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SEO spear spamming

I've recently started receiving a new type of spam1. It's fairly targeted, so like spear phishing, I'd call this stuff spear spamming.

Instead of regular spam which usually falls into categories like "Buy pills online", "Meet single ladies tonight" and "Open this malware laced attachment" this one is sent by someone trying to improve their search engine rankings or SEO. The emails follow a fairly standard formula with a few deviations.

Hi {Name}

I just finished going through your article here: {url of a post I've written} Thanks for the resource!

I noticed you mentioned {url of a competitors product, that I've linked to}.

I've recently written up a comprehensive and up-to-date 3,000 word review of {general subject area} that I think your readers would be very interested in.

Check out the post here {url of post looking for SEO}.

Would you consider linking to it in the article of yours I mentioned above? I saw you liked to {competitors product} so I figured I'd see if you'd link to mine as well. Perhaps your visitors would find it helpful.

Kind Regards,

{Name of Author of post looking for SEO}

P.S. I respect the relationship you have with your readers, I wouldn't ask you to link to anything I didn't think was an excellent resource for you guys.

This is then followed up by a second email exactly2 a week later;

Hello again -

I figured I'd try one more time :)

Did you happen to get my last email? I imagine you are super busy and ...

I received one of these messages for a post I'd written about Tunneling data over DNS, in the footnotes of that post I give credit saying "This network diagram was drawn with" and I got an SEO email saying they were sure my readers would love to learn more about drawing and art.

Google has been pretty open about the fact that the best way to increase a sites page rank is to get other websites to link to it. So it makes sense that people would scrape the web looking for sites that link to similar content and ask for a link to their site.

The emails look very good but there are a few telltale signs that there automated. One of the emails I got had an unsubscribe link at the bottom. And all of the emails I've seen have been sent using Google's Gmail API and have the header

Received: from {random id} named unknown by with HTTPREST;

  1. By that, I mean new to me, this stuff has probably been around for years but I have only just started seeing it. 

  2. In my experience, it's always been within one hour of exactly 7 days. 

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