goes. http://wide circles.com?imt=2

The BizInformer – spammed

Another example of Wide Circles forum spam over on Angelfire.

FastCompany isn’t immune to this kind of junk, though it is in the form of junk blog posts – again the wonderful claims

Here is an interesting comment on Andrew’s blog post, on companies looking to increase email marketing spend.

its ok.. but i have a different opinion as most of the people now days dont even try to open the mails that comes from unknown senders because simply it might be a spam so i guess the majority that opens such mails are the new users of the internet and i agree that they are growing but they are not the majority of the internet users.


Put The Message Where It Matters! WideCircles aka Wide Circles represents relevant, distributed, highly targeted and efficient internet word of mouth marketing using entertaining or informative messages that are designed to be passed along in an exponential fashion using social network mediums such as blogs, forums, wikis and so on.
http://wide circles.com

My personal interpretation: The comment intent is to drop the link, and possibly to suggest that their “viral marketing” is a better alternative. Just because there might be some relevance to the comment doesn’t make this legitimate as a form of marketing.
This is a borderline case, but I would have spammed it.

WebProWorld Spammed

This example is actually very sad

WebProNews like many forums allow you to use a sig which has followed links – all you have to do is take part in the conversation, and you can get a link back to whatever sites you like, though probably best to link back to sites you own.

We have a thread asking for an alternative video hosting service for use with WordPress

WebProWorld Forum Spam

The first comment was totally off topic, just spamming a link

The second message is highly generic with the link in the sig – but the person doing it doesn’t even know how to format an HTML hyperlink correctly. As well as running male beauty contests, Jaan just happens to be a moderator at WebProWorld. I am sure he will be interested.

Wide Circles Spamming Sphinn

This last example is a little more personal, because it involves a blog post that is about me, and calls into question my initial evaluation of Wide Circles.

I would like to state for the record I have no objection to open dialogue, and even criticism, but I much prefer criticism from real people rather than sock puppets.

There is a thread on Sphinn that has appeared and as others have noted, it is a little on the dubious side… to say the least.

Sphinn Wide Circles Submission

Despite the extremely dubious comments, I actually hope the Sphinn moderators leave this example of Wide Circles comment spam online, though they should probably prevent the sock puppet accounts from voting on any more stories. IP addresses might not be much value, as some people working with Wide Circles are known to use proxys.

Do you also see how they are down voting comments made by legitimate members of the Sphinn community?

A quick shout out to thank Jonathan and Bob – I am not sure who Sleuth1 is.

The is a little history behind Bob’s comment, I once wrote a highly negative review of one of his services. I didn’t know him at the time, and it wasn’t actually obvious that he was involved. It would have taken a little detective work, and I found out quite by chance many months later when doing some other research.
So having written negative things about him, he now includes me on his blogroll.
Bob Massa
Bob Massa also offers SEO linkbuilding and content generation services. Even though I have corresponded with Bob a little now by email, if his guys were blatantly spamming in the same way as Wide Circles, I would probably write a similar post to this one.

The Sphinn Sock Puppets

Just for the record…





The Sphinn Story Itself

First of all, Jackie Nerito is a pseudonym

It was in some way a response to my coverage of Widecircles, but they didn’t deem it worthy of a link, even if nofollowed, or even provide a reference that could be copy / pasted.

I am not going to link through to the post, because they could just flag me as spam in Akisment, and I wouldn’t link to them with a followed link anyway, as I have no trust in the content.

http://circle world.wordpress.com/2008/06/05/andy-beard-on-wide-circles-aka-widecircles/

I have added a space in the URL – I wouldn’t want the post being linked to automatically by splogs.

This is actually one of two highly questionable blogs on the topic of Wide Circles, here is the other one

http://widecircles world.wordpress.com/2008/05/19/wide-circles-releases-new-version-of-the-system/

There is a high chance that they are both on the same WP.com account.

The points raised in the post?

  • I did mention other services, such as forum posting and wiki spam – I didn’t concentrate on them – based upon the comments I have seen, if they have moved into also providing a blog post service, I really would stay far far away from it, unless your target market wouldn’t know the difference between literate and illiterate English. That is based upon what I have seen. I spent a fair amount of time on the first post, and again on this one – I also left comments with opposing views, even though they were anonymous with fake email address, and left using a proxy
  • Comments when done properly and by trained staff are not dangerous, they can increase your rank, help you with seo and allow you receive lot of referral traffic” – just look at the junk examples that Wide Circles have excreted over the internet to promote their own brand
  • Referral traffic – the only referral traffic woulld be from people wondering “Where the hell did this junk comment come from” – once the domain starts being trashed in spam filters, and being talked about in negative light, the comment spam just increases the damage already caused.
  • Comment spam as paid links – it appears the writer doesn’t pay careful attention to the Google webmaster groups, for instance this thread on penalties for one site, and in particular this comment by John Mu

