Spam Blogs or Splogs
Following in the footsteps of other successful communication media such as email, Blogs have also suffered at the hands of spammers wanting to use them for their own ends without consideration of the detrimental impact this can have on others.

As a result we have seen the rise of Spam Blogs (otherwise known as Splogs) which have partly clouded the real business benefits on offer from genuine Business Blogs. While not yet the menace that email spam has become, they are both annoying and potentially damaging as they clutter the blogosphere and search engines with valueless content. However, they do warrant further explanation as to what they are and why they exist at all.

What are Spam Blogs and why do people use them?

Spam Blogs or Splogs are generally created by automated software robots and are created solely to tap into a blogs appeal to Search Engines, rather than to provide new or even useful content for their readers. This is done for one of two main reasons:

  • to gain higher Search Engine rankings for the pages which then display numerous links to a target website in order to boost the target’s apparent popularity and Google PageRank;

  • to gain higher Search Engine rankings in order to then benefit from AdSense or other onsite ad based marketing and create revenue for the splog originator;

NB This second sort should not be confused with the many thousands of real blogs which offer great information and insight which also contain AdSense to legitimately create potential revenue sources.

The reason for using Blog technology is that, since companies such as Blogger offer free set up and hosting, they are both easy and cheap to establish. It should be said, however, that Blogger has cracked down strongly on Splogs (with unfortunately other genuine bloggers getting caught up in the fallout) particularly after a wave of splogging at the end of 2005.

What form do Spam Blogs take?

Spam Blogs, from what I have seen, take one of two main formats.

  • The first is simply a series of pages which are filled with keywords through a string of meaningless posts in order to achieve pages which are heavily focused on a small set of keywords.
  • The second is one which uses a series of randomly posted articles which have either been illegally taken from real blogs or websites (either via “scraping” or using RSS) or which use legitimately published articles from one of the many articles directories which exist.

Why are they bad?

From a Business Blogging point of view, they have a negative impact primarily because they add no real value and so muddy the waters by creating prejudice against real blogs. Over time, this has the possibility of devaluing the use of blogs as a marketing and communications tool, and alienating new potential users of the blogosphere.

In addition, they can skew Search Engine results (which is in no-one’s interest), are likely to cause issues in the world of Search Advertising and may cause more general problems in blogosphere if the Blog Search Engines are not able to keep them out of their indexes. Clearly, there is also the issue of plagiarism and splogs which illegally using other peoples articles may well be contravening copyright law.

Can we do anything to stop them?

Well, as consumers, when we spot them we can avoid clicking on any of the Adverts which generally proliferate on the splogs if they are not generating income then they are worthless to the originator. If you want to take it a step further then you could click on the ‘Ads by Goooogle’ link and then ‘Send Google your thoughts on the Ads you just saw’ to make a spam report.

A more active process is to report them to the Search Engine which has them in their index, but this is ultimately going to be a thankless task. It is really the Search Engines and the free Blog providers themselves which need to keep their own houses in order and close the loopholes which allow Splogs to be created automatically.

Other types of spam on blogs

There are two other ways of spamming on blogs, the most common of which is Comment Spam. This is where comments are left on the posts which merely contain links back to a target website or use the link embedded in the author’s name. The other is Trackback spam which has the same aim but using trackbacks rather than comments.

Many Bloggers have negated this by making the comment links no-follow which means that the Search Engine linking benefit no longer exists. However, most comment spam is automated so this does not stop the comments some might also say that it penalises people leaving real comments by breaking some of the social linking which blogging is based on.

Much more effective against this is to use comment spam software such as that which is provided by Akismet (free to non commercial bloggers) which is excellent. It will also save you having to moderate large amounts of spam comments if your blog is set up that way.

At the end of the day, Spam Blogs offer no value to anyone except (possibly) the spammer – this is not the way we want things to go, so it is in all our interests to do what we can to help stop this from getting out of hand.

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