What Is Spam?

Oct 7, 2008 - 11:48 am 1 by
Filed Under SMX East 2008

Moderator: Danny Sullivan, Editor-in-Chief, Search Engine Land

This room is kind of empty, I guess because it is competing against a political campaign. This is being recorded on video for later. In any event, this panel isn't new but Danny stopped doing it at some point. He now brought it back. They will show examples of spam and guideline discussions.

Nathan Buggia, Live Search Webmaster Central, Lead Program Manager, Microsoft is first up.

Search engine wants to find the best content on the web and deliver it to their user. They have algos to determine what is the best content and most trusted. Spam tries to manipulate this. He then showed some examples of spam on the web. He showed a site guaranteeing 10,000 visitors in an hour, for $30 per month. He then shows RSS to Blog, which "steals" content from other sites and puts it on your site. He then shows Phantom Cloaker tool, it cloaks the results. Porn and Junk is not necessarily spam. Junk is a page with a little content or ad full pages - these are not spam, but they are filtered out mostly.

If you think you have a penalty, you do this: (1) Check if you have a penalty at - Live Search : http://webmaster.live.com - Google: http://google.com/webmasters - Yahoo doesn;t

(2) Review webmaster guidelines

(3) Identify issue

(4) Fix it

(5) Request reinclusion in webmaster tools for each engine

Aaron D'Souza, Software Engineer, Search Quality, Google Inc. is next up and said, "what he said."

He goes into cloaking. Users sees one thing and search engines see another thing. Many times, this is not the webmaster doing this but rather your site was hacked and someone else is doing this to your site. One way to do this is via JavaScript redirect. Another way is to hide text on your page, for example via CSS or using font size that is one point.

Sometimes the spammer doesnt hide the spammish content. They just stick it on the page. Clearly a poor user experience. FYI, he is showing examples.

Doorway pages: creating tons of content in the hope that many of these pages rank in the search engines. Flights to [city], where the pages are almost identical.

Scraping - steal content from other sites. Search engines try to do duplicate detection. Often, you will see the text wont make sense after the reading a sentence or two - cause they try to change it automatically. It reads weird.

He then shows off the webmaster tools on how Google notifies you of a penalty.

Read the Google Webmaster Central Blog also...

Sean Suchter, VP of Engineering, Yahoo! is last up to talk about link spam.

What is Link Spam? If you start to get a lot of really bad links, really fast - that looks bad and looks like spam. It is possible that someone is doing this to hurt you and you can't control it. So they try to just eliminate those links, so your site is not penalized. If you start to link to bad sites, then something is wrong. You control who you link to.

How does this happen? One common way is via a link exchange.

Detect spam:

- Log files - Site Explorer - Contact Yahoo Support - Dont fall for link exchanges or accept money for links - Use nofollow on links in user generated content

Still Poor Results? - Make sure you cleaned things up, are you sure you did? - Consult SEOs - Then fill out the webmaster support form at Yahoo

Now Q&A:

Q) Danny asks about paid links and white paid links. :) A) Nathan says, there is a lot of pressure to build links. Microsoft looks for trusted source links and they recommend staying away paid links. But going to SELand and becoming a contributing editor is a good way to get links. There are many ways to get great links. You do not necessarily need to pay for it.

Aaron says, use the buyer beware concept. Google may have dropped the link value of those paid links from those great sources. So be careful.

Sean said there are a lot of sources of links. Most of the links on the web are not commercially driven, he said. The sites doing well have a lot of organic links.

Q) How do search engines handle hidden links, such as with AJAX, for navigation. A) Aaron said you sometimes need to look at individual cases to see what the intent of those links are.

Nathan said if someone does something small, they wont penalize someone. Display none is not as bad as display it off screen (like too far right or left) is less deceptive, generally.

Q) Link exchanges, at what point... A) Sean explains it is not the few links here or there. What he sees are hundreds of thousands, it goes "crazy" the amount of links you see. It is at a huge scale.

Q) What is up with Google removing the directories from the guidelines? A) Aaron said, They saw a ton of fly by night directories. They saw many webmasters feel they need to submit their site to tons of directories as opposed to building out great content and a great site. So it was removed because this is not what webmasters should worry about.

Q) What are you doing to detect free counter spam? A) Aaron first explained how these links work. They detect these things... Sean said as a webmaster, be careful what you put on your site.

Q) Why not get rid of the toolbar PageRank values when people buy links on that value? A) Aaron said people want a ball park range of what their reputation is. Aaron said, they try to show people that this is one measure. There are other things like link structure, etc.

Danny now pushes him on getting rid of it. People who want it, want it to sell for reputation. Do you think getting rid of it will help things?

Aaron replies, its hard to balance that. Some people use it as a measure to figure out how to improve to their sites.

I then asked, does the internal PR value match the toolbar value, outside of it being out of data. i.e. do you lower the exported value by X if they got a penalty for selling links? He said no. PageRank is only worth a specific measure of the overall algorithm, so an authoritative site will still rank well, even with a low PageRank, but that PageRank is not adjusted outside of it just being older than what is used internally.

Q) Danny beats up on Google saying that sometimes you may mark a site as spamming, when it is not. So you should tell us exactly what is wrong, be transparent! Why not? A) He repeats what Danny said about spammers can use this info to benefit themselves.

More good Qs but ill save some for those who paid for the session...What Is Spam?


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