Posted on August 3, 2011 ยท Posted in Reporting

A recent article in The Atlantic highlighted the problem faced by journalists and bloggers when discussing sites that appear to be engaged in spamming or gaming the index. The problem is how do you identify the sites to visitors (and if you should be so lucky, Matt Cutts) without providing the indirect benefit of links, traffic and perhaps sales?

Last week, The Atlantic published a story about sites selling Google Plus One votes. The story itself isn’t anything new, in fact if you go on or any other site broker service, you can buy ready made sites to sell Twitter followers, Google +1 votes and Facebook Fans. Google +1 votes can influence rankings and CTR and I understand why The Atlantic wrote about sites that sell votes but they included the spam sites URL which likely resulted in a huge boost to their business.

Of course that isn’t nearly as bad as linking directly to a spam site (especially if the link is dofollow). The last thing you want to do is provide referring traffic and a backlink to a bad neighborhood site, even if you have the intention of trying to highlight them to spur some kind of online action. That being said, I’ve included a list of best practices for tech journalists / bloggers who may find themselves covering a spam site or service.

Best practices for journalists / bloggers

  • Avoid highlighting a specific site, if a search for “buy google plus one votes” will get the desired effect, link to that instead
  • However if you feel it is necessary to highlight a specific site, include the URL but don’t link
  • If you have to absolutely link to their site, make sure the link is nofollow
  • Consider the dangers of linking to a spam site, it could be turned into malware heaven for unsuspecting visitors