You know you’ve made it as a travel publication when the bots attack. The spam bots, that is.

I thought the first spam comment on a story was simply a poorly worded comment, and I approved it to show on the page.

That opened the spam floodgates.

I noticed the comments coming through to Places.Travel were peculiarly worded. I didn’t want to censor commentators for bad English, but there was something… off…

I let the comments sit in limbo, neither approved nor disapproved. Finally, I learned the truth about these cryptic messages from a coworker wiser than I.

These bots are trying to raise the search engine optimization (SEO) value of a website page by putting a link to the website in the comment. Websites with good SEO scores show up high in Google searches.

It’s like nefarious fairies sprinkling hyperlink dust across the span of the internet. For these fairies, these spam bots, to be targeting Places.Travel meant we ourselves had an enviable SEO score. They wanted in. But the quickest way in was to mass post comments and hope a few stuck.

I soon felt like I was cutting off hydra’s head: lop off one and two more take its place.

But I couldn’t mass delete– real comments are lumped in with the fake. So, it became my task twice a week to scroll through hundreds of pending comments and sift out the real from the fake.

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Spam bots write sentences you could never come up with. For instance this one, which shows up often:

“ I apologize for off-topic, I’m considering about building an informative web site for kids. May probably start with submitting interesting facts just like”The average chocolate bar has 8 insects’ legs in it. “Please let me know if you know where I can find some related facts like here “

And this one:

“ I like to get my inspiration from really meaningful phrases said by truly great people like “Man is condemned to be free”, do you know where I can find thematic compiltaions of those? “

The spam comments read like a kind of new-age poetry, using word choice and grammar rules in a slightly wrong, slightly uncomfortable way.

And of course the many, many, many viagra comments. So many viagra comments.

Places.Travel is implementing a filter to automate the comment-approval process. I won’t spend 5 to 10 minutes twice a week sifting through bizarre comments from the bot mind. More of my time will be freed up, but in a weird way, I’ll miss the bot messages.

Writers and bloggers, what’s your weirdest/coolest/sweetest comment story? Tell us in the comments below! (As long as you’re not a bot.)



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