What is Spam?

Mar 1, 2005 • 10:43 am | comments (1) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Search Engine Strategies 2005 New York
 

By the way, this is a smaller room and much more roomy.

Shari Thurow was up first, she is one of the biggest white hats out there. She quotes Tim Mayer from Yahoo! saying search engine spam are pages created deliberately to trick the search engine into offering inappropriate, redundant or poor quality search results. Questions to ask: Does the content benefit your target audience and site visitors? Who should you ask this to? Your target audience. Would I implement this optimization practice if the Web search engines did not exist? Am I building primarily for search engine positioning? Technology is not spam, but it can be used to spam (user intent). She lists 19 types of search engine spam: keywords unrelated to site, keyword staking, keyword stuffing, hidden text, tiny text, hidden links, link farms, page swapping, redirects, mirror content, doorway pages, cloaking, gibbirsh, domain spam, mini sites, typo spam, affiliate spam, forum/blog spam, and CSS spam. She then goes over some other types of hidden text spam; black on black, white on whiote, noframes, noscript, hidden layers. She explains that cloaking is not spam, but it can be used to spam and gives examples. Shari then tells us someone took her content, cloaked it and she caught them, because she is as technically savvy as the cloakers. She then showed examples of cloaked pages, some were cute and showed how some were banned from Google. She then showed a very legitimate looking page from a university, but as you dig more, there is a site map with link spam for misspellings. I call this type of spam, high-class spam. Shari's favorite quote from Google from the Web-master Guidelines, where she highlights the part about spammers looking for loopholes to exploit. She explains that we do not control the search results, we only the control of the content. She explains that white hats follow the guidelines and black hats do not. She warns that anyone "guaranteeing" search results, its something to worry about. She then shows a slide on where to report spam, Greg Boser is shaking his head in disappointment, too funny - there are threads on the ethics of reporting spam.

Tim Mayer from Yahoo! is next up. He asks how many in this room have been banned? Some raise their hands, including Mr. Boser. He then defines spam, yada yada ;). Spam is more about the INTENT with which you use a technique and the EXTENT to which you use a technique... If search engines did not exist, would you use a technique this way, then you need to worry a bit. When Yahoo! recognizes this, they will "treat" it, lol. Where is that fine line? He said the lines vary by industry. He is basically saying that he understands that in some industries you need to compete. So link spam is OK in some industries (I am putting words in his mouth here). Its important to look at the site as a whole, if you pop then you need to be careful. I am sure Greg Boser will explain this more later. He then shows some example of black text on black background, blog comment spam (50% of blogs are left to die), he showed hidden keywords in a div, he got a phone call and the person who called had tons of links at the bottom of his footer. He showed some types of doorway pages. He then showed affiliate spam, in the background is a real site, and on top of it is a cookie cutter content template and it floods the search listings (all redirecting to the same site).

Matt Cutts from Google to present next. He talks about how NY has real weather, great, he didn't bring a jacket. He explains what is not spam? He asked who can afford to have his entire portfolio of sites removed, I was the only one who raised his hand, I think. He followed that up with, DO NOT SPAM. He said half the battle is making sure your site can be crawled, he kinda drifts into white hat SEO...He then pulls up some quotes from the Google's Webmaster Guidelines page. He said most of this is supposed to be common sense. He then shows examples; first one is a cloaked page (but cheap cloaking because its visible in the Google cache). Then he pulled up a doorway page, really ugly looking page, with content filler and read it to us and it sounded funny but got a very small chuckle. Then he showed more advanced doorway pages, he showed good looking pages, and he showed how people use databases to replace keywords within the same context. They call this spam, "mad lib" spam - so it has a name. He said it is a lot of work, so just make real pages (my comments, its a lot less work in reality). He then shows guestbook spam, link exchanges done in the wrong way. He put up a slide: SPAM = Sites Positions Above Mine. White hat = optimized within guidelines. Black hat = optimized outside guidelines. High risk/low risk. Then puts up his slide on how to report spam. I think its important to note that Tim Mayer did not put up that slide for Yahoo!. feb05feedback@googlegroups.com is the new special way to report spam to Google for this conference. Google handles spam by indexing -> detection -> corrective action -> re-inclusion request -> then reindexed. In 2005 Google will be working hard to increase relevance and reduce spam. "Grandslam spammers" is a term used in Google for those who violated every spam method.

Greg Boser from WebGuerrilla will be sharing the "consequences of spam". He started off by saying, Good morning, I am Greg and I represent the spammers. He got an applause for that. He said it really bugs him that small companies are terrified by the engines and thus don't do anything and don't rank well. He said, most of the time it is not the case. There are industries (PPC - pills, porn, casinos) where spam is the only way to rank well. He does lots of white hats stuff, also works with the engines sometimes. He said he has sites banned and your not a real SEO until you have - Shari hasn't so she laughed at it. The examples you saw (by the engines) were very targeted he said. Someone typed in a search phrase and didn't notice the spam, and they ordered, then its a win-win. His guideline is that he never violates the end user. He will never cross that line. He said all that stuff you saw, viagara pages the engines showed, make 50 - 90k per month working from their home. It is not going away, Greg said. What has changed is that people are spamming to drive relevant, targeted traffic as opposed just getting "eye balls." When you rank for terms that don't relate to your page, it is just a waste of time and hurts the end user. Shari is shaking her head no the whole time. He said, its all about what Tim Mayer mentioned, "stay what is in your space" - well he didnt say that directly, see notes above, but he did mean that. He said many big companies play on both sides of the fence, they have their white hat side and black hat side. He said how many times have you clicked on an result and get redirected to eBay? eBay hasn't been banned and sometimes the redirect pages are but so you start again and make a new domain. It is funny, he did not really discuss the "consequences of spam" as he was introduced to speak on or maybe he did ;). The bottom line is that we all think we have the most relevant site, the reality is that there are only 10 spots on the first page. Too funny, Shari and Matt keep shaking their heads no, Tim is drinking water. If you hire an SEO, make sure they tell you exactly what they are doing. He said he first pitches doing it the "right way" but that is not always an option. Just make sure to do it smart and know who your competition is.

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Comments:

Tom N

03/01/2005 09:16 pm

You got me thinking on the spam and mispelling issue. Seems to me that the Search engines are turning into "search marms" . I wrote a long piece on the futility, and unintended consequences as well as the arbitrary supression of conversation: http://tomnorian.com/index.php/2005/01/13/the_web_s_wise_crackers_in_the_rafters_a

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