Spam Blogs and AdSense Dollars

Jamie Spencer is an attorney from Austin, TX who recently discovered that one of her blogs was being scraped heavily by spammers.

However, unlike most victims of scraping, she knew exactly why her blog was being targeted heavily, she had recently read an article about the highest-paying AdSense keywords and knew that “Austin DWI” was commanding, at that time, well over $80.00 per click.

The results were predictable. As the term rocketed up in value, scrapers and other spam bloggers settled in to try and lure visitors for lucrative clicks and, along the way, ended up grabbing her keyword-rich content.

Her story illustrates a strange problem when dealing with spam blogs, that it is impossible to predict exactly where and what they will seize upon. They are, like anything else on the Web, highly prone to trends and changes in the climate making it virtually impossible to guess what will and will not be targeted tomorrow.

EBay on Steroids

According to Spencer, the spike in the price of the keyword was caused by a “bidding war” between attorneys in the Austin area. Since many lawyers in the region use Google to promote and they each wanted to be number one in the bidding, like any other online auction, they kept raising the price for the keyword until the cost they paid was far higher than what the term was actually worth.

The keyword, according to CyberWire, has come down in price, to approximately $55, still well above the average keyword cost and still in the top twenty.

However, these kinds of bidding wars can happen anywhere to almost any keyword. All that it takes is for two or three well-financed advertisers to seek out the top spot and keep trumping one another until they drive the price up past what the keyword is worth.

Though these bidding wars usually flare up and flame out quickly, they can last more than long enough for spammers to target the term and start scraping related content. This means that, if you happen to have a blog or site in the area, while your AdSense revenue may go up if you run ads, your content is likely to be scraped and reposted much more than usual, putting your search engine ranking in jeopardy.

The end result, your site can, almost overnight, go from experiencing only a minimal amount of content theft to being a prime target.

All it takes is a bidding war between a couple of advertisers in your field.

The Good News

Fortunately, while these bidding wars seem to be fairly common, they rarely lead to increased scraping.

The first reason for that is that the bidding rarely reaches heights that would attract the attention of scrapers. Though a leap in price from one dollar to four dollars per click might quadruple your AdSense revenue while the bidding war is going on, it will not attract many new spammers as there are still many keywords that are much more valuable.

The second reason is that spammers do not base their decision on what to target by keyword cost alone. If you look at the list of most expensive keywords, you see that the vast majority are for attorneys. But while spam about legal issues is present and common, it pales in comparison to gambling, pornography and other traditional spam targets.

The reason for this is that high-paying keywords are worthless if the terms are not regularly searched for and visitors are not likely to click the ads. A spammer can make more money off of fifty $2 clicks than just one $80 click.

The keywords that spammers target will have a balance between price, search frequency and click ratio. A bidding war may motivate spammers to target a borderline term they wouldn’t have otherwise, but only in the most extreme conditions would cause them to take heavy interest in a keyword that was, previously, completely ignored.

Conclusions

The bottom line for bloggers is three-fold.

  1. All Blogs are Scraped: All blogs, regardless of their content and popularity, are going to be scraped at some point. It is an inevitability.
  2. Some Blogs Will Be Targeted: Some blogs, such as those in traditional spam fields, will be heavily targeted as their content is more appealing. They may see many times the scraping of blogs in other fields.
  3. Price Fluctuations Can Impact Scraping: Finally, price fluctions, both up and down, can impact the amount of scraping your site sees. Though the price is not the primary determiner of whether your blog will be targeted or not, it can cause problems in some circumstances.

As a Webmaster, even if you do not advertise, you should probably be at least somewhat aware of the value of your keywords and at least understand if they would pay well or not. Doing so may not help you prevent scraping but it at least gives you an idea of how much you should be on the lookout for it and how much time you should dedicate to it.

After all, knowing your enemy is half the battle and there is no better way to understand how they might respond than by knowing what they want and how they plan to obtain it from you…

7 Responses to Spam Blogs and AdSense Dollars

  1. I've noticed sploggers follow some sort of plan. Back when everyone and their dog had an SEO blog there were many more SEO splogs than before, and now that the whole SEO market is cooling down a bit I've been seeing less and less of those splogs (at least compared to the total # of splogs). Same with mesothelioma, vacation packages, gambling, etc. It seems like the hot markets that affiliate marketers and make-money bloggers are in the sploggers soon join. I wouldn't be surprised if they have programs that follow google trends and technorati.But even though I think they follow trends, they are also pretty random. Sometimes it seems like they use a random market picker to pick what their next splog will be about.

  2. I’ve noticed sploggers follow some sort of plan. Back when everyone and their dog had an SEO blog there were many more SEO splogs than before, and now that the whole SEO market is cooling down a bit I’ve been seeing less and less of those splogs (at least compared to the total # of splogs). Same with mesothelioma, vacation packages, gambling, etc. It seems like the hot markets that affiliate marketers and make-money bloggers are in the sploggers soon join. I wouldn’t be surprised if they have programs that follow google trends and technorati.

    But even though I think they follow trends, they are also pretty random. Sometimes it seems like they use a random market picker to pick what their next splog will be about.

  3. Jeremy: It would be frightening to me if there is a program that can track trends, create spam blogs for those trends and then reap the profits from those blogs automatically. It would also be tempting to just about anyone with a beating heart because all you'd have to do is sit back, turn on the machine and print money.

    I'd imagine something to that effect does exist, but I doubt it is anywhere near as simple as I just put it, probably requires much more human interaction. That being said, it's not as much human interaction as creating 10,000 blogs by hand…

    You are also right that they are still pretty random. There's a trade off between targeting high value but highly competitive keywords and low value but under-represented keywords.

    Spam bloggers, with their automated tools, can do more on the "long tail" than just about any of us mere mortals. They don't just grab a niche on the tail, they cover the whole thing.

    Makes for some pretty strange spam blogs though…

  4. Jeremy: It would be frightening to me if there is a program that can track trends, create spam blogs for those trends and then reap the profits from those blogs automatically. It would also be tempting to just about anyone with a beating heart because all you'd have to do is sit back, turn on the machine and print money.I'd imagine something to that effect does exist, but I doubt it is anywhere near as simple as I just put it, probably requires much more human interaction. That being said, it's not as much human interaction as creating 10,000 blogs by hand…You are also right that they are still pretty random. There's a trade off between targeting high value but highly competitive keywords and low value but under-represented keywords. Spam bloggers, with their automated tools, can do more on the "long tail" than just about any of us mere mortals. They don't just grab a niche on the tail, they cover the whole thing.Makes for some pretty strange spam blogs though…

  5. Jeremy: It would be frightening to me if there is a program that can track trends, create spam blogs for those trends and then reap the profits from those blogs automatically. It would also be tempting to just about anyone with a beating heart because all you'd have to do is sit back, turn on the machine and print money.I'd imagine something to that effect does exist, but I doubt it is anywhere near as simple as I just put it, probably requires much more human interaction. That being said, it's not as much human interaction as creating 10,000 blogs by hand…You are also right that they are still pretty random. There's a trade off between targeting high value but highly competitive keywords and low value but under-represented keywords. Spam bloggers, with their automated tools, can do more on the "long tail" than just about any of us mere mortals. They don't just grab a niche on the tail, they cover the whole thing.Makes for some pretty strange spam blogs though…

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