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March 8th, 2002, 02:19 PM #1
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Search Engine Spamming Sucks!
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Â– placement, positioning or ranking Â– means designing a Web page that can be easily indexed by Search Engines (SEs) to improve its chances of ranking highly in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
Unfortunately, some Webmasters abuse the privilege of being listed in the search engines. When they do so, it is called Â“spam.Â” Spam refers to any illegal technique used to improve a page's ranking in the SERPs.
Tons of articles have been written about search engines and spam. Why the need for another article? Because, believe it or not, most major search engines are still vulnerable to unethical techniques used by malicious Webmasters.
Spamming techniques have been used for years. Today, many SEs say they know all the tricks and penalize those pages. But as you will see, most SEs only say they punish spammers Â– in fact they donÂ’t.
My Experience With Search Engines
Recently, using some major U.S. SEs, I made a keyword search to look for a Web design/SEO company in New York. Let me share my highly disappointing experience.
The results pages in most of the search engines were full of Web pages using one or more spamming techniques such as keyword stuffing, page redirects, cloaking or mirroring domains.
Because many SEs use "word frequency" to rank sites, unscrupulous Webmasters abuse this criteria and repeat many relevant, sometimes irrelevant, words within a Web page. Some Webmasters stuff the words into the Â“keywords" META tag, repeating the keyword many times in the hopes of boosting rankings.
I found a page featuring 1,150 words in the keyword META tag, with the word "design" repeated 209 times! Although the submission guidelines of one of the Web's most important search engines states it "excludes submissions with excessive keywords," that SE and many others indexed this page!
Some Webmasters stuff keywords at the bottom of the page. Others use barely legible text or embed "invisible textÂ” in a Web page so users will not see the words but SEs will, ranking the page higher than it deserves.
One search engine stated: "We must sometimes exclude submissions" of "pages with text that is not easily read, either because it is too small or is obscured by the background of the page". Another SE says it will "significantly downgrade a page's ranking" ... "if words cannot be read due to their small size or color." Despite these statements, many SEs index pages having text in the same color as the background. One page I found has a whopping 936 keywords in black text on a white background, making a raw keyword list *visible*.
With page redirection, users visit a Web page but are immediately sent to a different page instead. Why? One of the legitimate reasons is to redirect surfers to a new Web address (URL), but some Webmasters abuse page redirection to obtain higher rankings.
The first page is highly "optimized" - as in "spammed" - with many words in the keywords and description META tag and also in the Title tag. Most of the time, the text of the page is also stuffed with keywords - often as invisible text. The second page is "nicer", not too much spam, a good page for viewers.
Search engines' own submission guidelines pages advise not to submit "any site that redirects to another address," and "your site cannot mirror or redirect to another Web site.Â” Despite these statements, many SEs index pages that use redirection or cloaking.
Cloaking is probably the most controversial spamming technique. Like page refreshing, it uses two pages, one for the SEs and another for the viewer. The big difference between these techniques is this: with refreshing, it is possible for the knowledgeable user to see the code of the first page but with cloaking, the user cannot view the code of the page shown to search engines.
Mirroring consists of building hundreds or thousands of pages with identical content, but with different URLs. The advantage is clear: by finding the "right" tricks to cheat the SE's ranking algorithm, the marketer can "dominate" the SERPs with a multitude of listings. One company had 62 pages in the Top 100 results list.
What do the search engines say about mirroring domains? "Do not submit mirror sites". "Your site cannot mirror or redirect to another Web site." SEs don't like it, but in practice, most are vulnerable to this technique.
In light of these findings, I have several questions for the parties the search engines and for Webmasters.
Questions for Search Engines
Â· When will you punish spammers and when will you have clean indexes?
Â· Why do you accept advertising dollars from sites using spamming techniques?
Questions for Webmasters
Â· Is spamming worth the risk of having your pages penalized or permanently banned from search engine indexes?
Â· Do you think it's impossible to get higher rankings without using spam? Is not!
Reactions And Responses From Search Engines
After publishing the first part of this article, <http://www.web-design-in-new-york.com/search_engines_spamming_sucks_dec.html> I emailed some SEs for comments. Out of more than 50 SEs, only AltaVista answered. Its response: "No comment. Thanks."
There is only one word to describe the lack of response to my study: "disappointment." Why the lack of interest? Do SEs think their indexes are spam-free and that my article doesn't apply? No SE is spam-free, so the article certainly applies to all the SEs.
A few good things did happen, however, as a result of publishing my article. AllTheWeb (FAST) now has a report spam page. <http://www.alltheweb.com/info/spampolicy.html> Coincidence? I doubt it. Why? Because AllTheWeb has been in business for 2 years and itÂ’s strange that they made that report spam page only 3 weeks after part I <http://www.marketing-seek.com/articles/data/20011217095856.shtml> of my article appeared.
