Here is the official proclamation of best practice in the eyes of Google
I should note that Google classifies their post as “Webmaster Level: Beginner”
I am classifying this post as “Webmaster Level: Here We Go Again”
1. It is effectively a case of “Do As We Say, Not As We Do”
You see, every time I leave a comment on the Google Webmaster blog (something I avoid doing too often), I get pummelled with email spam.
If you are using any kind of subscribe to comments feature it can absolutely kill your email delivery rates if you let through spam like this, especially if you don’t have effective blacklist control and a feedback loop.
Somehow Gmail always lets through spam like this, but blocks legitimate comment threads I have subscribed to. True I have subscribed to the comments on the Google Webmaster blog because I want to read legitimate comments, but I don’t want the comment spam in my email box.
Maile Ohye did eventually close the comments on the original blog post, but they almost certainly need better controls.
2. What can I do to avoid spam on my site?
Whilst Google warn about cleaning up bad comments you might have left elsewhere, they don’t give a hint that linking to dodgy places, maybe even using nofollow links could have a negative impact on search results.
Maybe they should have taken this opportunity to warn webmasters about Page Level Penalties for Comment Spam
At least they didn’t pimp Recaptcha which they bought not too long ago
Don’t misunderstand this, I think it is a terrible user experience to have to wade through poor quality comments trying to pick out the gems – one of the reasons I take a harsh line on comment spam is because I respect my readers. I want my comments area to be worth reading.
3. What Happened to Google’s Old Legal Slant?
At the height of the paid links crackdown 2 years ago, there were lots of warnings about the potential problems with disclosure and paid links – in August 2007 I even suggested that the FTC should take a look at Matt’s blog shilling for Google…
Matt now has a disclosure policy, but he doesn’t practice what he preached for so long, very clear in post disclosure which is probably what the FTC would hope for.
Here is an example, his most recent post on Google OS does not state he is an employee of Google within the content.
Shill comments from a legal perspective are probably just as bad as shill blog posts
But I am not a lawyer, and Google employs 100s
In many ways I support the actions Lord Matt has taken on recent comment spam, contacting the supposed company who left comment spam, Rapunzel Rapunzel to see if they were actually aware of the dangerous SEO strategy employed by their contracted SEO company, or maybe a marketing employee.
BTW – Jim Edwards interviewed Mr. Rich Cleland, Assistant Deputy covering topics such as FTC, Disclosure, Blogging, Testimonials etc
Whilst there are tons of kits on sale prepared by laywers, I would strongly recommend this as a first base of call on anything to do with the new FTC advisory on disclosure.
4. Similarities Between Paid Links & Comment Spam
Almost none other than their effect on Google rankings and the vehemence with which service providers defend them, such as when I changed my comments policy, or wrote about Wide Circles and Wide Circles Comment Spam.
- Comment spam generally leads to poor quality sites – paid links generally lead to a site with commercial focus, but it would be rare for someone to invest lots of money in paid links trying to rank a malware site.
- Paid links are generally vetted – comment spam generally isn’t
- Paid links from a human perspective historically were often more disclosed than comment spam
What will possibly become the biggest similarity going forward is the way Google punish site owners who host comment spam, just like they punish people who host paid links. They can’t easily punish sites that are gaining links in this way if they have an otherwise normal link profile, because ultimately the comments could just be a competitor trying their hand at “Google Whacking”.