After I complained about the new SEO scam, someone pointedly argued it wasn’t spam. And it wasn’t a scam.

It is and it’s both.

What Is Spam?

By it’s most basic definition, spam is an irrelevant or otherwise inappropriate message, sent on the internet, to a large group of people.

With that definition in hand, someone who interrupts a Slack or IRC meeting to tell a joke is spamming. At the same time, Tweeting inanities is not unless you cut into a conversation thread. And the different being that Twitter is always irrelevant so any comment there is expected to be appropriately inappropriate.

Spam is More Than Spam

The issue is that spam has expanded to be more than just that simple blast of junk you didn’t care about. Spam now includes things like being added to an email list you didn’t want to join. And it includes people trying to rip you off.

A scam is an attempt to get something from you. The end goal of a lot of spam is to scam you out of money, so the intersection there is pretty high. It always has been. The result of a spambot is to convince you to do something you didn’t want, in order to get something you have. But the target of scams is to out and out separate you from your money.

If It Looks Like a Duck …

You’ve probably heard of the duck test.

If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

When people read an email from some Nigerian prince, they know it’s spam because they’ve seen things like it before. But they also know it’s a scam because they’ve been taught that no one offers something for nothing.

Unsolicited Emails Are Ducks

If you get an email you didn’t ask for, from someone you’ve never heard of, offering something that’s too good to be true (like ‘free backlinks’), it’s a duck.

If you look at the emails from these people who offer to help you fix your site and improve your links to broken locations, it’s a duck. It’s a scam, it’s spam, and you should delete it. Don’t even ask.

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