SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is an industry rife with individuals who just loooooove to thieve content, what with content supposedly being king and all. The more on-page copy a person can populate a site with, the better in terms of rank-ability. Yes, it takes more than just populating a site with copy for it to rank well, but it certainly does help tremendously in most circumstances.
Because of that -- and because people know that Google is ever-increasingly getting better with identifying (thus, ranking lowly) duplicate content -- there's a popular practice for generating would-be unique content from a preexisting article, called "article spinning." By definition:
Article Spinning: Taking a written body of work and manually or automatically modifying it using synonymously equivalent words and/or restructuring its contents; then, posting the modified body of work on the Internet as though it is unique and original content.
Stepping back for a minute, as a writer, it doesn't get much worse than someone stealing your content and pawning it off as their own. Whether it's someone copying your content verbatim and posting it with their name, rewriting your content instead of writing a custom piece based on it, scraping your content and not linking to your original article, or otherwise, there just aren't enough anger management techniques out there to prevent a writer from wanting to absolutely destroy someone who thieves their content!
Back to spinning articles, the important thing to note is that it's a practice rarely utilized for anything other than generating topical/relevant content to help a page rank. In other words, these articles aren't generated for the sake of human consumption; they're generated for the sake of appealing to search engine crawlers. And with the advent of programs that tirelessly do all the laborious work for you -- everything from scraping content (that is, gathering relevant content on its own per your specifications) to processing, modifying, and saving the end results -- spinning articles has become an incredibly fast and simple task. If you want to see one of the most popular sites that's chock-full of spun content, check out EzineArticles; a site used primarily for article marketing.
Now, if you're wondering what the title of this post has to do with what I've written so far, the time has arrived to delve into that. Keeping a long story not quite as long, I like to perform searches related to my blog to see where I rank, who's saying what, etc. Recently, I performed a search in Google for zdnet seo. Though it's currently located at the top of the second page of results at the time of this writing, this soon-to-be-destroyed Web site showed up as the 8th result on the first page of results. I clicked on it and, well... I had a conniption.
I didn't have a conniption, but I was certainly astonished to see a veritable cornucopia of spun versions of many of my articles which read quite humorously due to the synonyms the software they used replaced many of my words with. For instance:
My Original: Questions/comments/concerns? Speak your mind in the comments section below! (Link to article)
Spun Version: Questions/comments/concerns? Talk the mind in the notes section under! (Link to article)
You can click on each of the links to compare the articles in-full, but as you can see, synonyms don't always keep a contextually-relevant flow; so it's quite common to end up with oddly-worded gobbledygook when using programs to spin articles. And although Google may see the spun article as unique content, it's still close enough to the original for me to report the site to our intellectual property peeps here at ZDNet which should, in turn, be enough to circumnavigate matters of ranking by hopefully getting the faux articles removed. Less spam is a good thing.
Anyway, the main point of this post is to give those of you unaware, a glimpse into the process of spinning articles. Sometimes, it can get quite complex -- such as when people pay others to take an article and re-write its contents from start to finish. The end result is a completely unique article that says the same thing in a completely different way. As such, those types of articles are very difficult to spot and are virtually impossible to claim infringement with.
In the case of my articles with this other site, perhaps I was supposed to just be happy that they included a mangled version of my blog post signature?
Regardless, the next time you think of stealing someone's content, just make sure it's not my content. If it is, then just be aware that my content is actually ZDNet's content and ZDNet has an intellectual property division consisting of lawyers and all kinds of other fancy pants who know the ins-and-outs of acts like OCILLA and can take legal action accordingly. As for me, personally? Well, let's just say I know all kinds of individuals who like to DESTROY the evil-doers of the Internet! Watch out, or else you just might have to deal with THIS guy!
Note: Of course I'm not literally going to destroy anyone, but I really will send our intellectual property unit a note of anyone I find stealing content. THAT is all. :)