SEOmoz To Identify Search Spam: Automated Outing Or Helping Industry?

May 8, 2012 • 8:49 am | comments (43) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Search & Web SEO Spam

seo spamSEOmoz's CEO, Rand Fishkin, announced on his Google+ page that his company is working on project that they hope will "classifying, identifying and removing/limiting link juice passed from sites/pages."

In short, SEOmoz is working on software to add to their toolset to help SEOs determine if their pages or competitors pages are spammy in nature. If SEOmoz can figure it out, the purpose would be to tell webmasters and SEOs that Google probably figured it out and thus the links and content on those pages classified as spammy are probably not worth much.

Rand explained that if they classify it as spam, "we're pretty sure Google would call webspam."

One thing Rand gets himself in trouble with, or has gotten in trouble with is "outing" SEOs for spamming. He has tarnished his reputation amongst some SEOs in doing so, either intentionally or unintentionally.

That being said, Rand asked the public if he should go ahead with this project. He wrote:

Some of our team members, though, do have concerns about whether SEOs will be angry that we're "exposing" spam. My feeling is that it's better to have the knowledge out there (and that anything we can catch, Google/Bing can surely better catch and discount) then to keep it hidden. I'm also hopeful this can help a lot of marketers who are trying to decide whether to acquire certain links or who have to dig themselves out of a penalty (or reverse what might have caused it).

It seems like Rand has made up his mind and most of the responses are in favor of SEOmoz building this out. What do you think?

Forum discussion at Google+.

Image credit to ShutterStock for spam target

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Barry Adams

05/08/2012 12:53 pm

Horrendously bad idea. Despite their delusions, it is not SEOmoz's job - or any SEOs job - to police search results. That's the job of the search engines, and the search engines alone. Makes me wonder if behind all that venture capital there's a Googler with a big wallet.

Nathaniel Bailey

05/08/2012 01:15 pm

This is what I posted on G+ I think its a damn good idea to help the white hat seo community and if done correctly it will help people in finding more quality linkings rather then be used to help google remove those that acquire spammy links.


05/08/2012 01:23 pm

In before he finds out that whitehats "legitimate link building" is confused as "black hat" and vice versa. Welcome to reality where the SEO's play, and now whitehats get slapped like err'e day. Guest posts, you boast, where the industry's goin - now losin' ranks and you reap what you sow.

Brad Shaw

05/08/2012 01:33 pm

Is it now? No one said they would be policing anything.


05/08/2012 01:34 pm

If this tool is designed for SEOs to use to audit their site...I think it's pointless. You don't need tools to know whether you're spamming in your strategy. Site owners should be able to see it naturally.


05/08/2012 02:05 pm

If you're building links, means you're getting links by forcing others to link, you're spammer. No software need to know this.


05/08/2012 02:09 pm

Such software will help spammers to know, if search engines know they are spammers. Another tool for spammers.

Taylor Toussaint

05/08/2012 03:16 pm

This is just another step toward SEOmoz launching their own search engine. They have the index and now funding to build it out.

Julien Berard

05/08/2012 03:35 pm

My main quetion is more about the utility of such a tool - Any "proper SEO" is able to detect if one of its competitor is spammy or not. It could be cool in term of reverse engineering but such a tool could be a som sort of double edge sword


05/08/2012 03:50 pm

I don't see it as outing as much as being a really helpful and time saving tool. Sure you can dig in and find bad links but it takes a lot of time when you have 300K+ links. I'd really like to know when my competitors are using black hat techniques too. It'll help, but it won't really do its full job unless SEOmoz knows exactly what Google is labeling suspicious. if you're worried about being outed, you should probably be more worried about losing your job over tactics that won't help in the long term.

Tory Lynne

05/08/2012 04:13 pm

I like the tool, and I like the Rand perspective of outing crap and spam. Why should we keep our mouths shut? It's *us* after all - those that provide quality work - that it will reflect badly on. There's a reason the public seems to think all SEO is is spam - it's done, and it's in our name. If we want to see that reputation improve we've got to do our part in improving it for everyone.

