If you’re in marketing, there’s something that I think you should know: the next generation doesn’t like you very much. They’re sick of your TV ads, billboards, and full page newspaper ads. They can’t stand your pop-ups and pop-under ads, CPM, CPA, and CPC ads. They’re sick of ads showing up in bathrooms, on their phones, and especially the internet. Oh, and one more thing – they won’t be asked to ignore them. In fact, many people will go out of their way to avoid advertising.
I believe that part of being a good SEO means sometimes hiding that you’re (in fact) doing SEO. This is especially crucial when marketing in the world of social media. Once users get a whiff that what you’re doing serves a marketing purpose, it doesn’t matter what the quality of the content is, they’ll consider it spam.
So, how can you avoid being called a spammer? The first and most important step is to make sure your marketing doesn’t smell of marketing. You must learn what people are wary of. The following are the most common types of spam you’ll find being called out in social media:
Anyone who’s been doing SEO for a while has seen their share of spammy links. When you spot them, they’re fairly obvious. A good SEO provides links that are (or at least) look organic.
Even before social media links had been part of the major search engine’s algorithms, they were there, usually from SEO wannabes that didn’t know any better. So, let me warn you: if you’re involved in social media solely for the SEO value of the links from your favorite social media sites – you’re doing it wrong.
Unfortunately, too many people have already abused this area, so much so that now increasingly savvy community members are over-sensitive to it. I’ve seen legitimate content called SEO spam simply because the user couldn’t find another marketing purpose to call it.
How to avoid this label: provide GREAT (not just good) content. In general, the better your content = the less likely it will be considered spam.
This type of spam needs no description. Comment spam is a major annoyance and usually a sub-category of SEO Link spam. Blogs, Forums, Facebook pages, social media bookmarking sites, and the like all have to deal with this kind of spam.
99 times out of 100 the comment is placed by a bot that drops a link back to the offender’s web site. Occasionally, you might find an actual person making a comment to solely drop a link.
How to avoid this label: 1) don’t comment unless you have something to add to the conversation 2) only use links if it’s relevant to the conversation.
Blog Spam and Linkjacking
These are newer terms for me, and there seems to be little difference between the two. Blog spam is essentially when an unknown blog takes high quality content, like a viral video or images, from elsewhere and hosts it on their blog to attract traffic and attention with content they didn’t create. LinkJacking is a term that means essentially the same thing, only this time, it’s well known/high traffic blogs doing it in order to get traffic specifically from social media sites such as Digg or Reddit.
Another difference between the two is that blog spam takes multiple pieces of content from various sources to hide the fact that it’s spam. Linkjacking usually takes content from a single source and simply adds a unique description so as not to be “duplicate” content.
Blog spam serves little purpose but to rob the original content producers of their due credit. Linkjacking is less unacceptable when credit is given especially if the original source gets traffic that they might otherwise not have gotten. If I had to choose whether I’d rather have my article on the front page of Digg with 40,000 uniques in a day or have a link from gizmodo.com that sends 10,000 uniques (because it was on the front page of Digg) the SEO in me might choose the latter link. But if my original post failed to hit, then the Gizmodo post did, I’d be happy that Gizmodo did that for me.
How to avoid this label: Original content. Also having a professional looking custom blog design/theme doesn’t hurt.
Viral marketing is like hitting a “home run” in social media marketing. Having a piece of content go viral gives a number of obvious marketing benefits, especially everyone’s favorite marketing buzz word: branding. That’s why many big brands try to go this route. The problem? It’s becoming harder and harder to achieve. Why? Because it’s been done…a LOT. Not only are users becoming more cautious of this type of marketing, but the content’s becoming redundant.
How to avoid this label: Your content must be or look completely genuine, stir up real emotions, and strive for originality. It’s easier said than done, but not impossible.
There’s nothing wrong with the occasional self promotion. The problem is when it’s only self promotion with little else to offer, it becomes obviously self-serving and a turn off. When sharing links from your site or blog exclusively and from nowhere else, people consider this spam. Even if it’s super fantastic, neat-o content, you’re spamming people. Even if your blog has no advertising, marketing or business model: you’re still a spammer.
How to avoid this label: Sharing more than your own content not only makes yours better received, but others will be more willing to share it because they trust what comes from you. If you share nothing but your own content, it’s the easiest way to end up in a place like this.
Anything That Makes Money is Spam
This is how most social media users feel. If you get paid to submit links to Digg or Reddit, you’re a spammer, even if the site(s) you’ve submitted make no money from it. If a site has too many ads, too large a call-to-action, or even too prominent a brand message, it might be considered spam. Even well known publications have been known to fall victim to this label. The fact is, if someone has something to gain by content being spread then it probably smells of marketing. And if it smells of marketing, than it probably is marketing.
How to avoid this label: Limit call-to-action and/or advertising. If necessary, hide your main business objective and focus on (first) making sure your content is being spread. You may even want to consider a second “social promo” design/template for such purposes. Also, it bears repeating: Great content.