I love blogs and blogging, but with all good things, especially those online, it comes with a whole new host of problems. Search engines love blogs and therefore so do spammers. Spammers love blogs only because blog spamming techniques work, thanks to the search engines and bloggers themselves.
Last year Google introduced the “nofollow” attribute for links. Using this attribute on a link is supposed to inoculate the linking site from any negative association to the site being linked to. It’s to be used when you are not in control of the link being posted (as in blog comments) or when you don’t want your link to a site to be considered as you “vouching” for that site in the eyes of the search engines. I think the most accurate description of the “nofollow” attribute is that it’s a link condom.
The nofollow was merely a band aid fix to one kind of blog spam, but not a solution to the real problem. But since there is not just one kind of blog spam there is no single solution either.
Blog Comment Spam:
Every now and then I get inundated with comment spam to my blog. These comments are usually posted by automated programs that put a short message in your comments that reads something like, “I like your site, lots of good info. Check these out…”, followed by about 5-50 links to their websites.
You like my site? Oh, wait… hehe, you almost had me there!
Thanks to my blog software, the nofollow tag is automatically added to all links in the comments. So even if I didn’t have the moderation feature turned on requiring me to approve all comments before they post, the link itself will not be of value in the eyes of the search engine. And obviously it’s of no value to the reader, either.
But I always assumed that most bloggers would be like me and have some sort of comment approval policy in place. But then I forget, there are a lot of people running blogs for personal stuff and they simply don’t understand the whole spamming thing. So blog spammers take advantage of the ignorance of these bloggers and blast them with junk comments. And if their blogging software doesn’t use the nofollow tag in links then they just got themselves a link that some search engines (coughMSNcoughYahoo!cough) would record as valuable.
There are two possible solutions here. 1) all bloggers stop allowing comments without approving them. This is unlikely to happen. 2) Search engines find a way to devalue all comment links in any blog whatsoever. This will be unfair to legitimate commenter, but as often happens, the many suffer for the ill-conceived actions of a few.
Scraper Spam Blogs
There are many sites and blogs that are nothing more than a regurgitation of someone else’s content. Some are providing a valuable service by being a news distribution source, but many others are not.
The legitimate ones publish free to re-publish articles from article banks on their site and keep the author info and bio (and links) in place. They also often republish press releases which are also in the common domain. For these types of sites there is nothing illegal being done. I don’t have problem with these types of sites because they do provide a way for articles such as this to reach a wider audience, a better site is one that takes this information and adds their own comments and reviews. This is providing a real service to their readers by giving their own opinion, not just the regurgitation of others.
But there are a great many blogs and scraper sites out there that steal content and don’t give proper attribution. They either republish a summary of articles (sometimes linking to the source, sometimes not) or publish the full article but remove the author and bio info. Still others run the article through a rewrite software program so they can publish “unique” content on their site, even though it’s still stolen content.
I found one of these content thieves just the other day. They are a web hosting company that “re-published” my article, “Selecting a Web Host Provider that Meets Your Needs”. They also forgot to keep my bio information that came with the article and also failed to attribute authorship. I’ve sent them one email and, lacking any sort of response, I will contact Google and their web host provider informing them that this site is stealing content in violation of copy write. The ISP will be obligated to pull the site down until they have corrected the breach.
Many of these kinds of sites often run ads provided by Google or Yahoo, or both in an effort to profit from some other person’s hard work. In the case of the above, they are using my article to help sell their services.
To eliminate this kind of spam, these kinds of sites need to be found and removed from search engine indices AND the ad division of the search engines need to refuse to allow these sites to publish their ads. The former is more difficult from the latter, but upon finding such sites, I think search engines have an obligation to remove them.
Faux Information Blog Spam
This is one that I’ve noticed just recently. People setting up blogs at the free blog services such as blogger.com or blogspot.com, throwing up a post all about their site, and then creating multiple accounts so they can post comments that look like they come from others, or ask friends and family to post comments for them. All these comments somehow find ways to included links in back to the site which the blog is promoting. Neither the blog or it’s “comments” contain any real relevant information. At best it’s a commercial. At worst its Internet feces. (Yep, link condom used here.)
These kinds of spammers don’t care how high their blog ranks for any particular keywords, but they use it to provide link value back to their own, or their client’s website. With these free blogger services you can throw up dozens of these fake “on topic” blogs all with a link back.
The solution here relies solely in the hands of the search engines. It’s up to them to discount all these types of blogs as well as their links. Unfortunately, the many search engines still seem to eat this stuff up as legitimate.
The problem with all blog spam is that it relies on SEO “tactics” that the search engines hate. Sometimes a nuisance, sometimes illegal and almost always results in more garbage on the Internet. There is nothing worse than having to wade through someone’s garbage to find good quality information. But one thing is for sure, for as long as blog spam works, one man’s garbage will continue to be a spammer’s goldmine.