SEO Spammers: Leave Social Media Sites Alone!

Spam 2.0You’ve seen them before.  They create accounts that have either a gibberish name or “SEOSuperstud”.  No avatar, or one that is their company logo.  They might have lots of people befriended.  They may have none.

They always submit.  They never vote/Digg/upmod anyone else’s submissions.  Their submissions get 1 or fewer votes (unless they are a MASS – a Multi-Account-SEO-Spammer, in which case they will have more than one, but it will always be the same amount and always voted by the same “people”).

They submit stories or websites that nobody from social media visits or votes for, and they don’t care.  They are the social media SEO Spammers.  If nobody clicks on their link, no worries.  The only visit they care about is from Googlebots, and sadly (in some cases) Google will visit and take note of the website.

We wanted to make a video spoof on the “Leave Britney Alone” theme, but neither Chris Crocker nor Seth Green were available.  Instead, we’ll just put together a nice little rant about why Reddit, Propeller, Newsvine, Mixx, StumbleUpon, Sphinn, Digg, and the others are not communities tolerant of spammers.  More importantly, we’ll offer ways to combat the issue.  Read on.

For those unfamiliar about how Search Engine Optimization works, here is the one basic premise that draws SEO Spammers to our hallowed pages: Links Rule.  Inbound links with the proper title (or anchor text) posted on many social media websites gives the target site a boost in rankings for their particular keywords.  There is much more to it than that, but that’s the basic idea.

SEO Spammers realize that a link from SM sites can be a powerful tool in their SEO arsenal.  The problems are many, but the one that affects the masses is simple: we don’t care about Viagra, unsecured credit cards, penis enlargement, free credit reports, or any of the other hundreds of things that SEO Spammers are pushing.  Period.

Reddit Penis Enlargement

Is everyone who uses social media websites for SEO bad?  Are they all spammers?  Absolutely not.  Some of the most respected members of the SM sites are SEOs by profession.  Without “outing” any, it’s clear that they are active contibutors who submit quality content.  They participate in many ways, more than just submitting.  They vote, interact, and in general they add more to the website than they take.

Digg SpamEvery now and then, you might see them submit content that is possibly spam.  To social media purists, this is bad.  To us, it’s earned.  If 1 out of 50 submissions is for their benefit or to benefit a client, we shouldn’t worry.  To us, the other 49 quality submissions supercedes the spam.

So, the question remains.  How do social media websites combat the problem?

Newsvine is the most heavily policed social media website in the world.  The members are passionate.  They have a “Greenhouse” where new members are scrutinized, watched, reported, and subsequently banned for spammy behavior.  They track multiple accounts very well and they take action quickly.

Still, Newsvine is very small in comparison to the other social media powerhouses.  Reddit uses the SEO-dreaded “nofollow” attribute on any stories that do not get over 1 point through upmodding.  Spammers generally do not get the full benefit for this reason.  It is somewhat effective, but barely makes a dent because even in the SEO ranks, many do not check for nofollow.  Even amongst those who do, there is a debate over whether the nofollow attribute is real or not.  Could it be red herring?  We say no, but our opinion doesn’t matter to the SEO Spammers, so they continue to use it.

StumbleUpon uses it on all of their posts, but the effect from Stumbles is too strong to make the spammers care.

$8.95 Domain Names Transfers from Dotster
Digg, Mixx, and StumbleUpon rely on members to report.  This, to us, is the only real recourse that active members can use.  If enough people file a report, eventually, the spammers will get banned.  They can return, but some will not.  Is it futile?  As with so many things, it’s only as futile as the general public believes.

Propeller has people who hunt for spammers.  Pound for pound, this may be the most effective method for larger sites.  While Newsvine is the best policed, its ways are not practical on a scale as large as Digg.  Propeller’s on the other hand, is.  While it isn’t as hole-free as Newsvine, it is better than what is currenty being used.  It would require money spent to hire people, but Digg, Reddit, and Stumble have the money to invest.  Isn’t user-experience important enough of an investment?

Propeller Spam

What can we, the users, do about it?  Some was mentioned above, but here is more:

1) Report abuse to Admins – It takes a few seconds out of our busy day.  It’s worth it if we don’t have to sift through spam, in our opinion.

2) Report abuse to their Clients – It doesn’t take long to follow a link to find out the source.  Send their admin or webmaster an email asking if they are aware that their SEO vendor or in-house SEO team is spamming.  Tell then that you are not interested in buying products from companies that use/condone spam.  If it’s a Viagra or one of the other types of sites listed above, it probably won’t make a difference.  If it’s some other type, it just might help.

