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  1. Kimota wrote on

    Not only do I agree wholeheartedly with every passionate point, it is a fantastic illustration of one of my major bugbears with the whole SEO industry. These arguments (that all SEO is about deception or gaming the system) seem to be so entrenched in many businesses that it becomes hard to convince clients that there is actually a better way.

    Once they see that there are shortcuts to be had, it becomes very difficult to convince someone of the merits of putting all the required effort and resources to make a website truly popular.

    But this is true of everything, not just SEO. Social media marketing is coming up against similar challenges as more and more businesses look for the systematic, cheap and quick ways to apparently game networks – instead of putting in the effort to actually build relationships.

    Agh – I can feel the need to pull out my own soapbox now… I feel your pain.

  2. Sarah Mitchell wrote on

    I agree with you, too. I’ve had this same conversation with clients myself and more often than I care to think about. As you point out, many of them are so sold on the technique, it can be hard to convince them there’s a better, more ethical way.

    One thing I always ask is why isn’t the content being distributed on their own website. If it’s good quality and relevant to their business – and therefor relevant to their SEO goals – it should be available for posting on their website, too. I’ve yet to find an SEO link farm, er service provider, produce the goods. I can almost guarantee the content is awful.

    Great post. I’m going to forward it to one of my tweeps who is convinced he’s on the right path by paying for this sort of service.

  3. Belinda wrote on

    And me. I suspect there will be many more!

    I think when businesses are new to the online world they can be sucked in by the Las Vegas style shinies of these ‘so-hot-right-now’ services. They are convinced that it’s all a black art, and bamboozled with jargon that sounds important.

    You can get me to number 1?! I’ve heard that’s a good thing. What do I have to do? Nothing? Brill. Where do I sign?

    Google knoooooows and if people spent their time and money on making their business credible and their content interesting, they’d get there anyway but with their online reputation intact.

  4. Gina Lofaro aka the wordmistress wrote on

    I’m all for keyword articles, PROVIDED they deliver genuine, useful, original content. I’ve written more than a thousand in my time, and in the early days, for way less than what they were worth as I was building my experience and my business. Spinning articles is cheap, nasty and in poor form, and I would never advocate that a client do this to their website readers.

    The very fact that the guy outsources his SEO work and really doesn’t understand it himself, shows that he too has been ‘spun’. Nothing good ever comes from a game of Chinese Whispers. The whole integrity of SEO is sullied when people believe what they hear, then misconstrue it, churn it up into something barely recognisable, and peddle it on to other unsuspecting suckers.

    I’m all for authenticity, in so many areas of business. I would be far less kind to someone who asked me to write about their business which promotes their, at best, dim understanding of SEO. Good for you, Glenn! And good for you for posting about it. Blasted snake oil salesmen!

  5. Julie Sweet wrote on

    i agree – such an interesting and great post. be genuine, be honest, be authentic, be transparent – it’s that simple and basic.

  6. Brusca wrote on

    I am experimenting with some colleagues on the subject of articles and spinning for the purpose of SEO gains. I have only just recently learnt about this and will be purely an experiment and carrying this out on a personal project and wouldn’t use it on client projects.

    I’m very interested to see the results first hand and the articles (as well as videos and podcasts) I am writing are on a niche that I am very passionate about so the content is well written and not outsourced, and I have a very good understanding of the subject matter.

    I am not sure if I would associate the word “spam” with article spinning. Perhaps it needs a new phrase to define this.

  7. Stacy Ranta wrote on

    Personally, I don’t like article spinning as a practice. 9 times out of 10, the source article is PLR crap or something that they don’t own the rights to (which means anything resulting from it is plagiarized). It’s like eating food someone else has chewed first.

    Because the writer is getting paid so little, most of them don’t bother to spend the time to do any kind of fact checking. So if there’s wrong information in the original article, it will get passed down. I’ve seen some atrociously wrong information out there.

    Ever seen what happens when you record a few generations of a VHS tape? Writing is the same way, IMHO.

  8. Paige Jeffrey wrote on

    Just to throw out this thought – doesn’t the word “optimization” imply that it’s improving upon something that’s already there? Somehow, the idea of article spinning doesn’t strike me as improving upon anything.

