Social Bookmarking Spam – Will it Hurt You in Google?

Social bookmarking sites are filling up with spam from marketers, but will following their lead hurt you in Google Rankings?

Social bookmarking is being abused and spammed by Bloggers as social bookmarking users to gain traffic and create backlinks in Google. I do this as well, but I teach NOTHING but social bookmarking tactics that are whitehat and naturally occurring.

If you are creating social bookmarking profiles and filling them up with nothing but your own content it is going to hurt you at some point if it does not already. In fact I believe the Google algorithm ranking slapdown that usually comes before Christmas is going to be about abuse of social bookmarking and Digg especially.

This post is supposedly to have been seen on the Google blog and then pulled when the researcher was found to have spoken out of turn, reported here: Google to punish pagerank for Digg stories?

“We are working on strategies to level the playing field, effectively bringing back natural search patterns enjoyed in the pre-social bookmarking days. For webmasters who use social media responsibly, this is nothing to worry about – we will be targeting mainly a small minority of prolific bookmarkers with a new algorithm that looks at linking patterns over time.”

“Webmasters who rely heavily on bookmarking their own sites to gain traffic will likely see a drop in pagerank before the end of 2008, and we will be working closely with two major social bookmarking sites to find a solution that will have no decremental effect on the average internet user.”

Checkout my comment at the bottom and Matt Cutts replied to this on Sphinn saying “There is not even anyone he knows at Google by that name” so the validity of this post remains to be seen.

However, the thing sounds pretty plausible to me and mirrors what I have been advising about social bookmarking for a while. This especially happens when you use social bookmarking submitters like SocialMarker. I would never use such a thing, it promotes spamming social sites.

To move on, I have always said “What do you think is going to happen if you create 20 different profiles on social bookmarking sites and then upload exactly the same content to them all?” Jack Humphrey replied to a Social Marketing Central forum post of mine talking about this same thing.

Jack Humphrey said….

“Not to encourage abuse, but if syndication with same titles and tags were a completely bad thing, then press releases and article syndication, along with instant updates of RSS feeds on scores of sites when you make a new post – these would all be penalized too.”

“Google can’t easily penalize for something that is so rampant and white hat across the web. This SHOULD NOT be abused, but it should be taken into account when wondering whether it’s bad to syndicate with tools when so many legit services and RSS do it already to great, positive effect.”

“If Google pulls on this string they will find it is attached to everything else on the web and that is a programming nightmare to tackle which will hurt lots of legitimate syndicators and create a massive outcry from the web.”

“That said, you should only be using Web2Submitter for true linkbait, high quality content and putting it in places that appreciate such content. Got an IM article. Then certainly do NOT put it on Digg!”

Chris Lang said…

Jack, I am not attacking your submitter, I am saying that if you use it to build 20 profiles and then you submit exactly the same items to everyone then that is spam, at least in the eyes of Google and the Bookmarking sites.

How is spam defined these days? Something the recipient does not want. Your definition of what social bookmarking spam means is nothing, the recipient has full control.

I would be about as apt to do that as use CommentKahuna and post the same comments everywhere without even reading the blog post first. BTW, I have a link to the high PR blog finder that I use to post comments on dofollow blogs and it allows me to read and select what article I am posting comments to, it is in the social marketing eBook.

Jeff Johnson, that got me interested in using social sites, even said when using blackhat tactics that you should not submit the exact same things to all your social profiles, that you should mix it up.

So to sum this up Jack, you see nothing wrong with….

  • 20 different social bookmarking profiles
  • with exactly the same URLs, regardless of content
  • with exactly the same titles
  • with exactly the same description
  • with timestamps within seconds of each other
  • In exactly the same order

and you don’t think something bad is going to happen to someone who does this?

Jack, I don’t want to make enemies out of you and Howie Schwartz, but this is what people are going to do with submission software, the are going to FRAK (battlestar galactica reference) themselves.

You don’t think that if you do this on social bookmarking sites that Google finds backlinks in, you are not going to get penalized by Google somewhere down the road?

I already proved that Google is watching what you are doing and Digg allows this through their lack of Digg privacy and shouts.

The Bottom Line

Jack and Howie, don’t take this as a personal assault on what you are saying in your blogs and videos.

