Beware of Spammers in Capitalist's Clothing

Time for a little rant.

I’ve been researching Google’s initiative to crack-down on websites selling and buying paid links. I’ve let myself get a bit riled-up as I’ve re-discovered the following:

  1. Too many people still think Capitalism is somehow inherently evil
  2. Some usually bright people have an amazingly hard time distinguishing between spam and good content

I’m not going to spend a lot of time on why Capitalism is not inherently bad. Go read Mike Mann’s book on making change—it’s a free book (making it appealing even to anti-capitalists).

On point number two I’ll voice a few more thoughts. Aaron Wall wrote an insightful post on new link strategies that people have employed to avoid having to purchase links outright. Some of the comments to that post just about killed me.

One comment reads, “It can’t be long until Google starts detecting these types of strategies.” An astute retort followed shortly, “Never going to happen. What is there to detect? Good content written by an author who writes about the field? Sorry, writing guest posts/content is as legitimate as it gets.”

After reading so many on similar blog posts, I got the feeling that there are many people out there who must have been bitten so many times by the spam bug that they can no longer see the difference between junk and good content.

What do people expect? Should Google be penalizing online newspapers because their journalists get paid to produce the content? Should Google ban their own site for offering up paid listings?

I think some people have this idea that any website actively trying to get links, traffic, or any other type of attention is spam, or at least in the same category. They think that any site attempting to draw traffic must be doing so surreptitiously, or behind some clandestine operation. No so! These are surely the same people who think Wikipedia would turn to the dark side by posting ads on the site. I’ve got news for you people; most of the sites you read that have content worth reading exist because someone is getting paid (refer to the link to Mike Mann’s book above).

The difference between spam and good content lies in context and relevance—two things that these spam crying scuttlebutts should be able to determine. Google doesn’t claim any artificial intelligence and they seem to be able to do a good job most of the time.

Don’t get me wrong, I hate spam too. But you need to know the difference. Here is a very succinct and simple way to distinguish spam from quality content for those of you who have a hard time telling he difference: spam will always appear unsolicited and out of context. Both attributes must accompany any content for it to be categorized as spam. If you have a site that has relevant content about a particular subject and it is accompanied by pertinent ads, you are not looking at spam. Read this entry by Matt Cutts for other good insights.

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1 Comment

  1. Adam says

    YES YES and YES. I am simply standing on my chair screaming YES to this post…

    To me – The term SPAM applied to websites is like “the war on drugs.” It’s a campaign without specific or measurable objectives. I don’t mean on the surface, I mean down deep in the implementation. Therefore, the type of escalation and definition expansion that you have observed is simply inevitable.

    In my opinion, the ISSUE is very real. But the label is completely wrong. SPAM is a term that has a clear definition, and it’s related to email. To generalize broadly to any website you may not like is really dangerous.

    I like your definition of “unsolicited and out of context.” But by that definition posters pasted on bus-stop walls or in the Men’s room are SPAM. People leaving little pamphlets on my car windshield while I’m in the supermarket is SPAM. But it’s not. It something else.

    I think what people really mean by the miss-used term web spam is “overly promoted crappy websites that I don’t like.”

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