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A Conspiracy of Blog Comments

I know another photographer who named his blog, Zero Comments. I think that’s a great name. It speaks to the majority of bloggers who are writing for writing’s sake or posting images regardless of recognition. For those of us toiling away under these conditions it’s kind of exciting when you do get a blog comment. Someone cared enough to write!

Unfortunately, more often than not, the comment you get is not really a comment. It’s an ad or a questionable hyperlink disguised as a comment. I’ve gotten a few of these lately and some forensic Googling has shown some odd meeting points.

Here’s a comment I received Monday morning,

Hi, I’ve just come across your website while searching around the Internet as I am looking for some information on electric cellos!. It’s a very interesting site so I have bookmarked you and I will revisit soon to have a more indepth look when I’ll more free time.

Now, I double-checked my blog. While I have written about music, I have never written about cellos or electric cellos. The closet thing I have on my blog are images from Monticello. So, there’s no type of search which would lead the commenter to my site. I also know from my site stats that they did not find me by using a search engine.

In the commenter’s name they did leave a link to a site about electric cellos and that’s where things get strange. I’m not going to link to their site because I don’t want to fulfill their goals of publishing their links but suffice it to say their site looks like this:

electriccello

Almost looks legit until you look at the site’s links. Every external link leads to one Amazon.com page. A page of electric cellos. Seeing this I wondered, what’s the point? Why create a site whose sole purpose is to lead to an Amazon page of electric cellos? Why create the software or pay people to leave blog comments pointing to the same?

On a whim I Googled parts of the comment I received. It led me to other blogs, all with similar comments. Here’s one I found,

Hi there, I’ve just stumbled upon your blog whilst hunting around Google as I am looking for some info on engine lifts!. It’s a good blog so I bookmarked your site and will revisit you soon to allow more time for a more indepth look when I can give it more time.

Its author has a hyperlink to this site:

enginelift

Look familiar? In keeping with the electric cello format, the external links on this site lead to an Amazon search page of engine lifts.

Now scroll down to either Amazon search page and look through the Customers with Similar Searches window. You’ll find that people who search for engine lifts also search for electric cellos and vice versa.

I’m not one for conspiracy theories but there’s definitely something afoot here… Maybe there is a little known group of Internet manipulating electric cello playing mechanics?

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Update – 2/13/11:  Black-Hat Ops.

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