Review: Spam Kings

Ah, happiness is a day without meetings. This was a good day. If you’re looking for an interesting read this holiday season, I highly recommend Spam Kings. It’s about email spam, not webspam, but if you are an SEO you’ll probably like this book. There’s even a blog for the book.

If you’re an SEO, you’ll get an extra dimension of fun out of this book. When it mentions nonsense domains, you’ll be curious and check them out. When they mention XBL, you’ll be interested to hear more about blacklisted proxies. It’s a completely different but equally fascinating subculture.

I’ve often wondered what the overlap between SEO and email spam is. I don’t think I’ve ever met an SEO who copped to doing email spam. Then again, I’ve never met an SEO who admitted to trying to rank porn pages for innocent phrases like [disney cartoons] or peoples’ names, but I know that some folks try to do that because we see the attempts. Anyway, I hope no one recognizes a friend or even themselves in this book. :)

29 Responses to Review: Spam Kings (Leave a comment)

  1. the overlap between SEO and email spam is they’re both looking for some cash…plus they both love what they create regardless of who else does

    well…just speculating on some types I’ve met ;-)

  2. Aaron Pratt

    I can honestly say that I have never emailed spam to anyone period, so I can’t relate and wouldn’t even waste my time reading that book. We are not all major gamers out here (believe it or not) and I bet that there is a small group of people doing the majority of the spamming yes?

  3. Shri

    Aaron,

    Getting an email through to an end user involves knowing various spam trapping algorithms and techniques. We have to tweak some newsletters, throttle our mail delivery and jump through dozens of hoops to get double opt in type emails through various spam filters deployed at various ISPs.

    What you consider a legit email, might be considered spam by some bizzare algorithm that determines that you have too much red in your email. If you have to communicate with customers and get your message out, you have to learn the rules of the game… It is not an issue of “I don’t spam” .. it is an issue of taking a strong defensive position against algorithms that change. (Sounds like SEO eh?)

  4. * laughs *

    Interesting thought, Matt.

    Personally, I’d say 95% of your overlap would come between blackhat SEO and spam.

    Usually blackhat SEO is done by disreputable companies for disreputable companies.

    There are a few industries that seem to fit into both blackhat SEO and spam categories (porn, health, MLM/pyramid.)

    SEOs and spammers never admit that they find and stalk you without your permission until you blatantly ask them how they got your information in the first place. This includes email spam from SEOs that claim that the sites they’re spamming aren’t in engines.

    And blackhat SEOs and spammers come up with the most bizarre rationalizations for what they’re doing, like the one I got today:

    “Our Impact Movies avoid unnecessary paper waste, help preserve our valuable natural resources such as forests and oil, protect wildlife habitats, and do not contribute to landfills. However, we do not wish to bother people by sending our messages to those not interested in what we do. To be removed from our email list, please respond to this message with the words “REMOVE” in the subject field. We apologize for bothering you. ”

    They may be complete and utter scum, but at least they’re not nature killers.

  5. I love how they spam the spammers, this is the retaliation that has been needed for a long time! My Gmail account alone get’s at least 1 every 2 minutes.

  6. Shri, why would anyone jump through all of the hoops, break through the walls, and try to evade all the problems with sending email when there is RSS?

    With the advent of RSS I expect (and hope) that we can lock down email even more (what a lovely thought). I subscribe to the RSS feeds I want. I don’t have to worry about any “junk” that I haven’t sought myself. I’m still surprised that more people don’t use RSS. How do you think I check for updates from Matt? :)

    I would also agree with Adam about the overlap being with blackhats and no so much with the whitehats. Let your message be invited in and not come crashing in through the back door.

  7. I think if you x-rayed the brains of Blackhat SEOs and E-mail spammers, both would have a particularly dark blotch in the ‘filtergetaroundis’ region. In years to come I suspect scientists will discover they are actually mutated descendants of Egyptian grave-robbers, and cryptosporidium bacteria.

  8. > Shri, why would anyone jump through all of the hoops, break through the walls, and try to evade all the problems with sending email when
    > there is RSS?

