Dear Cision: Manipulative Comments Are Neither SEO Or Social Media, They Are Spam

Well I’ve been on a tear lately sharing examples of bad marketing. It’s hard not to do this when people keep lobbing them at me. But blatant SEO / social media spam? From a major B2B company that should definitely know better? How can we not share?

Today’s example of doing it wrong comes courtesy of public relations software provider Cision (the artist formerly known as Bacons). BTW Cision, why, oh why would you ever change your name away from something so delicious?

So what has Cision been up to? Spamming the blog comments here at The Future Buzz, for one.

A company who produces software and services for PR people doesn’t even understand their own market. Yeah, you read that right: let’s call a spade a spade.

Exhibit A: Spam Comments With Manipulative Links

They left a first comment which was a bit fishy, but I approved it anyway because it would be fun to use as an example of what not to do. Here’s that comment:

Small businesses should focus more on the quality of their marketing campaigns because consumers are, indeed, conducting more research now than ever before. Cision has tools that can help you monitor your results and offers insight on your campaign success! Here is a link to some of the PR-Tools from Cision.

Meri A is an advocate for Cision

Really Cision? Thanks for blatantly trying to sell to my readers when you haven’t earned any permission or built a relationship with any of us here. Do you see the quality of other comments from this community? It is inappropriate of you to leave a comment like this when the discussion section is respected by everyone else who contribute thoughtful, valuable comments and not simply try to push their wares. You are trying to take but not give.

I have underlined the anchor text Cision hyperlinked in their comment, but stripped out the link. That is because Cision does not warrant editorial link love: they are link spammers! How do we know they are link spammers? Read on!

After this comment was left, I figured I’d give them a biting chance to respond. So I Tweeted that I was going to use their comment as an example on my blog.

Note I wasn’t very snarky, and in fact even smiled at them. It was my hopes that the discussion would actually be positive. Except after leaving this Tweet, another spam comment appeared. This one I haven’t approved because enough is enough. Here’s the second comment:

Another junk comment of no value + link spam. This does not help SEO (the link is no-follow anyway) it merely cheapens Cisions brand. What do you think about them when you see this nonsense?

Exhibit B: Email Response From Cision

I went about the rest of my day, but not without another piece to this puzzle floating into my inbox. This time from Cision’s social media manager who filled out my contact form (emphasis in her comments mine):

Dear Adam:I saw your tweet earlier today with some feedback regarding some Cision-related spam in the comments section of your blog. First and foremost, I want to apologize for the frustration you felt after a comment was left on your post, An Introduction To How Digital Branding Campaigns Work. We’re constantly working to find the right balance between authentic social media engagement and SEO best practices.

With this particular comment from Cision, I would be interested in opening a conversation to get your unique perspective on SEO vs. social media. Since you have experience with TopRank and are quickly becoming an authority on social media, I think we could all learn a lot from the insights you have regarding this somewhat murky territory!

Again, as a fellow blogger, I understand your frustrations. Please know that we’re constantly working to refine our interactions in the social media space. Have a good night,

Andrea WeinfurtSocial Media Marketing Manager, Cision

At first I thought this comment was benign. But then I thought about it more on my walk home from work and realized Cision has definitely put SEO and social media into silos. Exactly the wrong thing to do.

Further, blog comments like these are neither “authentic social media,” whatever that means, nor SEO. They are spam. They’re also no-followed. Is your SEO firm reporting these links as results? I hope the chart looks pretty, because your marketing is shameful for such an esteemed B2B company. There is negative value here: it takes you down a peg mentally to any savvy digital marketing and PR pros.

So my immediate next thought was back to the two comments. Cision couldn’t be outsourcing commenting on marketing industry blogs to solicit link spam. Or could they?

Exhibit C: IP Trace Of Cision’s Outsourced SEO Spam Firm: Vivid Ascent

A little IP sleuthing of the address of “Meri A.” quickly uncovered the source of these comments: an SEO spam shop called Vivid Ascent (spam shop in that beyond these comments, I found their IP in a few databases that report spammers):

Check their website, vividascent.com (no link love, obviously). Video (self-playing when the homepage loads!) by their CEO is laughably bad and blog content is hypocritical – seriously who would hire these snake oil salesmen? Their website screams spammers. Well, Cision for one, amongst these other companies:

vivd-ascent-spammers-1

So: AllState, Rust-Oleum, Cision, CBOE (College Board Options Exchange), Hudson Professional Services, CDW, Ice, TruePartners Consulting, Meb Options, Trading Technologies, Trinity Internation University, NYSE Liffe, and Recognia – you are all with a firm employing spam tactics to try to game search engine results pages and in blatant opposition to any smart, holistic digital marketing. I really hope you don’t get penalized like some recent examples but you run a real risk with an agency like Vivid Ascent (has anyone even heard of them?) who employ these shady tactics. And your risk is not just in search, but also in social.

Also I noted their blog content is hypcritical. Well, here’s your moment of zen:

vivd-ascent-spammers

Almost makes you want to fall out of your chair laughing, right?

What both Cision and Vivid Ascent don’t realize is the internet does not happen in silos. And what they also don’t realize is that users and search engines are fighting back against manipulative tactics like this. In the end I am confident users and communities like you and top search spam teams are going to do the right thing. Until that happens if you see examples like the above you should continue to call them out so they change their ways or lose clients. They are at the detriment to the rest of our industries: both SEO and social media.

For those who want the TL;DR version:

  • Cision hires shady SEO firm.
  • SEO firm spams my blog with anchor text link comments and copy-pasted sales messages.
  • I Tweet to Cision that this happened.
  • Cision SEO firm continues to link spam me even after this because Cision has put SEO and social media into silos. Their separate digital teams clearly have no idea what anyone is doing. Except the web of course sees it all.
  • Cision social media marketing manager follows up via email, noting they are trying to find the balance between “authentic social media and SEO.” What? This stuff isn’t new, and being in the industry they are in there is no excuse for misunderstanding how the intersection works.

Funny that Cision’s social media manager mentions my former employer, TopRank Marketing (a legit SEO shop). My previous CEO there, Lee Odden, recently wrote a good post about this subject. Clearly none of these parties read that.

Oh, also my current employer LEWIS PR is a Cision customer. Letting a cheap vendor spam your own customer’s team members? Come on.

Over to the community: what do you think of major brands hiring spammers to abuse our discussions? SEOs / social media pros – what do you think of digital chop shops injecting low value, spammy, sales-oriented links throughout the web?