3) Make their posts invisible – Most social media websites have a threshold that makes a particular post become virtually invisible, both to the people and to the search engines.  If you find extremely spammy posts, bury/downmod/sink their submission.  Get your friends to do the same.  Contact the SEO Spammer and let them know.  If it doesn’t help, they won’t do it anymore.

Anything we missed?

Mixx Spam

Leave a Reply


  1. This sure helps to explain some things to people like myself tht don’t understand a whole lot about this internet stuff, that we get addicted too.

  2. Obviously to Social sites it is more about traffic than it is quality. If they really wanted to get rid of the SEO’ers of the world they would add nofollow tags to all their posts.

    The nofollow tag would eliminate the value of the link being passed to the site and eventually marketers would find new avenues in which to get links back to their site. Until this happens my stance is that social sites encourage this type of spam to get more links posted on their site.

  3. @debbie – No problem!

    @justin – I have only one disagreement with that. I don’t think ALL stories should have nofollow. If they achieve a certain level, then it will be because they are quality stories and should be rewarded in some way. Social media traffic is not the highest quality, so some sites rely on the SEO value they get from their stories going popular, hot, etc. Take away that value, and suddenly it’s a negative to be on SM sites. Believe me, dozens if not hundreds of major sites and blogs would block Digg and the others if they implemented nofollow. Without the SEO boost (non-spammy SEO boost, that is) why would they want to tax their servers with traffic that won’t buy anything? It’s a fair tradeoff.

    They perhaps could and should implement a harsh minimum of some sort, similar to Reddit but even more strict. If a story gets buried or doesn’t get enough Diggs (using Digg as the example) then it does get the nofollow tag added to it.

    It’s all open to debate, but your point of view is valid and intelligent. THANK YOU!

  4. Sean

    I thought social bookmarking was the way spam was being fought, applying eyes to the content being submitted and through voting we let the good stuff surface and surpress the bad stuff.

  5. JD – I’m not sure about limiting nofollow to only approved posts because that would give people with high rankings in Digg and other social media sites more power. As we all know there are certain people in Digg that have a very large following and no matter what story they post will go far. I think it has some merit but then people will start paying (more) for social media posts and I think it could create more of a headache than it is worth.

    Just because it has a nofollow tag doesn’t mean that people can’t still go to the site. Heck it doesn’t even mean that Google won’t count the link. I have found that some authoritative sites still carry a weight in Google even if they use a nofollow tag. In my opinion the weight each link carries is much less (who knows) but it still gets indexed and shows in the webmaster tools.

    I think the only fair way to handle the situation is to make it even across the board.

  6. @Justin –

    I’m close. I’m really, really close to coming over to your side of the argument. It’s compelling. But just when I’m ready to cross-over, I realize that the problem isn’t nearly bad enough to risk hurting quality sites.

    I do tend to believe that nofollow works, but that it isn’t understood. Between you, me, and the other couple of people who read this, I think that Google uses it to keep from leaking pagerank and pagerank alone, and that the links themselves still have SEO value. Matt Cutts and company know it, but why spoil craftily designed misconceptions that we’ve created and believe ourselves? They never said it doesn’t help with SEO. It’s the SEOs who have (in my opinion) misinterpreted what nofollow really does.

    The only part where I do disagree is that I feel that people who are strong diggers got that way because of positive activity. If they are “rewarded” by breaking the proposed nofollow-threshold, then…
    1) Most won’t care or even understand, they’re just good, active members with no SEO motives.
    2) Those who do have SEO motives are still unable to make it to that level and sustain it if they spam all the time. Sneaking in one every once in a while is fine. 20%-30% of FP stories are contributed by a rolling batch of people, 20 or so at any given time. The names change (except at the very top) and those who are awesome contributors should have something of “value” allowed.

    Again, you’re close to converting me. Spam is a big problem, but in my opinion, it isn’t huge enough to make drastic changes such as blanket no-follow. They’d lose too many non-spamming but SEO conscious contributors who use the communities properly.

  7. James Williamson

    With the last Google update, Social Bookmarking sites have been seriously devalued. Getting links from Social Bookmarking alone actually penalizes a site.

    You should have written this article about 6 months ago.

    Also, I looked at your Digg profile and that of the people who Dugg this article.

    If you follow the bread crumbs of all the diggers for a couple of minutes using the available API’s, it appears that your diggers really like each others stories, almost as if you all collaborate on the digging efforts.

    I will not slam you for it though.

    I am sure you will delete this comment anyway.

  8. @James,

    Why would I delete your comment? You didn’t spam! lol

    No, the SEO benefit, real or not, isn’t the point of the story. The point is that whether it has been devalued or not, it is a bigger issue now on these sites than it was 6 months ago, 6 months before that, yadayadayada. Nobody is worried about whether it works or not. We just don’t want the spam all the time.

