Google! Clean Up Blogger! Now!

Filed as Editorial on February 21, 2008 7:57 pm

I know that lately, there continues to be a lot of kvetching about Google, Page Rank, and spam blog issues. This are legitimate concerns, but I have a bigger bitch with Google. Clean up Blogger, NOW!

I was contacted today by a newspaper reporter from Charlotte, North Carolina, to comment on the death of a local blogger, part of a pair of women who have taken Charlotte by storm with their social commentary blog. I wanted to research this myself to write about it here, so I headed to Google, the search engine of choice, and entered in death, social, bloggers, charlotte, north carolina and clicked over to Blog Search when Web and News came up empty. I expected to get a few hits as the reporter said the death of this young woman was the “talk of the town” and the community was turning out to support the surviving blogger.

What I got were ten search results all from Google Blogger/Blogspot sites.

My first reaction? Google must now give priority to their own bloggers in the search results. It’s a good assumption based upon the evidence.

Google search results in blogspot splogsAh, but wait. That’s not the way to really judge the search results fairly. After all, I don’t just make snap assumptions. I evaluate all the information at hand. Maybe these Blogspot blogs have the information I’m seeking.

They didn’t.

Two of the ten were legitimate blogs, though not with the answers I was seeking. The rest were splogs. Here is an example of the text from the first two on the search results:

union funeral home in whiteville north carolina
31 Jan 2008 by hurjmmrhol
perestroika acupuncture insomnia night at the museum Three days grace just like you Home interiors swinging married couples santas reindeer clip art coal insert for zc pre fab oakhurst in charlotte, nc natural to a tee vermont regulate …
All the countries have joined together… – http://zxxxxx.blogspot.com/ – References

social services in tonasket washington
22 Jan 2008 by vohoypkrgl
spoke rims dmv charlotte nc the color purple metaphors americanbaptist map of pittsburgh areas www srbaseball com thedallymail bare essentals las vegas albert zavaro. Wamsutta serendipity active care physical therapy Hand held golf …
Comprehensive news articles from the magazine…. – http://xxxxxx.blogspot.com/

Ah, you recognize them. Splogs. Those spam blogs that generate crap content and stuff themselves with links. Having been to Whiteville, North Carolina, and grew up near Tonasket, Washington, I’m embarrassed for their communities for having such ugly online ties.

Again, let’s not jump to conclusions. Let’s go to the next set of ten search results.

Oh, my. Ten out of ten splogs all on Blogspot. And not only that, Tonasket and some of the other splogs from Blogspot make a repeat appearance in the list. Maybe page three? Two out of ten are legit.

I kept on going, now intrigued at all the Blogspot blog posts popping up. How far would I have to go to get to a good ratio of good content to Blogspot splogs?

On page five, fifty search results in, I finally found my first non-Blogspot blog – but it was also a splog. On page 10, I found three legits to seven splogs, but page 11 was back to 2 out of 10. By page 16, I gave up. With about 32 legitimate blog posts out of 160 search results – things were not looking up.

What brought on this flood of splog search results?

My search keywords were: death, social, bloggers, charlotte, north carolina. North Carolina was in every one of the search results, closely followed by death, social, and occasionally blog or blogger. “Social security” was also found in combination with social and death. Maybe I hit the jackpot in splog search terms? But this is not a one time incident. It happens daily for me. It’s also not the real point that needs to be addressed.

In October of 2005, I reported that Netcraft was one of many complaining openly about Google’s Blogspot spam blogs:

It seems that about 39,000 fake blogs were created from among the 805,000 new blogs started on Blogspot over the past two weeks and FlightSplog, monitoring new blogs at Blogspot, “documented 2,763 porn splogs from a single splogger”.

Netcraft’s article reported that IceRocket was going to stop indexing Blogspot until they cleaned up their act, and other similar services were also crying foul at the overwhelming numbers of splogs on Blogspot which flooded their databases and plagued their users.

It’s three years later. I expect those numbers are a minuscule drop in the splog bucket now.

By the way, I still haven’t found the information I’m seeking about the bloggers in North Carolina. I’ll keep digging, but I shouldn’t have to.

Google, Are You Listening?

Dear Google:

Graphic of a Dear Google letter copyright Lorelle VanFossenThank you for the link love for these past few years. I adore how you have kept your cool under such tremendous pressure and the onslaught of millions of new blogs and blog posts every day, combined with us whining bloggers hacking and whacking at your good intentions. However, Blogger/Blogspot is becoming a nuisance and blight on the web, and I’d like to address this issue with you.

The overwhelming number of spam blogs hosted on your free blog hosting service interferes with our ability to find the information we need on your search engine. Many of them scrape our blog content, words, pictures, sound and video we worked hard to create and for you to index.

I know you are working hard to fix the broken Page Rank and trying to build up the TrustRank and profiling system so searchers will only find the quality content they need, and site owners will get the score they deserve not game. I know there are supposed to be filters and protections in place to stop spam blogs, but please, let us help you make it easier while you are improving your algorithms against the bad guys.

All I ask is that you make it easier for us to help you clean up the web.

Let us tell you when we’ve spotted a splog. Force the Blogger bar back onto all Blogger/Blogspot blogs. Put back the “flag this blog” warning members can use to identify a splog or copyright violator.

Make it easier to submit DMCA violators and splogs through a one stop online visit, not a trip to the post office. Make us learn quickly that reporting copyright violators will get something done about it.

Create a more viable scorecard that tracks which Blogspot/Blogger blogs are getting the most complaints and shut the offenders down faster.

