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Think like a spammer

Annie Wakefield
Digital Marketing Manager
17 February 2009

Everyone hates spam. In the SEO industry, we all try to avoid writing spammy content, posting spammy links, and we generally stay away from spammy tactics to avoid being labelled with the terrible name “Spammer!” Whatever you might like to say, the percentage of spam on the web is on the rise, some even say by as much as 12% a year.

So why am I writing about spam then? Because we can all learn a lot from it, as unpleasant as it may be.

Spammers send emails to people they don’t know – and as much as we all protest that we don’t open emails from people we don’t know, don’t click on links we don’t trust and wouldn’t watch a suspect video,  plenty of people around the world are conned by spammers every day. Is this because they are gullible fools? Or is it because the spammers know how to pique their interest, lull them into a false sense of security and entice them to click?

Spammers can data mine email archives on a zombie computer to create personalised and convincing email messages, but they still have to get you to trust them. The way that spammers gain trust is by treading on common ground and leading with the familiar.

Spammers might not know all the details of their targets, but they do know what they are generally familiar with. Poor Angelina Jolie – not only is she despised (by some) as the woman who stole Brad from Jennifer and then proceeded to collect children faster than anyone could imagine, but she is also the most popular celebrity name used by email spammers. 2.28% of all emails sent in July 2008 contained her name in the subject field.

The familiar is powerful. Spammers like to use domain URL’s that are almost identical to official institutions and send emails that use the addresses of your work colleagues, friends and family – people you trust.

Spammers also use current events as bait. Events like political elections, conflicts between nations and people, and major events like the Olympics are all fodder used to lure unassuming users into clicking on links or videos loaded with viruses. It takes a lot of will power NOT to click on a video link which claims to document the first minutes of the moments-ago-declared world war three, or open an email with the subject “Obama suspended from White House”.

So how does this help us in the SEO world?

When writing a blog, a press release or even a sales pitch, you have to keep your audience entertained. Keeping them entertained means they come back, they link and they generally mess about on your site and increase your ranking, thank you very much.

Not so easy to entertain if you don’t have a single clue as to who they are and what they like, but because you do know what they are generally familiar with – current events, world news, hot topics and celebrity gossip – you can use these references to bridge the gap and connect with your readers.

Every single blog post, web page or press release you write can be filled with comparisons, analogies, metaphors, name-drops, references and citations that make your site more appealing to the aveSpamrage user. Focus on getting your audience interested, start with a bang, give them plenty of juicy info – the real stuff can came later in the text.

The moral is this: you need to attract visitors, and then keep them reading, because if they tune out at the start, they’ll never come back. 

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