It’s not easy to be accepted as a Google News source — a Web site whose stories appear when you run a Google News search, as opposed to a general Web search or blog search. For the most part, only traditional media sources (newspapers, TV stations, wire services) and well-established, multi-author blogs and online publications appear in these results.
But increasingly, online pharmacy spammers are using a backdoor method to get into Google News results.
To see how much of a problem pharmacy spam is for Google, just run a Google News search for terms like “Viagra,” “online pharmacies,” and the like. You’ll find that the legitimate news stories are often overwhelmed by spam masquerading as news.
Why is this? For the most part, it’s not Google’s fault. It’s the fault of legitimate new sources that have opened up their sites to so-called “citizen journalism,” “community blogs,” and other methods of encouraging their readers to post content on their domains. Often this content is published with little or no oversight by the news source.
In running a search today for Viagra, for example, I found spam masquerading as news on the following media sites:
- Motley Fool
- MyFox Austin
- Fox 31 KDVR Denver
In some cases, the spam articles are pulled from the sites shortly after posting — but not until after they are indexed by Google News and visited by who knows how many unknowing readers. In other cases, the spam remains on the media site’s domain for days.
Check out this wonderful headline and lead on a MyFox Austin story found in Google News results:
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Now that’s quality journalism, isn’t it?
The easiest way for media organizations to stop this kind of spam is simple: Stop being so greedy. The bottom-line reason these sites have opened up their domains to “community” contributions is to increase the amount of content on their sites at minimal cost. The more content, the more traffic, and the more advertisers pay.
But even little-guy bloggers like me know that you have to moderate out the spam comments before you publish them. That’s why bloggers use tools like Akismet to filter out the spam. Never let the spammer’s handiwork see the light of day, so the spammer gets no benefit.
It’s not that hard to do. If I can do it, so can Motley Fool, MyFox Austin, Fox 31 in Denver and the many other news organizations that have allowed spam to creep in the back door.171