This is a bit of a rant against a certain type of SEO spam that I’ve recently come across. A big client of mine had a whole subsite full of the sort of spam I’ll be describing below, and I had to fight hard to get it removed. It was sold to my client by a third party company under the pretence of “locally relevant search engine worthy content”.
According to this third party company’s website they are “helping businesses find local customers through targeted online advertising.” Nothing wrong with that, at first glance…
But what this company actually sells is the following: they build you a subsite filled with content they acquire from external publishers, and adapt the content and internal link structure to target your local markets (i.e. ‘article spinning’).
This content is all duplicated content. It’s been published online elsewhere. Sure, pretty much all articles contain a link back to the original source, but you have to wonder what value a search engine would see in a subsite where every single article is duplicated, not just once but many times over for each of the company’s customers.
The content is also modified to include local references. Sometimes its complemented with lists of local business addresses associated with the topic of the content in some way (electronics companies for example on content about digital cameras), probably to make the article appear more locally relevant. Mostly though it’s simply the name of a town or city appended to the article link and headline, which leads to some pretty stupid results: “SpinVox BlackBerry Voice-to-Screen Review Belfast”.
I suppose in many cases one could theoretically interpret this as a headline advertising an item for sale in Belfast, but of course the content under that headline contains nothing of the sort. It’s just rehashed content from another site with the “Belfast” name thrown in.
On top of this each and every page provided by this company is crammed full of ads. Any given page contains at least 12 ads. Interestingly these are all Google Adsense ads.
Click here for an example of the final result. What we have here is unoriginal, multi-duplicate content that is ‘optimised’ for local SEO through an automated process, complemented with tons of advertising. In other words, it’s search engine spam.
This sort of content goes against almost every Google webmaster guideline. In fact, Google actively discourages this sort of practice and isn’t beyond penalising sites that involve themselves with this type of spam.
Of course the company in question doesn’t acknowledge anything wrong with its business model. After I complained about the company’s content on a subdomain of my client, which I felt was actively harmful to the site’s reputation, I was forwarded this response from one of their employees: “Obviously we wouldn’t agree that the model we operate ‘is actively harmful’ to your own site. We run a successful business model, and have done for over 5 years in the US, and have seen no such detrimental effect to any of our partners.”
I can’t tell if this guy is deliberately lying here, or if he genuinely believes his company’s business practices are perfectly acceptable and doesn’t harm the websites it’s associated with. So he’s either a deliberate scammer or just painfully ignorant. I’m not sure which is worse.
I’ve repeatedly complained about this spammy content being associated with my client’s website (I suspect the relatively low PR4 of their site is at least partially due to this search engine spam), and despite the fact that traffic on these spam pages was almost non-existent and the revenue the client got out of it was measured in measly tens of pounds per month, it still took a blog post from a SEO-savvy reader to make the rounds at the client’s office to finally get the content removed. Just goes to show, HiPPOs respond best to external pressures.
So there you have it. This company, knowingly or otherwise, sells search engine spam to hapless websites which might get those sites penalised. My question to you is: should I reveal the name of this company to the public, or are the examples I provided sufficient to point them out? Do we want to make this a public naming & shaming?
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the author and not necessarily State of Search.Posted in Local Search | Tags: content, Local Search, SEO, spam