    As far as following the breadcrumbs, Digg’s friend system is one where you will find that most top diggers get anywhere from 40%-70% of their initial diggs from friends (which is a whole other article, later though). Once it hits Hot in Topics, it has legs of its own.

    By the way, I am not Verge, who submitted the story. For those who don’t know, he is a champion against spam on Digg, whether through shout spam or any other type. This blog gets submits from across the spectrum. New diggers, old diggers, and occasionally even from me when I think I have a good one that may go popular.

    This one was hit or miss, but I’m glad Verge saw past my indecision and beat me to the punch. If it wasn’t submitted by this morning, I would have probably submitted it.

    Thank you for the comment. Digg is a good place if you take the time to get to know it. Reddit, Propeller, Mixx, Stumble, Newsvine — all great as well. Still, they are all spammed, whether it helps or not.

  9. NOFOLLOW links are followed, but only if the link is on a trust-worthy site. Google follows links from digg, reddit, ebay, blogspot, youtube and a bunch of others even tho they are marked nofollow.

    If you do a link: search they will show up from time to time.

    But none of that matters. The fact that these sites usually put each article on it’s own page is enough of a plus. By loading the page full of keywords Google will still make an LSI association between the words and the links on the page, increasing your relative score in the index.

    The trick isn’t to use nofollow, it’s to bury spam links deeper in the site structure. Google only crawls to a certain depth (based on how long the page has been in the index it seems), so posts should move up the hierarchy and onto top-level pages as they get more votes.

    As it is now a lot of spammers succeed just by using lesser-used keywords in their posts. Technorati is bad about that, I’ve read blackhat (spam usually) SEO methods that make extensive use these combinations.

  10. @aaron

    That idea is close to what I was trying to say. You just said it better. 🙂

    Makes perfect sense. Thanks for the great contribution!

  11. @aaron

    You nailed it.

  12. Martin

    Good article but the advertising on this page is funny give the subject of the post 😉

  13. If we’re going to add stuff to social media venues like Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon et cetera, it doesn’t seem like such a bad thing that the power to weed out and ban “unsolicited content” should rest with the likes of us…

  14. torres9

    You sure look like a spammer to me, with this social site bait.

  15. Since the LA Times partnered with Mixx, does this mean that the articles that get posted to Mixx, and optimized for the Mixx search engine, are SEO spam?

  16. @Martin
    I actually don’t like the limited content available on WidgetBucks, but it pays per click and per action, so I’ll squeeze out $.00 – $1 or so from it. Other adds yield zip through social media traffic…

    (addendum – I just checked out the image you captured. That’s definitely NOT what’s supposed to be served. I’ll remove it shortly. Thanks for the catch.)


    There’s a big difference between SEO Spam and social media bating. Our goal is to drive and develop readers through social media sites, feeds, etc. Because our topic of choice is social news, and since the content is geared around it, it’s natural bate. The difference between what this blog (and others like arstechnica, Mashable, etc. – not that this blog is on their scale at this point, but same premise) and that we care about getting traffic from SM sites. Actually, that’s about the only traffic we get. SEO Spammers could care less about traffic from the SM sites. They just want the highly targeted anchor text link to help with rankings on the search engines. For this blog, the links are just a a bonus, but the real goal is to get readers who like the stories.

    @Traffic Optimizer – Of course not. Again, they are going for readers, offering quality content and incentive for the visitors of Mixx to click over to their website and read more.

    SEO Spammers don’t care about Social Media traffic at all. They just want the link.

    * * *

    Just to be clear, the label of “spammer” can be placed on any website that seems to use other websites to draw traffic, depending on your point of view. Blogs like this and hundreds of others try to give people, specifically those who read social news sites, content that they will enjoy.

    SEO Spammers, the topic of this post, will submit content that isn’t actually content, expecting no viewers from the social media sites, hoping only to get the benefit of having the link from the ever-powerful social media pages.

  17. *GrinZ* I think I’ll just stick with blog comment spamming 😛 Nice post though, there are way too many spammers out there!! 😉

  18. Nicely put.

  19. Fry

    Yeah it’s annoying. I have to deal with the same thing daily with blog comments and email aswell. Spam is the devil!

  20. imagine if google really did abide by the no follow tags and every site used them. Google wouldn’t have a business!

  21. Hello…I Googled for american flag 4×6, but found your page about poetry…and have to say thanks. nice read.

  22. Hey!…Thanks for the nice read, keep up the interesting posts about natalia wood..what a nice Thursday .

  23. This explains the gibberish “upcoming” listings at Digg that only have 1 or 0 diggs.

    I like your approach regarding the whole “content” vs “spam” issue. Frequent and high quality contributors should be allowed to slip in a somewhat spammy (but still useful) article from time to time. The key here is to submit DUAL PURPOSE material–spam to some but CONTENT to many more.

