What Is Spun Content?

A famous painting of a set of twins — could it be a visual representation of spun content? Similar, but different enough?

Spun content has been around for many years, but countless unsuspecting businesses and website owners learn about it the hard way. Spun content is generally used for blackhat SEO tactics, and it can land you in trouble when it comes to your site’s reputation and ranking.

Now, with the rise of ChatGPT and other AI writing tools, content spinners seem to be making a comeback, fueling low-effort attempts to beat plagiarism and AI content detectors — but they won’t work for long. Here’s what you need to know.

What is Spun Content?

Spun content is produced by a content spinner, which is an automated tool that can sound quite intriguing. In theory, a content spinner lets you take any piece of writing (like that top-ranking article from a competitor), plug it in, and generate a brand-new article. Who wouldn’t want content at the click of a button?

Unfortunately, just like everything that sounds too good to be true, content spinners generally are.

The worst content spinners generate content that is hard to read, if not completely nonsensical. The “best” content spinners tend to generate more readable content, but the generated content will still struggle to pass plagiarism detectors and you’ll typically end up with a fluff-filled piece that lacks meaning and value.

Not convinced? There are plenty of free content spinners you can try out for yourself to gain a better understanding of the concept. As an example, I took an excerpt from this article and ran it through SpinBot.com to show the results.

“Turned substance is created by a substance spinner, which is a mechanized device that can sound very interesting. In principle, a substance spinner allows you to take any piece of composing (like that highest-level article from a contender), plug it in, and create a fresh-out-of-the-box new article. Who wouldn’t need content at the snap of a button?”

As you can see, the rewritten text is free of grammatical errors, but it reads very strangely. The word swaps also begin to cause the writing to lose its meaning, so you can imagine the rambling pieces these tools tend to generate when you plug in longer articles.

What is Spintax?

Most content spinners show you Spintax and allow you to edit it before generating the rewritten text. This helps a lot with quality control as it allows you to take out nonsensical word swaps. You can also write Spintax manually, which definitely results in much higher quality end results. Of course, writing Spintax, or even editing it, is extremely time-consuming.

Examples of Spintax

Most content spinners {show you|generate|produce|turn out|create} Spintax and allow you to {edit|change|alter} it {before|prior to} {generating|producing|seeing} the {rewritten|altered} text.

I wrote the above Spintax by hand, so all of the swaps make sense. If I plugged this Spintax into a special tool, a computer would select a single word from the options within each set of brackets to produce “new” (i.e., slightly different) content.

As you can imagine, it took me longer to find synonyms for all of those words than it would have to just write a brand new sentence, which is why most people will let a tool generate Spintax automatically. Let’s compare the results with the help of this tool.

The results of my handwritten Spintax:

“Most content spinners create Spintax and allow you to alter it prior to seeing the rewritten text.”

The results of the auto-generated Spintax:

“Most content spinners deed you Spintax and allow you to condense it previously generating the rewritten text.”

As you can see, the unedited, auto-generated Spintax produced a sentence that makes no sense. With that in mind, remember that auto-generated Spintax can be edited to avoid strange/improper substitutions, but that’s when most people begin to wonder why anyone would go through the trouble.

Where Do Content Spinners Come From?

Spinners were especially useful in the 2010s when people were trying to generate large volumes of comments, articles, and other types of content (content that humans weren’t necessarily ever going to read) solely for the purpose of injecting backlinks into said content.

This was done for ranking purposes and it may have been effective for some time, but this is a blackhat strategy that is no longer useful with Google’s ever-changing ranking algorithms.

In my opinion, the most legitimate and honest way to use a content spinner is to use it to spin your own content. In other words, you’ll need to write the original content that you are spinning by hand so that you’re not plagiarizing a third party.

However, whether you write the original content yourself or not, spinning software will always produce “thin content” because the software just swaps words. Spinning software never adds any value or new information to the content. Plus, the generated content is going to be lower in quality because of the diminishing readability and fluency.

Back in the day, many “blackhatters” would write an article, spin it, and then even go on to spin the spun content, and so forth. You can probably imagine the sheer gibberish that was being produced after the first or second spin.

In other cases, people who know they need a very large volume of content may go through and write Spintax by hand for an original piece they create themselves, allowing them to spin the original article as many times as possible while maintaining the highest level of grammatical accuracy.

In any case, spun content lacks value and always maintains a certain level of similarity to the original piece–often to the point of search engines viewing it as duplicate content–and that’s precisely why Google and other search engines penalize spun content.

Why Do People Use Content Spinners? 

Frankly, most people have no use for spun content, but many people end up with it because some content “writers” and cheap content mills will try to sell spun content to the unsuspecting. After all, it takes little to no effort to produce, so there’s a huge margin for profit for those who can get away with selling it.