    Similar to how you have removed spammy links in your own forum, you
    may want to consider what you can do to help clean up similar links on
    other people’s sites. Blogs and newspaper sites such as
    http://media.www.dailypennsylvanian.com sometimes receive short
    comments such as “dont agree”, apparently only for a link back to a
    site. These comments often use keywords from that site instead of a
    user name, perhaps “tree bench” for a furniture site or “sexy shoes”
    for a footwear site. If this kind of behavior might have taken place
    for your site, you may want to work on rectifying it and include some
    information on it in your reconsideration request. Given your
    situation, the person considering your reconsideration request might
    be curious about links like that, so the more you can explain about
    that, that may help as well.


    Thus Google can look on spam comments as a factor for ranking penalties.

  • Legitimate Paid Comments – I get the instinct impression that the author was working from a print out of my previous Wide Circles post, because the paragraph regarding legitimate paid comments contained a clear, obvious link to a previous blog post on paid blog comments. I have just included a link to it again.
    This would include for instance Tamar, who is paid to write articles for Mashable, Lifehacker and is the Associate Editor of Search Engine Round Table. If I link to an article she wrote on Mashable, and she came to my blog and left a comment, in many ways she is being paid to write that comment.
    If you were using an outsourcing company such as Bob’s to create your blog content, then in theory it would be legitimate for the person writing content for your blog to also respond to comments, but as themselves or their personal pseudonym, not as “you”.

As for being a “SEO expert” I let other people judge – I don’t sell any kind of consulting or work for any 3rd party clients.

I have a screenshot of the post itself for my records, but this page is already quite heavy with graphics, so in the interests of page load time, here is that broken URL again
http://circle world.wordpress.com/2008/06/05/andy-beard-on-wide-circles-aka-widecircles/

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  1. says

    Based on Andy’s post, I no-follow’d the link in the original post and marked the comments that Widecircles left that linked to their site as spam. Thanks for the catch.

  2. says

    Thanks for that great and illustrous post Andy. That’s one service I will walk a “WIDE CIRCLE” around.

  3. says

    We run a couple of forums, and I admit this is pretty normal. If you never watch the forums, you will have hundreds of posts like this. Especially phpBB is spammed automatically.

  4. says

    You’re not the only one that they gotten in the way of, examples

    Wide Circles
    Wide Circles Sucks

    We have been running our own anti wide circles crusade for a little while, partly for amusement, partly because noone should be paying for something like this unless they don’t care about long term goals of their site (and if they don’t they probably just want to buy xrumer already anyway)

    Feel free to nofollow/remove the links as you please

  5. says

    Thanks for the heads up Andy. I removed the crap posts from the spammers. WPW has been lots of crappy spammer link/post drops over the past few months. They have gotten better and better at disguising the link drops as a “real” post. The ones you pointed out were pretty obvious, but it is tough to police all posts and have to rely on other moderators and Admin’s to help out.

  6. says

    Our blogs were hit by them earlier in the month too. Xrummer and their ilk are a problem for the industry as a whole- our forums and blogs are often hit by spam. For particular products I understand that there is already stigma associated and they target a fringe market, so using Xrummer and spamming doesn’t damage the credibility of the product or the company. But for a supposedly legit product- link spamming is nothing but a PR nightmare. It amazes me the complete lack of marketing savvy some companies have. If you want to hit the mainstream consumer market through mainstream sites like the Washington Post – you have to have credibility- hocking your wares- never cool. And to hit tech blogs- that’s just dumb.

    That being said- I think commenting can be used wisely and strategically with the purpose of link building, but following the RULES is critical. Humans should do it- preferably the site owner or an employee and they should do it with a second objective of learning something from the blog they visited. Traffic isn’t necessary- I think that is one of the many areas where WC missed the boat- they seem to be focusing their services on the traffic rather than site authority and Rank.

    On another note: The WP and Blogger Nerito posts were hilarious. For someone that doesn’t work for WC- he sure takes one heck of a vested interest in their business and knows an awful lot about their marketing practices. If it makes you feel better, Andy, you’re an expert in my book, no matter who calls you a spammer.

  7. Greenwisp says

    ugh! I hate them! They regular pepper our wiki with comments, or go as far as setting themselves up users so they can author wiki pages, with just utter rubbish in them! They even deleted some existing pages and plastered their web address all over it. As the wiki moderator I get very irate at having to clear up after their graffiti.

    It’s just flagrant vandalism, I wish someone would shut them down or at least legally ban them from practices like this. It wouldn’t be tolerated in the real world, why are they allowed to get away with it in the cyber-world?

    Perhaps they need a taste of their own medicine, get a deluge of people spamming them, see how they’d like it then.