How to Spot a Splog

I really enjoy reading blogs. And since you are here, reading my blog post, I’m guessing you do too. Blogs are a great way of gaining information and learning about different perspectives on a wide variety of topics. Unfortunately, spammers have tainted this medium with splogs.

7WThe word splog is a combination of the words spam and blog (from my perspective, it could easily be called  blam as well). And that’s exactly what it is, a blog full of spam.  Splogs are blogs that usually have plagiarized content and have a ton of banner ads and hyperlinks. Splogs also can have repetitive content—basically the same article but using different targeted keywords each time since the main goal of a splog is to direct to you sites the scammer wants you to visit

Spammers use search engine optimization (SEO), also known as manipulating a website’s page ranking on a search engine, to attract innocent visitors to the splog. To increase page ranking, splogs will use content filled with phrases or key words that get ranked high in search results.  That way, when you are searching for a particular search term, the splog will appear on the first few pages of search results.

Spammers primarily use splogs for two reasons. First and foremost, they use splogs to make money. The splogs have ads that link to partner websites and when you click on one of those ads, the spammer gets paid by the partner for directing you to the site. The second reason is more malicious. Scammers will use a splog to direct you to their fake site that is used to capture your personal information such as your credit card, email, or phone number or download  Once they have your personal information, they can use sell your information or generate phishing attacks to get money from you. Or if they automatically download malware to your device, they could be using the malware to find out more information or hold your device hostage.

Because blogs are relatively easy to create, it doesn’t take that much time to create hundreds and thousands of splogs, especially since the scammers aren’t creating original content and are often duplicating the same content. These splogs are then crawled by the search engines, thus appearing in search results for you to click on and making it harder for you to find the actual information you are searching for online.

Splogs are annoying and can get in the way of your web experience. Here is how you can spot a splog:

  • Splog posts are usually 50 to 100 words long and riddled with hyperlinks. Also, there might be hundreds of posts a month; you can check this by looking at the blog archive.
  • The URLs are unusually long and include keywords for SEO purposes.
  • They often use the domain (URL suffix) of .info rather than the widely used .com because those domains are cheaper. So if you see a you should proceed with caution.

Don’t let a splog fool you. Share these tips with your friends and family. As  less people visit these sites and click on advertisements, spammers will be less likely to use this growing spam technique.

Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked!  Disclosures.