I spend a large amount of my day looking at new blogs.
My Technorati and Google Blog Search feeds stream to me a great deal of posts about plagiarism, content theft and copyright infringement issues. However, a large percentage of those sites that come across my radar are discarded almost instantly because of the probability that they are spam blog.
Since I don’t want to comment on or provide traffic to a blog that is likely computer-generated, I click away from these sites as soon as I am reasonably assured they are junk.
However, this isn’t to say that I am perfect. I do, on occasion, mistake a spam blog for a real one but, as with junk email, the far more common mistake is mistaking a human-powered blog for being junk.
So, if you’re a human blogger and want tips to make your blog look less spam like, thus beating the scrapers and sploggers along the way, here are a few tips that I would offer for ensure you don’t wind up being discarded for being something you’re not.
1. Don’t Use Blogspot
Though I feel bad for the legitimate bloggers that use the service, the fact is that the signal to noise ratio at Blogspot remains very low. Over half of the blogs that I see from Blogspot in my RSS reader are spam, thus anything that I see carrying a Blogspot.com domain is immediately called into question.
Simply put, Blogspot has been the number one target for spam bloggers for a long, long time. Though many spam bloggers are moving to other services, usually creating their own domains and setting up their own servers, both the spam and the reputation will stay with Blogspot for a long time to come.
2. Don’t Use Default Themes
Most blogging services have a single default theme or, at the very least, a small set of them. However, they also offer you the chance to either change the theme out or customize it and make it your own.
Using a clearly stock theme sends up red flags. Very few bloggers like the default theme out of the box and most want to at least customize it. With thousands of pre-made, easily-installed themes available for you to use free, there is almost no reason to keep your default theme past the initial blog set up.
Giving your site a personal touch not only makes it a little bit more yours, but it also lets readers know, at a glance, that your site is operated by a human, not a machine.
3. Change Other Defaults
Though changing the template or theme of your site is extremely important, there are other defaults that have to be changed.
WordPress, for example, sets up a default blogroll, creates a “Hello World” post, defines a default user, inserts a generic tagline (Just Another WordPress Weblog) and a builds a meta section upon install. These are all things that should be changed as quickly as feasible.
Though many spammers change some of these elements, especially since the blogroll is now a common place for putting spam links, most fail to change all. Humans, however, typically catch these elements and try to change them to something a bit more suited to their site.
In short, the more elements on your site that one would consider “stock”, the more inclined I am to believe that your blog is actually junk.
4. Get a Good Domain
Good domains are hard to get, but not impossible. If you are going to get your own domain, it is worth taking a few moments to be creative and purchase a decent one for your site.
The key elements to remember are pretty simple. First don’t make the domain too long, especially with the intention of stuffing keywords, and avoid unusual extensions, especially .info and .ws as they are both primarily used by spam sites.
You might have to be creative and make sacrifices, but decent .com and .net domains are still available. If you can, it is much better to use them than to both punish your readers with long URLs and demean your own site.
Users and search engines alike favor better URLs that are unique and easy to remember.
5. Avoid Spam Keywords
Though it might not be possible if you’re creating a site about internet poker or online pharmacies, avoiding the unnecessary use of spam keywords is very important to not looking like a spam blog.
It is important to remember when naming your site that certain keywords create a knee-jerk reaction in both readers and search engines alike. To find out what those keywords are, just open up your spam folder and look at the junk that has been sent to you via email.
If you use these keywords in your name or link to other sites that have them in theirs, expect readers to mistrust your site and also expect search engines to keep away.
Some will wonder if, by posting this article, whether I might be helping the spam bloggers. The answer to that is probably not.
For the most part, these techniques are pretty obvious. Spam bloggers know that their sites look like spam and don’t particularly care. Whether they are trying to pump search engine rankings or encourage clicks on advertisements, spam bloggers don’t want visitors to stay long on their sites.
However, they do rely upon users not being able to easily distinguish between spam and ham. That confusion is aided, in no small part, by legitimate sites not making simple changes that clearly distinguish them as legitimate.
So while these techniques have been known to spammers for years, they have been able to largely ignore them because legitimate sites have ignored them as well.
Even if this is just an escalation of the spam wars, anything that can make spammers work harder and spend more time on their site is a good thing.
Because, even if it only takes them a few seconds to make the adjustments, that time adds up when you’re creating thousands of junk blogs.
The long and short of it is that work is the enemy of the spam blogger. The more we make them work, the harder it is for them to earn their profits. In the long run, that means fewer spam bloggers.
Besides, it is better for bloggers and visitors alike if legitimate sites are clearly marked as such. Not only does it make for a better user experience, but also for more of them.
It makes sense to take a moment and de-spam your site. The Web will thank you.
Way to prove my point. Look at this screenshot of the first trackback I received on this post. You can literally find every element above, save the BlogSpot step, broken in these two screenshots.
Here is the tail end of the URL to prove my point about the domain.