shopautodotca seocontest online contest tacitly encourages comment spam


There is a Canadian web site that is running a contest to see who can get their web site to rank highest for the terms “shopautodotca seocontest”. There’s $14,000 in prize money at stake (presumably in Canadian dollars), as well as a contract as the company’s SEO manager. Since the contest rules do not rule out spam as a mechanism for improving search rank, this web site (and no doubt others) are getting hit with comment spam from people trying to get their site to rank higher. (I sent a message to the contest organizer last month, who wrote back, “we will investigate.” Haven’t heard anything since then.)

Just to see if I can stick it to them, I’m posting this article a week before the contest ends. This web site has a Google page rank significantly higher than the current contest leader, and I think it would be a nice touch if I, as one of the victims of their antisocial little contest, ended up winning it. (But since this page doesn’t link back to the contest sponsor, I won’t actually win anything.)

Of course, it may also mean that Google’s ranking algorithm will decide that I’m just a source of web link spam and blacklist this web site. It’s a big risk, and I may end up paying dearly for it, but I’m just pissed off enough to give it a try anyway.

Comments (29)
  1. Adam says:

    Heh, what’s all that pagerank really worth anyway, if you don’t spend it on good causes like this. :)

    I hope you do win, even if you’re not going to get the money. Good luck.

  2. Rune says:

    I sympathise fully with you Raymond.

    A few years ago, this idiot promoter wanted to promote a new CD release and he wanted to use the "power of the Internet". I.e. he did a "forward this email to five friends and CC me to participate in the contest!".

    I emailed him and carefully explained him the downside to his campaign. His answer? "This is the future of the Internet! Get used to it!".

    Too bad he was in a grey area judicially speaking. He was later forced to apologise, and I have not heard from that guy since.

    Rune

  3. Some random guy says:

    Gee… it would sure be ironic if somebody at google (or another search engine) saw this and special cased that search to give the official site as the top link…

    Seriously, though. They’re getting really cheap advertising ($9000 is nothing)but an extreme loss of goodwill.

  4. AndyB says:

    take the money Raymond! I mean, if you don’t get it and donate it to the nearest donkey sanctuary, then the winner will be whichever immoral mumpty who managed to spam his way to the top.

    So, regardless of whether you like donkeys or dislike spammers, I really think you should link back and spoil the spammers party.

  5. Gordon Smith says:

    What would happen if someone added the link as a comment, for example:  http://www.shopauto.ca/seo.phtml?

    Gordon.

    [No effect, since you also have to sign up for the contest, which I haven’t. -Raymond]
  6. Neal says:

    Well Raymond, I just searched google for shopautodotca seocontest oldnewthing and this blog entry comes up so it’s already been indexed.  You’re low, low, low in the results for the plain terms though because I haven’t found you yet and I’m on page 10 of the results.

  7. Sebastian Redl says:

    I would find it extremely funny if Google just blacklisted these two search terms (who wants to search from them anyway?) and displayed no results at all.

  8. Danielle says:

    I am in the contest and incidentally one of the biggest spammers is currently in #1, and rose there quickly (passing sites that have been in for months) based on this spam (forums, comment spam, so on).

    Spamming at this point seems to be the only way to win this thing. I myself tried creating content and I have links from sites that have chosen to help me, or through regular link exchange. This seems to work (sort of) but my approach is no competition for the more prolific spammers.

    I think it is important for any contest of this kind to specify that Google guidelines be followed.

    Though I am in the contest, I absolutely see your point of view. At the beginning of the contest, I am pretty sure wikipedia was spammed which I find patently wrong.

    Hey if you get to #1 for sure take the money! Why wouldn’t you?

    Mostly I entered this contest to learn about SEO and I have learned things over the past months that frankly I did not want to learn.

    Cheers.

  9. Johan says:

    You’re not doing too good, you would probably need to put the search phrase in the <title> tag of your blog to have a chance.

  10. Danielle says:

    Yes, I dropped from #1 to #5 yesterday with the great increase in spam links this week. It had slowed for a while, which allowed me to get to #1 after being at #2 and #3 for a while. The page title was set up in the blogger dashboard, but I changed the HTML as you suggested. Thanks for the feedback, I appreciate it.

