How to Avoid the “SPAM” Label

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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:

SEO/Link Spam

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.

Comment 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 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

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.

Self Promoter

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.


Anything That Makes Money is Spam


Todd Heim

Todd Heim

Todd Heim is CEO, co-founder, and SEO manager of Essential Internet Marketing, LLC, an SEM and Social Media Marketing company based in Albany, NY.
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  • Rahul

    These are great tips for SEO’s. You explain it skillfully that how to avoid to be spammer.

  • Local search optimization

    Increase a copy site plan and relation it to all page of your site. If there are new than one keyword phrase, organize them according to their value. The most central pages of your site must be related from other pages and the other pages must be related from the division title and position plan.Thanks mate!

  • Infographics

    Great article, and if anyone here has a blog they definitely know what comment spam looks like.  They add nothing to the conversation and just hope they can get onto a blog that doesn’t moderate comments.  Twitter seems to be the spammiest social network and the most overlooked by viewers.  I rarely click on links in twitter unless they’re from a music blog or personal acquaintance 

  • EPD

    I just wish the “How to avoid this label” is explained a lot longer and in detail. The only problem I have with it now is, you can’t do what is written in the post. You can’t use automated SEO techniques so what’s really left is creating great content. But creating great content that are linkable only works for established blogs. Start ups won’t have their share of linkable content because they can’t even be searchable without doing things that make you look like SPAM.

    True about hiding your marketing objectives. Works the same way in traditional marketing.

    • Todd Heim

      I think in traditional marketing it’s a mistake to hide your marketing objectives too well.  Instead the trick is to have a “hook” that makes people forget that they’re being marketed to.

      • EPD

        Absolutely. Which makes for a good content idea, how can you market in a subtle way, yet it enables you to put in your “money makers”. We’re not asking for rocket science as there probably isn’t, but at least, maybe we can learn from those who do it the right way. Thus my initial comment “I just wish the How to avoid this label is explained a lot longer and in detail.”

      • EPD

        Absolutely. Which makes for a good content idea, how can you market in a subtle way, yet it enables you to put in your “money makers”. We’re not asking for rocket science as there probably isn’t, but at least, maybe we can learn from those who do it the right way. Thus my initial comment “I just wish the How to avoid this label is explained a lot longer and in detail.”

  • Hiren vaghela

    Well written Todd, Normally the spam will be consider in any way of low link building. Sometimes you do continues link building on particular keyword and it will be consider as e spam pattern. Rotate your keywords that would be great.

    According to me, Be informative and share the things which useful for the people and they all are appreciated and share those links among their groups and social media.

  • Raunaq Rayait

    Todd these was simply fabulous.I simply love to read that stuff.Well frankly speaking I am not totally agree with all the points specially with self promoter but its ok its your view and you best with your thoughts but the explanation of Link Jacking is the sole of these article it is the best one I had ever read about LInk Jacking.
    SEO Firm

    • Todd Heim

      I think my point for self promoters is that if you use SM tools to share nothing but your own stuff, people will call you out for it.  And unless you’re an established authority, people will be less willing to help share your content.

  • MicroSourcing

    The post is descriptive, but we need to keep in mind that what makes for spam and what doesn’t is still pretty much subjective. Every time we talk about “value”  in relation to SEO in general, nobody bothers to give an exact definition.

    • Todd Heim

      It has become subjective, hasn’t it?  I’d also argue that some internet users have become over-sensitive to it, and use the word “spam” too easily.

      • Brian O’Connell

        I agree Todd. We were accused of comment spam, publicly on Twitter, by a blog author, because we had two employees comment on a blog post that was over a year old. Both employees contributed to the blog post, which was on subject they knew a lot about. The funny (or ironic) thing is, we were in the process of trying to build a relationship with the blog author. We thought contributing comment content to her blog was a great first step. After all, who doesn’t want added value comments on their blog? An active blog is a win win in our opinion.

        Well, apparently because we commented on an old post, twice in 24 hours, we were accused of spamming. We contacted the author directly to explain, and she held fast to her opinion that we were spamming her, and that relationship never got off the ground. We use Google alerts and when we get an alert on our subject, we will read it and post a comment if we have something to add. Sometimes Google Alerts pick up old articles.

        So you are so right on, that some internet users have become so over-sensitive to it, that they will wield the “spam” adjective very quickly indeed.

  • john lewis uk

    Very nice and descriptive post.Well now a days spamming is too much. I made a blog and did only 6 posts and got more than 300 comments and most of them are spam. I think there should be some plugins which remove all those comments which contains links.

    • Todd Heim

      There are plenty of tools for this.  If you use wordpress, the first thing you should do is sign up for Akismet.  That gets rid of 99% of them…

  • custom essays

    brilliant as always!  liked your post very much!!! want to share it with my friends if you dont mind)

  • DrEnSh

    I can argue with this spam thing. If we accept that everyone is spammer who was get paid to do some link, then if you promote your site in the same way, then you are not a spammer? Everyone who is doing something for money is a spammer? I don’t think so. Spam is something that is not legal, but submitting links to Digg is legal, so think about that…

    • Todd Heim

      I don’t believe that everyone who is doing something for money must be a spammer.  It’s just that there’s people who do…  In order to avoid the “Spammer” label, you usually need to conceal that motive.

  • Anonymous

    Completely agree with infographics about how twitter is the absolute worst when it comes to spammy posts.

  • PratikBhatt

    Tips make the sense but Spamming is everywhere,Moreover the Tools are also their to monitor it so simple the Equation balance on both side.Spammer will always comes have the weightage while the Professional seem to have discussion or better community world.But Place seems to have covered all topics with best Information.

  • Audio converter guy Ameer

    I really like the term “Anything That Makes Money is Spam” Lolz. By the way I’m not spamming right now 😉 . Just Logged in to disqus account..