Beware of fancy infographics–spammers may be lurking behind them

Infographics are the latest trick for suckering you into signing up for spammy Web sites. Here's a story about one of them.

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Would you trust a pie chart you found hiding in a dark alley?

flickr/Chris Campbell

Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but 2012 seems to have been the Year of the Infographic. Everyone and their dog is producing impressively designed fact-filled charts and giving them away to bloggers. I’ve published a few myself at TY4NS.

And, of course, there are dozens of infographics about dogs.

[12 scams of Christmas and how to avoid them and How to make sure important emails never get sent to spam]

Why do organizations spend the time and money on these things only to give them away? So they can get backlinks to their sites, raising their SEO profile and giving them lots of Google juice. Sometimes, though, the motives are a little more nefarious.

One of the biggest producers of infographics – and one of the skeeviest, in my opinion – is OnlineSchools.org. At the site's “Visual Academy” you’ll find infographics on topics ranging from brains to breasts to boogers, as well as other a variety of other alphabetically organized subjects (guns, grenades, gambling; Star Trek, strippers, suicide; etc).

A couple years back I published a particularly elaborate infographic from OnlineSchools on my sometimes-NSFW sarcasm site. It was about how people spend their time on the Internet, but I used it as a springboard to create my own more juvenile take on the topic.

Recently I got a series of emails from one Eric Bergstrom of OnlineSchools, asking me to please change the anchor text of my now two-year-old post. Each request contained the following vaguely ominous, grammatically questionable phrase:

We have recently received warning from Google that they are suspicious of link trading schemes surrounding this, and we want to make sure that you are taking the necessary precautionary measures so that your site is not adversely affected.

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