This is going to be very long so bear with me.
A little under two weeks ago I got the following email:
Subject: Link spam issues
From: Mike Hickmon
You probably do not realize it but your site has spam linked my site with hundreds of links causing my rankings to drop.
can you please remove all of the links from your site pointing to my site: http://besthomemadeenergy.com
He’s right, I didn’t realize it as I can’t recall ever linking to a URL that at first glance sounds like it’s at best full of dubious claims and at worst a scam. So I did a few searches on SEB’s entries and comments and there weren’t any links to http://besthomemadeenergy.com to be found. So I sent back a reply asking Mike to supply me with a specific entry to look at as I wasn’t finding anything at all. Here’s the reply I got back:
click on the inlinks button and this should come up: http://siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com/search?p=http%3A%2F%2Fbesthomemadeenergy.com&fr=sfp&bwm=i
as regards to how the links got put there i am not sure, but it is hurting my rankings
Thanks for the mega fast response!
So I tried that and there are, indeed, several links to http://besthomemadeenergy.com from SEB listed there. Entries included one about a Spiderman comic, one about the fourth season of Doctor Who, one about Microsoft’s web-based version of Messenger, one about the PS3, and one about a true believer murdering an atheist. All of which were clean of any links to http://besthomemadeenergy.com.
There are other links from SEB back to http://besthomemadeenergy.com listed in that Yahoo! Site Explorer search and you have to go through quite a few of them before you find one where the topic might somehow have anything to do with energy production. I was at a loss as to why so many unrelated entries would be showing up in the search, however, as all the links were clean. Then a possibility occurred to me and I sent the following reply:
I’ve checked every link on every page that shows up in your Yahoo listing. There aren’t any links in any of the content I’ve produced or that my commenters have left that point directly to your site.
The only thing I can think of is you must be using Google AdSense for your advertising in which case ads for your site may have popped up on SEB from time to time. For example at least one of the ads that popped up while I was checking was for http://www.power4home.com/ for reasons I cannot begin to fathom as the topic of the entry it was on had nothing to do with energy.
You probably need to check things out with Google AdSense. They probably have some way for you to define URLs you don’t want your ads to show up on. The links aren’t from anything I’ve put on my site so I can’t help you.
At this point I was satisfied that I had done all that I needed to do. Mike felt otherwise:
That is weird, i have nothing to do with google AdSense. Well Keep looking to it.
Keep looking into it? To what end I wondered. It wasn’t really my problem in the first place and I was merely being courteous checking into it. OK, I have to admit I was also satisfying my own curiosity, but the point still remains that I have very little reason to give a shit if I’ve checked my entries and found them to be clean.
So today I get the following email in my inbox from Mike:
I found out how this started. I hire a guy from India to do blog posting and on 9/9/09 he posted to the below page. you must have erased it which is OK but somehow i got 250 links from your site. i don’t want to beat a dead horse but if there is anything that you can do i would appreciate it.
Holy jumping Christ on a pogo stick! This fucker just admitted he’s a comment spammer! OK, technically he’s not doing the spamming himself, but he is paying someone else to do it which is just as bad in my book. Without people like him there’s nothing for the comment spammers to spam. The reason so many entries linked back to his site is probably due to Yahoo! crawling SEB before I got around to removing the spam and the comment showing up in the recent comments side bar on every page Yahoo! hit.
I don’t know why this possibility didn’t occur to me beforehand, but I didn’t stop long enough to think about it. It was at this point that I took a look at http://besthomemadeenergy.com itself. It’s a small site consisting of links to other websites that are selling DIY energy creation kits such as solar panels and windmills with outrageous claims about how effective they are and how little they cost. Mike’s site includes “reviews” of each of the five sites he links to and, not surprisingly, they’re all rated five stars. Mike Hickmon is an affiliate parasite comment spammer.
