Cleaning Up Spam & Other Messes

May 4, 2005 • 10:12 am | comments (2) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Search Engine Strategies 2005 Toronto

Shari Thurow from Grantastic Design was first up and she said that big sites with big money can and do get banned from the engines for spamming. (A WebMD company) came to Shari about their site. The symptoms included that in August 2002, the entire Web site disappeared from Google's index. Only listing that appeared were from ODP. And recently they hired a SEM firm. They then checked the site to determine if there are technical reasons preventing the indexing/crawling of the site. Does it need more lead time after the redesign, robot txt and so on. She explains that lots of people mix up being indexed and ranked; you can not rank, but still be indexed. She then showed the command, if you are indexed, you will show up. She said also use the link: command to check if your banned, but do not rely on the PageRank. Also do not rely on the tools to check links, go to the engines manually to check ban status. She then listed out the 19 types of spam she identified./ Hidden text, hidden links, The treatment; all mirror domains should have a 301 redirect to a single domain name, you wish to promote, permanently. Stop all links to and from FFA sites and they did a lit of PPC purchasing. After they fixed all the issues, they sent an email to Google to beg them to let them in. Funny, she skipped over slides about reporting spam; she was about to give a reason, looked up at the audience and then decided not to say why. I guess Greg Boser (WebGuerilla) got to her. :) She says that you should resubmit to the engine, review pages, keep checking Google. Generally, she says that a site can get in trouble, when you hire multiple SEOs to work on your site. Red flag names are; doorway pages, hallway pages, envelop pages, mini sites, satellite sites, directory information pages (DIP), SEE pages, advertising pages, instant link popularity, permanent positions, guaranteed positions, and so on. Shari openly admits that she goes after her client's competitors who are spamming and she does her best to boot them.

Anne Kennedy from Beyond Ink was next up and she is from Maine, which she called "occupied Canada." She goes over the common sense of SEO. She pulls up a slide named "Guidelines, not games" where she goes over the concept of building your pages for humans and not search engines. She said, "learn what looks funny", like multiple Google results, unfamiliar domains pointing to your site, mirror sites and so on. She showed an example on a Google search at "Inn at Oceans Edge" and showed a result with a url that had the #2 in it, then she viewed the cache of the page and it showed up as blank, it was basically a doorway page, old school spam. She is annoyed that this stuff still works in Google. It is also important to Avoid the appearance of spam, i.e. multiple domains with different links to search. She brought up an example of, they used to have a second site with same content but different URL (domain name alias). They realized that the spider was confused, the home page used a client side redirect from the root level domain to a subdomain, links from other sites to multiple domain names, and many dead end page not found errors. The solution was to choose one domain and link all internal pages to the main site. They did a 301 redirect at the server level for the old domain names. Mirror sites appear to be spam, avoid that stuff. Vendors to watch out for, and she covered some of the same "red flags" as Shari. She says go to SEW's sites or to find good vendors.

Matt Bailey from The Karcher Group was the last one up. Client concerns after being with bad SEOs, they paid 3 other agencies, and they wanted to give up. They looked at the Web site and said they will fix the site and if it works, then you can pay us what is fair. (Cool offer) Warning signs include; search engine referrals dropped drastically, no referrals form Google in 4 months, back links dropped off search month, and overall reporting dropped, poor rankings out of the gate, drastic drop in PR (from 4 - 1, he went on to explain why Shari doesn't like it), loss of pages reported by Google search month and could only find Web site by URL search. Finding included were (1) Doorway pages hidden within a 100% frameset - generated by software and (2) a 1x1 clear gif GIF links to additional doorway pages, placed by a 2nd SEO company. Treatment; clean up the code. You need to know HTML, JS, CSS, robot.txt, examine eery page and match the code with every element on and off the page. And get rid of the doorways - offending tactics. They then sent the apology email to Google and pointed the finger to the firms that caused the problems. He went over some of the names of the tools they used to diagnose the site;,, dreamweaver mx, coffee cup, webbug http viewer, google cache, log files (urchin, click tracks, web trends) and finally look at all the include files. Then he goes into Traffic Power; and so on. He said they just called him yesterday as a sales pitch, he informed them that he will be talking about them at SES. The BBB has a whole claim against them. What did Google not like? (1) JavaScript Mouseover redirect, (2) Within doorway pages, they linked to other TP clients, (3) they created pages for engines and not users, (4) link address resolved to another location (5) page loading graphic when mouse is not on the page and (6) /domain.com_friends.html. He then says that usually the problem is not spam, first step, do not panic. Then check the robot.txt, then look at your navigation (is it SE friendly), https issues (duplicate content), htaccess (keep everyone out), session IDs are a huge issues and site changes/design changes.

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Shari Thurow

05/05/2005 08:22 am

Hey dude- I really would appreciate it if you did not put words and thoughts into your reporting that I do not have. I put alot of the URL "tools" in the conference handbook ahead of time for conference attendees to use on their own time. Many of these slides do not need explanations. I do not wish to irritate conference attendees by reading slide contents out loud. I assume attendees can read. :-) Additionally, since all speakers are allocated a specific amount of time for speaking, I know which slides where explanations are needed and which slides are not, especially since I have done this particular session since its inception. Greg Boser, or any other conference speaker for that matter, does not dictate to me the information I choose to present at a conference. With the notable exceptions of Danny Sullivan and Chris Sherman, of course. Please show me and other conference speakers a little more professional courtesy. If you are going to report on a session, then report the facts.

Barry Schwartz

05/05/2005 12:08 pm

Shari, I really meant nothing by it. I have always said you are one of the best, if not the best, presentors at SES. You did say [do not rely on the tools to check links, go to the engines manually to check ban status.] of course I did not quote you exactly, but that is the impression I received and I agree with you. I never use automated tools to check a site's link count. I go to the engines and type in the link command, the slide where you showed the link commands were useful for the users but the readers here, know the commands. Regarding the Greg Boser comment, that was pure fun and games. I actually thought you would laugh when you read it. I am making a public apology, if it at all insulted you. I understand you avoided the spam topic because that is for a different session and can easy take a session off track. Hence, you are a professional and quality speaker. Again, I am sorry. I was just trying to spice up the report a bit.

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