Monday, November 28, 2011

Tacky Spam Comment with Dentist Ad Suggests Businesses Be Careful of SEO Firms

[UPDATE:  I've had a legal threat which I responded to and then a much more rational email concerning this post.  I'll post them soon. [Part 1]  I've decided that the dentist in question had some legitimate points on my stereotypes about large dental practices.  He has said that he was unaware of the SEO firm doing this sort of commenting promotion and that they have contacted the SEO firm to end such practices.  I have decided to take his word on this.  The intent of the post is to alert people to sleazy SEO companies and the specific dentist is irrelevant.  Thus I’ve removed the name of the dental group involved.   So I've removed the name of the dental practice.]

[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 Enhancement [Engine] Optimization.  That's geek speak for doing things to get a higher google rating so that your website shows up in the first two or three pages when people search terms related to your site.

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.] 

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.]
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.

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.

For me:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.  
For businesses with websites:
  1. 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. 
  2. 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. 
If you search "SEO Ethics" and "Finding an Ethical SEO" you can find tips on ways to identify more ethical SEO firms.  I didn't find any specifically good ones so I'm not going to link.  And one of my readers might add some additional comments.

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?"
  1. 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.  
  2. It's spam.  It's like internet litter.  Like putting your ad on someone's fence.
  3. 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. 


  1. Since they know SEO they are concerned that someone inconvienienced as you were will SEO them.

    Search Lancaster Dental Arts Lititz + "spam" and this blog post with no commnets is already #7.

    See also Ric Santorum and his google problem.

  2. Interesting to read about someone following up on a spam comment. I've fantasized about showing up on a spammer's doorstep and punching him/her in the face, but I never do anything other than delete them.

    The truly annoying thing about comment spam is that it doesn't really work for the intended SEO purpose. If you look at the source of links in Blogger comments you'll see they all have a rel='nofollow' attribute on them. This tells search engines (or at least google, who helped come up with it) not to count the link toward any sort of ranking score.

    I'll try leaving a link to the nofollow wikipedia page to test it out.

    Not only are they causing everyone a lot of extra, annoying work, they seem to be doing it ignorant of the fruitlessness of the whole scheme.

  3. Should I leave Dr. Young up as an example of the kind of spam I'm talking about? The topic of my post is nominally about a dentist, though it's really about SEO and spam comments. But at least this one gives information, vague as it is, and isn't simply an ad as the first one was. But he really doesn't address the issue in the post.

    Since Mark M says that these don't really boost your Google scores anyway, it doesn't matter. But it's still tacky in my mind. When I googled the first sentence (in "") I got two pages of the exact same sentence left in different places.

  4. Yes Steve leave Dr. Young up.

    It is obvious that Dr. Matthew R. Young is a dentist I wouldn't trust to pick up after my dogs in the yard. His apparent inability to read the G%&$?ed post before responding puts him in a select group.

    I will add Dr. Matthew R. Young DDS to my forward list. He will begin receiving all the various Nigerian and Jamaican investment banking and probate lending opportunities other scammers and spammers send my way. I'll be using the the subject line: "Responding to your recent informative blog post, need to make an appointment".

  5. I'd note that I deleted another spam comment from an airport taxi service. It had nothing to do with anything here. I'm not sure why this post is attracting these posters. I'd also note that it appears that Dr. Young's comment was posted by someone in New Dehli, India.

  6. I had to delete another dentist comment/spam. I didn't know dentists were so into SEO. This was also left by a New Dehli site. At least, again, the comment was on a post with dentist in it. Here's what it said:

    "Really i impressed. What a wonderful presentation.Now i am happy.Thank You"

    The name had the link.

    By the way, I checked with the office manager at my dentist. She didn't know what SEO was when I asked her those letters. But she did understand the concept because the company that put up their website promised to get their google rating up. She wasn't happy with their site and felt that they got most of their customers through word of mouth and referrals anyway.

  7. Interesting how a post on spam attracts a lot of spam. Here's another one - looks innocent enough, but the link goes to an Indian web design service. I'd have left it up if I could have disabled the link. They're well designed to stroke the egos of the bloggers:

    izcool said...

    Thanks for your informative Blogs ! and i like the way you summarized link building and web presence

    Here are the google search words that he used to find this post:
    "search engine optimization post comments"

  8. Yet another. This one, from Bangladesh, copied my December 1 comment and posted it with a link through the name - Dental. It looked like an SEO company that catered to Dentists.

  9. Another spam comment for a dentist, this time a Cosmetic Dentist in Massachusetts. This one said all kinds of wonderful generic things about how great the blog was and had two links to the dentist.

  10. Great Blog!! That was amazing. Your thought processing is wonderful. The way you tell the thing is awesome. You are really a master.

    Orthodontist Saugus MA

    1. Hah! Another one. I'm leaving this one up. I sent the office an email pointing out what they are paying their SEO folks to do. So tacky.

  11. Here are two more which I deleted after I copied and pasted them here, but without the links working.

    Another spam comment for a dentist, this time a Cosmetic dentists in peterborough. This one said all kinds of wonderful generic things about how great the blog was and had two links to the dentist.

    Any results gain by using black hat seo techniques are, at best, temporary. Avoid the headache and heartache of losing your improved ranking or being taken off the search engines completely. Deal with an ethical seo company, deal with SEO Volt.

  12. Spammy SEO Firms can really bring down your dentistry site. I have seen so many bad comments pop up on different sites.

    Ron Johnson |


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