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How To Spot a Splog

After publishing “One Year Anniversary Review: Splogs – The Dark Side of Blogging”, I had several people ask me how to know if a blog is a splog or spam blog. Here are some simple clues to look for.

In a Splog, Nothing Adds Up Nor Matches

Splogs, spamming blogs, are often little more than link farms, a bunch of text stuffed with links to whatever they are selling. The easiest way to identify a splog is when nothing adds up nor matches. The content doesn’t match the links. The content doesn’t match the blog title or post title. There is a signature or name in the article that doesn’t match with the name of the post author or submitter.

Sentences don’t add up. The article content will be about driving through the countryside on vacation and then you will see words and words in links that don’t match the content. What does asian porn have to do with driving through New England?

Paragraphs change subjects and topics in the middle. They start off the paragraph writing about fixing a car and in the middle the topic changes to politics in East Timur, and the ending sentences are about a walk in the woods. There are misspelled words, and words that just don’t make sense or are in another language, used inappropriately. Sentence structure and grammar is non-existence. After all, how many ways can you use the word “ringtones” in a sentence? If it’s nonsense, it’s a splog.

When things just don’t look right, and not just “not right” but “wrong”, check a few other posts to see if the “wrong” is consistent, and you’ve probably found a splog.

Thousands of Posts a Month = Splog

How to Spot a Splog - Too many posts in a monthIf the blog lists the number of posts in a category or archive, and those numbers don’t add up, the odds are you are looking at a splog. In the example graphic here, I realized I was looking at a splog because the idea of publishing 6,892 posts in one month just doesn’t add up. Oh, it adds up, but it adds up wrong.

The thing that caught my eye with this Archive list was the four posts in 1969. I thought I was blogging before blogs, but this defies reality. Again, it’s adding up to be wrong.

Look at categories and archives by date. If they posted hundreds or thousands of posts six months ago, and nothing since, or 463 posts in May then 521 in August and nothing in between, there’s something fishy going on, don’t you think?

No Original Content Might Be Splog

Honestly, few blogs offer completely original content. Many people highlight other blogger’s content with blockquotes and links with very little content of their own. They are glorified recommenders and link listers. Nothing wrong with that, but a splog has no content of their own, and they often don’t restrict themselves to “fair use” style blockquotes but full ripping off content from others.

As a reminder, if you find an article you want to recommend to others, copy a sentence, paragraph or two, but no more than a couple hundred words in the form of a teaser or preview, and post it in quotes or a blockquote on your blog with a link to the original article. It’s better if you include a few words as to why you recommend this, to make your blog look different from a splog.

To figure out if a splog has no original content, stroll through the archives and categories and see if there is anything that looks like they really wrote it. This can be difficult to spot, as some sploggers are nice enough to include links to the original content, but if the article includes the full article and not an excerpt, and they don’t have the permission of the author, they are breaking the rules.

You usually find splogs from your own trackbacks or casual searching, and discover that it is your article you are reading, not someone recommending your article. I include a link to my site and articles on my site in almost every post I write, so if they are published elsewhere, I get a trackback to my site for blogs with that feature. I’m often researching related content and run across a listing in a search engine that looks familiar, click it and find my article used illegally. I also use Google Alerts and other methods to search for my content being used illegally by others. This is how I know these are splogs: They didn’t ask and I didn’t give them permission.

If I’m cruising around and spot what I think is a splog hosting articles by bloggers I know or am familiar with, I will report it to them just in case they have given permission for use of their content. What they do with that information is up to them, as many will fight it and others give up and say “it’s the price for being a popular blogger”, but that’s up to them. I’m just giving them the courtesy of information. If it really bothers me, I will report the splog myself as I believe that if we all fight against splogs, splogs will die.

You’ll have to use your best judgment on this clue, but after looking at a few posts, you probably will add up all the evidence, especially when keywords, links, and titles don’t add up with the rest of the content, and you can then spot the splog.