    Folks sending legitimate opt-in e-mail have to think like a spammer in many ways and deal with all that related crap because…

    Geeks understand RSS. 95% of the rest of folks don’t even know what it is or how to work with it
    Really. Go to a cafe (no, not an internet cafe :D) and ask 10 random people if they use RSS. You’ll get blank stares. My sister doesn’t use RSS. Neither of my parents use RSS. When they want something, they’ll Google for it, or they’ll put their e-mail address into a form and hit SUBMIT.

    I mean, do you realize just HOW geeky RSS is? Hmm… okay, so I’m reading this Web page and I want to “subscribe”. How do I do that? Right-clicking on an XML icon, copying the URL, and pasting it somewhere else… does that sound intuitive to you? Or maybe it’s an RSS icon? Or a text “subscribe” link that looks like gibberish when you click on it? How much patience do you think non-geeks have just to read YOUR marketing material, er, content? ;)

    My non-geeky roommate uses a Blackberry and loves getting her e-mail on it. Can she also subscribe to RSS feeds on that gadget? I don’t know. And I’m sure she has no idea, either!

    When I get a marketing e-mail, I can often hit REPLY and it’ll at least go to a list manager or a webmaster or someone like that. You can’t hit “reply” on an RSS feed. And don’t get me started about the shocking number of blogs that make it literally or nearly impossible to find contact info :O

    And lastly, If I find a single e-mail (perhaps with a coupon, a map, whatever) that I want to forward to a friend, I hit FORWARD. How do I do that with an RSS entry? Not so intuitive.

    * * *

    Someday RSS will be more mainstream. But it’s nowhere near time for shuttering e-mail lists, despite all the massive amounts of aggravation associated with managing them (on both ends).

  9. It sounds like a book related to viagra and pills, they’re the spam kings !!

  10. Actualy the overlap between black hat seo and other spam sub-industries (email/im/p2p) started to grow in the last year. I personaly know about two peoples used to be involved (in sum) in all three mentioned types that appeared in seo in the last 6 months. And there are many rumors about others.

    Each spam type have different overlap with seo (and each other) but total overlap is rather large (to me). Either black or white hat are growing very fast (I believe faster than other spam types, maybe excluding p2p). So peoples with close experience have started to go seo. This is just economic issue…

  11. Harith

    Psssssssssst!

    It seems that Nick had a chance to “grill” Matt :-)

    Very interesting interview.

    Matt said:
    “One thing I love about the AdSense team is that they’re so open to feedback”

    You are right on that Matt. The folks of AdSense have always been open, friendly, helpful and prompt in reply. And even they helped me in forwarding one of my reinclusion requests when I needed their help :-)
    Power to AdSense Team!

    Exclusive: Google Talks About Splogs, Ranking & More

    Enjoy!

  12. There you go Matt, Adam just gave somebody at Google a nice 20% project.

    An RSS reader that works like email. That’s right, integrate it with outlook or gmail… show me the headlines of what i subscribe to (laid out like email) when I click, fetch the text (if only a description is in the feed) and provide it for me in the window like an email. Give me reply (if the feed has an email) and a forward button.

    Integrating with outlook would be best, that way if I have outlook running I can just click the “add” link to add it… Hmm… maybe MS would be better off doing this, as that would be the challenging part.

    Could do it as a firefox addon /extension too. That’d be neat…..

  13. I run some free directories and I hate the # of pill / penis enlargment / etc sites people submit.

    Might be worth adding to my Xmas wish list! :)

  14. No Name Given For this Comment

    I read Spam Kings last year and thought it was a great read.

    One thing that runs parallel with email spam and seo spam is that there are “stalkers” or “freaks” with nothing better to do” than hunt down seo spammers as well. Just like all the “spam hunters” in the book.

    I can attest to that from personal experience. A couple years ago we were killing the serps for “buy [insert keyword here]” and had many threatening emails and even threatening phone calls at home in the middle of the night from these “do gooder” stalkers. Probably more like frustrated competitors wigging about our serp placement. Were not talking porn or pills here either, just straight up legit shopping keywords.

