Spam Outlook: Thev Next Six Months

Spam
Creative Commons License photo credit: buggolo

Spammers, much like a force of nature, are always seeking the path of least resistance and higher profit. Typically, they find it but not without speedbumps and dead ends along the way.

While this is frustrating in that it means that the spam situation is constantly changing, it does make it possible to predict, with at least a modest degree of certainty, what is coming next and what kinds of bloggers/Webmasters need to be on alert.

Though nearly every blog is subject to being scraped and republished at some point, especially as they gain traction and popularity, many bloggers attract more attention to themselves with their topics and keywords.

So what topics will spammers likely be targeting over the coming months? We are going to analyze seven key spam areas and look at their future, especially over the next couple of months.

Pharmaceuticals: Steady

The Viagra and Cialis spam in our inbox hasn’t slowed down one bit and it doesn’t seem likely to on the Web. Though there are very few bloggers that deal with these topics to scrape from, those who do will face a steady increase in the amount of scraping that they will see, not that they likely are not already inundated.

This is an area where the spam competition is the highest so the spammers have already begun to use a variety of techniques, something else that is likely to continue.

Gambling: Decline

It has been almost two years since the Internet gambling ban was passed in the United States but much of the effect is just now being felt. Affiliate cash is drying up and, with the negotiations to end the ban failing to produce results, spammers are increasingly walking away from this area.

The money simply is not there anymore and spammers know that. They’ve been shifting away for some time but now finally appear to be abandoning this area altogether.

Adult Content: Increase

The adult entertainment industry has been a constantly growing beast on the Web. With offline sales dropping many of the larger online players have been scrambling to get a foothold on the Web and are forced to compete with much smaller companies on the Internet.

The result is a lot of money up for grabs and stiff competition for it. This has given rise to very lucrative affiliate programs for everything from subscriptions to dating sites and many of those program managers are willing to turn a blind eye to spam if it results in sales.

As a result, sex bloggers and others in the adult field will likely be looking at a shaper increase in scraping than the rest of the Web.

Technology: Sharp Increase

Technology has always been one of the favorite topics of spammers, content to fill spam blogs can be found everywhere and tech sites are among those most likely to have full RSS feeds.

However, the tech industry itself is growing more lucrative. Spammers are starting to use Amazon and other affiliate programs as a means to profit from spam blogs and targeting on technology keywords is becoming more and more profitable.

Already sites that have previously ignored scraping are starting to take action and I expect this to be one of the largest areas of growth in the coming months.

Finance: Mixed

With the recent credit crisis and housing market collapse, the market for finance-related spam seems to have taken a sharp hit. Already, much of the annoying “refinance” ads are all-but gone and the spate of spam blogs that seemed to come with the craze are disappearing.

However, there appears to be a renewed push in other areas of finance. Spam blogs and sites that offer to improve your credit score, provide bankruptcy services or other tools commonly used during a credit crunch.

Spammers, in their extreme flexibility, seem prepared to make money from both sides of the financial crisis, something few actually in the finance industry will ever be able to do.

Political: Increase and Decrease

As one might expect, with the political campaigns in full swing in the United States, there will likely be a steep increase in the amount of scraping of political blogs and articles.

The reason is not to sell a specific product or service but because the search terms will be heavily favored and can be used to draw traffic for other reasons.

Once the interest has passed in November, the spam will likely start to decrease but the effect will not be immediate as many spam blogs will continue operation until they are shut down by other means.

Scams: Unclear

Though scams are routinely delivered to our inboxes via email, the scammers have not yet taken to the Web in full force. Though we’ve seen some lottery spam blogs and a few make money online sites that promote clearly untrustworthy services, the worst of the scammers seem to have remain email-online.

Any shift in this area in terms of content scraping is going to depend upon the scammers becoming more technically advanced and branching into new operations. This seems inevitable but has not happened yet, likely due to the fact most scammers operate out of countries without reliable Internet access.

It is unclear what, if anything, will happen on this front but it may be an area of spamming to watch out for.

Overall: Increase

The overall outlook for spam, barring some kind of major shift in the situation, is one of increased scraping and splogging with a greater diversification.

I fully expect to see more scraping in general and it to take place more broadly. Spammers are going to continue to grab new sites and target new topics in a bid to avoid search engine competition.

From the resolution standpoint, spammers will continue to move away from free hosts and into paid ones where they are better protected and will also move more and more overseas as practical.

For the most part, he climate is going to get more difficult for Webmasters and bloggers, at least for the foreseeable future.

Conclusions

It is kind of a strange twist that, when ever an industry starts to thrive, it then has to seriously worry about scraping and other content theft. Whenever it is going wrong, it becomes a problem they can worry less about.

In that regard, scraping may be a good worry to have as it might speak highly of the future of the blog. However, it is still one that has to be dealt with, lest it harm your ability to exploit the positive market.

This will be something to keep an eye on, especially as spam continues to evolve and grow, at least until counter-measures become more effective.

Credit: Spam stop sign (from home page) also by buggolo from Flickr and is used under a Creative Commons License.

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