Nothing But Feeds – Could be Splog

Many sploggers are using feeds in typical and inventive fashion to pull content from other sources as their own. There are some interesting twists on this that makes splogs harder to spot.

  1. The Excerpt Feed Splog: The excerpt feed splog grabs feeds from sites with related or semi-related content and uses the excerpts like blockquotes, even including a link to the original source via the feed information. Again, look at all the evidence and if it doesn’t add up, it’s probably a splog.
  2. The Full Feed Splog: The full feed splog grabs full article feeds from one or more blogs to use as their own content. The content may or may not be related, and may or may not have a link to the original content. It’s usually clear that the content is not original, therefore, highly likely to be a splog.
  3. The Link Splog: Many splogs are now using feeds as well as search engines to search out specific content to display on their splogs. These are usually in the form of link lists or very short excerpts with links, but mostly links to other content with just enough of the appropriate keywords in the text for search engines to gather. Link Splog posts can feature one or dozens of links to related articles, making it look like it might be someone’s links of the day list, but poke around and you will see that every day is a link list of the day and often the links don’t add up. You may find 8 links to articles on carpentry and two links to music videos, two subjects that have nothing much to do with each other, which could be a good indicator that the links were not thought out and chosen by a human but by software.

The sources of the feed content typically comes from a variety of sources, or just one source, but you have enough clues to recognize that this blog isn’t the source of the content by examining the other factors that don’t add up. Sometimes the information comes from only a few sources, and other times it comes from hundreds of sources with no consistency. Again, it’s adding up all the clues to figure out if this is a legitimate aggregator or an abusive splog.

Like the previous splog identifying clue that tells you the content isn’t original because it’s yours, you often find these feed abusing splogs using your content.

Grabbing content from feeds is a growing concern on the web. Unfortunately, feeds serve a much greater purpose and value to everyone that outweighs the abusive use. Currently, reporting splogs when you spot them is the best way to stop site feed abuses by splogs, but technology is working on coming up with a way to make feeds easy to access but difficult to abuse.

Looks Like Links to Articles But Are Really Ads

Advertising SplogsThe most common form of splog doesn’t try to hide what it is: a glorified link list of advertisers. These “advertisers” are often labeled as “sponsors”, a euphemism for “companies who pay to get onto link lists”.

Advertisers get several things from this. They get a link to their site, their keywords with a link to their site found offsite by search engines, and the chance to spread their advertising coverage across the Internet. Splogs who use advertising affiliate programs and such to generate these great volumes of advertising links that look like recommendations to articles and information make money on every click. Some make money just for hosting, and others add bucks to their stash with every click the innocent web surfer makes on their pages.

While some of these advertising link farm splogs might have additional content, they are typically nothing but link lists. Hover your mouse over any of the links and you will typically see long code in the link that is the affiliate clickthrough information. More ingenious sploggers have hidden link information, so when you hover over a link, you see nothing in the status bar of your browser where you would normally see the actual link. This is another clue that this could be a splog.

Javascript runs most of these sites, and they often feature tons of popup windows. Some open windows when you arrive, and others open more windows when you leave. All are annoying and potential clues that these might be By linking to a splog you are sending them traffic and money. By identifying and reporting splogs, you are helping clean out the trash from your web neighborhood.

How to Report Spam Blogs or Splogs

In “Reporting Spam Blogs – Splogs”, I include a link to a great article on “How to Complain and Report Spam Blogger Blogs” by Quick Online Tips with information on reporting splogs, and I include information on how to report a splog to . If you are a victim of a splogger using your blog content, report them and also follow the tips I provided in “What Do You Do When Someone Steals Your Content”.

Make sure you are certain that you’ve gathered enough clues to justify this blog as a spam blog or splog when you report them. Some new bloggers are just ignorant on how things work and just copy content from others. A gentle reminder that this is illegal and request for removal or excerpt citation usually fixes things. But true splogs need to be removed immediately. There is a difference between ignorant and abusive.