    Stacy – that VHS tape analogy was dead on! :) When you’re so worried about “not copying” what you’re trying to copy, you’re missing the underlying context, and chances are, it’s going to get watered down. And if you’re getting paid diddly-squat to churn out some words, you’re probably not going to bother doing the research either.

  9. Prepaid Plans wrote on

    Nice article and a very interesting topic. Running a website that relies on google traffic (90+% of traffic) inevitably leads you to consider ‘mimicking’ so that you can speed up the process and make more or some money.

    I don’t think it is right and I don’t think a good web site nor a good service sold via the web should rely on search engine traffic alone. It needs real, paid for marketing.

    I write all of my articles myself and I do do link building. Whenever I write on blogs like this one I always write something relevant so that I add to the conversation. I am selective about my conversations.

    When I had comments open on my own blog, it would frustrate the hell out of me when comments that would come in from largish companies where spammy, not adding to the conversation at all. I would reply telling them that they could advertise on the site if they liked, otherwise I would simply remove any links and edit the copy myself.

    In the end I removed the comments service all together.

  10. Glenn Murray wrote on

    Wow! Thanks guys. Good to see I’m not alone on this issue.

    @Brusca, what would you call it? I say if it looks like spam, smells like spam and tastes like spam, it’s spam…

    @Prepaid Plans, your approach to link building is right on target IMHO. Note however that most blogs use nofollow links in their comments. I do. This is the code of your link above: Prepaid Plans. That nofollow bit means the link doesn’t pass link juice from my site to yours. Also, blogs without comments are far less effective, generally. I always recommend my clients allow comments, but make links nofollow as discussed above, and that they also install the Akismet spam plugin for WordPress.

  11. Anthony Milner wrote on

    What a timely piece Glenn. I’ve spent the last fortnight trying to convince “business” people to avoid article spinning for all the reasons you mention. I eventually won the debate but wish Google provided more clarity and enforced their guidelines because their soft approach to spun content has fuelled its growth. There are countless SEOs both large and small that use this tecnique with reckless abandon. I’ll be quietly forwarding this link to the team with a big “see, I told ya so…even Glenn says so!” :-)

  12. Paul Mackenzie Ross wrote on

    Concurring with pretty much everything that’s been mentioned thus far I can only add that I’m almost embarrassed to hear your friend said the content was “written” by “2 Brits” as if that gave my nation a monopoly on ethical SEO.

    At USD300 (about GBP190, at the time of writing) that’s not even 4 hours work so it makes me wonder if these “2 Brits” in turn are outsourcing the job to yet another country.

    I read in a forum post the other day a rant from someone who paid a ridiculously small amount for “quality” SEO’d copy with the source being quoted as British and yet native-English speaking (Red flag!) – the client received some really poor quality copy and couldn’t believe it was written by someone with English as their native language.

    It just goes to show – you pay peanuts you get monkeys.

  13. Blair Keen wrote on

    I agree entirely with Paul’s response above – “you pay peanuts you get monkeys.”

    SEO is simply a supply and demand driven commodity like any other. Business owners want to be on page 1 of Google, and they don’t really care how it happens. What they do care about though, is how much it will cost them.

    Unfortunately, SMEs seem to be well aware of the out-sourcing that occurs in this industry, and are unwilling (or unable) to pay the hourly rate for a true-blue British product when they know how cheaply that could get it done offshore! This problem is made worse by the fact that direct marketing by Indian based SEO companies is at an all time high (at least it is here in the UK), and these guys will literally promise the world on a platter for loose change.

    So what’s the solution?

  14. Glenn Murray wrote on

    Great comments, guys. What’s the solution? I’m confident Google, itself, will provide the solution. It’s not in their interest to return crap results in the SERPs. Sure, they earn quite a bit of ad revenue from people who click through to crap sites, see some Google ads, and click on one, but they’d never rely on that. Searchers are looking for quality results in Google’s SERPs; if they find they’re getting rubbish, they’ll find another way. And if that happens, even the Google ads on crap sites will stop returning $.

    So Google will stamp out spun articles eventually. I have some theories on how that will happen. I’m convinced Google’s already developing smarts to identify the ACTUAL quality of content, just by reading it (i.e. not by relying on third party validation — i.e. links, etc.). I’ve spoken with information retrieval / SEO / advertising brain CJ Jenkins about this, too, and like me, she suspects it’s already in development.

