A Dirty Spam Trick

Earlier today, I ran across a post on Digg that referenced a blog readability test.

The idea behind the test is simple. You type in the URL of your blog or site and it tells you the approximate reading level required to understand it. It got me curious about the readibility of this site so I decided to run PT through the program.

However, after completing the test, I discovered that it has a slightly more sinister side to it. In short, if one decides to embed the code into their site, they might discover an unexpected surprise.

Spam Links

To understand the problem let us compare first how the results are displayed on the original site:

With how it would appear if you embedded it on another site without first editing the provided code:

At the bottom you’ll see the difference, namely the naked link for “Fast Payday Loans”

The problem with this is pretty simple. Nowhere on the original site does the Webmaster disclose that this link is added and, unless you closely examine the provided HTML code, you will never even notice that it is there.

Many who use the tool, no doubt, have been tricked into adding that link to their site.

This can not only hurt their reputation among their visitors by associating the site with less-than-reputable sites, but also hurt your search engine ranking by connecting you with spammy sites and questionable content.

Clearly, this is one test, or at least one embed, to avoid.

Conclusions

Even though this isn’t a content theft matter, I know many of the readers of this site are very interested in spam issues apart from scraping and spam blogging.

I wanted to take a moment to warn everyone about this rather “sneaky” way of injecting links into a site and encourage everyone who does post these kinds of tests to be extra careful of the code you copy.

Your best bet, most likely, is to look through the code carefully for anything suspicious (with this code the reference to “Payday Loans” tripped my radar) and always preview the code offline before publishing it live.

Personally, I just plan to avoid posting these results to my site, even if occasionally one is interesting enough to take.

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