Fighting Splog’s article, “My Recommendations for Google”, also applies to every blog hosting service and gives some great examples of how to help put a stop to splogs and sploggers creating spam blogs:

1. Advertisers and online marketing companies should stop doing business with spammers. The motivations behind blog spammers are no different than any other spammers. It’s all about money. If you reduce the money for spammers you reduce the spam…

2. Blogger could put limits on various activities. If the limit is high enough it should not affect the blogging activity of normal or even highly active bloggers but it should prevent spammers from going about their daily spamming.

* Limit on number of account a person can create in one day
* Limit on number of blogs a person can create in one day
* Limit on number of blogs a person can create per account
* Limit on number of blog posts in one day

One of the other tips mentioned is to allow users to flag blogs as splogs, a technique installed recently.

Help all of us kill off splogs by taking action. Talk about this on your blogs. Check around to see if someone is abusing your content. And when you spot them, report them. This effort will take all of us, not just a few.

You can find more information on reporting and identifying splogs from SplogSpot, Splog Reporter, Wired News – How To Fight Those Surging Splogs, Fighting Splogs, and Pam Blackstone – Splogs and the Blogging Phenomenon.

WordPress Blogs Get Help Fighting Splogs and Feed Scraping

WordPress users recently got help from some creative WordPress Plugin authors. Check out AntiLeech Splog Stopper: Fighting Back Against Content Thieves and Digital Fingerprints Help Track Blog Content Theft, WordPress Plugins that will not only help you put identifying unique elements inside of your feed content, but also report back on who is ripping off your blog’s content.

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network

Member of the 9Rules Blogging Network

23 Comments

  1. Posted September 23, 2006 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Thanky you for the article Lorelle, especially the links for reporting. I’m a pretty generous chap and enjoy allowing others the chance to use my work, written or otherwise, but I’d like to think they’d do so because they find some intrinsic value in it or some personal meaning. At the very least you’d like to think your work was actually digested and appreciated or acknowledged in some sense. I guess what I’m saying is Splogs blow.

    Oh and I recently noticed Owen Winkler built a WordPress plugin to combat splogs. He calls it “Anti-Leech.” You can find his post about it in your WordPress dashboard’s “Other WordPress News” section or jump this link.

    In Owen’s words, Anti-Leech, “does not prevent the splogger bots from accessing your site. No, it does better than that. It produces a fake set of content especially for them that includes links back to your site (and mine, too, ok?) and sends it only to them. When they steal this content, it appears online just like normal, except now you’ve turned the tables on them. You’re actually using the sploggers to promote your own site.”

    Thanks again Lorelle.

  2. Posted September 23, 2006 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    I saw Owen’s new plugin and I’m studying it and may give it a try. This is something to not take likely as it has a possibility of biting you back. When I’ve given this a good look-see, I’ll be writing about it.

    Splogs, email spam, and comment spam are a blight on the net. I wish the penalty was on the evil doers rather than us.

  3. Posted September 23, 2006 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    Look forward to reading your thoughts about it. Be nice if there was a way to totally block splogs. Something like Akismet for splogs. Maybe there is. I’m pretty ignorant in the underlining mechanics of it all so if it’s possible or not I don’t even know.

  4. timethief
    Posted September 23, 2006 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    I’m wondering if you have been following this threead on the wordpress.com forum http://wordpress.com/forums/topic.php?id=4081&replies=33 or the digg thread pertaining to bitacle http://digg.com/security/bitacle_org_stealing_content
    It appears that Bitacle has been scraping blog content and then pimping it to secure goodle adsense revenue. Moreover it appears that they feel vindicated in doing so. I wondered if Robert Scoble or Om Malik or any of the most “notable” wordpress bloggers had been site scraped and had their content pimped for google ad profits by these feed sucking bitacle low lives. The answer is yes and in a big time way note the noindex and nofollow added to the link so that the originators don’t get credit for their work http://en.bitacle.org/blogs/search/in_2bg1crvh0/scobleizer

  5. Posted September 23, 2006 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been monitoring the bitacle situation for a couple of days. It really sucks. It’s one of the reasons why I feel nervous about blogging on WordPress.com, though I have a great deal of trust in how Matt and the WordPress.com staff have been working overtime to protect us.

