UPDATED May 23, 2013
I received an email from Caitlan, at Medical Billing and Coding in the middle of the night, confessing that the site had been busted by Google for running a backlink scam to try to increase their web rankings. Here is the text of Caitlan’s message:
Like many site owners, we were caught off guard by a Google Penguin penalty recently. After looking into the matter, we realized we needed to make some serious changes to our backlink profile. And we’ve had to make the difficult decision to remove most of the links to our site on the web and start over.
The rules of the internet are still being sorted out, and we’re trying to do the best we can to adapt. We’re reaching out to you right now to ask for your help. resistanceisfruitful.com is currently linking to our site. You can lend a helping hand by removing all links to our site, including the link on this page:
The title of this link is medical coding and billing schools, and it goes to medicalbillingandcoding(dot)org/top_aids/.
It truly means a lot that our content resonated with you and you linked to us, and we know this will require effort on your end. So, I want to take the time now to thank you for linking to us, reading this email, and considering this request.
Just let me know if you’ll be willing to help out, and let me know if you’d like me to clarify anything. Best, Caity
First of all, thank you, Google. This verifies my initial suspicion. Secondly, to Caity: since your message makes it clear that you have not read my blog post, I am not inclined to make any exceptions to my long-standing policy of not deleting content here, barring an extremely compelling justification. Your request falls short of that rule.
If you’re going to try to scam me, at least spell the name of my blog correctly.
It’s a small thing, really, and more of a nuisance than anything else, but it does appear that blogs and websites that offer questioning, rethinking or “dissident” POVs on HIV and AIDS have been selectively targeted for a pay-per-post scam.
The first flattering email came a couple of weeks ago from a website called blogawards.org, though the enclosed links were to a Medical Coding and Billing promotion website (note: I am using the rel=”nofollow” tag on these links to deny these sites any benefits from clicking on them). I immediately suspected I was being baited then, but flagged the email for possible followup later. I got a reminder email in the wee hours last night, and since Bella had already woken me twice with her obnoxious big dog whining, I took a few minutes to investigate further.
Here is part of “Sarah’s” email spiel to me:
Congratulations! Sarah here, and your blog, resistance if fruitful [sic], was determined to be one of the best blogs to exude overall brilliance. And so, it has received our 2010 Top 25 AIDS Blogs award presented by Medical Billing and Coding!
You can see your name amongst our winners here at: [link deleted].
Winners were chosen through a scoring system led by internet nominations, which came from your reader base!
You can let your readers know you won by embedding the badge code to one of the different awards graphics found at: [link deleted].
The email included links to a website with “awards” logos like the one above and code that they wanted me to place on my blog—though I obviously have not done so.
Blogawards is actually an outdated scam being utilized by a “Medical and Billing Coding” school ranking website to increase their own ranking with search engines like google! Fortunately, google and the other search engines are pretty good about ferreting these ploys out and playing such games to trick the powers-that-be rarely offer any long-lasting value to websites that use them. Or so I’ve been told.
Here is HTMKSteve’s explanation for how the scam works:
See, when you post the graphic and link on your site you are providing a back link to the site that “gives” you the award. This was very popular in the late 90’s when everyone won an award for something. All you had to do was nominate yourself and you were practically guaranteed to win an award.
By getting all of these back links the site that gave out the awards would gain tons of search juice and importance on the web.
Blogawards’ 2010 list of “Top 25 AIDS Blogs” reads like a blogroll for AIDS dissident websites. The typos are in the original, and I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the links:
- Still arriving
- HIV and AIDS News
- HIV Prevention Justice Blog
- My journey with AIDS
- Journal of the International AIDS Society
- Keiskamma Canada Foundation
- Hope in Vastitude
- HIV/AIDS Skepticism
- Alberta Reappraising AIDS
- Michael Wright’s AIDS Dissent Website
- Science Guardian
- Diary of an AIDS Dissident
- The Truth Barrier Open Forum
- Heal London
- How Positive Are You
- Rethinking AIDS
- resistance if fruitful [sic]
- LaVignes in Swaziland
- Reduce the Burden
- Bible Virus
- AIDS, HIV prevention in India
- Kelly’s Blog
- fatih and AIDS [sic]
Despite being listed as the Top 25 AIDS blogs, all but perhaps a very few of these are AIDS dissident sites that can be found on dissident blogrolls, including my own. Surely it is only coincidence that the links page on my blog saw a ten-fold increase in traffic for a couple of days two weeks before I received notification of my award “nomination” by a devoted reader. I am curious to know if other bloggers and webmasters of these award winning AIDS blogs were nominated during the same time period (the first half of August).
This is really little more than an annoying and amateurish scam that benefits the Medical Billing and Coding website more than it does any real harm to dissident bloggers. It is a far cry from being a crippling denial of service attack, for example, but it does indicate a targeted, if not somewhat lame campaign to at least attempt to embarrass any blogger who takes the bait and posts the actual “award code” on their site, and at most tries to take advantage of them to promote someone else. In a way, it could even be considered flattery and it does give me a chance to re-post links to some important websites, which really does have some value in bolstering search engine rankings.
I have also learned something new from this scam attempt and have implemented that new knowledge by doing what I can to deny the links to offending websites of any such benefits here.
Let this serve as a friendly reminder to bloggers everywhere to exercise due diligence and caution. AIDS dissidents especially should take measures to keep their blogging sites updated and secure. Apparently someone with an interest in medical billing and coding somewhere, and with a grudge against AIDS dissidents has too much time on their hands.
Speaking of medical careers, to anyone interested in working for a prestigious University medical center, for example, one of these medical coding and billing schools looks like a perfect entré for such aspirants to check out. Who knows what kind of cool research labs might be down the hall from a billing and coding cubicle in the business office?