Inbound links that point to your blog are liquid gold on the Internet. The more links you have, the better for your page rank and so-called authority. But some links aren’t worth having, in my mind.
Curious souls that we are, Harry and I always head over to visit the blogs that link to us. We like to see what the post brings up and why the author linked to our blog – and how. We thank the blogger and sometimes contribute to the discussion.
Recently, though, I’ve been getting lots of link love that I don’t want.
Spam blogs are scraping a few paragraphs from our RSS feed and reposting the content on their site. Nothing new there; content theft is a fairly common issue on the Internet.
We deal. We don’t freak out, shut down our blog with chains, locks and bulldogs. We don’t cut off our readers to fight content theft. We fight it by showing thieves they haven’t held us back at all – we operate normally. All systems go.
Lately, we’ve found some odd types of spam in our filters. We receive notice of inbound links – that liquid gold – pointing straight to our site. So we hop on over, and find ourselves reading our own work on a camera site, or a Christian site, or a site about dogs. Spam blogs.
Odd. What’s even odder is that the posts point right back to our site. Huh? Scrapers are giving us link love?
I contacted Jonathan Bailey of Plagiarism Today with some questions. He’s a really great guy and smart as a whip about plagiarism, copyright issues, content theft and more. He even knew what was going on in Canada, which is more than I can say for many people out there.
I wanted to have a better understanding of what was going on and how concerned I should be about the spam blogs and linking. This kind of content theft was unfamiliar to me. Jonathan’s explanation was interesting – and concerning:
The reason is two-fold. First, they’re hoping to avoid any copyright disputes. By taking only a few paragraphs and providing attribution, they’re hoping that bloggers, such as yourself, won’t push the issue or won’t have a case.
Second, they’re hoping to trick the search engines since this is a way to display duplicate content without taking the usual penalty.
Jonathan brought up the real moral issue of the matter:
Most bloggers are so link hungry that they will go along with it and many feel that the inbound links are worth putting up with the spam. Of course, the problem is that for the links to count the sites have to be indexed in the search engines and, if that happens, they are competing for the exact same terms you are, but with greater concentration.
Basically, it is like someone ripping your arm off and beating you over the head with it but you allow it because they also shook your hand.
I find it incredibly sad that many bloggers are probably going to allow these links to point to their site. I was tempted to let them go myself – we lost the PR 4 we had before we moved domains. We’re working to rebuild it, but it’s slow, hard work to get natural links.
However, Harry and I have high standards of business ethics. We operate with strong morals and we apply our values. We want to earn our reward the proper way – with integrity and honor.
Unfortunately, not everyone upholds the same principles we do. Plenty of people just want money. They want to take advantage of others. They don’t care how they get their fame and riches. They just want it. Period.
So they slap up a blog and pull their schemes off. Some blogs are absolute crap. Some are new blogs struggling to get readers. Some just have bad content. Link love, no matter where it comes from, could look pretty good to someone like that.
I’ve also learned that plenty of people carry the piss-poor attitude of saying, “If it isn’t affecting you, why should you care?”
Well, I do care. I don’t want these links. I want to earn my reputation, not barter it with shady deals. I don’t want scrapers to tempt me with a Pandora’s box – I can find my own temptations, thanks.
Here is how Jonathan suggested handling the issue of getting rid of spam blogs that link to you:
Visit www.whois.net or www.whoishostingthis.com Type in the URL of the spam blog and see if you can find the host of the site.
Visit the host’s website and report the blog as a spam blog. Most hosts have abuse policies and honor them.
Avoid the whole scraped content and copyright issue during this first contact. Most hosts will remove the spam blog and that’s that. If you mention copyright issues, the hosts may start asking for DMCA forms and backup, and that tosses the headache back in your court.
If the host doesn’t remove the blog, you need to decide whether you feel strongly enough to file a DMCA and fight for your rights or let it go. There is plenty of information on DMCA forms and how to go about filing them on Jonathan’s site, so I won’t repeat a how-to here.
I’ve composed a template letter that I’ve already started to use. It’s just a quick form that says I’ve found a spam blog and that provides the host with the URL. I mention that I know the host has abuse policies and that I hope they remove the blog in question. I also ask them to let me know, and I sign off.
That’s it. That’s all that’s needed. Now we wait and see if I get any results from the letters I’ve sent and the reports I’ve filed.
But the bigger question is… Would you let someone shake your hand while they beat you over the head with your arm?