    Also, eventually, clients themselves will begin to recognise the value (or lack thereof) in cheap spun SEO. Perhaps from the quality of the content, or perhaps from just the price. Just as no-one, these days, would expect a quality TVC for USD$300.

    In the meantime, we just need to keep delivering quality for the (increasing number of) clients who recognise it and are prepared to pay for it.

    It’s a much better job, after all…

    1. Richa Varma wrote on

      >>What’s the solution? I’m confident Google, itself, will provide the solution.<<

      It took them (Google) a while to catch up with your crystal ball… but finally, catch up they did, with panda, penguin, hummingbird etc. :-)

  15. Stefan Carey wrote on

    I think there is a point at which SEO optimisation becomes obfuscation. I have always railed against synthesising content and manipulation of social media, which I believe is little more than paid gossip, for the benefit of a piece of software instead of creating something useful for a human reader. Sure, there’s a good reason to analyse your SEO if your site can’t be found; but maybe that means your content was weak in the first place, or you don’t really understand your own business.

    I have seen another influence at work. It’s the PR/comms department who in 2010 still think marketing-brochure hype makes good web content. When the content fails, SEO is used more heavily. Quality content, that is, quality writing that really communicates, is seen as a luxury. I think it is basic need for the reader, like oxygen.

    Keep me awake with concrete information and less spiel. Communicate something useful interesting. Use a good argument to convince me to buy. Don’t drag me down into a coma with hype.

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  17. Julie wrote on

    Thanks for this article. I was trying to find a honest perspective on article spinning, but almost everything that comes up on Google is trying to sell you an article spinner. I am not going to lie, I thought about it just because sometimes I really need better words. But, then when I realized all the tweaking I’d have to do anyway to make it good…. anyhow, I think some things I will “outsource” but writing isn’t one of them – since that is something I am fairly good at! :) I think I will reference this article in my next blog! Thanks!!

  18. Glenn Murray wrote on

    Thanks Julie. You’re right. Re-purposing content is never a case of just tweaking. Not if you want the re-purposed content to add an new or different value anyway.

  19. Devin Miller wrote on

    Hi Glenn –

    Great, and important, post. I think it’s funny that Article Spinners would try to convince anyone that content made merely to trick search and not to inform readers, is anything other than “spam”. It seems so black-and-white to me. And article spinning sure makes my life a lot harder; I’m constantly explaining to clients why I don’t write “$12” SEO articles.

    Just by the very name “SEO Article”, they’re assuming that it’s a copy and pasted mess of keyphrase stuffing (and crazy enough, they’re ok with that!). When I explain that I charge the same price for an SEO article as an editorial article (because the skill, time and research that goes into them is exactly the same, except that SEO articles may take even longer – because I’m weaving important keyphrases skillfully throughout the copy) they run for the hills….or to the next article spinner.

    It’s certainly an important – and frustrating – topic that it seems we’re all dealing with too regularly. Signing a client who DOES understand the value of quality writing has become all the more gratifying. If only we didn’t have to convince the rest that organic search techniques are as good for a website as organic food is for the bod.

  20. Glenn (Owner) wrote on

    Hi Devin. Thanks for your considered comment. I agree wholeheartedly (no surprises there!). I don’t think it’s something we’ll have to worry about for that long, though. Maybe another couple of years, and it’ll all fizzle out.

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  22. Oana wrote on

    This post is right at the point.

    Google has such a complex SEO algorithm that it is silly for someone to think he could full it.
    I totally agree that one should search to come with new info and content that is really useful to readers. This is the best way to improve SEO.

    There are lots of freelance websites with providers looking for hundreds of posts on blogs in few hors up to a day or two. To get quality posts on varied topics in such a tight timeline makes it “almost” impossible.

    Nothing more to say as you Glenn covered it all :)


  23. Garrett wrote on

    Awesome post! That’s why I linked to it on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, MySpace, and a few other places as well. This article is a perfect example on how you get high quality, Google-approved back links; writing great, insightful, user-friendly content that people will take a second glance at and share with their network.

  24. Glenn (Owner) wrote on

    Thanks Garrett. You’re right. It all comes down to content quality…

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