Sunday, January 24, 2010

Are spammers hitting Google Alerts now?


I’ve been using the Google Alerts service for many years now, it’s a great way to keep track of where your company or clients are mentioned around the web. If you’ve never used Google Alerts then it’s easy to explain how it works – Google sends you an email to let you know when keywords you’ve chosen in your alerts list appear around the web. You can also specify which type of content you want to be alerted about, this is really useful for SEO campaigns as you can precisely target the sites you need to approach for links.

If you’ve ever read my blog before you’ll probably know that I’m a writer, and because I use the pen name ‘Andrew Culture’ I have a Google alert set up to let me know when I’m mentioned anywhere on the web. If someone reviews something I’ve written then I really want to know about it, you may think it’s vain but the reality is I’m marketing myself as a brand and as with any brand I need to know where it appears.

With increasing frequency the Google alerts emails contain links to websites that don’t appear to mention me at all. Instead the links take me to hastily thrown together pages full of spammy links (casinos, pills etc). When I use my browser’s ‘find’ facility I can never find a mention of my name (or chosen keywords) anywhere on the page. I can only assume the spammers have somehow found a way to fool Google Alerts into thinking keywords have been used on a page when they haven’t.

If spammers are indeed hitting Google Alerts now this means that in reality they’ve found a way to get Google sent their spam emails on their behalf. Because Google is a trusted brand people (including me) are far more willing to open the emails and follow the links. Google alerts is a really useful service, I just hope Google can keep the spammers away from it.