    Right now, I will watch and wait. Bitacle has scrapped this blog, but since I have my feeds set as excerpts and not full, they are only getting the excerpts. Changing to excerpts has not impacted measurably the number of feeds accessing this site. In fact, it has increased, but I’m sure that’s due to content and not whether or not I have full or excerpt feeds. I’d love to open them up, but having been a long time victim of feed scrapping, this issue remains one of my big concerns.

    Hopefully enough noise will be made to the right people. And I hope a lot of people make a lot of noise!

  6. Posted April 12, 2007 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for this EXCELLENT article about splogs. My feeds are routinely being scraped for splogs these days. Like you, I feel that if we all keep fighting it, we’ll stop it. I’ve begun faxing Google DMCA notices for any site using my content — or any part of it — and displaying AdSense ads. I urge everyone with this problem to do the same.

  7. Posted November 2, 2007 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    Everything may add up on the surface. On 23 september 2007 I first noticed a particular splog shower on wordpress.com, a shower that is still coming in as of today. This is the biggest and longest splogging event that I’ve seen on wp. My observations are that in the past such events have been shut down within about 12 hours. All splogs within that shower are the work of one author or team. One splog swarm within the shower contains posts that appear to be ordinary general interest articles. However, words or phrases within the text are highlighted as links to an on-line store.( It’s as you say, the links dont add up.) At the moment the splog names consist of either two personal names, eg ‘gordonjulia’, or one personal name with 2 or 3 letters attached a the front or back, or variations on these. The post titles are ‘hook’ titles. So far the I haven’t noticed the use of avatars with this particular shower. One other swarm within the shower has a characteristic of simply being a long list of splog links, many of them on wp.com, a lot of them empty blogs ready to go. I wryly note your recommentations for (blog hosts,) on limiting sploggers.

  8. Posted November 2, 2007 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    @shem kerr:

    Have you reported these splogs to the feedback of WordPress.com or through the dashboard bar for reporting splogs? WordPress.com is FAST about shutting these down, but they can’t when they aren’t reported.

  9. Posted November 27, 2007 at 5:25 am | Permalink

    I get these things from Kaser’s STAR PULSAR. It just started recently. What are they? I really haven’t seen anything written about this subject until now. I run bad neighborhood and weed out comments that are not cool. Someone last summer made a comment about hoping my concern that day “didn’t give me a headache”. I ran BN and found eight Bayer Aspirin links! lol. But these other things don’t show up in BN so I let them go. Although WP tends to mark them as spam. It is confusing.

  10. Posted November 27, 2007 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    @davidlind:

    Marking comment spam and trackback spam as spam is part of your job as a blogger. You can’t rely upon Akismet alone. Once you mark such spams as spams, everyone benefits with Akismet as it goes into the database.

    Quit “reading” them. Check the obvious ones as spam and let it be done. Check out the questionable ones, and mark them as spam. Fast and easy.

  11. Posted November 28, 2007 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    I certainly will get rid of them if they are not leggit. That’s what I have been trying to figure out. And I have asked in several places. Nobody seems to know or they exist in a gray area.
    So I am just getting rid of them. Case closed.

  12. Posted November 28, 2007 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    @davidlind:

    Remember, it’s your blog and content. Comments are content. Thus, it’s your content. :D

  13. Posted December 10, 2007 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    Comments are content. Thus, it’s your content.

    And what if someones writes something that get you into trouble with the LAW who content is it than?

  14. Posted December 10, 2007 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    @mario666:

    Depends upon which law goes after you. If the law that pursues the issue has laws against freedom of speech and libel that doesn’t protect blog comments as free speech, then you’re in a bind. In the United States, legal decisions have been made that make comments on blogs the responsibility of the commenter not the blog owner or administrator. They also give you the right to delete or edit comments to be in line your whatever your comment policy is, and your perspective. I expect this to get more coverage in the courts in the future, unfortunately, as blog conversations come under more scrutiny.