    Now I was gracious enough to invite these folks to come on by so we could discuss this. I even offered to come pick them up or make travel arrangements for them to come visit me at my expense. Sadly, none of these folks had the balls to take me up on my offer. They would rather hide behind their anonymity and harrass from afar.

    Well, unfortunately we do not have that problem any more, but I was surprised by the parallels with the book.

  15. Sounds like an interesting book, may be I need to buy it ;)
    Always was curious how spammers do it

    Mike

  16. Well said Adam. It isn’t as user friendly as it needs to be yet… but it has potential!!! :) Firefox is trying to make it easier (just click the RSS feed icon and boom you’ve got a bookmark to that live rss feed… my mother can even do that…

    I am agreed that it has a way to go, but it is a way around every one (ok almost every one) of the problems that people face with opt-in emails. I especially like that I don’t have to “sign-up” or give out my email to get an rss feed. It is totally user side.

    I hate SPAM messages coming into my inbox (like the rest of us) but if I have subscribed to an rss feed, I want every juicy bit of information I can get (even if it is a little off-topic at times).

  17. The overlaps between SEO and email spam…

    Technical Overlaps
    - E-mail-spam enough people with a link to your domain and some of those may translate into spiderable links to your domain. Even if they are all complaints, a link is a link, right? ;)
    - It’s easy to point the finger at someone else while claiming innocence yourself (open relays c.f. link farms)

    Philosophical/Business Thinking Overlaps
    The general philosophy, summed up by phrases like

    - “Throw enough crap at the wall and some of it must stick”
    - “If it can be done profitably then it should be done”
    - “If it’s relevant to one in a million viewers, then it’s relevant” and
    - “It’s relevant because I say it is”

    holds in both camps.

  18. Hi Matt

    I have the kings of spam wreaking havoc on Google. Please contact me to discuss this as what they have done is quite ruthless and evil.

    I am so serious I am willing to post my phone number for you to call at yout convenience.

    Clint Dixon
    215-727-8221

    I guarantee this is worth your time or I’ll walk away and never post here again.

  19. Stan

    Matt,

    Let me tell you what happiness is. Happiness is to wake up at the morning and see that your site is #1 (ok, or #2 at most) in Google. This is a good day Matt.

  20. maxD

    There is a lot to email spam but it can be good for the right type of mail. Sign ups for adults dating sites…heh, I remember the adult friendfinder ones. Find someone to f*&& tonight. Now we get all the clones. I know serveral people involved in email marketing and have been tempted to do something crappy like ipods or the rolex one for xmas. Luckily the force saved me, I was almost in darth vaders grip ( well my brother talked me out of it). But having been personally hassled by spamcop I can say that those do gooders are tenatious and you really need to know what you are doing with BP servers and proxy servers. Email marketing is very dark SEO when it comes to the penalties on offer.

  21. Hey Clint,

    If it’s that ruthless and evil, why not share it with the rest of us? I’d love to see it myself.

  22. maxD

    yeah clint, get it out in the open. What’s with the secrecy?

  23. Sounds like a very interesting book, I always was curious how spammers do it.

  24. Dave

    I wonder if the Author is spamming the World advertising their new book :)

  25. Matt

    Hello against google! I think google-watch.org and fuckedgoogle.com do it better. Maybe with some time it will develop, though a lot of people these days who want to rant will go straight to a blog.

    Clint, I don’t normally phone people much, but I’ll try to drop you an email.

  26. Thank you very much Matt,
    i didn’t exepect tha you will reply,
    thanks a lot, thanks for giving me those links, well i dont have any intension of making up a site which is as similar to google-watch.org or fuckedgoogle.com,

    still i would like to get your opinion, what can i do to make the site intersting and a perfect site,

    can u help me out?
    Thanks

  27. Helder

    My Spam filters are too strong
    I am the best and the smartest and still live with my mom

    I can not get spammed.

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