Tuesday, August 30, 2005

New Spam Fighters

There seem to be a lot of new people joining the spam fight with the recent anti splog campaign. I am no expert spam fighter, but I have been doing this for over a year now. Hopefully I can help newer fighters with some of the things I have learned.

First, be careful how and where you leave links. I know you are eager to get the word out on your new anti-spam site, but not everyone else will be. Most spam fighter sites are open to linking to each other, but if you are just starting out, you probably shouldn't expect to get links from the top established spam fighters. Build your website content and show what you can bring to the table first. Get links on other smaller sites and get to know them. For example, Spam Huntress and chongqed.org started both about a year ago, but we didn't know about each other until rather recently. Since then, we cooperate a lot and help each other investigate spammers. It certainly has benefitted both sites.

When chongqed.org first started we tried to be very careful that no one could mistake our posts as spam. In the beginning we would often leave text only URLs (not links) in places we were unsure about. Maybe we were too cautious, but you never know.

Sometimes it doesn't take going out and leaving your links in comments. I often check referrers to my blog and our wiki. When I find a good antispam site linking to us I will link back either from here or our links page on the wiki. If I find a really good site I will often mention it in a post or on our WikiForum. I know Spam Huntress also reads her referrers too. That is how I found Fight Splog yesterday.

I know running a website costs money, but I always dislike brand new spam fighting sites that have lots of AdSense or other ads. Don't over do it. While the site is still small and being built up, ad free (or ad light) look more legitimate to me. Spammers love to use lots of Adsense so the amount of ads I see on a site often gives a hint of its spamminess. There are a few antispam sites that I swear must be by black hat SEOs, not only the content, but the number of ads. Now if you are an established site and have a lot of content I have no problem with ads, at some point it is necessary to help offset the cost of running the site. Until your site has some real traffic, you aren't going to be making much anyway.

Be careful what you say about a spammer's site. Spammers like to threaten lawsuits. Whether they follow through or not those are still some of the scariest days you will have in your spam fighting life. Lawsuits and even death threats are always a risk when you fight spam.

If you do post a spammer's URL be sure to either post it as text only or use the rel="nofollow" attribute to make sure that your linking to them doesn't count for their PageRank. I know it makes little difference compared to the thousands of other links they likely have spammed all over the place, but why help them at all.

I also suggest you link to other forms of spam fighters. I stick mostly to web spam/spamdexing sites which already covers a huge area but I also mention important email spam things sometimes. We are all in this together. All spam is related and many techniques can be used between different types of spam.

The last thing I will mention is, if possible don't do this alone. If I wasn't doing this with a friend I probably wouldn't still be doing it (in fact I wouldn't have started). No matter what, your enthusiasm is going to lessen over time and/or life is going to get busier, it happens to most (if not all) spam fighters. Both Manni and I suffer from one or both. It is not hard to get discouraged, it is usually rare to see results in spam fighting and it is mostly a thankless job. Right now lots of splog fighters are getting results because it has become a hot topic, but when things get back to normal it will once again be hard to get visible results on splogs just like it is in all other web spam fighting. I hate to mention it, but I do have to warn that if you ever do quit, don't just let your domain registration drop. Give it to another spam fighter. I have seen several antispam sites get dropped and a spammer will pick them up and use them for spamming. I can't stand that spammers are benefitting from all the PageRank the site built up as a spam fighter. And anyone following old links will end up at a spammer page.

I hope this helps new and prospective spam fighters and doesn't scare anyone off.

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