Guest Blogging, Article Spinning & FUD

by chicagohh

Google often sends out messages that seem to have one purpose: to keep websites in line with what works best for their business model. I can’t say that I blame them – we all work to promote things that benefit our businesses. Heh, I was about to add a “but” at the end of that last sentence. Something like, “but it’s worse for Google because of…”. Then I decided that was wrong – Google is a for-profit company and has every right to shape their market to a form that works the best with their business model. What I will do is try to clear some things up from one of their most recent videos.

Currently, guest blogging is the favority activity of webmasters for link acquisition. Due to its easy nature, lots of spammy activities are going on like article spinning etc. Is Google going to hammer websites for links acquired by guest blogging?

Nandita B, India

Matt Cutts is the head of Google’s webspam team. What this means is that he tries to come up with way to beat the illegitimate, and often, legitimate attempts to attract valuable Google traffic. The webspam team has four primary methods to identify websites that they don’t like. First, they try to use programming methods to identify web spam. Second, someone from their spam detection team may actually visit a website and look it over to see if it complies with their guidelines. Third, they have a reporting system where they hope people will turn in sites they feel are violating guidelines. Fourth, we are seeing that more and more often Google will spread F.U.D. – Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. FUD works in the sense that many website owners will be afraid they are in violation or at risk of coming into violation of specific guidelines that Google may discuss. This fear allows Google to better control how people design their websites. In other words, Google, may at times, spread information about how certain website behaviors can lead to website penalties when in fact – they can’t or they don’t. This allows Google to dramatically reduce obstacles that would hinder the performance of their search engine – without having to actually do any expensive programming and testing. It’s actually a brilliant idea.

The above video, from Matt Cutts, is discussing a common technique called guest blogging.

Guest blogging
This is when a blog owner allows an outsider to post an article on their blog. Almost always, the author is allowed a byline and a link to their own website. Frequently, the content of the article also contains a link to partner website.

Guest blogging has been going on for many years. Lately, it has become popular for sites of poor quality to try and gain links – in order to rank better and attract more search engine traffic – by writing quality articles and hosting those quality articles on equally quality websites. You see, the problem with this technique is people that own quality websites will NOT purposely link to a spammy website. So, even if someone offers the world’s greatest copy the site owner would be a fool to use it if the article linked to a crap site.  But, any time there is a need being unfulfilled – a market will spring up to fill that void.

Filling a Market

Some enterprising webmasters have been frantically building out dozens or hundreds of blogs. The quality is just enough to avoid triggers that most search engines can automatically detect. These blogs are filled with unique content that the owners never wrote. Can you guess where they got the content? You got it… the owners of these blogs don’t care if they link to a spammy site. All they want to do is to build out a large blog as quick as possible with the intention to run advertisements or to sell the site.  So now we have people writing articles as fast as they can and people that will post those articles on their blogs or websites. It seems like a perfect match except that most spammers don’t want to take the time to write unique articles. Researching, writing, editing and posting a good article can take many hours. To get around this many spammers will write one article and then spin it – which creates many very similar copies of the same article. Each copy is just slightly different for another copy.

What is Spinning?

Spinning articles is done with software that can range in quality from clumsy to eloquent. The more expensive software generally produces the more sophisticated results. In a nutshell, the user of the software would import the article and identify words and phrases that should be spun. Once ready, the software, using a thesaurus and custom dictionary of phrases will swap out the words and phrases the user identified and save each new version. With a long article and a cleverly selected group of words and phrases the spinning program can crank out dozens of variations of the original article. Most of the articles will make sense when you read them, but usually they don’t sound right. They would never be considered well written by any stretch of the imagination.

Now, the spammer takes those copies and he can reach out to dozens of those blogs that were mentioned above – the kinds that accept links to spammy sites. Many of these blog owners don’t actually pay close attention to what they are posting and at a quick glance – the spun articles are “good enough”. Instead of writing a single article and posting it to a single blog the spammer can now write one article, spin it, and the post it to dozens of blogs. All this is done in basically the same amount of time it would take to do just one good article.

What’s Wrong with Matt’s Message?

The message from Matt Cutts was nothing new. As I have pointed out – spinning content and pushing it out as a guest post has never been guest blogging. Frankly, the person that asked the question in the video doesn’t have a clue when it comes to quality link development.

I am not sure if I have ever seen a quality website purposely link to a spam website. Sure, they may link to bad websites, but not spammy websites. The difference between a bad site and a spammy site will need to be addressed in another article (not spun).

Guest blogging is good for both the site that hosts the blog post and the receiving site IF THE ARTICLE IS TOPICAL. There is nothing inherently wrong with guest blogging. My last two guest blog posts were well researched, over 900 words long and provide value to all sites involved. It’s about providing relevant and useful information. This has never been spam.

The problem with Matt’s video is that many webmasters will not understand the difference between spinning spam content and hosting quality content. They will overreact and will stop guest blogging. This will slow down a lot of cross industry marketing and promotion. It’s not likely to slow down the spammers though – they will just keep on spamming. For the rest of us, we have to work harder.

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