I have been blogging since 2008. My blog, developmentcorporrate.com, is a modest success. It gets about 50,000 visits a year. I have several articles that rank on page 1 of Google. I have always been curious why I get so many spam comments. My blog is a WordPress site and I use the Akismet plugin to automatically quarantine spam comments. To date, it has caught 18,963 spam comments. I wondered if Do Blog Spam Comments Actually Make Money?
In this article, we’ll cover:
- The History of Internet Spam
- The Scale of Spam
- Academic Research on Spam Profitability
- How Do Spammers Make Money from Blog Comments?
- How Do Spammers Post Millions of Spam Blog Comments?
- Examples of DevelopmentCorporate.com Blog Spam Comments
On 1 May 1978, Gary Thuerk, a go-getting marketing man employed by the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) thought that it would be a good idea to let Arpanet researchers on the west coast know that DEC had successfully incorporated the network’s protocols directly into the company’s DEC-20 and TOPS-20 operating systems So Thuerk located a printed copy of Arpanet email addresses, gave it to a secretary and requested that she dispatch the message using the SNDMSG email program. As pointed out by John Naughton in The Guardian:
The message read, in part:
‘Digital will be giving a product presentation of the newest members of the DECsystem-20 family; the DECsystem-2020, 2020T, 2060, and 2060T. The DECsystem-20 family of computers has evolved from the Tenex operating system and the DECsystem-10 (PDP-10) computer architecture. Both the DECsystem-2060T and 2020T offer full Arpanet support under the Tops-20 operating system … We invite you to come see the 2020 and hear about the DECsystem-20 family at the two product presentations we will be giving in California this month …’
Reactions to the message were pretty negative. For one thing, it contravened Arpanet rules – which stipulated that the network could not be used for commercial purposes. And it was all in capitals – which in cyberspace constitutes shouting. According to Brad Templeton, who has chronicled this story from the beginning, one user from the University of Utah even complained that the spam had shut down his computer system.
Gary Thuerk, innocently enough, opened Pandora’s Box. The Internet has had to live with the consequences ever since.
It is estimated that spam accounts for 45% of all email volume. In June of 2021, the average amount of daily spam emails sent was 282 billion. Normal email volumes were 336 billion.
There must be some economic benefit for the spammers to invest the time, energy, and resources to continue to send billions of emails every day.
Spammers don’t publish their financial results as Google does. Two peer-reviewed academic papers provide insights into spammer conversion success. It is estimated that a typical spammer can make $5,000 to $7.000 a day or $1.8 to ⅖ million a year. The research backs up these estimates.
Chris Kanich, Christian Kreibich, Kirill Levchenko, Brandon Enright, Geoffrey M. Voelker, Vern Paxson, Stefan Savage of the International Computer Science Institute Dept. of Computer Science and Engineering at Berkeley and the University of California, San Diego published a paper entitled Spamalytics: An Empirical Analysis of Spam Marketing Conversion. The paper presented:
A methodology for measuring the conversion rate of spam. Using a parasitic infiltration of an existing botnet’s infrastructure, we analyze two spam campaigns: one designed to propagate a malware Trojan, the other marketing on-line pharmaceuticals. For nearly a half billion spam e-mails we identify the number that are successfully delivered, the number that pass through popular anti-spam filters, the number that elicit user visits to the advertised sites, and the number of “sales” and “infections” produced.
After 26 days, and almost 350 million e-mail messages, only 28 sales resulted — a conversion rate of well under 0.00001%. Of these, all but one were for male-enhancement products and the average purchase price was close to $100. Taken together, these conversions would have resulted in revenues of $2,731.88—a bit over $100 a day for the measurement period or $140 per day for periods when the campaign was active.
Pedram Hayati. Stratsec, BAE Systems, Nazanin Firoozeh, University of Pierre and Marie Curie, Vidyasagar Potdar, Curtin University, and Kevin Chai, University of New South Wales, published a paper at the Fifth International Conference on Broadband and Wireless Computing, Communication and Applications entitled How much money do spammers make from your website?
The abstract of the paper described their approach:
A methodological approach to address these issues and measure the value of spam-marketing on the web. Using current spam tactics, we targeted 66,226 websites both in English and non-English languages. We launched a spam campaign and set up a website to replicate spam practices. We posted spam content to 7,772 websites that resulted in 2059 unique visits to our website, and 3 purchase transactions, in a period of a month. The total conversion visit rate for this experiment was 26.49% and purchase rate was 0.14%.
There are three main ways spammers can make money from posting spam blog comments:
Spammers can help improve the SEO ranking of a target website by getting a ‘backlink’ from your website. Backlinks occur when one website links to another website. Also referred to as incoming or inbound links, backlinks make their connection through external websites. These links from outside domains point to pages on a target domain. Backlinks from sites with high domain and page authority for specific keywords can raise the SEO rankings even if just for a day.
Blog comments can contain links to ads. Clicks on the ads can lead to sales conversions.If you post thousands of comments, you can get some clicks and conversions. as pointed out in the How much money do spammers make from your website research.
The latest forecast is for global ransomware damage costs to reach $20 billion by 2021 — which is 57X more than it was in 2015.
Since spam has been around for a long time there are many tools to try and defeat it. Email clients and services have comprehensive spam filters. Search engines like Google regularly blacklist sites that generate spam, and antivirus software protects computers and devices. Yet spam still gets through these defenses.
Blog spam comments don’t magically happen. There are not legions of Chinese or Russian trolls manually posting spam blog comments every day. 99.999% of the 18,963 spam blog
comments on my blog were probably done using widely available tools like Gscraper
Gscraper costs $68. It provides tools to:
- Identify sites that have high domain and page authority for specific search terms
- Harvest 5 URLs per second
- Use freely available proxies to defeat blacklisting by search engines
- Automatically post comments using canned templates
- Run 24x7x365 to post millions of spam blog comments each year
I get between 30 and 100 spam blog comments every day:
Most of these spam comments target posts that rank very well for specific keywords. My post, How to Calculate the Enterprise Value of a Private Company, has consistently ranked in the top 3 on Google search results for over 10 years. Users of tools like Gscaper target it every day.
In 1978, DEC’s Gary Thuerk opened Pandora’s Box of Internet spam. Since then every user has been barraged with spam every day. Spam blog comments are a niche part of the spam universe. Even my little website has gotten over 18,000 spam blog comments. Fortunately, I use the Akismet plugin to automatically quarantine spam comments. I could turn blog commenting off, but I enjoy checking the spam queue every week to see what type of spam my work has attracted.
Also published on Medium.