More than anything, I am ASKING you reading this, to not blindly chase visitor numbers. If what you are doing converts to email subscribers and sales then by all means it works for you then.

But can you answer me this?

  • How many email subscribers are you getting from social bookmarking sites?
  • What is you email subscriber conversion rate?
  • How many RSS subscribers are you getting?
  • What is your RSS subscribe rate?
  • How many sales are you getting from social bookmarking sites?
  • What is your direct sales rate (first visit buyers)?
  • What is your overall sales rate (return visit buyers after marketing via email)?

If you cannot answer these questions then you should stop what you are doing and start testing how your site converts social bookmarking traffic. If you are just looking at overall visitor numbers you are basically committing marketing masturbation. That’s quick satisfaction that really has no meaning, but except to make you feel good.

If this is what you are doing with these social bookmarking submitters, go right ahead. I don’t mind, it just means there is going to be less competition in the search engines for me, come Christmas.

I welcome your comments below please……

13 Comments

  1. Posted July 6, 2008 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    It seems that Google will sooner or later penalize people who do not make legit web sites with legit content that they write the majority of. If you are a content skimmer, or a social site spammer creating your own backlinks it seems that in the long run you hurt yourself.

    That is reality.

    There are no longlasting shortcuts using the web to get rich.

  2. Posted July 7, 2008 at 2:42 am | Permalink

    Don’t get me wrong, I advocate using social bookmarking to create backlinks in social sites. I just don’t advocate doing it the wrong way.

  3. Posted July 7, 2008 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    Chris Its not hurting me and loads people

    Howie shwartz actually has just made an auto bookmarking program called bookmarking generation, and if google shut 1 bookmark down great

    i have over 50 seperate bookmarking acounts which are briging me loads traffic

  4. Posted July 7, 2008 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    It seems to me that Google, and some Social Bookmarking sites (especially Digg), are trying to change the definition of “Social Bookmarking”. Take this for example, on the Digg “About Us” page, it says:

    “Digg is a place for people to discover and share content from anywhere on the web. From the biggest online destinations to the most obscure blog, Digg surfaces the best stuff as voted on by our users.”

    If you look through the Digg FAQ, and the other information on Digg, you may still be able to see that originally Digg was not set up with the intention of penalizing it’s members for submitting their own content… in writing that is! What they did that behind the scenes, which were not put in writing, is a whole different ball of wax.

    Mark Alexandrou, of markalexandrou.com, seemed to have researched the definition of “Social Bookmark” well. He seems to have incorporated most of what others said about “Social Bookmarking” and states:

    “The general idea behind social bookmarks is that rather than saving a bookmark for a web page in a browser such as Internet Explorer or Firefox, users instead save the bookmark to a publicly accessible web site. Other people can then see your bookmark and ideally be exposed to something that you wouldn’t otherwise encounter.”

    Notice that Mark does not imply that it is unacceptable to bookmark your own sites to the Social Bookmarking sites. Now let’s look at About.com. About.com is a fairly good source of information and they say:

    What is social bookmarking? It is tagging a website and saving it for later. Instead of saving them to your web browser, you are saving them to the web. And, because your bookmarks are online, you can easily share them with friends.”

    Still there are no references to support the idea that using your own websites and blogs is unacceptable, as far as the practice of Social Bookmarking is involved. Furthermore, You can go to Wikipedia or other Social Bookmarking sites and find definitions which follow along the same lines, not very many imply that “submitting your own content from your own blogs” is against the purpose of the “Social Bookmarking” sites. Even Digg does not say this practice is wrong.

    However Google seems to be redefining the definition and Digg seems to be following right along with them like a little puppy following it’s mother. Digg now openly admits that they utilize a thing called “Diversity” when their new engine picks out the names for compatible diggers. It seems that our blogs are fast becoming “illegitimate web sites”, where the search engines are concerned and the only way around this trend is by having others submit your stuff for you.

    This is alright, the net is an ever changing thing. It seems that about every 4 or 5 years the net undergoes a transformation and it changes the face of the net forever. As far as I can tell the last change occurred in 2005, it’s time for another step in the evolutionary process of the thing we call… The Internet. Social Bookmarking is also newish and it also will undergo changes. It’s our job to keep up with the changes.

