[PART 1:] Sometimes, posts force their own way onto this blog. It's Monday Nov. 28 and I have better things to do than this, but I can't help it.
[Note to readers: This is a blogging-behind-the-scenes post. The stuff in brackets I added after I finished this 'investigation.' This post wrote itself as I got more information. It started out as a snarky post about a tacky dentist. Now I'm not sure how tacky the dentist is or if he just got a sleazy SEO firm to jack up his google position. Have I lost you yet? I'll explain SEO down below. But let's begin at the beginning now. The parts without brackets, I wrote as it was unfolding.]
Occasionally I get comments on a post that have nothing to do with the post. I've written about 'Kevin' who posted Chinese spam from Taiwan in the comment section for a while. These are spam ads that require a bit of work because someone has to get to my blog, then write something in the comment area, and then get past the Captcha code. So it generally takes a human being to do this.
Most such comment/ads I get are for companies in China or India, and generally for electronic or industrial products. Today on a post about planned obsolescence and the Anchorage building code, I got this comment:
[This is a screen shot image, not text, so the links don't work. Also, I've deleted this comment on the original post. See Update at top of this post on not identifying the dentist.]
To me, this is pretty bizarre. And extremely tacky. Enough so that I called the XXXXXXX Intelligencer which the internet told me was a newspaper that covered Lititz (emphasis, I learned, was on the first syllable, not on the body parts) and talked to a reporter who agreed it was strange, but didn't know anything about the business. He said he'd check with some dentists he knows nearby.
I also called the XXXXXXXXX Dental Arts office and left a message on their voice mail. You have to admit it takes a little thought to explain what I wanted for a voice mail.
I did learn while I was listening to their answer recording that they are open from 8:00am to 8:00pm two days a week and shorter hours the other days. I also learned that they have done some serious internet work - they dominate the first five pages when you google them.
So, for now here are a couple of tentative explanations:
- They are a tacky, factory dental clinic that will do whatever it takes to get customers.
- They are a dental group that has hired an SEO company to pump up their web presence and they don't know they bought spam comment/ads.
PART 2: Beware of sleazy SEO companies.
So, what is SEO? SEO stands for Search
Here's what Ethical SEO says (in part)
Promote your website, getting as many quality backlinks as possible; a backlink is a link posted on somebody else’s website which leads to your website. The backlink should ideally have a good “anchor text”, a text that describes what your website is about. As an example, instead of having a link to my website that says “click here”, I would rather have a link that says ethical seo company [they had this linked in the original, but I've already given them a link above, so I took it out] if I plan to get a good rank for the “ethical seo company” search phrase.
This is called off-page SEO and is by far the most important (and time-consuming) part of the SEO process, being responsible for about 90% of its success. While finding the proper keywords to target and optimizing the web pages is a one-time operation, building backlinks to your website must be an ongoing process, especially if the industry you’re in is profitable. Most (or all) of the companies on the 1st Google page invest in SEO on a monthly basis; othewise, they wouldn’t get these good ranks and sales. [emphasis added]
So, the point is to get backlinks; ideally, links with the name of your website on other websites. It doesn't even matter if no one uses the link, because the point is to have Google count all these back links - and they are worth more if the site they're on is rated well - so that when people google 'your name' your site will come up on page one of google.
[I'd also note that I don't invest in SEO, but I still get on page 1 on Google. My guess is that my frequency of posting and some backlinks have helped.]
So I left a message at the Dental Center, but wasn't expecting much. However, it wasn't long before I got a call back from XXXXXXX [I'm guessing at the spelling]. She said this was the second call about this in one week. She said she needed to call the SEO person and let him know. She even found the blog without my telling her the name. I did leave my name, but not too many people can spell my last name just hearing it on a voice message.
SEO Primer Backlinking Tips. . . Getting inbound links (backlinks that point to our website) which contain proper anchor text (the keywords we’re interested in) is an art in itself; fortunately, there are several 100% ethical (also called white hat) methods that allow us to get them. If you have written a good piece of content, for example an interesting article, you can submit it to thousands of article directories and format it in such a way that you will get the desired backlink with proper anchor text. Sure, many article directories will reject your submission, but if your article is really good and you are submitting it to thousands of directories, you will definitely get not only a few hundreds of backlinks to your website, but also traffic (website visitors) from the tens of millions of people that are visiting the article directories each and every day. [So that explains the people who have asked to post guest posts here.]
OK, so giving her the benefit of the doubt, she wasn't planning to have spam comments on blogs. And she was going to change it.
But then I got to thinking, "Not only does she know what SEO is, but that was the first thing she mentioned." These people are serious about their marketing. I doubt that my dentist's office manager has heard of SEO. I wasn't sure if my dentist even had a website. [I checked and he does, but it's pretty generic. Mine has four dentists just like the one in Pennsylvania. But the XXXXXXXX one just gives the names and photos of the dentists. Mine doesn't have photos, but has a lengthy background on each dentist. And my dentist doesn't have such long hours. But he probably charges more. After all, this is Alaska.]
Anyway, I guess there are several lessons to be learned here.
- Now I better understand why people are putting links in spam comments. It's less about getting people to link to their sites. It's more about getting lots of links out there to goose their google search ratings. So, if a blogger left the links because she didn't pay attention or didn't think anyone would use them, the source is still getting a benefit through bogus comments.
- Don't jump to conclusions. I still think there are signs of tackiness here on the dentist's part - the long hours, the heavy push on SEO, including a staff member who knows the term, and the multiple offices in the area. But it could just be a younger dentist with more internet savvy whose SEO specialist used unethical ways to boost the google ratings.
- There are lots of SEO companies out there trying to get your business. I get regular solicitations here myself. It's probably a good idea to ask them what their ethical standards are and what practices they use and don't use.
- Not being careful means, like with this Dental Center, that you can end up with ads that make you look really tacky. But then maybe that's why the ads were put on an Alaska blog, where XXXXXXXX area patients aren't likely to see them. But the internet is beyond borders, so that doesn't matter.
And if you get spam comments on your website, or see such tacky ads, call up the company and let them know what you think. If it's on your website, delete it right away.
[Just in case someone is asking, "What's wrong with the ad?"
- It's fake. It was put on the blog, not as a legitimate part of the discussion of the post, but simply to drop a flyer for this company.
- It's spam. It's like internet litter. Like putting your ad on someone's fence.
- It tries to game the system. It distorts the ratings that Google (and others) use to determine who gets on page one of searches. I'm not saying Google's system doesn't have flaws, but it's like cutting in line, or cheating on a test, in my book. There's a better way to say this. It's like learning all the tricks of looking good without actually being good. But when people see through it, it looks tacky, like a bald man wearing a toupee.