Reverse engineering blackhat spam into a whitehat SEO lead
At the present time I am feeling kind of generous. So today I am giving away a tried and true method of gaining top-tier qualified SEO leads. It won’t require you to get out of your chair, leave your blog, or spend a dime.
Lets start by taking a look into blog comment spam. Blog comment spam has been around since blog comments have existed. Essentially how it works, or how it is intended to work is people comment on blogs using bots or tools with the hope that the webmaster will approve the comment or it will land on an auto-approve blog.
The comment contains a link and a name (anchor text) which generally leads back to the owner of the site, or a tiered site which 99% of the time points to the owner of the site.
I analyze a lot of blog comments for both fun and profit. The majority of comment spam is done by affiliates looking to pump up money sites, tiered properties, or parasites.
Sifting through the spam, finding the “good” comments
A small percentage of the comment spam you will see are done from blackhat SEO firms on behalf of their unknowing clients as a way to boost their b2b or b2c websites.
Forget the ethics of violating Google’s Guidelines for a second. When a business hires an SEO company to gain traction for their company, most of them don’t realize that the repercussions of hiring the wrong firm could land them in the penalty zone for months if not years.
The first thing you need to do is compile a list. Start by ‘saving’ your comment SPAM to an Excel spreadsheet. You can do this by exporting your SQL database to an Excel spreadsheet or you can just do it by hand.
Once you have your spam in a spreadsheet start by deleting the crap. You can usually spot an affiliate comment from a mile away. Examples of affiliate comment spam usually have keywords such as:
- [store name] coupon codes
- buy [social media] followers
- gambling / porn keywords
- the list goes on
The “good” comments that you want to save are generally b2b or b2c keywords such as:
- [cityname] [industry]
- [state] [industry]
- the name of a company (generally non-mainstream)
- the name of a product (generally non-mainstream)
But a lot of them aren’t going to be so obvious. The more you look at SPAM the better you will be at deciphering what it is.
A lot of comment spammers are using generic, branded, or random anchor text so you really need to manually sift through all of this.
Reverse engineering the targeted list
Once you have a list of “good” comments we can start to reverse engineer the process.
Start by isolating all of the URLs.
Navigate to each URL and take a look at it. If it is something like a WordPress.com, social bookmark, blog post or even Twitter account, crack open the source code and look for a link to a website. If it is a Twitter, Facebook or similar account just look at the profile URL and 90% of the time you will get what you are looking for.
At this point we are looking for your targeted demographic here. If you are an SEO company that only services lawyers or auto companies, sift out everything but those. If you only do smaller, regional type of work then only look for those.
If you see any type of affiliate blog or landing page your doing it wrong.
Once you have a good list of websites you want to target, you need to create a list of leads. You can do this a few different ways:
- compile a list of names, phone numbers and notes to call
- compile a list of emails and names to email
- compile a list of URL contact forms to submit
I would advise against mass-emailing your list in this scenario, do everything by hand it will pay off.
FUD: Fear, Uncertainty and doubt
The whole point of this sales tactic is to instill FUD into the webmaster or business owner.
You are calling them or emailing them to let them know either:
A. the company they’ve hired to do SEO for them is using a tactic outside of Google’s guidelines and could get them penalized.
B. The tactic they are employing themselves is considered blackhat and could get them penalized on Google.
Any business owner that hopes for a lengthy and prosperous existence with Google will be immediately appalled after learning that they are putting their livelihood at risk, and will want to learn more about what you’ve told them about.
Opening with your new SEO lead
I’ve written about cold calling SEO leads in the past. It is something I’ve done before and have been very successful with. Some folks say that it is wrong, but for some businesses it is the only way to get started. Our company hasn’t cold called anyone in years, but that’s not to say we are against it.
This is a little bit more of a “warm lead” (but not really) in the fact that they’ve already communicated with you.
Hey, they’ve been the ones that were spamming your blog after all, right?
If you do call them, just be straight with them. Don’t use a pitch just ask to talk to the person in charge of the website.
Something like this will work fine:
“Hi my name is — and I just wanted to talk to you about your website. My blog has been receiving comment spam from your domain, and I just wanted to make sure you knew that this was happening.”
Most of the time they will be very grateful that you are telling them this.
Be prepared to cite Google’s guidelines and maybe even point them to a blog post you wrote last year about Penguin 🙂
There are a number of other ways to open. You can simply call them and ask them that they remove your blog from your list. This will most likely prompt them to want to know what is going on with their SEO campaign which will open up the exact can of worms you are looking for.
A dime in the karma bank
I’m not anti-black hat or out to get anyone. I also don’t care what people do to their own sites. In fact I’ve experimented with a number of different tactics in the past.
One thing that does irk me is when people perform blackhat to a client site without them knowing the consequences. I have a relative with a family business who had their site penalized recently from a company in California who blasted with them with link spam. He would have never hired this company if he knew the consequences, or even the methods they used.
I’m also not suggesting anyone gets outed or anything like that. Not only is that not my job but I don’t have time for it.
This is a really creative way to score some easy leads and help out small businesses in need of some help.