Old Scams Come In New Disguises. Link-Ponzi Web 2.0

A fellow affiliate marketer and blogger with the name Andrew Wee from WhoIsAndrewWee.com was writing an interesting post while I was heading to Affiliate Summit East in Miami two weeks ago.

I liked the post, because it had two nice paragraphs about what I am doing as well as a link to my site. I would never complain about that. It looked funny. The article shows ten site reviews with a link to each of the ten sites also included. On top of them are the rules explained and illustrated on an example. Andrew removed the 10th review at the end added the review of Cumbrowski.com on top of it to make it ten reviews again. His site was reviewed by somebody else before, that review was right below the one he did for me.

Then I saw the sentence “I’m sure he’ll propagate this carnival once he gets a chance.” … Wait a second. What will I do? Now I started reading the whole thing and it sounded nice at first glance, but turned fishy a few seconds later. I commented today and apologized that I don’t’ think that it is right and will not propagate it at ReveNews.com or here at SeachEngineJournal.com. Andrew emailed me and said that he meant me propagating it at Cumbrowski.com.

I started a response explaining that Cumbrowski.com is a resources site and not the place for a tag-me game or link carnival and that this seems to be some sort of pyramid scheme anyway. While I was pointing to things in his article and the concept, did I realize that this is a bit more than a pyramid scheme and much smarter. Somebody changed it to hide the pyramid scheme concept.

The pyramid scheme was hidden by this rule that states:

Remove the Bottom Review and At the Top add your own review with a link to a site reviewed, at least 2 sentences about the site and a note – Reviewed by: Your Anchor Text. Link your anchor text to your site. Here is an example: ….

It looks much more like a rotation, like a steamroller that moves through cyberspace. It is always ten reviews, so there cannot be a pyramid, right. Wrong, there is one, only a small one, but enough of a reward for somebody who helps the creator of this scheme to get the thing moving.
The scheme has two players that work together. Both will benefit from it while the creator will benefit the most, if things go “very well”.
The creator of the scheme is Alex Sysoef from Howtospoter.com who started Howtospoter.com just recently. The first post made was on April 19, 2007. Jack Humphrey is Alex friend who helps to get the thing going.

Look at the Reviews at Andrews Blog.

10 = Me reviewed by Andrew
9 = Andrew reviewed by Michelle MacPherson
8 = Michelle MacPherson not reviewed, jumped in for Peter / Peter Lenkefi reviewed by Jack Humphrey /
7 = Andy Coates reviewed by Howtospoter.com (“WordPress Web 2.0 Guide”* link)
6 – 1 = (and two already removed) were lucky but uninvolved bystanders. All of these sites were reviewed by “Alex”, no link provided.

It started out like this at Jacks blog two “steps” earlier:

10 Helper Jack Humphrey
9 Scammer Alex Sysoef
8-1 Dummies

If everything goes well and eight to nine people fall for the trick, nine links will be earned by Alex Sysoef (Jack links also to him) and nine by Jack, who is on top of the list.

*Not too bad, keep in mind that the links are targeted (the eight pre-done reviews are written to support Alex main key phrase “WordPress Web 2.0 Guide”) and have the right anchor text in the link.

Now Alex thought that there is more to get out of it. Did you notice the little example that is mentioned in the rules? Did you also notice that the example has two (now three**) links?

“WordPress Web 2.0 Guide” and “WordPress Web 2.0 Spot-er”, both pointing to Howtospoter.com, Alex intended to ride the cut down “pyramid” to wherever end it will take him. That greed was also breaking its neck. I was only the small pyramid.

The first reviews were right on the target for the content of the to be promoted site, but the scam was send off into a different direction, internet marketers with little SEO knowledge, but enough knowledge to buy into the promising looking idea, which is also so Web 2.0.

What Alex not realized is that the bloggers (so far) were always nice giving credits to the person who had the idea and were writing and linking to Alex site outside the “carnival” scheme in their surrounding post. Okay, it would not be the right anchor text, but hey, ten good anchor texts where you also know that some of the content will be relevant to what you promote, is enough and more than you could hope for. He should have taken it and hope for the bloggers to do what they do, reference the source and leave it at that.

**The targeted anchor text idea broke already apart with the first blogger who was not involved in this scheme, Michelle MacPherson who broke the one link “WordPress Web 2.0 Guide” that was pointing to Howtospoter.com in the example (hey, she did at least noticed the links) down into two links. “WordPress” was now linking to Howtospoter.com, “Web 2.0” to Michelle’s site, and “Guide” ended up being bolder but not linked anymore. Damn you Michelle. Michelle seem also not to be so “white hat” in his ideals. My friend Andrew was also not so innocent and decided to make the word “blogging” at the “official” introduction a link to one of his properties.

Note that Jack originally reviewed Peter who didn’t do anything on his blog. That made Michelle jump in for unknown reasons and pick it up, without her site being reviewed and in that list. That would exlain her sneaky link additions though.

I had a very good laugh.

It did not get very far how it seems. Only two people who decided to change the rules of the game a little bit too.

Alex got links from three other sites, Jack from two, Michelle none (because she jumped in for Peter who got the link from Jack) from one and Andrew from none, okay one from this one (actually three links from this post). I hope that it will help to heal the damaged pride.

Five uninvolved sites got three relevant links out of it, one site two and another site one. They seem to be the real winners in this. The blog tagging frenzy and this viral marketing hype makes some people forget about the basic principles of Ponzi-Schemes and pyramid scams. Social web is nice and good, having hundreds of friends at MySpace or Facebook also, but keep in mind that not everybody who pretends to be your friend is always interested in your well being but his own.


Carsten Cumbrowski
Internet marketing resources at Cumbrowski.com, including social networks, forums, organizations and blogs. Have a nice weekend everybody!