Content spinners have also grown more popular in recent months with the advent of ChatGPT and other content writing tools. Companies like Copyleaks have been working around the clock to develop AI content detectors that are able to determine whether the content is AI- or human-written with a high level of accuracy. This is bad news for those relying on AI to create content for them.

Google announced in X that it considers all AI-generated content to be spam. So, to get around the search algorithms, people are now having AI generate content and then spinning it around to try and make its AI origin less detectable. The big danger, of course, is that AI content doesn’t offer unique value to begin with, and spinning it is likely only going to worsen the quality. Both will harm your SEO.

How to Know if Content is Spun

If you’re purchasing content from a marketplace or writer for the first time, you should always do your due diligence to make sure they deliver on their promises. However, advanced content spinners can end up producing content that’s actually pretty hard to discern from handwritten content at first glance.

People who are in the business of selling spun content under the guise of “unique” content will usually go through and edit the spun content a bit so that it reads nicely. This doesn’t make it unique (and it doesn’t make it any less plagiarized), but it does make it even harder for you to know that the content has been spun. So, how can you know if content is spun?

Here are some red flags to look for.

Red Flag #1: The writing isn’t fluent.

Spelling errors, misplaced commas, and other common mistakes aren’t what you should necessarily be looking for if you’re trying to identify spun content. These are things that often come along with hiring a real human writer to produce your content (although a great one will proofread their work before sending it to you).

What you should be looking for is major and repeated issues with word choice and sentence structure because these are the types of grammatical issues that come along with having a machine “rewrite” existing articles. You may also find that the writing lulls, maybe it repeats concepts from earlier paragraphs or even contradicts itself.

As you can imagine, spun content often results in factual errors even in instances where a paragraph is grammatically correct. Paying attention to the phrasing and meaning is key to detecting spun content.

Red Flag #2: The article uses strange wording.

Check out this example of Spintax that a free online content spinner generated:

Spelling errors, misplaced commas, and {extra|supplementary|further|other} common mistakes aren’t what you should necessarily be looking for if you’re {trying|maddening|irritating|infuriating} to identify spun content. These are things that often {come|arrive} along {following|subsequent to|behind} hiring a {genuine|real} human writer to {fabricate|manufacture|produce|build|develop} your content (although a {good|great} one will proofread their {work|do something|take action|take steps|proceed} {before|previously|since|in the past} sending it to you).

I took the first paragraph from under this subheading and ran it through the tool to generate Spintax. You can see in the highlighted portion that it attempted to replace “trying” with a synonym for its adjective form (where “trying” is defined as “difficult or annoying”). However, in the sentence, I was using the word “trying” in its verb form (as in, “to make an attempt or effort to do something”).

As you can see from the screenshot above, all of the brackets suggest some odd word choices that no native speaker would ever use within the context of the sentence. Some aren’t necessarily grammatically incorrect, they’re just…strange. If you notice this phenomenon, you may be reading spun content.

Red Flag #3: Tools are detecting plagiarism.

Even the most advanced content spinners struggle to beat CopyScape and other premium plagiarism detectors, so I think it’s worthwhile to pay a few cents for CopyScape’s premium check in order to test your content before publishing.

This is a good practice even if you know the content isn’t spun because lazy writers may interweave plagiarized content into their writing in order to save time. If CopyScape detects any plagiarism (outside of quoted excerpts), you will need to inspect the article more closely. You should have a zero-tolerance policy for plagiarism because it can harm your site’s SEO and reputation, and it could even land you in legal trouble.

Can You Identify Spun Content?

Experienced content spinners should always review the Spintax to correct incorrect word swaps and they often edit the content before publishing, but paying attention to the small details will help you avoid spun content.

All in all, these red flags perfectly illustrate that algorithms still can’t detect and comprehend context. Indeed, the English language is tremendously complex and words have many different meanings, which makes it tough for content spinners to do a good job.

I can recall a few instances when I was editing content for my clients and realized the content they sent to me was spun. In all of these cases, I reached out to the client and told them about my suspicions. Almost all of them had no idea they had paid for spun content.

Unfortunately, I found this happening most often with non-native speakers who were not able to thoroughly check their content themselves (hence why they hired an editor). Luckily, I think all of these clients were able to get refunds from the sellers who sent them the spun content since they had purchased on a platform that had a good buyer protection policy.

To avoid problems, always do your due diligence before hiring someone, and don’t invest too much money in their services until you know they can perform to your expectations. When in doubt, choose an experienced ghostwriter who can show you testimonials and samples before you start working together.

About Me

Since 2014, I’ve been helping top tech companies like Kaspersky and Simple Nexus put their best foot forward with thoughtful content marketing initiatives. I also offer executive ghostwriting services to a small handful of today’s top business leaders.

I love passing on what I’ve learned about SEO, content marketing, and thought leadership here on my blog. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to send me a message!

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