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Article spinning is a writing technique used in search engine optimization (SEO), and other applications, which creates what appears to be new content from what already exists. Content spinning works by replacing specific words, phrases, sentences, or even entire paragraphs with any number of alternate versions to provide a slightly different variation with each spin. This process can be completely automated or written manually as many times as needed. Early content produced through automated methods often resulted in articles which were hard or even impossible to read. However, as article spinning techniques were refined they became more sophisticated, and can now result in perfectly readable articles which appear original. Once considered spamdexing, a black hat SEO practice years ago, the practice is now admitted as a fair way to lower the similarity ratio, resulting large catalogs of more or less similar items. Website authors use article spinning to reduce the similarity ratio of rather redundant pages or pages with thin content, and to avoid penalties in the search engine results pages (SERPs) for using duplicate content. It is also used in other types of applications, such as message personalization and chatbots.
Automatic rewriting can change the meaning of a sentence through the use of words with similar but subtly different meaning to the original. For example, the word "picture" could be replaced by the word "image" or "photo". Thousands of word-for-word combinations are stored in either a text file or database thesaurus to draw from. This ensures that a large percentage of words are different from the original article.
The problem with simple automatic writing is that it cannot recognize context or grammar in the use of words and phrases. Poorly-done article spinning can result in unidiomatic phrasing that no human writer would choose. Some may substitute a synonym with the wrong part of speech when encountering a word that can be used as either a noun or a verb, use an obscure word that is only used within very specific contexts, or improperly substitute proper nouns. For example, "Great Britain" could be auto spun to "Good Britain". While "good" could be considered a synonym for "great", "Good Britain" does not have the same meaning as "Great Britain".
Article spinning can use a variety of methods; a straightforward one is "spintax". Spintax (or spin syntax) uses a marked-up version of text to indicate which parts of the text should be altered or rearranged. The different variants of one paragraph, one or several sentences, or groups of words or words are marked. This spintax can be extremely rich and complex, with lots of depth levels (nested spinning). It acts as a tree with large branches, then lots of smaller branches up to the leaves. To create readable articles out of spintax, a specific software application chooses any of the possible paths in the tree; this results in wide variations of the base article without significant alteration to its meaning.
As of 2017, there are a number of websites which will automatically spin content for an author.
Because of the problems with automated spinning, website owners may pay writers or specific companies to perform higher quality spinning manually. Writers may also spin their own articles, allowing them to sell the same articles with slight variations to a number of clients or to use the article for multiple purposes, for example as content and also for article marketing.
Plagiarism and duplicate content
Google representatives say that Google doesn't penalize websites that host duplicate content, but the advances in filtering techniques mean that duplicate content will rarely feature well in SERPs, which is a form of penalty. In 2010 and 2011, changes to Google's search algorithm targeting content farms aim to penalize sites containing significant duplicate content. In this context, article spinning might help, as it's not detected as duplicate content.
Article spinning is a way to create what looks like new content from existing content. As such, it can be seen as unethical, whether it is paraphrasing of copyrighted material (to try to evade copyright), deceiving readers into wasting their time for the benefit of the spinner (while not providing additional value to them), or both. Other criticisms liken the results to "a haystack of low-quality blog networks and article repositories."
- "Webmaster Help Centre: Little or no original content". Google Inc. Archived from the original on 26 August 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-18.
- Edwards, Suzzane (December 14, 2011). "Eight Good Reasons Why Spinning Articles is Bad for your Website". Search Engine Journal. Retrieved 24 July 2017.
- "Content Spinning - What Bad (Black Hat) SEO looks like". Creative California. Creative California, LLC. Retrieved 24 July 2017.