It’s a simple concept: You find a bunch of websites that offer affiliate payments for every click you send them and then you set up your own website with said link backs and glowing reviews of the sites in question. Then you spam the living fuck out of every website you can in hopes your page rank goes up and generates enough click throughs to make you a millionaire for little real effort. It looks like Mike is making use of ClickBank which a lot of scam websites make use of for their affiliate programs. Not every affiliate program ClickBank handles is fraudulent, but it tends to be very popular with the people running hustles and they have enough people using them that I’m sure policing all the accounts has to be a nightmare.
Needless to say I was now pissed off and I sent back the following reply:
So, in other words, you hired a spammer to spam a bunch of blogs and he picked one you don’t want to be associated with? I’ve got two words for you now: Tough Shit. You deserve what you get for hiring an unscrupulous asshole in the first place. Comment spam is something I am constantly cleaning up after and I have absolutely no sympathy for anyone who makes use of it. Here’s a suggestion: Stop using spammers to advertise your site and you won’t have to worry about which ones your link shows up on.
Not only do I not give a shit that it’s hurting your page ranking, but now I’m highly motivated to look into what you’re selling and see if it’s a scam itself and then writing a nice big post about it with links back to your site just to make sure the page rank is nice and high. You want links to your site from blogs? I’ll give you some links. I am literally stunned at the unmitigated gall you’re exhibiting here.
A Google search for http://besthomemadeenergy.com returns some 67,700 websites that link back to it. A good portion of which is because they contain comment spam left by Mike’s Indian spammer. They made sure to hit any site they could find dealing with topics such as green energy or home improvement or do it yourself, but they also hit any site that so much as mentions in passing anything to do with energy such as SEB.
Of course there is a chance that the sites Mike is pushing on his affiliate parasite page are legit so I took a look at one of them. He ranks Earth4Energy as the number 1 best site so let’s check it out. Right on the front page we get the following in big bold type:
How to make your own solar panels for less than $200
Did you know? The cost of solar panels can be slashed by making them at home? You have probably read about it or seen it on TV, but have you tried it yourself?
“I made my own solar panel. It was simple and saved me a lot of money!”
Right there you should have a shit load of red flags waving and it should only get worse the further you read down the page. If you’ve been to similar websites before then the pitch is very familiar. Lots of noise made about the cost of “traditional” solar systems for your home being in the $28,000 to $30,000 range followed by claims that you can make your own solar panels for $200. Testimonials interspersed between from people who claim to have made upwards of 2 panels for $100! Amazing! Eventually you get to the pitch for the “instruction kit” they’ve put together which they claim to sell for $246 but which you can get through a (supposedly) limited time deal of only $49.97! HOW AMAZING IS THAT?!?
It’s bullshit is what it is and they’re pushing it hard. If you try to close your browser or navigate away from the page it pops up a window pleading with you to reconsider that you have to close before you can leave the site. If you’re skeptical, like me, the next thing you do is type in earth4energy scam into Google. The very first link is to this page: RIPOFF REPORT: Earth4Energy Scam – Earth4Energy Review – Revealing the truth about the Earth4Energy product. Sounds like a skeptical look at the Earth4Energy claims, right? Except that it’s not. They don’t even try to maintain a skeptical tone for more than a paragraph and it’s clear by the time you get done with the page that this site is probably constructed by the same folks who own the Earth4Energy website. You’ll find several similar supposedly skeptical reviews such as this one at Ezine@rticles. Speaking of which: Has anyone seen an entry at Ezine@rticles that wasn’t spam of some sort? It seems to be a favorite of spammers as I’ve removed literally hundreds of comment spams that link to that site. So much so that I have since blacklisted Ezine@rticles completely.
As it turns out this is a technique for selling questionable products called Internet Saturation Marketing. The basic idea is that in addition to the site you’re selling your craptastic products on, you go out and register a whole bunch of other sites that you then use to make your craptastic product site look legit. In particular you want to snap up any variations on your sites’ name with the words “sucks” or “scam” added onto it to ensure any of your unsatisfied customers don’t get them first. Then you install a blog or a generic website that claims to be skeptical of your craptastic products and is surprised to find they really do work. Then you sign up with the ClickBank people so you can have an affiliate program that will help to spread your garbage even further. Even with all that effort it doesn’t take too long before you can find a few sites that are actually critical of Earth4Energy, but it really shouldn’t take much more than a read through of the site to determine this for yourself.
