Identifying and Fighting Content Spam

Content marketing is rapidly becoming a widespread method for marketers to reach their audience, and content spammers are taking advantage of this. The industry needs to find ways of identifying these bad actors and removing them from the market so good content remains at the forefront.

“Content Spam” is a term that describes the practice of sending out messages in bulk with the intention to attract attention. This content can be email or text-based, but can also be video and audio messages. The goal of the spam message is to get people to click on an advertisement, sign up for a newsletter or download an app. Read more in detail here: spam messages.

If your website’s rankings plummet, your site may lose a significant amount of exposure. This is the most common nightmare for internet marketers all over the world.

It’s more worse if you can’t figure out what’s causing it or if traditional SEO methods aren’t working. Evgeni Sereda (who will provide analysis and tools) and Ralf Seybold (who will give examples and defense) tackle a complex source of ranking losses in this article: content spam.

The purpose of this essay is to describe the situation as plainly as possible. The following real-life instances have been obscured or replaced.

What is Content Spam, exactly?

Material spam is the unintentional and unlawful use of content from one’s own website on third-party websites in conjunction with other content, resulting in a detrimental impact on the reputations of your brand and website. One of the strategies referred to as bad SEO is content spam.

Content Spam Affects Which Websites?

Strong websites in certain areas, such as ecommerce websites, are the primary targets of content spammers.

Spammers often utilize terms that get more than 500 monthly searches. To rank on the SERPs, content is stolen from targeted websites and published on other domains.

The stolen material is often reprinted on hacked pages whose owners are unaware that their websites are being abused.

What Are Some Ways to Spot Content Spam?

The first warning indicator is a drop in ranking; however, these drops might be caused by a variety of different circumstances. Before presuming that content spam is to fault, you should eliminate out these possibilities.

1. Examining Losses in Rankings

To begin, you may use Webinomy to see if any of our rivals have lost ranks or traffic. If they have, another unexpected Google update might be at blame. Typically, they have an impact on the whole industry.

Enter your and your rivals’ domains in the Domain Overview tool to see whether this is the case. To better notice outliers, go to the daily view.

Identifying-and-Fighting-Content-Spam

You may also use the Organic Research tool to see whether a Google upgrade has had an impact on your domain’s traffic.

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Unfortunately, traffic — and possibly revenue — will suffer as a result of ranking losses. As a result, many SEOs take frantic defense measures at this stage. Backlinks are purchased, content is added, new pages are posted, and technical SEO is adjusted. But what if none of these methods seem to be effective?

It’s highly probable that you won’t notice anything strange, either on your own website or on the websites of your rivals.

And it’s here that you’ll have to delve a little further. To do so, go to Organic Research’s Positions tab and choose either the brand keywords or the high-volume keywords that you rank highly for. This is a common trend you could notice:

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The top rankings vanish and are replaced with a lower-ranking URL. Instead of a brand’s homepage, a product page now takes its place — for the same term.

2. Conducting a website audit for SEO

If the root of the problem remains unknown, it’s time to do an SEO audit of your website, if you haven’t previously.

If you use Position Tracking to track ranks, you won’t notice anything unusual than the loss of rankings.

Even though Webinomy has the most powerful and quickest crawler, you won’t see any significant changes in your or your rivals’ backlink profiles in Backlink Analytics.

The Site Audit tool reports no new technical issues, and the Backlink Audit tool reveals no major rise in harmful domains.

So, what are our options?

1636671691_452_Identifying-and-Fighting-Content-Spam

With the passage of time, more and more ranks are impacted. 

1636671693_625_Identifying-and-Fighting-Content-SpamContent spam has resulted in even more ranking reductions.

Our tests show that the website is in excellent working order. There have been no hazardous backlinks established, and backlink development seems to be normal. Our opponents haven’t developed a lot of fresh, powerful backlinks, and their content hasn’t been optimized. Our website should be in good working order.

There hasn’t been any recent Google change that might have resulted in the loss of rankings. Many people are just now realizing — sometimes by accident — that their ranking issue is really a content spam issue.

3. SEO Analysis in 3 Steps to Narrow Down the Issue

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Before you consider content spam as the source of your issue, rule of thumb: rule out all other possible reasons. Also, don’t take drastic actions if the reason is yet unknown.

The following are the stages in a typical analysis:

  • Examining your own website
    1. Gains or losses in backlinks are examined.
    2. Audit of backlinks
  • Examining the competition
    1. Gains or losses in backlinks are examined.
    2. Content analysis of rivals
  • Examining your on-page and technical SEO
    1. Technical difficulties and a site audit
    2. Checking on the page (page titles, etc.)
  • Checking for Google updates is an exception.

Is Content Spam Affecting You?

Content spam may affect any website, from tiny affiliate sites to major market participants. A phishing scam that we identified in September 2019 tries to steal customers’ log-in details for a prominent SEO tool.

1636671697_55_Identifying-and-Fighting-Content-Spam

An unrelated domain was used to host a replica of the original website’s content, complete with the login option. The goal was to get users’ login credentials in order to obtain further information such as credit card or bank account information.

