Spammers and scammers continually find new tactics to attract your attention and your clicks, often using methods designed to cause fear, uncertainty and doubt (also known as FUD). A recent example of such a spurious tactic that our clients have asked about repeatedly is email or form-based communications indicating that there is a misspelling or broken link on their website. In this blog post, we’ll explain these bogus communications that cause concern about the quality or content on your website.
The “Misspelled Word on Your Website” Spam Message
As its name suggests, this type of spam sows doubt about the accuracy of the spelling on your website.
An individual using a personal email address sends you a direct email or fills out the contact form on your website to “inform” you there is a misspelling on your website. They will be encouraging you to check out a product that detects spelling and grammatical errors on websites, such as ones called LinkSniff or SpellScan. Note that while it’s likely your website may have an error or two somewhere, it is most likely not the one listed in the spam submission, as the individual communicating with you has unlikely ever reviewed the content on your website. Here’s an example screenshot of this type of spam below:
Though spam like this may seem harmless, it’s best not to search for or click on any of the links in these emails or form submissions. Their goals are not benign or directly aimed at improving your website content. At best, they want to use spammy clickbait tactics to promote their spell check product and boost their SEO. At worst, they may have potentially malicious intent, and you may be putting your computer and/or your company at risk by searching for that link.
Mark those direct emails as “Spam” when you receive them, and use blacklisting software for your forms system if available to block domains (other than generic domains such as gmail.com, etc.) if they submitted it via a contact form.
When it comes to ensuring your website content is accurate and error-free, remember that indeed, an ounce of prevention is worth the investment of your time. As with any information that gets published on your website, all content should be spell checked beforehand using native word processors, such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs.
If you’re concerned about the existing content quality on your website, there are several useful browser extensions you can implement to test for spelling errors and grammar mistakes. Depending on the browser you use, here are a few useful browser-based tools:
- Chrome: Webpage Spell Check
- Safari: Enable the spell check feature
- Firefox: Dictionary or Grammarly
- Internet Explorer: ieSpell
The “Broken Link on Your Website” Spam
Spam messages identifying a broken link are another variation of the misspelled word spam mentioned above. In this case, a personal email address reaches out via email or your website’s contact form to “notify” you of a broken link on your website. You’ll see from the example screenshot below that the phrasing is almost identical to the earlier screenshot of the misspelling spam … too similar to be coincidental. Note in particular the following formula:
“I thought you would like to know :). Silly mistakes can ruin your site’s credibility. I’ve used a tool called ______.com in the past to keep mistakes off of my website.”
As we mentioned earlier, no website is perfect. It’s highly possible that you do have a broken link or two somewhere on your website. This can be due to unpublishing a page or generating a new slug (the tail end of a URL that indicates which page of the website you’re on) that does not match the original linked destination. Clicking on a broken link means users will land at a 404 error page indicating the page is not found. You can remedy this by updating the link destination or setting up a 301 redirect – meaning if someone lands at the old, outdated URL they are automatically redirected to the new destination URL. If you wish to ensure that your website is free of broken links (which can in fact be frustrating for site visitors), there are tools at your disposal able to do so. Here are browser extensions that will check one web page at a time for broken links:
- Chrome: Check My Links
- Firefox: Broken Link Checker
- Safari: Dr.Web Link Checker
In summary, these types of emails and form submissions are spam and a poor form of self-promotion for products mentioned in the body of the misleading message. With many content and site updates occurring over time, websites are highly likely to have errors in the form of misspellings or broken links, but not usually the ones mentioned in the unsolicited emails or form submissions that attempt to drive clicks to a “solution” product. As with most links in emails from unknown or unfamiliar senders, it’s better to be safe than sorry – don’t search for or click on them! Instead, double check the accuracy of your content before uploading any new information to your website. Use the recommended browser extensions or add-ons to find any current mistakes, and set up a process to use these tools on a regular basis for ongoing quality control.
Rick Hogan, CEO & Co-Founder – Bleevit Interactive Rick possesses over 20 years of digital marketing experience and started Bleevit Interactive with the primary mission of helping local businesses succeed online. When he is not working he can often be found hiking Great Falls, Virginia with his Labradoodle Lily, or sailing the Chesapeake Bay.
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