Poorly Targeted Advertising

If you have a website, you’ve probably seen link swap spam. People running link farms search for a keyword or phrase, then fire off a zillion emails to the contact addresses about how they’ve looked at the site, their site is clearly relevant to yours, they’ve already linked to you and they want you to link back to their site.

All this without bothering to actually look at the sites in the search results.

For example: last Saturday I posted picture of the marquee in front of San Diego’s Ghirardelli Chocolate shop. By Monday someone had asked me to link to their website about chocolate, because our sites were clearly related.

Today I got one that trips the irony-meter. I’ve made four posts over the past year about targeted—or mistargeted—advertising. Just four. This morning I received three copies (one to my webmaster address and one to each DNS contact) of this message:

Hello,
I have found your website hyperborea.org by searching Google for “targeted advertising”. I think our websites has a similar theme, so I have already added your link to my website.


It went on with a link to their site, a link to my “listing” on their site, and then of course made the inevitable pitch: “I would like you to add our link to your website too.”

This isn’t targeted advertising. It’s like making cold calls to people based on their street name. “Let’s see, this guy lives on Bowler Street, so let’s see if he’s interested in bowling.” It’s not even advertising, really, it’s trying to get other people to advertise for you. More like “Let’s see if he’ll advertise our bowling alley.”

On the occasions I’ve looked at these pages, they’ve always been collections of semi-related links. There’s never anything useful or informative. I can’t say I’ve ever noticed traffic from one of these sites. And of course there’s no guarantee they’ll keep the link on their page.

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