  15. Posted December 10, 2007 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Really hate splogs, and a few have copied some of my articles and content, but I have learnt that if you nest links to other posts in your writing then you’ll benefit from the links and rank – understandably it won’t be much, but at least you’ll get something back from these idiots.

  16. Posted December 10, 2007 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    @Nick:

    There is NO benefit from those who steal your content. Google’s new PageRank algorithm contains something called “TrustRank”, which we will see more of in the future. If a site deemed “poor” or suspicious, lacking trust, links to your site, you could be penalized because splogs tend to link towards sites that benefit them, rather than the other way around. This is something that is still confusing, but who links to who now carries weight, even dead weight.

    Trust me, you get nothing from those idiots.

  17. Posted December 11, 2007 at 2:15 am | Permalink

    It seems like now that I have figured out how to make productive keywords and my traffic from google has skyrocketed that weird things are happening all the time. Maybe it’s just paranoia on my part but I have this feeling that I am a target now in a way that I wasn’t before. The latest is this message at the end of ALL my posts. Bad Gateway The proxy server received an invalid response from an upstream server. And the worst part about this one is that I have to communicate with Verizon. And I have found them to be the absolute worst in terms of customer contact and service. Do you think they will fix this thing or am I going to have to figure out a way to get inside their castle?

  18. Posted December 11, 2007 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    @davidlind:

    I don’t know what you mean by target. Test your Theme to make sure that it is updated and hasn’t been hacked. And update WordPress. Talk to your web host to see if the problem is on their end. Check your Plugins. Maybe the problem is there. There are a lot of possibilities.

    As for the rest, I have no idea. I can’t help you beyond this. You signed up with them. Don’t like them, change. Wish I could do more, but this might not involve WordPress.

  19. Posted December 11, 2007 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Well I just ramble on sometimes and I can give you a break from that. It was a plugin and it was paranoia. I made a promise awhile back to always check the plugins first! when something goes awry. And then forgot about it!

  20. Posted July 24, 2008 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

    For starters add a permalink to your RSS Feeds. This way all of your content has a link back to your site. You can event put a copyright notice or waring in your feed. It sounds extreme but if your serious about people stealing you content do it. Here’s a plugin to that will allow you to add the signature to your rss feed

  21. Posted August 26, 2008 at 2:12 am | Permalink

    really nice blog…love your buttons. didn’t nab any! lol

  22. Posted October 22, 2008 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

    I had no idea this was an issue, well an issue where people should be protecting themselves and taking a few minutes out of their day to google their own content… I read the copyright article, on my way to research this topic some more.

    thank you for all the useful information, will you be touring canada anytime soon?

  23. Posted October 23, 2008 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    @ Kenny:

    I won’t be in Canada, other than possibly Vancouver, BC, for a while. Got an idea to bring me there? :D

    Thanks


32 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] Lorelle On WordPress: How To Spot a Splog [...]

  2. [...] One of the tools I would like to discuss here because I think many of you could use it, is Numly. First of all, before I give you more details I’d like to say: If you’re sitting there thinking this subject is not for you, because you think you don’t have content worthy of being stolen, let me tell you: You are wrong. Maybe you don’t have an original web design to get ripped off, or a professional reputation to protect, but the words you write on your blog, great or not, personal or not, important or not… could well be scrapped by one of the many spam blogs that are starting to pester the Internet. Lorelle VanFossen has written plenty about them, beginning by her latest post. [...]

  3. [...] Lorelle On WordPress: How To Spot a Splog [...]

  4. [...] An increasing pain among content-generators (aka, bloggers) is the common splog, or spam blog. These blogs can take the form of blogs with randomly generated keywords that make absolutely no sense. They can also take the form of your content with a bunch of ads interspersed. With splogs taking your content and advertising within, that means that someone else is making money on the content you are creating! So what do you do about it? [...]

  5. [...] How To Spot a Splog [...]

  6. [...] How to complain and report sploggers How to spot a splog [...]