These begs the question: how can sites like this score highly in search engine results pages?

Google’s Methods for Detecting Duplicate Content

Google is adept at spotting duplicate material and determining which sites it originally appeared on. 

So, why do so many spam sites appear in search results? Take a look at what Google’s John Mueller had to say:

Even though we know which is the original and which is the copy, it’s occasionally useful to display a copy in the search results… And one of the scenarios where I’ve seen this happen on a regular basis is when a website is of poorer overall quality, and our systems say, “Well, we can’t really trust this website.” If, on the other hand, a higher-quality website took some of this stuff and published it, we’d say, “Well, we know more about this website, and maybe we should display this content in the search results.”

— Google Webtrends Analyst John Mueller, June 2021

Google argues that duplicated material should sometimes appear in search results, and that it may even perform better on someone else’s domain than it does on the original. Mueller’s argument is limited to high-quality sites that are well-known to Google.

Despite the spam upgrades that were carried out in June and July of 2021, we can’t help but believe that Google prefers spam sites over originals when we look at many of the websites we encounter in search results every day.

A comparison using a search query with a clear purchase intent demonstrates how search engines handle spam.

For this comparison, we used Google and Bing to look for an Apple iPhone at a nearby store.

1636671700_717_Identifying-and-Fighting-Content-SpamSpam in the search results

The first spam page appeared on page 12 of Bing’s search results, whereas the first spam item came on page 13 of Google’s search results (page 2 of search results).

Spam seems to be far more widespread in Google than in Bing, based on this sample.

We can also observe that duplicated information on a third-party site may rank higher in Google than the original:

1636671702_415_Identifying-and-Fighting-Content-Spam

Consider the following scenario: one website belongs to a local craftsman. The other belongs to a firm that purports to provide similar services. However, calls to the provided phone number go unanswered, and the actual location does not seem to exist. You may only contact me through email.

It’s important to judge for yourself who is the better qualified artisan.

Original Content is Multiplied in Content Spam

Through copies — in this instance, 5,260 of them — original material becomes duplicate content. In Google’s eyes, this degrades the authority of the original site as well as the text quality. As a result, even the original page has a lower ranking.

This is due to the fact that the original site has less backlinks and is much smaller. The company’s individual pages are also smaller, since it provides a local service (“Electrician Berlin”), but the copied version aspires for a nationwide rating, as John Mueller noted.

Is this, however, correct?

The increase in the quantity of keywords is readily seen in Webinomy. With both low and high-volume keywords, the material appears in search results.

For example, it ranks 6th in the country for a term that receives 1,300 monthly searches (“elektriker notdienst,” which means “electrician emergency service”).

1636671704_845_Identifying-and-Fighting-Content-Spam

In Google, rankings this high may be achieved by plagiarism. To be sure, pirated material fared better in Germany’s overall rankings.

On Content Spam Sites, How Is Stolen Content Used?

Plagiarism is utilized for more than just putting spammers’ websites or offers in search results. For fast SEO gains, they often publish snippets of stolen material on social media networks. Backlinks on social media accompanying well-known, relevant text content referring to entirely distinct sites are used as a simple strategy to improve these domains.

1636671706_115_Identifying-and-Fighting-Content-SpamFacebook content spam

To improve one’s own material, whole lines from third-party content are uploaded on Facebook. Text material from a top-ranking site appears on a competitor’s Facebook profile in the example above.

This occurs because adorning oneself with stolen feathers is simple and fast. To improve one’s own reputation, proven text material that is already ranking is utilised. Individual sentences are not covered by German copyright law. They aren’t long enough to pursue legal action against their improper usage.

When confronted, the perpetrators generally delete the messages immediately – more quicker if a lawyer is involved.

Spammers often believe they are tough to locate.

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Every day, the seasoned professionals working on our project ” OnlySpams.expert by Seybold” search out and eliminate offenses just like this one.

On the website above, for example, we discovered 17 percent pirated material. That may not seem like a lot, but 17 percent of a 10,000-word piece represents 1,700 stolen words.

1636671710_412_Identifying-and-Fighting-Content-SpamOn a website, 17 percent of the material was taken.

How are the Attacks Executed?

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Content spam assaults are often delivered in automated waves that span around a month. An agency website that ranked in the top five for the term “SEO Agentur Stuttgart” (“SEO Agency Stuttgart”) was attacked in the example above.

It began in December with a DDoS (disrupted denial-of-service) assault intended to bring the target website to a halt. A content spam assault started at the same time.

Copied material from the agency website was found on a slew of hacked websites, along with phishing efforts and the like, resulting in a drop in rankings. Existing backlinks kept the worst from happening at first, but ultimately the material had to be totally changed.

The additional material was quickly included into a second and third round of attacks.

Regardless of how often Google is chastised, the search engine quickly restores ranks when material is altered. As search positions recover, however, new assaults are frequently launched right after.

After a webspam complaint is made to Google, the attackers’ websites may be removed from the index, and rankings may recover. Under ongoing assaults, a comprehensive recovery, such as recovering an online store’s top ranks, might take up to 7 months and need significant SEO expertise.

