indyank - 3:31 am on Feb 12, 2013 (gmt 0)
but to obscure a 10 digit phone number
There are several good reasons for which this might have been done. I could think of a couple of reasons on the fly.
1) To prevent bots stealing those numbers.
2) For some businesses, the revenue model might depend on such phone numbers. Take for example a real estate broker's website.
So there are also valid reasons for which one might want to obscure the phon numbers.
and yes, I've had the same thought you've had that they might be faking engagement.
There is a subtle difference between saying "faking engagement" and "faking things to draw real engagement".
Engagement might in most cases be real. But some people fake things to get people engaged before getting the content they want. So a site might still have useful content a.k.a content for which the user might have landed on it. It is just that they get people to play around before getting the needed info. But this isn't easy. One need to draw the user's attention and make him/her act. It shouldn't end up making them bounce back.
So there are two types of sites.
1) sites which have the useful information but fake things to get people engaged.
2 Sites which don't have any useful information but fake things to get people engaged.
What is really annoying is the latter type of sites ranking high.Yes, for many, even the former is annoying but it might be that Google does not really care about it.