Add an “Alert” checkbox to tag search results as splogs as we stumble across them along our search journey through Google. From the tagged results, pass them through a filtering algorithm that tests for coherent English grammar. If found to be coherent, kick it out of the list but save the information in the database that it had been identified once. If identified 10 or 20 more times, kill it. If not coherent, shut them down.

There has to be a nice way of doing this. Sure, there is always room for abuse, but let us help you. The good white hat wearing web users represent the majority and we are tired of this. We want Google cleaned up. We think starting with cleaning up Blogspot/Blogger is a good place to begin.

We, the bloggers of the world, really like you Google. We put your ads, search, maps, news, and gadgets on our blogs. We write our post content to meet your needs so you will like us. We design our web designs not just with web standards but Google standards in mind. Our lust for all things Google puts billions in your pockets. We live and breath through Google, so let us help you help us.

Thank you for listening.

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  1. By GoingLikeSixty posted on February 21, 2008 at 8:29 pm
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    I used to surf blogger by using their random “next” feature: no more. After 4 or 5 blogs I would hit a porn site that removed the blogger bar.

    Reply

  2. By Jonathan Bailey posted on February 21, 2008 at 9:10 pm
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    I’m hitting a point where I think that Google’s lack of action on Blogspot is less a lack of will but a lack of ability.

    Google dug themselves a nice hole here.

    They created Blogspot and built it up around the notion that it was a free, powerful blogging service with both external APIs and Adsense integration. Great for people dipping their toe into the blogging world.

    The problem is that the formula was ripe for spammers. They made the critical mistake of ignoring the issue in the beginning and, now, are overwhelmed. How do you filter the wheat from the chaff when there is more garbage than treasure (to mix my metaphors perfectly).

    I think your proposal is a good one, letting users help. I would appreciate an easier DMCA procedure, especially for Blogspot, but I think the problem is too out of control for even that.

    Google is going to have to make drastic changes at Blogspot. They are going to have to ban Adsense ads and limit the API, for starters. Then they’ll have to get a real CAPTCHA system, one that isn’t hopelessly broken, and reduce or delay indexing of Blogspot blogs in their own search engine.

    If they do that and then enlist the help of users, they might clean up the service in a reasonable time frame. However, that would also drive away many of the legitimate users and cripple much of the appeal of Blogspot.

    Humbly, I feel Blogspot was a bad idea from the ground up and no amount of cleaning is going to change that.

    Compare Blogspot to non-commercial services such as WordPress and LiveJournal. They aren’t perfect, but they certainly have less of an issue.

    The hull has been breached, I just don’t now if Google is willing/able to make the sacrifices necessary to fill the hole…

    Great article and thank you for drawing attention to this! I feel like I’ve been screaming in the darkness about this for years.

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  3. By Stamford Talk posted on February 22, 2008 at 3:57 am
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    I’m also glad to see an influential blog put in print the feelings that many of us bloggers share. I’ve had the same problem when browsing blogger, and I’ve even gotten SPAM EMAILS that link me to fake blogger blogs.
    Blogger should use the same flagging system that craigslist uses.

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  4. By barbara posted on February 22, 2008 at 9:06 am
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    In case you never did find out about the Charlotte woman who blogged, here is a copy of her obituary.

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  5. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on February 22, 2008 at 11:35 am
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    @barbara:

    Wonderful! Thank you. You’re a better resource than Google. :D

    Reply

  6. By Jeremy Steele posted on February 22, 2008 at 1:59 pm
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    Yeah blogger is a bit…. uhg. It gives me a headache thinking about it. As Jonathan said, google dug itself a nice hole with it.

    Plus we all know they give blogspot an advantage in the rankings. Many years ago I ran a tech blog on there and wrote a post about sony devices, within (I’m not joking!) 2 hours it was ranked #2 for “sony device” on Google and stayed there for weeks. You wouldn’t believe how often the thought of “can’t blame the spammers” went through my head when that occurred. This was back in the day when I knew nothing about SEO, marketing, etc. It just happened.

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  7. By Jeremy Steele posted on February 22, 2008 at 2:00 pm
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    Ah yes, I forgot to mention the post about sony devices I wrote was only about 2 paragraphs long and had no incoming links.

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  8. By Todd Jordan posted on February 22, 2008 at 3:48 pm
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    Good read. Thanks for the reminder about this problem. I used to browse from blog to blog via the bar at the top, but gave up to to the splogs. ARGH.

    Anyway, you’ve been Dugg.

    Reply

  9. By Anne Helmond posted on February 23, 2008 at 7:19 am
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    “Next blog” has always been a great service from Blogger for both blog readers and blog researchers. It offers the possibility of selecting a fairly random selection of blogs but with the increasing amount of spam this ‘method’ has become impossible to work with. Except of course, if you are studying the phenomenon of splogs.

    Google is definitely hurting it’s own index and value by letting sploggers penetrate it.

    Reply

  10. By TourPro posted on February 23, 2008 at 7:19 am
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    I use the feed from Google blog search, be these days the results are mostly junk.  I continue to subscribe because of the necessity of monitoring my niche, you know, just in case it captures some nugget missed elsewhere.

    I had my own theory about their reluctance to ‘do’ something.  In revisiting some searches, I now see far less junk, but it still appears prominently.  I’ve lost a lot of faith in the blog search feature in terms of both quality or relevant results.

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  11. By Michael Clark posted on February 23, 2008 at 1:18 pm
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    Of the splogs that have scraped my sites, well over half have been (random letters).blogspot.com. That might be GoogleAlerts being biased towards google’s sites, but I know the trust of blogspot blogs has been compromised.

    Reply

  12. By Blake Rogers posted on July 29, 2010 at 5:10 pm
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    SEO marketing is always the best thing to do if you want to market products on the internet’;-

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