There are two varieties of what's called "search engine optimization," white and black. White SEO consists of employing proper keywords and a search-engine friendly title (for instance, Google doesn't recognize the title you're reading as the title to this post) to let search engines know what a webpage is about.
Black SEO, on the other hand, is the practice of sending out bots to post the same or similar messages, linking to the same page, on dozens, hundreds, or thousands of webpages that have nothing to do with the page being promoted, or using "linkfarms" to game Google, Yahoo, and the like by convincing the engines that the promoted page is important. It's what most people refer to as "spamming."
Last week I posted about ticketvoid.com, a DUI/DWI legal referral website that appeared to be heavily engaged in the practice of Black SEO. We received two comments in quick succession, by "users" Seostarman1 and Seostarman7, announcing:
I promised my lawyer I’d pimp his site online ( http://ticketvoid.com ) after he got me off for drinking & driving. All charges we’re dropped today! Kudos
This is classic spam. Though we occasionally write about legal matters, this is not a site devoted to the defense of drunk driving. And in fact, Seostarman1's lawyer didn't get Seostarman1 off for drinking and driving, because spambots cannot drink or drive.
Ticketvoid appears to be run by an attorney who until recently practiced as a real estate and water vending lawyer, fields that have little to do with criminal law, or DUI defense, which believe it or not in most states is a rather complex field. Though it's possible the man behind ticketvoid learned a lot about drunk driving defense in the past couple of years, it seems improbable.
When I checked the site last week it was mentioned in only a few places. Now it's proliferated across the web, with hundreds of mentions similar to that above on forums that have nothing to do with drunk driving, law, or anything else germane to ticketvoid's avowed purpose of introducing drunken scofflaws to attorneys eager to help them escape justice.
He's assisted in this purpose by a company known as Verifiedfile, which promotes itself as a leading SEO specialist (and no, I'm not linking to its site):
Imagine the time it would take to register unique usernames, validate registration, and post on 1 million forums. Now imagine the market potential if you could post your message. Yesterday's solution of "Google Ads" require you wait for somebody to click on your static text ad.
Today, we can bring your marketing message directly to your client. We can help you hype your site, product, or services. We create the trends. When you see a forum an innocent forum post, you never really know if the post is nothing other than a decoy from us to plant and integrate a "virtual user" into an online established community for the purpose of promoting our clients. We can create a talk-back post with one username, and use another unique username to follow-up on the conversation. The power of our services can put your company on the map.
All of that boils down to: We help you to send spam to forums and blogs, millions of them. While some question the competence of an attorney who would market himself in such a fashion (not high – see this followup), it's really a question of ethics.
Spamming is, in its way, every bit as wrong as drunk driving. After all, despite what MADD would have us think, most drunk driving episodes don't end in a collision or injury. They end with the driver getting home, in one piece, and promising himself that he won't do it again.
Not so with spammers. Every time someone elects to send off a marketing campaign to "1 million forums" or blogs, others are inconvenienced. And while most drunk drivers don't intend to hurt others, the spammer most certainly does.
And so, because we've since received two more spam missives from ticketvoid, I fire this shot into the web, hoping that someone, somewhere, in need of a good DUI defense lawyer will read it, consider what sort of attorney would affiliate with a spam network, and perhaps decide to pick up the Yellow Pages instead.