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Link exchange spam


I regularly get spam from webmasters asking me to participate in a link exchange; their site has nothing to do with mine, they're just trying to improve their site's PageRank by getting as many incoming links as possible, so they send this spam to (presumably) thousands of people with websites, and presumably some of the recipients go along with it in order to improve their own PageRank.

Normally I don't pay any attention to that kind of spam, just delete it. But I've had two particularly entertaining ones recently that were specifically related (kind of) to past journal entries.

The first was in regard to an old entry about the Last Unicorn movie. It said:

I have found your website kith.org by searching Google for "unicorn hoax". I think our websites has a similar theme, so I have already added your link to my website.

Then it asked me to link to its fraud-prevention website. (Which is actually just a webspam network.) I was amused that my use of the phrase "if it’s a hoax" in that entry had put the entry into the top Google results for [unicorn hoax]. (Not, btw, for ["unicorn hoax"], which is what I thought the email was saying at first.)

But today I got an even better one. A couple years ago, I wrote a journal entry about author gender statistics regarding submissions to SH. The entry used the words "female" and "submission," though not together. You can probably guess where this is headed.

This morning's spam said:

I have found your website kith.org by searching Yahoo for "female submission stories". I think our websites has a similar theme, so I have already added your link to my website.

Hee. Somehow I don't think their alleged readers would be happy if they followed that link looking for female submission stories.

(It'll be even funnier if I get another link-exchange from the same people in a week talking about this entry I'm writing right now.)

I say "alleged" readers because the site that sent that spam, too, is a webspam site, not actually a site featuring female submission stories.


Even the idea of a legitimate link exchange strikes me as deeply suspicious. Or anyway coming from an idea of how the web works and what it's for that doesn't have much to do with the way I've ever used it.

This entry has been getting an unusual amount of comment spam lately (it seems like any entry that I post that contains the word "spam" eventually starts getting an unusual amount of comment spam), so I decided to close it to comments.

But as I was doing so, I noticed that I had never replied to David's comment here a couple years ago. So, a quick response:

To me, a legitimate link exchange would be one in which the "exchange" part is purely voluntary. Say I've got a site on topic X; you've got a site that would be of interest to my readers, so I link to your site, and I drop you a note saying "Hey, my site might be of interest to your readers; come check it out, and if you like it, it would be great if you could link to it." And they do, and now we've engaged in something that I would call a link exchange, but it was actually for the benefit of our readers; the effect on search engines is secondary, and neither of us had any obligation to post the link.

But I'm guessing that you wouldn't call such a pair of links an "exchange" per se, and I can see a valid argument for taking that stance. So I guess I would say that by some definitions of "link exchange," there's no such thing as a legitimate one; by other, looser, definitions of "link exchange," there are legitimate ones, but they're out on the fringes of the definition.

...And now I feel like I should leave this entry open to comments for a few more days in case anyone sees this comment and wants to reply to it. But I'll be shutting down comments on this entry soon, to reduce spam.