  5. Posted July 7, 2008 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    David, how have you been? I have been following you on FaceBook but I have no time to spend there. Mostly, I just want to stir the pot and see what you are all thinking. But do you remember FFA submitters and how they ruined FFAs 10 years ago? I would really hate to see social bookmarking go that way because of irresponsible people.

    You have to agree that there is room for tons of abuse in this area? Not to mention repetitive content is going to be seen by Google sooner or later due to the amount of abuse that is going to come from it.

    As soon as this catches on in the idiot sector, we are going to see LOADS of spam and multiple accounts and more deletions of content and profiles, especially when it all comes from local IPs and the same IP addresses on servers.

    There is a short window of success here, and if a slapdown comes it is going to be brutal. We shall see what Google’s response is soon. The Q3 update is only 3 months away.

  6. Posted July 8, 2008 at 5:35 am | Permalink

    I am an oponent of chasing Googles algorithm as your sole purpose of marketing. If your efforts cultivate customers (lists) and result in buyers of your product as well as Google rankings then you are truly building assets.

    For this reason I am still paying a lot of attention to Chris.

  7. Posted July 8, 2008 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    @website design, you are very right. Chasing Google can take up your whole day and then you realize that no matter how well you do, your site still does not convert. Search engine traffic and link building should be the last thing on your list.

    I can’t believe that people are more worried about their Google rankings when the site is not tweaked and tested to convert email subscribers and sales.

    Worse yet, when you get up in the morning and you run your keyword tracking report and you sink on all the keywords you spent the day before chasing, your whole outlook on the new day is shot.

    Guess where my latest efforts are going today? Facebook. I just noticed that buried in my stats a wee little trickle of traffic is converting at 9% and I don’t even have time to participate there.

  8. Posted July 10, 2008 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    I agree Chris but your comming rom a seperate point of attack from Howie

    Howie does his social bookmarking not to get email subscribers etc most of his stuff isto promote his web 2.0 properties via links like squidoo lenses and hub pages.

    But I guess its just comes down to what your happy doing

  9. Posted July 10, 2008 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    I use social bookmarking for deep linking to blog posts to dominate niche terms and I do this thru manual submissions and heavy personal interaction. By doing this I am able to build a powerful profile that has way more influence than just low level user accounts.

    I figured out Howie’s approach on my own before I knew it was his, so I intentionally do not touch on this in my book. I also did not read any of Jack’s stuff and StomperNet’s either before my eBook went to full sales release just this month.

    So now, I have 85 pages of nothing but my own tactics, that I developed completely from my own testing and there is not a chance that I was influenced by anyone else’s publications. In fact, I am turning away from what everyone else is doing more and more every day.

    In fact, what I am learning about Digg and Google right now is so far advanced from what everyone else is saying that I cannot even make it public. It is so unbelievable, no one would ever read anything I write for a long time. I have to wait for you all to catch up.

  10. Posted July 31, 2008 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    You can bookmark your own stuff, without bookmarking your own stuff. Promoting people that talk about you is great self-promotion. ;)

    One of my favorite things that I have recently started doing is adding links to del.icio.us, of blog posts containing candid reviews of my software and that link to my site.

    The bloggers were nice enough to take it upon themselves to write about my stuff and link to me, so I will add them and in a way help myself by helping them.

    This way I am not adding my own pages, but adding other people’s pages that link to mine.

    I am also gathering it all in a single place which I can link to on my site to allow my visitors to see the reviews. (an extra keyword is added to group them together)

    I link to the keyword on my profile, that page links to everyone else, and they are all linking to me.

    So I will have many links to me on del.icio.us without adding not even one of my own pages.

  11. Posted July 31, 2008 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    @app, I do the same thing, I always reward sites that link to mine with a bookmark on social sites where the article will do best.

  12. Posted August 28, 2008 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    Interesting food for thought. I do like Stumble Upon because they do discourage people from stumbling their own sites, it really encourages me to use it more than the others. It will be interesting to see how the whole situation unravels.

  13. Posted April 22, 2010 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    I tend to just use Social bookmarking tools to promote my articles on Squidoo, Ezine, and article websites. I haven’t really used them to promote my main websites due to a lack of time. I use about 20 social bookmarking sites. But, I try to change the title and description for most of my Social Bookmarking Submissions.