  7. [...] For those of you who are new to this concept or who want to identify splogs from blogs, here is another article by Laurelle which will guide you in doing just that. I hope you will find them good. Make sure you install the AntiLeech plugin on your WordPress powered blog. As for those of you who have your blogs on WordPress.com, they are already working on fighting this problem. So keep your eyes, ears and blog open for this and spread the word. Remember your blog is your voice. Speak up about this problem and that will increase the awareness amongst the blogging community about such drastic violations of our copyrights (or lefts whatever it may be). Posted by SuperRaJJ under My Musings, What’s New? | You can bookmark this on Del.icio.us, Y! MyWeb 2.0, Netvouz, Furl, Simpy or Spurl. [...]

  8. [...] How To Spot a Splog [...]

  9. [...] How to Spot a Splog and What Do You Do when Someone Steals Your Content, by Lorelle on WordPress. How to Complain and Report Spam Blogs (for Blogger blogs), and reporting the splogs to Google Adsense and the major search engines. By Quick Online Tips. [...]

  10. [...] How to Spot a Splog Posted in Technology, Blogging, Open Source | [...]

  11. [...] How to Spot a Splog and What Do You Do when Someone Steals Your Content, by Lorelle on WordPress. How to Complain and Report Spam Blogs (for Blogger blogs), and reporting the splogs to Google Adsense and the major search engines. By Quick Online Tips. [...]

  12. [...] a thief. I am doing so now. Please… if you care about blog theft, blog scraping, and what Lorelle on WordPress feels may well become a bigger industry than porn, and other such internet garbage… write a [...]

  13. [...] The next time you went blog-hopping, you may want to check if it’s a splog or not. Lorelle has a post about spotting a splog. [...]

  14. [...] http://lorelle.wordpress.com/2006/09/23/how-to-spot-a-splog/ [...]

  15. [...] for the best plugins to install.  My research has led me to several articles complaining about splogs (spam blogs) and content theft, but none really gave any solutions to combat the [...]

  16. [...] can explain that better … here and how to report a splog to wordpress.com, here If you want to report them to Google, here is [...]

  17. [...] Cool Site’s “Splog Off! Dealing with content theft” and Lorelle’s “How To Spot A Splog,” in which Lorelle provides this gem of great advice (and common sense): “As a [...]

  18. [...] of contacting the site owner (often the contact and about pages are broken links). In her article How to spot a splog Lorelle [...]

  19. [...] specific scam, scraper, and spam blogs to those who host them. Blogging about it won’t change anything. Go to the sources and those [...]

  20. [...] your plug-in’s updated to the latest versions which allows it to deal with those tagged as junk posts. Use the built-in WordPress utilities to screen out or block specific keywords but it is [...]

  21. [...] To Spot a Splog WordPress has had more of these lately. I often get comments from them and then I look to see if its real person commenting.  Lately 100% [...]

  22. [...] 7, 2010 Update In her article How to spot a splog Lorelle [...]

  23. [...] How To Spot a SplogBasic information about splogs for people who aren’t quite sure how to identify one. From Lorelle on WordPress. [...]

  24. [...] by lazy bloggers as a replacement for their content. Computers generating content isn’t about splogs stealing our content. It’s about computers become the source of [...]

  25. [...] content that people can take to the bank. Meaning, it should be useful, not regurgitated junk ALA splogs and content farms. This statement is still just as true as ever. Take a look at the top 100 lists [...]

  26. [...] content is also sometimes an attempt at gaming search engines for higher rankings—for example, a splog steals other people’s content to create links to promote another website or to sell [...]

  27. […] How To Spot a Splog […]

  28. […] How To Spot a Splog […]

  29. […] How To Spot a Splog […]

  30. […] How To Spot a Splog […]

  31. […] How To Spot a Splog […]

  32. […] Take the time to learn your way around the WordPress dashboard. In the small print right at the bottom of the page is a hyperlink to WordPress tutorials and, guess what, they have a glossary! Although it doesn’t have a definition for splog. […]

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