21st Century Literary Forms: Comment Spam

For a new blogger, it’s always exciting to receive “new comment” messages in your email or blog inbox, but it’s also a colossal letdown when you discover the comment is a rambling, strangely worded, generic message with a hyperlink to a website selling organic ferret shampoo or novelty earwax removers.

Sure it looks cute, but have you ever tried to bathe one?

Anyone with an Internet connection is familiar with spam and its various forms, but while many people see this practice as an underhanded attempt to optimize a company’s search engine ranking, I see it as a golden opportunity to analyze the literary art of comment spamming and offer some tips to help would-be spammers avoid constantly being relegated to the digital trash bin.

Let’s look at a typical spam comment – one that was actually posted on my blog just this week:

It’s very exiting to find this survivingenglish.wordpress.com site.
It was a helpful workout for me to find this webpage. It definitely stretches the limits with the mind when you detect very good advice and make an effort to interpret it correctly. I am going to look through this web site oftentimes on my PC. Thanks for sharing

(The spam portion of this comment was a link to a lighting website embedded in the “email” field of the commenter’s information)

First things first, good job using the correct contraction form of ‘it is’. That’s a common spam error, so plus one point; however, minus ten points for being ‘exited’ about finding my blog. I don’t know how one expresses ‘exitment’, but it sounds negative, like you’re leaving. If he were ‘excited’ about my blog instead, I may have kept his comment.

Next, the spammer includes my own site link in his comment. I guess this is supposed to lend credibility to his comment, since only people with a legitimate interest in my blog would know my blog URL…or something. Maybe he’s just making sure that I’m aware of my own blog address. Or perhaps he’s trying to help out my blog ranking. Since he’s shamelessly promoting his own site, maybe it’s a trade off to get me some coverage too. Thanks, guy.

The next sentence begins the descent into madness:

It was a helpful workout for me to find this webpage.

How exactly is finding a webpage a ‘workout’? Have we become so sedentary as a nation that clicking hyperlinks and typing keywords into text boxes are now physically straining activities?

Time for a few right-click reps. Need to keep these metacarpals in top condition.

And how is this any sort of a compliment? How is it supposed to add to my blog or remark in any way on its content? “Getting to your page was a helpful workout”? I’m glad you enjoyed your journey to my blog, but what does that have to do with anything? I mean, I understand that life is about the journey rather than the destination, but you don’t tour the Taj Mahal and then tell the guide that you really enjoyed the bus ride from the airport…and you definitely don’t tell him the bus ride was a ‘workout’.

Now, maybe the spammer meant that it was a helpful ‘mental’ workout to find my blog, but that just makes the situation sadder. It was mentally straining to find this site? Are you telling me that it tested the limits of your intelligence to locate a blog post about English education? The only way this task would be a mental workout is if you built your own home server out of a toaster oven, wrote the programming code to create your own Internet-based search engine – in Latin, and then designed and constructed a pair of fully functional robot hands to type the search terms into your computer.

And then we have this monstrosity:

It definitely stretches the limits with the mind when you detect very good advice and make an effort to interpret it correctly.

So the spammer was talking about a mental workout. Again, good job spelling ‘definitely’ correctly, but then he uses the wrong preposition – ‘with’ instead of ‘of’ – and loads the sentence with a bunch of unnecessary and ill-fitting adverbs, which make the phrase sound like a sixth grader translated it from a Chinese restaurant menu.

I already checked. Google Translator doesn't have an "Idiot to English" option.

I think I’ve gotten to the root of it, however. Basically, this sentence says “When you try to explain something that’s relevant to me, it blows my freaking mind.” Thanks, spam guy. When you actually write coherently, it blows MY freaking mind. Wait, I’ll put this into your terms:

It certainly befuddles the intelligence to me when your communicating is given in such a method as to be interpreted as not stupid.

Last, we have this gem:

I am going to look through this web site oftentimes on my PC.

This sentence is great because it reminds me of Fisher Stevens’ character from “Short Circuit” – inserting so much seemingly relevant information that it actually distorts the meaning of the sentence (and I hear it in a funny accent in my head).

More useless adverbs. The word ‘oftentimes’ is about as useful as the word ‘beforetimes’ or ‘aftertimes’, or really, putting the suffix ‘-times’ on ANY word that is ALREADY an adverb for a duration of time. The phrase “on my PC” is also useless. In fact, it’s a limiting factor, telling me that my blog isn’t worth checking out while he’s on his laptop, iPad, smartphone, or Internet connected Wii console.

Then he finishes up with “Thanks for sharing”. No, no…thank you.

How he could have rescued himself from the garbage.

Simplicity and a conversational tone…and less overt flattery. And stop trying to be so generic that it looks generic. Spam comments are the failed marketing equivalents of horoscopes. They try to apply to everyone, but we all know they’re a load of crap (except a startling number of people believe in horoscopes…sigh). Know your audience – the blogger.

Simple, direct, and subtly flattering is the way to go. I’ll even give you the PERFECT SPAM COMMENT. All you have to do is take the website you’re spamming and drop it into this comment:

“Hi, I work at www.organicweaselshampoo.com and I wanted to use this blog post as an example in a presentation about effective blogging strategies. Would you mind?”

Congratulations, you just spammed your way to more website hits than you’ll know what to do with.

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