Michael Curtis

05/08/2012 04:30 pm

I.......gah. I don't see this as 'outing' - As Rand said, anything Moz can figure out Google can certainly calculate, and as an agency monkey I can certainly see the value in being able to quickly create charts and the like dictating what is and isn't spam for clients. Picking out examples is easy, creating topdown profile-wide review is a pain. So in that respect I'm pretty chuffed. But, similarly, I imagine that if I were an amateur blackhat looking to learn, having a tool that essentially tells me 'you did good!' or 'you messed up! Especially here, here and here!' isn't exactly going to dissuade me.

Rob Watts

05/08/2012 05:05 pm

What @Adamus:disqus said to a point. Why feed all this FUD? Just plays in to the hands of those with axes to grind.

Steve Gerencser

05/08/2012 05:35 pm

So you want an easy way to find places to drop links that count? You sound exactly like a black hat looking for an easy way to success without putting in the work to me.

Jon Tavarez

05/08/2012 05:54 pm

Those that can't do, teach.


05/08/2012 06:22 pm

Hopefully he has good liability insurance because accusing webmasters publicly of spam can backfire.

Jaan Kanellis

05/08/2012 07:28 pm

This is the statement I have the most problem with: "Rand explained that if they classify it as spam, "we're pretty sure Google would call webspam." No way to know that is the case or even remotely close to the same defintion of spam. Rand is making a grand assumption on this.

Barry Schwartz

05/08/2012 07:29 pm

Yes he did.

Dave Fowler

05/08/2012 09:54 pm

This sounds like a great idea to me. In trying to ascertain why you are ranking above or behind competitors this tool could add some useful insight beyond Open Site Explorer and the like. I suspect that, just like the other tools in the SEOmoz toolset, the reports will be your own and not some public 'outing' board, and I can't see Google relying upon this toolset to identify webspam - their own engineers are quite handy at this kind of thing ;-) There is nothing to fear but fear itself.

Gareth Mailer

05/08/2012 10:54 pm

Define "spam". Simple.


05/09/2012 02:02 am

Another moron working for the Google collective. Google loves it when people get spun up and volunteer as part of the search engine police.

James Brew

05/09/2012 10:44 am

It's probably going to be called "rat on your competitor". The whole concept seems pretty nasty to me. Everyone knows spam links don't work long term so a competitor wont be there long anyway. If SEO's just concentrate on doing a good job for their client they should not have to worry about any one else's business.

Aniruddha Badola

05/09/2012 11:29 am

Isn't it weird everything that was legitimate few years back is webspam now. SEO biggies start these tactics and when they see that everyone is doing it, they designate that as spam.

Dewaldt Huysamen

05/09/2012 11:40 am

This is awesome @rustybrick:disqus I am glad Rand is planning this!!


05/09/2012 01:16 pm

This may be a great tool to help me identify sites that I want to spam links to my competitors with. Google can't keep including negative link juice in their algo. Eventually Negative SEO will become prevalent enough that it will start negatively effecting the relevancy of Google's search results. You can't assign negative value to something that is potentially out of control of the site owner receiving the penalty.

Jeff Gregory

05/09/2012 03:23 pm

I think any SEO worth his/her salt would applaud the effort. SEOs who complain about other SEOs "ratting out" the competition suffer from some delusion that SEOs are a merry band of renegades who have a strict code of silence. Hog wash. If you are opposed to this in any way, you are exposing yourself as guilty of the very tactics Rand's team would look to identify. Rand, the same people who call you a rat will defend their deceitful tactics with the tired line, "It's just business." Or they'll use the childish rationalization I've heard several black-hat friends delude themselves with: "Hey, it's all just a game, anyway." Well, fight fire with fire, in this case, and call your move what it is: "It's just business." If that's too stoic, you can tell them: "Hey, it's just a game anyway, right."

Joanna Lewis

05/09/2012 03:43 pm

Not really. If you're talking to a wembaster it'd be nice to have automated tools that check to see if they're engaging in any nasty activity (my agency has tools like this but we don't own our own web index and that makes all the difference) because you want to know if the link will count and also if it has a chance of hurting you too.

Joanna Lewis

05/09/2012 03:45 pm

The purpose of this tool would be to speed up the task of identifying spammy competitor activity. Tools don't replace SEOs, they speed them up.

Joanna Lewis

05/09/2012 03:46 pm

Yes I am

05/09/2012 04:04 pm

This is a very valid statement. At some point they will need to stop it but for now they are still shaking the trees... and look at all that is falling out.


