Recently I had to investigate a couple of article submissions here at Performancing. They smelt wrong, so I did the sensible thing and poked them with a stick to see if there really was something amiss. Im going to tell you why you need to check user contributed articles, and give you 5 easy steps to help you make the call.
Before we get into HOW, let’s just talk about WHY…
As a publisher, what goes out on your blog is your responsibility. Content does not necessarily have to be original, or even well written, (there is a lot of value in some aggregation and not everyone writes brilliantly) but you DO have a responsibility to your readers to not fill them full of shit. And it’s the kind of mind numbingly dreadful, regurgitated content that content spammers want to foist on you and your readers that you, as a responsible publisher have a duty to identify, and kill before it hits your RSS.
5 Steps For Checking User Submitted Posts
If you get that “somethings not right” feeling when reviewing a user submission, look for these tell-tale signs of content spamming.
1. Are the linebreaks out sync?
You can often see if an post has been cut and pasted rather than typed into your form by looking at the linebreaks. Most blog software automatically puts
tags on new lines for you, and if the article is breaking in the wrong places, its a good indication that further investigation is required.
There are a number of legitimate reasons why this might happen, so its by no means conclusive by itself.
2. Has it been submitted elsewhere?
Here’s a neat Search trick: take a 5 or 6 word fragment from the article (one without punctuation preferably) and enter it into Google like this:
"this sentence was taken from the article" include the quotes.
Pick something as unique as possible. If the article has been submitted to a ton of places already, and Google has had chance to index them, it’ll showup in the results.
If it does, then also take a look at where it’s been submitted. Are those good sites? Or are they spammy article syndication schemes?
Tip: If you get results in your search, hit the ” repeat the search with the omitted results included” link at the bottom of the page — Google doesn’t like duplicate content much, so filters it out. If you find a ton of filtered stuff, it’s even worse than you thought.
3. Is there an obvious promotional angle?
With my recent investigation, there was a link and piece of promo text just screaming out at me. It stuck out like a sore thumb and looked to be the sole point of the article — to promote this service. Sometime’s that’s ok, but often it’s not, it’s a judgement call you need to make in combination with other factors.
You can check this with another Search trick. Enter this in Google:
"Author Name" "linktext of service" — In my case I hit the jackpot.
4. Are there affiliate links embedded in the content?
One sure sign of undesirable content is having the authors affiliate id appended to urls in her links. If the links seem to contain codes/id’s where you wouldn’t really need them to reach the page linked to, then that could be the entire purpose of the submission. Motive doesn’t mean the article is bad quality necessarily, but 9 times out of 10, if you find affiliate links, you’ll find multiple submissions aswell.
5. Is it just wrong?
In some years of working with online communities, i’ve learnt to just trust my instincts sometimes. Occasionally something just feels all wrong, though you can’t put your finger on why. This isn’t usually the best reason to take action, but sometimes you just have to trust that your brain is processing stuff and reaching a conclusion without necessarily bothering you with the details….
I’ve been seeing more and more of this type of thing over the last few months, particularly from those touting promotional services. If you have any thoughts on this, or any other good means ot spot dodgy posts i’d love ot hear them.
It’s unfortunate that we have to even be aware of this stuff, but as publishers we do, because as i said earlier, if it’s your blog, it’s your responsibility.
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Yeah, how does a blog editor possibly keep up with everything? I’m writing by request for several blogs, and in researching the sub-blogosphere for one of the topics, found that everyone links to everyone and quotes each other. Which came first?
I certainly have, and I like it. But i find when your articles are syndicated in full or part via your RSS feed it’s not that useful. So rarely use it these days.
Have you tried copyscape.com?
I would say the above also counts for if someone emails you asking for you to comment on or link to their blog post, these kind of “link exchanges” sucker even some of the most well thought of bloggers.