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
If 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
The 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.
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 WordPress.com. 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 WordPress.com 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.
- Reporting Spam Blogs – Splogs
- “One Year Anniversary Review: Splogs – The Dark Side of Blogging”
- Blogs That Look Like Blogs But Ain’t – Splogs
- Splogging or Clogging the Worst of the Worst of Blogging
- AntiLeech Splog Stopper: Fighting Back Against Content Thieves
- Digital Fingerprints Help Track Blog Content Theft
- The Bitacle Battle of Blogs
- What are Feeds?
- Maxpower’s Digital Fingerprint WordPress Plugin Updated
- Traffic Trolls – Creating Controversy to Increase Blog Traffic
- Content Theft from Feeds – It’s Time To Take Action
- Biggest Copyright Infringement in the World But Nobody Cares Enough
- What Do You Do When Someone Steals Your Content
- Finding Stolen Content and Copyright Infringements
- The Growing Trends in Content Theft: Image Theft, Feed Scraping, and Website Hijacking
- Tell Your Story: Have You Had Your Content Stolen
- Proud to Showcase YOUR Work: Sploggers Turn Dopplebloggers
Site Search Tags: splog, splogger, splogs, spam blogs, spam, spammers, advertising, advertising splogs, splogging, the worst of blogging, bad blogging, bad bloggers, bad business, content theft, feeds, stealing content, copyright, copyright violation, copyright infringement, report splogs, how to report splogs, how to spot a splog, splog spotting, spotting splogs, reporting splogs
Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network