But all of that is getting away from my good buddy, Mike Hickmon. It seems trying to push DIY energy scams isn’t enough for old Mikey as I learned from his Twitter page. Mike’s been a very busy affiliate parasite with websites devoted to cats, fish, dogs, and pets in general all of which use a variation on “The X Whisperer” to cash in on the popularity of that particular phrase. You’ll just love the disclaimer he has for his pet sites. Here’s the disclaimer for his The Pet Whisperer site:
Pet-Whisperer.com provides articles and information for educational and entertainment purposes only.
Furthermore, by using this site, you agree that Pet-Whisperer.com cannot be held responsible – directly or indirectly, in full or in part – for any damages or losses that may be suffered as a result of taking action on the information published on Pet-Whisperer.com
You assume any and all risks associated with any actions taken as a result of reading Pet-Whisperer.com
Pet-Whisperer.com provides “reviews” and “recommendations”, as well as outgoing hyperlinks for a variety of People and record finder products & solutions, including a direct link to the company’s website.
Every effort has been made to accurately represent the third-party solutions, products and websites referenced on Pet-Whisperer.com, and ongoing efforts will be made on a consistent basis to ensure that the accuracy of this information remains current and up-to-date.
However, Pet-Whisperer.com is ultimately not in control of any third-party company or website, and cannot necessarily guarantee that a given review, recommendation or opinion of a third party website or product is going to be accurate at any given time due to a number of factors, including – but not limited to – the third-party’s website hosting conditions, changes in ownership or staff, changes of the company’s policies or activities, and other unforeseeable factors.
Therefore, by using this site in any capacity, you agree that it is your sole responsibility to do your own due diligence in order to protect yourself prior to using any third-party (non- Pet-Whisperer.com) product, service or advice.
Pet-Whisperer.com is not responsible for any damages or losses that may potentially result by accessing/using a website URL published on Pet-Whisperer.com. You must do your own due-diligence when visiting another company’s website or using another company’s product.
In other words: “I know the products I’m helping other people to sell in hopes of garnering a few pennies in affiliate fees are probably bullshit that are most-likely harmless, but on the off-chance you kill your pet with any of them I put this disclaimer here so you can’t sue me. Yes I am ironically telling you that you should seek out information on whether the products I’m pushing are any good while at the same time putting out misinformation claiming that they are good and then covering my ass just in case they aren’t any good. Funny old world, ain’t it?” The disclaimer also lies in suggesting that it provides, and I quote, “a direct link to the company’s website.” Mike doesn’t provide a direct link as all his links go through the aforementioned ClickBank service. He can’t directly link to the company’s websites because he wouldn’t garner any affiliate fees that way.
Based on his Twitter page Mike Hickmon has dozens of affiliate parasite websites set up for all manner of craptastic products. I know they’re all his because he shows up in all the domain registrations I checked:
Registered through: GoDaddy.com, Inc. (http://www.godaddy.com)
Domain Name: PET-WHISPERER.COM
Created on: 05-Jan-09
Expires on: 05-Jan-10
Last Updated on: 05-Jan-09
Hickmon, Michael firstname.lastname@example.org
12019 herman dr
riverside, California 92505
I’m half tempted to give Mike a call and tell him how I feel about his business undertaking and comment spamming ways directly, but I think this rather amazingly lengthy blog rant is more than enough. I’ve made a point of linking to his http://besthomemadeenergy.com site repeatedly to ensure that Yahoo! and Google know that I’m linking to it. I think others should know about Mike Hickmon’s businesses and how they push questionable products. He’s not exactly a scammer himself, but he’s helping the scammers and cluttering up websites with spam in doing so. There’s certainly nothing illegal about what Mike is doing, but that doesn’t mean it’s legit.
So yeah, as you can tell, I’m pretty pissed off about this and I’ve spent probably way more time and energy looking into it and then ranting about it than I should have. However, if it stops one person from falling for the bullshit being pushed by assholes like Mike Hickmon then it’ll be worth it.