    Great article!

  24. I run a porn site, and even MY site gets spammed! I have people who wrote robots to spam it daily lol..

    I’m curious JD to get your take on the “right way” to do it? I’ve run my site for 6 years now, and maybe I’m just stupid or something, but there’s not that many ways to get your site out there without being a little bit sneaky?

    Have a look at my site if you wish, we have 1,750 articles that we spend a few hours on each, site looks amazing, but we don’t get much traffic. It seems we get beat up more and more every year by the spammers because uhhh it works. 🙂

    I spend my time trying to make a great site, and I guarantee we make more than most spammers do, but they’re certainly cutting into the bottom line.

    As for no follow, it’s a tricky situation. You’re supposed to use them if you sell links (which we don’t) but if we wanted to add them to all outgoing links to be SURE we wouldn’t be seen like that, wouldn’t that also impy that we DO sell links? lol.. 🙂

  25. As a social news spamming afficianado, I thought I’d share some advice about the no-follow concept.
    I could give less of a rip about no-follow. It still factors in for anchor text, which is what most need. I can get do-follow links no problem, but the anchor text alone from sites is worthwhile.

  26. Thanks for a great article that explained much of what happens behind the scenes and the impact of various actions. I would love a way to remove all types you described. Thanks – Cyndee

  27. OMG you had me at the snap shots of Penis and viagra – thank you for saying what so many of us think

  28. posting spam to digg will surely lead to account termination or even ban of ip.

  29. spam to social bookmark website is always good for beck links but over spam cause bad things for your website also 🙂

  30. Asbestos – it’s naive to believe that having an account closed by Digg is going to bother a Black Hat Optimiser. On his own, he can easily open 50 to 100 Digg accounts a day, and by paying guys in India to open accounts for 25 cents a pop, it doesn’t take long to build up a massive bank of accounts – so having a few accounts closed every day makes absolutely no difference to them. There are black hat seo guys out there with tens of thousands of Digg accounts – do you think that losing a handful of accounts any day will make any difference to them? You can’t stop them doing what they do, no matter how much of your personal time you waste notifying Digg about accounts that you feel are spam based – they will simply open more. I personally don’t like the use of spam or black hat techniques, but Digg make it so easy for the spammers that they would be stupid not to abuse it and you’ll never stop them.

  31. neertoons

    ?????? ????-????? 2008 ???? ?? 200 ??. ???? ????????. ??????!!!
    +7 960 200 9209

  32. Thanku For a Valuable Information, I was Trying to Submit to Many Inner Pages to Social Book marking Sites, One day I have Lost the Position in Google.

  33. SEO

    I find this entire line of thinking difficult. The problem is, the definition of spam is subject. Sure, the examples you’ve used (Viagra and Enlargement) are obvious. But your argument starts to break down in the more gray areas.

    If a site is open to all to bookmark, then isn’t it open to all?

    I can see your point if people are breaking the terms of service for the site. That’s a different story. But if it is a single SEO dude putting his stuff in there to get it indexed, and he’s completely following the TOS, I’m not sure I can fault him.

  34. If you say Social Book marking is Spamming then there is no meaning for SEO.

  35. I do all the things you have mentioned and i’ve never been caught. I’ve built blog site for tons of keywords filled with nothing but fluff copy filled with keyword links. Check it out – One of many spam sites I use in my “arsenal”.

  36. Just found your blog today. Really like it – keep up the good work.Domain info more important than you think :-)Domain information such as DNS, age of domain and even the expiration date are used to distinguish between illegitimate and legitimate domains.Why are google doing this? Simply to get all the factors they can to get an internal “trust score”.This “trust score” is used to eliminate “doorway” pages and spam in the search result.I’M not saying that it’s working perfectly – but they are doing a pretty good job.

  37. Hi… I am looking for a way to do real SEO (not black hat). We publish real news articles on our website and want to link these to twitter, wordpress, facebook and many of the soclial bookmarking sites so when we submit the story once it goes out to all the different services.
    Can anyone suggest how to do this?

  38. florist, use social media, use social bookmarking sites, but use them to post as well as interact with people. its a time consuming process, but it will benefit you in long term.

  39. i think most of the seo provider don’t know exactly how SEO works:)

  40. Thank you so much! It is an remarkable webpage.

  41. I blog often and I seriously appreciate your content.
    This great article has really peaked my interest.
    I am going to book mark your site and keesp checking
    for new information about once per week. I subscribed to your RSS feed as well.

  42. Alyce

    Would you recommend employing someone with experience to carry
    out the linkbuilding, or would you recommend doing
    that yourself?
    Will defo be returning, ’tis a nice blog