Greekgeek's Online Odyssey - Hubpages and Online Article Writing Tips

Flattery Bots: The New Paid Blog Networks?

Fastidious respond in return of this difficulty with genuine arguments
and explaining the whole thing regarding that.

~ Comment I just removed as spam from this blog’s “pending comments” box this morning. The username included a link back to what looks like a linkbuilding site in Germany (I didn’t check).

wow, I’ve been following your blog for a while, and I’ve recommended this post to all my followers!

~ Comment from someone with a link pointing back to a vast student essay slush site (where students can buy a paper to turn in and pretend it’s their own work).

Remarkable lens.

~ Comment I received from a new lensmaster on a page comprising a few word search and crossword puzzles. Fun? I hope so. Useful study aid? Sure. “Remarkable?” Hardly.

Sometimes, the comments are genuine. I’ve made some good lenses, and commenters are kind enough to say so.

But for the past month, I’ve had my ego stroked by a vast influx of generic flattering comments. The common thread in all of them is that they seem not to fit the lens very well, and there is nothing in the comment that matches the lens content. They remind me of the worst-case generic rejection letter my aunt parodied when trying to get a short story published:

Thank you for your thing. We are not accepting things at this time. Please do not send us any more of your things.

Nobody likes rejection letters. But everyone likes flattery. Therefore, if you’re looking to build up backlinks, design a bot that leaves human-sounding compliments plus a link back to your site. Or, if you’re trying to build up a social network, create a bunch of fake accounts on social sites and have the bots go around schmoozing up the locals, building up a social following and getting a percentage of the members on that site to check out the account that flattered them (including the link one wants to promote in the profile).

The timing of this flood of flattery is suspicious: it started up in April 2012 right after Google jettisoned links built by BuildMyRank and other paid blog networks (creating automated fake content on fake blogs, planting links in the posts to the websites of paying customers). Links from spam sites are no longer a way to get your site listed. So paid linkbuilders are now trying to Trojan Horse their links onto reputable sites that still have good standing in Google. Flattery is even more effective than a horse-shaped sculpture on wheels!

I don’t know for certain, but I think the paid linkbuilders are now using the Flattery Gambit to get their backlinks on your webpages. If the comment could apply to any written piece of material whatsoever (“this is really insightful”), I’m suspicious. Doubly so if it’s written in English as a second language, as was the comment I quoted at the start of this post.

On Squidoo, there’s an additional, insidious use of  flattery behavior: reciprocal visits and “likes” can boost lensrank, leading to high payouts. So why not build a bot that leaves friendly comments on thousands of lenses in order to get your lens to tier one within a week of starting on Squidoo, as Tipi just reported?  Or, even if you don’t have access to a bot, why not scramble around leaving short comments on everyone’s lenses to get lots and lots of reciprocal likes, boosting your Squidpoints and payout rank? (I’ve just had one lensmaster leave about 20 lame comments like “who are the girls?” on a long article reviewing a video game with female leads: it’s obvious from his comments that he’s just looking at the lens title and graphic. But at least he’s actually commenting on specific lens content, unlike the majority of the comments I’m talking about).

Unfortunately, the upshot of all of this is that the bots and vague flatterers are making me less appreciative than I should be of genuine, sincere, friendly comments which someone thoughtfully took the time to make! I now delete most variants of “nice lens,” unless there’s some clue in the comment to tell me the person read the article. On some days, I hit the point of saying to myself, “If the comment isn’t useful to my readers, and it’s just directed at me, there doesn’t need to be a public record of it. The message was received, after all.” Doubtless, when I’m in that frame of mind, some real comments get caught up in the lawnmower blades. I’m inconsistent in my comment moderation, letting some stand and removing others.

If I’ve pulled up one of your comments during an attack of weeding, I apologize. It’s easy to pull up a flower by accident! Thank you for your comment — really! I’m sorry the bad behavior of some people is making me cynical regarding genuine forms of human courtesy. (Or, more likely, I haven’t actually deleted your comment; my comment backlog may have swelled to 50+, at which point I fail to keep up with moderation for a while.)


  1. Heather426 says:

    I think that some of the people who complained might also be using bots. Doing the math on their blessings and likes, they seem suspicious too. Just my opinion, but there it is. I think Squidoo’s algorithm needs changing. it’s too easy to game. For example I have lenses that get almost 10,000 visits a month and are not in first tier, but some people who bless and visit a lot and get 800 visits per month per lens still manage to keep them all in the first tier. Something is really wrong with that!!!

    1. Greekgeek says:

      10K? Ouch. Put some clickout bait on that sucker, stat!

      Speaking of gaming the system. *sigh*

  2. Flynn says:

    Argh, this! Yes, I’ve been getting them too. My policy, if I’m not sure enough to delete, is to go to the lens after a few days and just ‘weed’ the guestbook. If it was genuine, then it wasn’t culled out of hand, but there’s no reason it should clutter up my lens if it adds nothing.

  3. AJ says:

    Picking up on what Heather says, from what I have seen I believe Squidoo’s algorithm is so biased towards internal Squidoo traffic and likes that it makes it so much easier to game the system at the expense of those of us who try to do things in a more honest fashion.

    “Dishonest traffic” is what I call it, because of the gaming and false reciprocation that goes on and this at the expense of anyone getting “honest traffic” as in Google traffic as the result of good keywords and unique, useful content.

    However, the fast likings and visiting that go on in Squidoo may not necessarily be “bots” – I am trying to master some Macro Writing and I do wonder if it is macros that some people are using to “speed-like” on Squidoo.

    I think I have more or less worked out how it can be done and it is using Macros that clone mouse movements and clicks. These mouse movements can click on specific areas of a screen, so you could run the macro on a Top 100 list in any topic and it will replicate all the button clicks and insert exactly the same text in goodness how many Guestbooks.

    I bet the people running the macros really do not have a clue exactly which lenses they are visiting and liking.

    1. Greekgeek says:

      Ack, you may be right. That hadn’t occurred to me, but it would probably be fairly easy to do.

  4. AA says:

    I am pretty new to both Squidoo and HubPages, I really like the format of Squidoo lenses, but I’ve written more on HubPages, simply because the pay system seems a lot more transparent, you get traffic, you get paid.

    Not that HubPages is immune to the curse of the mass cheesy fake comments, there was a recent forum thread about this, where it was claimed that hubbers are involved in huge Facebook mutual admiration societies where they all follow each other and leave glowing comments on each others’ hubs (which are sometimes truly bad).

    I dislike this aspect of trying to write online the most, especially with the revenue sharing websites, the necessity to have lots of ‘followers’ on HubPages and social media sites. I’m hoping it is possible to succeed without it, it will just take longer.

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