    On another note, I would like to suggest that these contests can be enlightening when looking to watch what Google does in "strained" situations where there is great competition in a short period of time. I have indeed found it very instructive as to how Google reacts to different onsite and offsite changes.

  11. Adam P. says:

    So this company has ponied up $14,000 find the biggest comment spammer they find?  Why would you want a comment spammer as your SEO manager?  I don’t get it.

  12. Danielle says:

    I guess since I am in the contest, I have some insight to answer Adam’s question:

    They plan on looking at the top 5 in the contest, and selecting from them the best candidate… after what could only be referred to as the longest job interview ever!

    But what you must understand about the city where the contest is being held – there are no real SEO companies first of all, just web design that also offers SEO. Anyone who has paid for SEO in this city (that I have spoken to and looked at their sites) in essense is paying only for meta tags. No joke!

    Also, the company itself did not seem to put enough thought into the contest rules prior to launch. For all they know their site is being dragged into "bad neighbourhoods". I believe they should have specified Google guidelines to ensure fair play, and to ensure their site was getting good quality links.

    Keep in mind that not everybody in this contest is using these techniques, even though everybody on the first page has used spam links (creating thousands of no content pages, comment spam) to get their rank (except for me).

    N.B. I only posted my URL in my first comment, as I think it would be innapropriate to add too many links to my site from this particular post. ;-)

  13. Earl says:

    You, sir, are my hero.  F**k those spammers.

    earl

  14. Mike K says:

    In the past month Google trends shows the search term "seocontest" skyrocketing in popularity… interesting.

    http://www.google.com/trends?q=seocontest&ctab=0

  15. Danielle,

    "I only posted my URL in my first comment, as I think it would be innapropriate to add too many links to my site from this particular post."

    All of the links left in comments on Raymond’s site are rel=nofollow, so it doesn’t really matter anyways.

  16. mann3r says:

    jayson,

    for the issue of rel=nofollow, google dont count it but yahoo and msn does.

    As for the issue of spamming, danielle if you agree, we have been closely checking how the number NOW is doing in the contest, the organizer should take into this as an option since they have in the prize that a chance on seo company position, the question is will they hire for an SEO with spamming as a way to get high in engine?

  17. Miral says:

    There’s always a chance that it’s some kind of honeypot approach to find and wrist-slap the biggest link-spammers around.  At least I hope that’s what it is.

  18. Fred Foobar says:

    On a side note,

    Wow. Anyone with Firefox and Firebug, click that link posted earlier: http://www.shopauto.ca/seo.phtml? Watch the JavaScript error count quickly hit 1,000.  

  19. MB says:

    This page is already on page 3 of the results :-)

  20. Dean Harding says:

    It’s on page 2 for me. The actual ordering on google can be rather changeable but it certainly seems to be slowly moving up the ranks :-)

  21. lately Google has been concentrating on paid links and has been ignoring comment spam I hate to spam blogs when I am in a seocontest but it get very tempting when the top site is winning by comment spamming and buy links does not work like it used too. Blame Google for the comment spam because they are make comment spam more powerful if it did not help and caused sites to drop no one would do it.

  22. Bahbar says:

    Wow, you are already 5th on the first page. Pretty impressive. It probably helps that some people actually link to your page to help your cause!

  23. SHODAN says:

    Rune wrote:

    {His answer? "This is the future of the Internet! Get used to it!".}

    Uhh… You know what? I’m very, very sad. Why? Because he was right. I mean, take a look around… :(

    How can we fight this overflow? I seriously don’t know. All systems are built to be beaten (although Google is the best barricade builder so far). Too bad the only thin required for using a computer is intelligence. No morals, nothing. Just ability…

  24. brian says:

    Why hire spammers when you can trick them into "competing".  

  25. Danielle says:

    Not bad, you ended with #6 spot in Yahoo! But at the very least, people in this seocontest saw this post and the discussion that ensued.

    Cheers!

Comments are closed.