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SEO and Politics

Written by Subject: Media: Internet
Article spinning is a powerful search engine optimization technique that website owners often use to gain low or no-cost advertising.  In its most basic form, the website owner writes an article related to the content of her website and a computer program creates thousands of unique articles by replacing the words of the article with synonyms from a thesaurus.  The program automatically submits these articles to hundreds of article directories, saving the website owner countless hours of writing and submitting time.

Automatic substitution programs, however, often result in gibberish that the editors of article directories easily cull.  In more sophisticated programs, the author writes multiple versions of each phrase in the article and the program substitutes from these human-readable phrases to create the unique articles.  The most popular programs all require the author to enter the alternate phrases in code like this:

  Tom took his {dog || puppy || pooch || poodle || canine} {for a walk || to the barn || outside}.

A spinning program can make 15 (5 * 3) unique, human-readable sentences from that code.  With each additional sentence and paragraph, the number of unique articles the program can spin grows exponentially.  This is precisely why online articles are often so similar; to humans all the articles read alike but to Google and Yahoo! they are completely different articles.

Independent websites and news organizations often "reprint" articles from article directories as filler in addition to articles from newswires and press releases.  By giving the appropriate byline credit, these organizations create the illusion of having constantly updated unique content without having to pay staff writers, editors, or fact-checkers.

Now that you know how article spinning works, you should easily recognize articles that have been "spun."  For example, see if you can recall any articles you have read in the last six months spun from this code:

{Libertarian Republican || Maverick Republican || Longshot Republican || Republican gadfly and} Presidential candidate Ron Paul {barely registers in national polls || remains an unknown to Republican voters || remains on the radical fringe of Republican politics} but has garnered {legions of eclectic followers || radical support || small but vocal support} online.


While the {cranky Texas congressman || OB/GYN turned Texas congressman || frail 10-term congressman} will not be {his party's nominee for President || President}, this latest show of support likely means that Paul will {remain on the stage for upcoming debates || participate in at least the early primaries || continue to be a thorn in the side of the more serious candidates}.

Although {Dr. Paul, as he is called by his followers, || "Dr. No", as he is known in congress,} has some popular support due to his {anti-war || isolationist} beliefs, it is likely few of his supporters even know his {wacky economics || fringe domestic agenda || crazy platform} that includes eliminating {the Federal Reserve || the CIA and FBI || whole government departments like the Department of Education}.

According to < INSERT NAME OF RANDOM POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSER >, this small show of support from the radical left and disaffected independent voters won't {translate to Republican votes || change or shape future debates} but may make Paul an attractive candidate for a third-party bid.

Most likely these articles have not been machine-spun, but spun by staff writers anxious to meet deadlines.  A quick LexisNexis search will bring up any number of these articles, so it is trivial to repackage them with a unique phrase or two and the relevant thing that the grassroots has done.  Since there are so many previous articles using the same content, the article passes by editors uncritically.

Of course, the editors of large, reputable news organizations know that perceptions are greater than reality, so they don't fall for these kinds of tricks.  They know that it would be tragic for a barely-factual (or, worse, nonfactual) article to be spun so much that it started a war, displaced millions of families, obfuscated government improprieties, or affected an election outcome.

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