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Thursday, 21 October 2010

More Spin than Substance in Article Spinning

Picture of a snake oil salesman poster backing up blog post on article spinning being bad content and bad PR
Bad content makes for online PR
I enjoyed reading Peter Hoggan's piece "Why Article Spinning is a Complete Waste of Time."

Article spinning tools purport to create lots of unique articles from one piece of text. This may sound tempting to a journalist who wants to sell a piece to more than one outlet. But most people who favour spinning articles are interested in SEO. They do it to escape a "duplicate content penalty" from Google. Indeed, I'd heard this so often from people selling online money-making systems that I believed it myself. Until I read Peter's piece. He says there is no evidence that Google apply a duplicate penalty.

Peter runs SEO Scotland and he clearly knows what he is talking about. So it is entertaining and instructive to watch him demolish the arguments put forward by various people in the months that followed his piece, creating a veritable wake of comments.

I had noted that the enthusiasm for article spinning among the commentators seemed to be in direct proportion to their displayed lack of spelling and grammar skills.

Having played about with some article spinners, I believe you would have to be insensitive to the nuances of language to be comfortable with most mechanically altered text. Altering it to the point where you think you might just get away with it won't do.

Language is an incredibly subtle matter, to the extent that we each have our own unique voice. Linguists have actually created software that can analyse different texts and determine whether they have been written by the same person. They can do that because we all display slightly different patterns in the way we use language. Our writing styles are therefore as unique as a fingerprint.

So when a machine starts churning language it is not surprising that people can easily tell whether a real human brain has been at work.

I'm not doubting that an article spinner may speed up the production of distinct articles in the hands of a skilled writer. And goodness knows, journalists need every advantage they can get as newspapers increasingly replace writers with standard press agency copy. But the articles would have to be substantially re-written to display the human touch. A good journalist can churn out 5,000 words a day. One article spinner was proudly claiming to create 2,000 words using a spinning tool. Journalists would probably find it easier just to do a straight re-write. And sadly, there are plenty of talented writers available just now.

5,000 words a day is what a good journalist can produce... arrrgh!

Peter Hoggan is generously offering a free starter SEO course here, created with input from educationalists to help you absorb the lessons.

Image: graur razvan ionut /

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posted by Penny Haywood Calder at


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