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Keyword Hijacking – What is it and should you care?

Keyword hijacking

After blogging for nearly two years, I find that there are plenty of people out there that don’t have the slightest clue what commentators can do to a post, left unchecked. Much more than that, what they can do to your site overall without some amount of  auditing by the site author.

Keyword hijacking in the classic sense is where a blogger creates a post that is outside of their niche in an attempt to drive traffic to a page by means of popular keywords.

Doesn’t sound to bad so far, right?  Just read on, take this example for instance:

A blog that focuses on selling fences creates a post titled “Pinay sex” and does their best SEO effort to rank for “Pinay sex”.  Obviously a fence site has nothing to do with the keywords they are trying to rank for, but you can bet that if they were able to rank that particular post up to the first page in Google with those keywords, they would be snatching up a good amount of traffic (ignore the fact that the traffic is probably worthless to a fence company, but I’m sure you get the idea).

If you look up “keyword hijacking” in Google, you’ll find most posts that discuss this are focused around this type of hijacking.  But there is another form of hijacking that impacts every blogger that allows comments on their blog.

Blogging, commentating and links

The main difference between a classic web site and a blog is the ability for anonymous (or virtually anonymous) users to leave a comment and a link back to a URL of their choice on any page that allows commenting.  Users that decide to leave a link are placing a vote for their site, on your site.  It’s up to you to allow it or not.

This means that the creative types out in the world have a nice mechanism to exploit for their own gain.  They have a way to gain a link pointed to a site of their choice by means of leaving a comment on your site.  For the “honest” people out there, this is akin to a blogger being able to thank the visitor for coming by and participating in the conversation.  For those “dishonest” people, it’s a way to get a link to their site and pretend to participate in the conversation.

If you’ve been blogging or participating in blogs, you’ve no doubt seen the “dishonest” type of comments.  Some are thinly veiled and quite transparent, while others done well enough that you might not notice at first glance.

I recently allowed one of these presumably “dishonest” comments to flow through unhindered by my Gestapo ways.  I say presumably since you and I both know, we can never really understand the intentions of our commentators…at least, not the ones that comment, but really don’t add to the conversation.  This commentator left this comment on my post titled Flowers for Halloween:

Comment keyword hijacking by a florist! ;)

The keywords the commentator decided to use certainly benefits the site being linked to since it’s a florist affiliate of some type, and I certainly wish them all the luck in the world doing what they’re doing.  However I sometimes feel violated when visitors do this, and some are quite blatant about it, and hence, rather annoying too.  The comment itself is flattering, and that is part of the idea.  Create a positive for the blogger, and perhaps I’ll decide to leave it because who wants a mediocre or negative comment, right?

However Mr. “Halloween Flowers” here didn’t bother me much since the post itself wasn’t one I expect to rank for anything.  Not like some people (she) who used to hang around here have in the past.

So now that the link is there, will Google think that my post about Flowers for Halloween is giving a vote to theflorist.com for the terms “Halloween Flowers”?

I tend to believe the answer to that is “yes”.  Google counts every link on a page, and this commentator has left a link…what else would one think?

It’s easy to do

Want to help promote one of your posts by leaving comments on posts that are related to your keywords?  It’s easy to do.  All you need to do is perform a search in Google for the keywords of your choice, and look at who pops up.  You can go page by page, checking each item in the results.  If you can comment on any of the pages that you visit, that could add even more weight to the link you leave.

Leave a link on some random, completely off-topic (keyword) site, or leave it on a page that is targeting the same keywords, or similar keywords?

I have no proof to support this theory, but it seems to make sense to me.

Would Google think a link is more important on a page that talks about flowers, and links to a site that sells flowers?

What if that same flower link was found on a site that talks about fences, perhaps Google wouldn’t give the link any additional weight, if it does indeed give added weight?

Maybe this is all hooey and I should just go back to bed?

So, should you care or not?

Personally, I care, but I also tend to be hyper-vigilant about things like that.  Maybe more than I should.  I just can’t accept it when a person comes to my site, leaves a link that is completely gratuitous, and doesn’t say anything of importance to the conversation. On top of that, expect me to leave a link to their site using keywords that are relevant to my own post!

This is how I came to define my commenting guidelines, which I should probably update at some point. I certainly don’t expect anyone to follow those guidelines, but I try to follow them for people. It’s how I roll.  I’m here for you.

This is also how I came up with leaving a proper name for the comment.  Link anywhere you want, but if you expect some type of response from me, leave a name.  I won’t talk to “red barn doors for sale”. It’s quite obvious that anyone that does leave a comment like this does so for their own good, not the good of the blog they’re visiting, nor to strike up conversation.

However, there are exceptions of course.  Not everyone should be lumped together like that, there are plenty of commentators that do this unwittingly.  They just believe it’s quite alright.  And perhaps it is for some.  It all comes down to the site owner and how they feel about the whole topic.

I’ve been on sites that seem to be really nice, only to look at the comments and realize that the blog owner allows any and all people to drop a link.  This reduces the value of the site in my eyes, and most likely in Google’s eyes too.  The author doesn’t care to clean up his own front yard, as it were.

What are your thoughts?

Should you care about the links your commentators are placing on your site?  Do you monitor your comments and disapprove certain types of commentators?  Here is a snippet from Google’s Webmaster tools regarding comment spam:

Think twice about enabling a guest book or comments

A lot of spam doesn’t give users a good impression of your site. If this feature isn’t adding much value to your users, or if you won’t have time to regularly monitor your guestbook or comments, consider turning them off. Most blogging software, such as Blogger, will let you turn comments off for individual posts.

I feel it does in fact take away from the value of your own site, but I really don’t have any other evidence other than how Google has stated they view links, how links count as votes towards another site, and the possibility of you linking to what Google has determined to be a “bad neighborhood” as stated in their own Quality Guidelines for Webmasters.

Please link to this post

I never ask people to link to any post of mine, but I want to try something.  I’m going to attempt to rank for the term “keyword hijacking”.  So if you feel so inclined, please create some links to this post “out there” by using the keywords “keyword hijacking” as part of the link title.

It should also go without saying that if you comment with the word “keyword” or “hijacking”, or any similar term, I won’t approve your comment.  Not only does this post intend to instruct and convey some ideas about keyword hijacking, I also am attempting to rank for those keywords as well, and it is my belief that if you comment with those keywords it will slow me down, or even remove the possibility of this post ranking on page one for those terms.

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