I rarely get fooled by comment spam, and a recent comment that requested to feature my site in a newsletter was no exception. But sometimes it just puzzles me why someone will send out these seemingly pointless comments, especially since said newsletter probably does not exist, and if this was posted by the website owner, then there is nothing to be gained from posting the comment.
It contained no links, and no direct reference to the sender except for the name and e-mail address.
Maybe it is just a conspicuous way some blackhatters use to drive in traffic to their website? In this case the website was courseduck.net—a site that redirects to courseduck.com—and the name in the comment was Erika Miller, who, coincidentally, is also listed on the About page of courseduck.com. Clearly the comment was not authentic, since someone has been posting the same exact comments on several different websites. It is sad when site owners waste their time responding to such lame spam comments, and when people become victems of reply-spam campaigns.
The message I got is included below:
I just wanted to followup on the request I submitted through your contact form a couple weeks ago as I haven't heard anything back. I pasted it below for your reference.
Is it okay if we feature your site in our next email newsletter? It's a perfect fit for a piece we're doing and I think our audience would find some of the content on your site super useful.
I know you're probably busy, so just a simple yes or no would suffice.
The comment specifically mentions my "contact form", but I have no such form on my site. This indicated that someone was probably targeting website contact forms, and accidentally reached comment forms instead. The software they are using is probably flawed.
How to know a comment is fake
I get a lot of strange comments on Beamtic's articles. The vast majority of them are easy to recognise, and will be deleted without me ever reading them. But, occasionally I also quickly skim through the spammy ones. A lot of them seem to be SEO motivated comments—since they contain links in the body—but some has no links or direct references or clues as to who the sender is. That is when I get puzzled, since there seem to be nothing to be gained from posting it.
Of course, it is difficult to conclude anything about the sender of the more pointless of the comments. All I can say for sure is that someone consciously decided to run some sort of automated spam software, and it managed to find it's way to my site. They are most likely not even targeting your website specifically—they are probably attacking thousands of websites with their spam.
Most spam can easily be recognized, simply because it is out of context and the main idea or central thought in the comment applies too broadly, or, in other words, the message is too generalized. They might compliment your writing skills, the comprehensiveness of your website, or simply state that their "wife" informed them about your site and they decided to bookmark it—in the most uncreative cases they merely comment with the words: "great article".
If in doubt whether something is spam, you can also Google part of the comment text in quotes, to see if it has been submitted elsewhere. Ultimately, there are times where I would accept "spammy" looking comments, but each case should be judged separately and within the context of the article.
Most blackhat SEO spam software is still very primitive, thankfully, and not capable of posting relevant or original comments. Even most of the best AI's today will still fail at writing relevant comments. That is because it is very hard to imitate a genuine comment made by a real visitor to a website.
Contacting the spammer
The contact information submitted along with a spam comment is most likely fake. While some of these mass-delivered comments look very real, you have to maintain a policy of never contacting someone through the e-mail they leave in a comment form, since they might be victims of a blackhat spammer.
In this case, the name "Erika Miller" and website, courseduck.net, could very easily be fake or victems of a reply spam campaign.
But, even if it was real, I probably would not accept the comment, since it has no relevance to the article where it was posted, and I also would not reply to the e-mail, since the owner could be the victem of a replay spam campaign.
I noticed that other website owners was accepting the same comment, and even replying "yes" to the comment, only to have a follow-up comment by the spammer that repeats, basically, the same question. This suggests that the spammer did not even read the response from the website owner, and that they are running some sort of automated spam software en-masse.
Usually, real visitors will not contact you through a comment form with such requests, since it is highly unprofessional. They would probably send you an e-mail or connect with you on social media instead. Besides, the whole "we want to feature your website in our newsletter" story just seems totally weird to me! If you want to recommend a website to someone, just do it—do not ask the owner first!
Public comment forms can easily be abused, and there is often no way for us to know if people who comment are who they claim to be.