What Type of Website Does Stolen Content Go On?

Foreign domains, or sites that do not function in the nation of the real content owner, are often utilized in addition to famous websites such as Blogspot and WordPress or prominent Google subsidiary sites. To upload their stolen material, the spammers behind these websites seek to hack or hijack Google Search Console.

1636671715_34_Identifying-and-Fighting-Content-SpamUsing Google Search Console to launch a content spam campaign

The sitemap is used to import 1.7 million websites, 1.5 million photos, and other data into the hijacked Search Console. The compromised page was accessed via a WordPress vulnerability in this scenario. When a website is hacked, a massive proliferation of subpages ensues. The Google results for a modest pipe cleaning website that is delivering serious malware assaults on compromised websites are seen in the example above.

Obscure character strings in directory names (e.g. domain.xxxxx/5tG423/name.html) virtually invariably identify compromised websites. Some spammers hide their identities by securing their domains using Cloudflare (a website security provider). In this instance, reporting their assaults to Cloudflare may frequently halt them, at least temporarily.

1636671717_396_Identifying-and-Fighting-Content-SpamDetecting spammy content

Once hackers have acquired control of a website, they prefer to look after it well so that it may be utilized for many more assaults as long as it is under their control.

The following sample exhibits the usage of stolen material as well as connections to a notebook shop and a learning institution.

1636671719_170_Identifying-and-Fighting-Content-Spam

Web pages frequently seem to the Google bot differently than they do to the human. Target pages are created with the intent of deceiving search engines. Real users are routed — either to malware downloads or to phishing sites — while Google sees the text information as described above.

Usually, the owner is unaware that their sites have been stolen. They’re just perplexed as to why they’re no longer receiving top ranks.

How Professionally are the Assaults Executed?

1636671721_778_Identifying-and-Fighting-Content-SpamMore content spam instances

Content spam assaults are skillfully and successfully carried out. While no one is fooled by the “billionth searcher” ruse (seen on the left), the Amazon coupon is much more appealing when presented in a credible manner. In return for personal information, the landing page requests permission to deliver push alerts to the winner. The plans are really professional.

Hijacked websites all around the globe are swiftly indexed and given ranks for a variety of keywords.

Using the Organic Research feature in Webinomy, you can simply check for this.

1636671724_327_Identifying-and-Fighting-Content-SpamIn Organic Research, we’re looking for content spam.

Website subdirectories are swiftly indexed and ranked in search results. The half-life of such information is generally brief, as seen in the screenshot, and these sites vanish from search results within a few months.

This is due to the fact that they are reported. A reported page, on the other hand, may be quickly replaced by a slew of new ones.

How Do I Contact Google About Spam?

A lot of reporting to Google is necessary to take action against content theft and spam. It takes a long time to find all of the spam sites, and each one must be reported.

As a result, spam prevention is difficult to implement and costly in terms of both time and money.

For reporting spam websites, Google has a dedicated form.

1636671726_835_Identifying-and-Fighting-Content-Spam

It is preferable to complete the report in English so that it may be processed quickly.

Explain briefly why the website should be classed as spam while filling out the form. Consider the following scenario: “The content was stolen from the original Page xxxxx. The value of a spam website is negligible “..

You may report phishing assaults to Google Safe Browsing if the spam site is distributing malware or attempting to steal data.

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If you’re creating these reports for consumers rather than your own website, you should take care and professionalism. Unfortunately, since it cannot be automated, this takes a long time.

Our reports include both descriptive text paragraphs and thorough information on important pages and countermeasures with execution dates.

1636671731_447_Identifying-and-Fighting-Content-SpamReporting on content spam countermeasures in great detail

Important Points to Remember

Following are some key points to remember when it comes to content spam, based on the instances and experiences shown above:

  • Negative SEO, phishing, malware, and content spam are often employed in tandem.
  • It takes time to find and remove content theft and spam.
  • Without paid tools, you won’t be able to perform it successfully.
  • Due to the overwhelming amount of spam, manual reporting is frequently difficult.
  • To rule out unrelated concerns, site audits and different reports are frequently required.
  • It is possible to recover in a short period of time.

Despite the fact that content spam and poor SEO are on the rise year after year, the good news is that you can fight back. The tools provided by Google for this purpose are basic yet useful.

This article’s material may assist anybody in defending against content spam assaults, but it comes at a cost in terms of both time and money.

Everyone must choose whether or not employing a professional service to assist them is a worthwhile investment.

The table below summarizes the differences between doing so and taking care of it yourself.

  Service that is professional

Manual

Webspam was discovered.

A lot

A little

Reporting Spam

Fast

One by one, one by one, one by one, one by one, one by one

Reporting to Customers

Easy

Messages to individuals

Textual changes are necessary.

Changing paragraphs in the text

Changing the full text content is recommended.

Since 2014, Ralf Seybold has been aggressively removing bad SEO and content theft for clients of all sizes and sectors. 

Watch This Video-

“Spamming examples” is an article that discusses the different types of spam. The article also includes some examples. Reference: spamming examples.

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