05/09/2012 04:26 pm

Joanna, I suppose I get your point. You want tools to help you identify whether or not your site is being put in risk when someone else is executing your SEO program. There are a lot of shady SEOs out there that will gladly take your money, use link spam to improve your rankings (in the short term), and then abandon you when you get penalized. I'm a SEO, and I hate those people who give our industry a bad rep. Site owners/webmasters should have a firm grasp on the tactics being used even when an agency is acting on their behalf.


05/09/2012 04:31 pm

I wonder if the sponsored links list at the right sidebar of this website are considered as unnatural links. It appears that they are not. I would also add to the basket in-text links of ad networks such as kontera and infolinks. Are these classified as unnatural to the Penguin update algorithm? What do you think?

Joe Youngblood

05/09/2012 05:17 pm

As a private tool it would be helpful. I would prefer to know if a page is too thin compared to those in the SERPs for a keyword, etc.. But what if SEOMoz thinks a page on your site is 'spam' would it be probable then to assume Google / Bing / Blekko think the same way? I wouldn't mind knowing what SEOMoz's tool thinks, but it would suck knowing that everyone with a pro account could see the same.

Dave Fowler

05/09/2012 06:39 pm

Looking at this from a different angle, if we anticipate that negative SEO is going to become a greater problem post-Penguin, then I guess this tool could help alert us should we become targeted? Could be a useful early warning signal.

Stephen J Dow

05/09/2012 08:32 pm

It's hilarious - and a good thing. Anything that can get in Google's big fat money-grubbing face is a step in the right direction to me. Face it, they ARE a monopoly and therefore we need as much pressure/ammo as possible to get the FTC to move in on them. We need to have more than one choice for generating the vast majority of leads other than Google. I'm not a Rand fan, but I hope he is able to stir some big stuff up - that leads to a full-on FTC investigation (and a break-up like ma Bell)!

Sourabh Rana

05/10/2012 12:26 pm

But on SEO MOZ only registered members can comment and if @RAND has has some problems for any external link, he can manually approve the comments with some specialized persons or sends in the moderation while before approving. But in short this idea is to hurting the SEO Industry in short. There is lot of unawareness in SEO Industry about creating links. What is quality links. SPAM word is starting from SEO evolution but now everyone is talking about this. IF Google and @RAND really wants to stop spamming in Internet industry. There should be a set of basic guidelines for every search engine not only for google. That every SEO should follow these guidelines. Now every SEO EXPERT in this industry have different set of techniques to rank the site because everything depends on their EXP. and knowledge. They are doing good but there must be some set SEO STANDARDS would be enforced by all search engines and @Barry Schwartz I respect you alot but you are industry leaders. So it is my request to you that come step forward and take intitative for this otherwise Google animals (panda, penguin now panther as your favt. :) ) eats all of our hardwork, knowledge, time sharing and most important jobs too. Best Regards Sourabh Rana!/kmadhav

Brandon Heate

05/11/2012 06:02 pm

I think this might be well implemented as needing embedded code on your site to be functional, similar to analytics type tools. This way it can only be used to evaluate sites that the user controls and not as a snitching tool against your competitors. If this does work out to be a way to point out 'spammy' competition, I wouldnt be surprised if some of those outed will be seeing how truly effective Penguin is at mitigating negative SEO tactics

Oral Seymour

06/26/2012 09:16 pm

Yes he is but we already trust him by using some of his tools

Oral Seymour

06/26/2012 09:18 pm

Show me some examples of things that were legitimate years ago that is now considered spam! It's always been spam, Google has just gotten better at detecting it.


07/03/2012 10:03 pm

By definition, for google, every single link that is built with your personal intervention and hasn't came naturally .. is spam, if it isn't today, it will be the "show me" story doesn't really fit well.

Ljuben Georgiev

08/15/2012 12:54 pm

I totally agree with you Barry. If I was on his position, I would rather try to make most of my current projects like Linkscape (not update it every 2-3 months with 2-3 months old data). Sometimes it feels like SEOmoz know better than Google, what Google are looking for :)

Gregory Smith

09/21/2012 08:14 pm

Rand is foolish in many ways....

Shristy Chandran

11/22/2012 04:25 pm

Well, google is already calling out webmasters privately and then publicly of spam, so what is with seomoz too doing it.

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