Most of us are familiar with email spam – colloquially known as junk mail – which involves the sending of identical unsolicited messages to a large number of recipients via email. Ever since the early days of the web, most users will have experienced some volume of spam in their email inbox. Thankfully, email clients come equipped with a spam filter, to which addresses can be added. Services like Gmail allow users to report spam, whereby reported addresses are added to a database. Having grown accustomed to using email over the past two decades, our collective awareness of what constitutes email spam is reasonably sharp.
Search engine spam
The same can’t be said with regards to our knowledge of search engine spam, or what can be done to help prevent it. Essentially, search engine spam can be loosely categorised in a similar manner to email spam – pages or content which have been created with the intention of tricking a search engine into providing inappropriate, poor quality, and misleading search results.
Of course, as the online world becomes increasingly more complex, so do too spammers methods of soliciting web users. Thankfully, there are a number of ways to deal with spam, regardless of the platform used by so-called “black hat” companies – what’s more, everyone can help to fight it. Spam prevention is particularly important as it stops unscrupulous companies from preying on web users, and helps to facilitate a fairer, more transparent on-line experience for everyone.
Whilst web giants Google are constantly updating their algorithm in order to weed out spam content, it can’t possibly be expected to recognise all search engine spam, which is where everyday web users come in – it’s now possible to notify the search engine directly in the event of coming across a page which perhaps shouldn’t rank quite as highly as it does.
Social media spam
Since the advent of social networking, spammers have taken to sites like Facebook and Twitter with the intention of flooding the sites with spam and phishing attempts. Social networking spammers tend to leave posts on users walls, company pages and even send private messages. To prevent spam from reaching you on Twitter, it’s easy enough to block accounts without having to notify anybody. Facebook users have the option to report content for any number of reasons, one of them being spam. Social media users should be aware of opening links, particularly on sites like Twitter where the URL is often abbreviated.
Comment spam/reputation spam
Blogs are a great way of spreading the word on a particular product or service, or simply for boosting the profile of a business. A well-optimised blog post can have a site effortlessly reaching for the top on Google’s results page. Encouraging readers to interact and leave comments is another way of getting people talking about a particular company, although such a system is often open for abuse. Spammers will take to blog comments sections to advertise their wares, or even to decry the company in question – this is known as reputation spam. In order to prevent such problematic posts, enabling the use of Captcha codes or holding comments until they have been approved by a moderator can help to weed out the spammers from those with a genuine interest.
SMS/text message spam
Unsolicited texts are perhaps the hardest type of spam to filter out. With SMS spam, prevention is often better than cure – avoid entering on-line competitions or filling in surveys, as your details can all too often end up in the hands of unscrupulous spammers. If spam texts are causing a major headache, the best course of action is to contact your network provider. In the age of the smartphone, it’s also wise not to click on any links contained in spam text messages to avoid malware attacks. The good news about spam texts is that they are expensive to send, and most spammers will run out of credit, even if they haven’t ran out of enthusiasm for spamming 24/7.