April 8, 2010

Beware of Scraper Sites


Hostway Team

By Monique Martin

Scraper Web sites are the bane of legitimate Webmasters everywhere. They profit from other people’s work and add millions of pointless pages to the already flotsam-filled Internet. It’s important that you learn how to recognize a scraper site and why you should avoid them.

What Is a Scraper Site?

Scraper sites literally scrape (copy) text from the other sites. Using various techniques, they harvest content through automated programs that, among other things, pull content from RSS feeds, copy individual pages and even download entire sites. All this stolen content is then republished verbatim, and usually without any attribution, on the scraper site.

This stolen content is used in the same way you use your own SEO-rich content to help your site rise in the SERPs (search engine results pages). Mix in a fistful of keyword-related advertising in the form of PPC (pay per click) ads and you have a classic scraper site.

Many scraper sites are referred to as MFA sites or Made for AdSense sites. These MFA sites are published solely to earn money from Google’s AdSense program. They’re like spiderwebs for the unsuspecting Web surfer. A person searches for a set of keywords, and the scraper site (because of the stolen content) appears near the top of the search results. The user clicks on it. In their confusion, they click on an ad. The scraper site earns money from the ad revenue.

How to Recognize a Scraper Site

Scraper sites generally have the same look — a long list of articles or article snippets and lots and lots of ads. They might have keyword-stuffed lists in various places on the site and, generally, very few images. It’s all about the ads. If your internal spam radar goes off, you’re probably looking at a scraper site.

Why You Need to Avoid Them

Some scraper sites will link to you if they’ve “borrowed” your content. Don’t link back. Google won’t penalize you for inbound links. Those are something you can’t control, but outbound links are another issue. You want to make sure all your outbound links go to relevant, quality Web sites. Not to mention linking back to the scraper site will just help increase their revenue.

Remember, Google judges you by the company you keep. By linking to what they consider link farms or bad neighborhoods, you’ll be penalized. Some SEO gurus also believe that you can “bleed” PageRank by having too many or irrelevant outbound links. So be sure to choose your outbound links carefully.

Scraper sites are, unfortunately, a part of the Internet. If you find yourself a victim of a scraper site, you can file a notice of infringement with Google and report them for AdSense violations. Like fighting spam, it’s an uphill battle, but you’ve worked hard to create your site. Don’t let someone else leach off your efforts.

About the Author

Monique Martin served as chief operating officer for a successful online insurance marketing firm for five years.

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