This scam is not complicated, but it needs a little explanation, so work with me here.

I was doing some research into wrinkle creams (don’t ask . . . long story) and I saw a very curious AdWords ad on Google. Here’s what it said:

Weird, I thought. Why would Yahoo want to advertise about whether an eye cream works or not? So I clicked through and ended up here:

It’s Yahoo Answers. So perhaps this is a way for Yahoo Answers to drive more traffic to their site? Perhaps, but look at the answer from “Tammy Jones”: she happens to be recommending a Web site that reviews wrinkle creams (and gets affiliate revenue every time someone buys something on the site).

So let’s do some more digging into Tammy Jones’ Yahoo Answers profile. Turns out Tammy really likes to ask questions about cosmetics. Here’s her questions:

OK, maybe Tammy just happens to be interested in whether various cosmetics are scams are not. Let’s look at one of her questions in more detail and see if anyone answered it:

The answer to Tammy’s question just happens to be a reference to the same Web site that Tammy referred another user to when she answered a question about a cosmetic.

So what does all this mean? Well, this is basically a coordinated attempt by “Consumer Health Digest” to skirt both Yahoo and Google’s terms and conditions and simultaneously receive both SEO and SEM benefit. The first part of the scam – advertising a link from “Yahoo” on Google AdWords, is a crafty way to violate Google’s “double serving” policy. In other words, Consumer Health Digest can run an ad for their own URL and also run an ad for this Yahoo Answers result on the same keyword, thus getting more “shelf space” on AdWords, which Google does not allow.

The second part of the scam is a way to get in-bound links from Yahoo to your site for SEO purposes. Consumer Health has created numerous Yahoo Answers accounts and basically “asked” questions that they immediately “answer” with a link to their Web site. This has a double benefit – first, it gives their site some link juice from Yahoo. Second, since Yahoo Answers results tend to show up highly in the search results, adding a URL to a Yahoo Answers question and answer gives Consumer Health ‘another bite at the apple’ for organic results as well.

At the end of the day, none of this is particularly sneaky, and none of it is particularly smart. If I could figure this out in a few minutes, I imagine that the folks at Yahoo Answers and Google AdWords could do it in a matter of seconds. And having your site banned by both Yahoo and Google on both organic and paid listings is not a good way to build a business!


  1. qaswer June 23rd, 2008

    To be very true, everyone knows what you want to prove. Perhaps there will be a few users who will be real and asking something truly, all others are just there to drive traffic to different sites.

  2. David Rodnitzky June 23rd, 2008

    If this is the case, qaswer, then does Yahoo Answers have much of a chance to survive? You would think that this would be the #1 priority for the team at Yahoo Answers to fix.

  3. Compulsive Reviewer August 4th, 2009

    I'm going to be a contrarian here and say that this seems like much ado about nothing. So consumerhealthdigest is a little sneaky. Big deal. Goldman Sachs steals $100,000,000 every single day. Not saying that the defacement of Yahoo! Answers with spammy links is not a great scourge and a pox upon our society, but it's not high on my list of social evils.

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David Rodnitzky
David Rodnitzky is founder and CEO of 3Q Digital (formerly PPC Associates), a position he has held since the Company's inception in 2008. Prior to 3Q Digital, he held senior marketing roles at several Internet companies, including (2000-2001), FindLaw (2001-2004), Adteractive (2004-2006), and Mercantila (2007-2008). David currently serves on advisory boards for several companies, including Marin Software, MediaBoost, Mediacause, and a stealth travel start-up. David is a regular speaker at major digital marketing conferences and has contributed to numerous influential publications, including Venture Capital Journal, CNN Radio, Newsweek, Advertising Age, and NPR's Marketplace. David has a B.A. with honors from the University of Chicago and a J.D. with honors from the University of Iowa. In his spare time, David enjoys salmon fishing, hiking, spending time with his family, and watching the Iowa Hawkeyes, not necessarily in that order.