AllTheWeb is not the only SE with a "report spam" page. Google, <http://www.google.com/contact/spamreport.html> AltaVista, <http://help.Altavista.com/contact/search> AOL, <http://webmaster.info.aol.com/index.cfm?section=2&article=500000000000023&menuid=500000000000023> or DMOZ <http://dmoz.org/cgi-bin/feedback.cgi> also allow users to report spam. Interestingly, AllTheWeb placed a link to the "report spam" page on its Home Page <http://www.alltheweb.com> Â– perhaps a sign they are taking the issue more seriously.
This begs the question Â“Why must users report spammers when SEs could eliminate spam on their own?Â” For example in its report spam page, <http://www.google.com/contact/spamreport.html>, Google has a detailed list of spamming techniques yet they rely on users to report spammers.
In AltaVista's Â“Combatting Spam" page <http://help.Altavista.com/adv_search/ast_haw_spam> we read, "If the hosting service also hosts spammers and pornographers, you could wind up being penalized or excluded simply because the underlying IP address for that service is the same for all the virtual domains it includes." Excuse me? That's like putting all the tenants of a building in jail simply because one tenant is a drug dealer.
Reactions And Responses From Webmasters
The article was well received from Webmasters. A few, however, disagreed with my comments on cloaking. Please see part I of my article. <http://www.web-design-in-new-york.com/search_engines_spamming_sucks_dec.html> Just a reminder Â– SEs do not differentiate between "good" and "bad" cloaking. Google <http://www.google.com/webmasters/dos.html> says simply: "Don't cloak." Crystal clear.
I received another comment: "If someone's more successful at search engine optimization, that doesn't make them 'bad' guys Â– it makes them more successful." Does this mean that somebody who has 60 pages (same content with different URLs) in the Top 100 results is not a bad guy, he's only "more successful"? I disagree.
One Webmaster said: "Your article may help newbies become SEs spammers." Good point Â– I hope newbies will not use my article as a "spammers manual." Instead, I hope SEs will wake up and start doing their jobs well.
A Possible Solution to the Spam Problem
Have you ever had one of your pages rank lower than a page using spamming techniques? Did you report it? How about this suggestion? <http://www.globalserve.net/~iwb/search_engine/spamdex.html> See also SEO ProsÂ’ <http://www.seopros.org/> Â“Complaint Registry.Â” <http://www.seopros.org/services/report.asp>
Â· A site will be nominated and posted on a listserv which any member can second then the offender will be notified of his conviction by the spamdex police.
Â· They will have a week to clean it up and re-submit and remove the offending listing from the search engines.
Â· After a week the offender will be reported to the search engines. The search engines will have a month to act or they will be added to the list as an accomplice to the activity.
Most major SEs are still vulnerable to spamming techniques. Should SEs stop blaming Webmasters for their "unclean" indexes and grab the bull by the horns? I think so. If not, we will continue to see "bad" Webmasters' pages with high rankings, unhappy users receiving irrelevant results and search engines losing market share. Cleaning up spamming is just good business Â– for everyone on the Web.
Note: A more detailed version of this article can be found here <http://www.web-design-in-new-york.com/search_engines_spamming_sucks_dec.html>
Agree? Disagree? Let me know.
Web Design in New York http://www.web-design-in-new-york.com
March 8th, 2002, 03:45 PM #2
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- January 18th, 2005
March 8th, 2002, 04:24 PM #3
Hi Daniel [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif[/img] (and welcome!)
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Agree? Disagree? Let me know.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
Of course it's in the SE's best interests to keep the Spam out. Your suggestion reminds me a little of SpamCop.. but there's a danger of abuse there too, an unscrupulous webmaster could try to manipulate the "policing" function either to target rivals or to make it unworkable. It's a good idea, but I don't know how you'd stop the abuse.
Also, why warn the spammers? Name-and-shame 'em I say. Give the search engines a chance to sort it out, or name-and-shame them too.
You could compile a list of worst offenders both for spammers and search engines.. if you could work on a good database system to help identify the worst offenders, SEs would probably *pay* you for that information, but that would take a while to get to that point.
You reference to Alltheweb is interesting and it's a possible angle to approach the issue..
..Google is a good outfit, but it's probably easier to persuade outfits like Alltheweb, WiseNut, Teoma etc to take a stand because they're hungry for Google's market share.
Also, part of the challenge is to establish a good dialogue between SE operators and webmasters. Abestweb is pretty good at establishing that between publishers and advertisers for affiliate programmes, it's really pretty similar to that I guess [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif[/img]
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>I think you need: Spam the Engines <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
[img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif[/img] gets my vote.. better still, let's arm ourselves and frag 'em with a BFG9000 and a couple of nukes. [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_wink.gif[/img]
March 8th, 2002, 06:01 PM #4
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- January 18th, 2005
- United Kingdom
Search engines want to achieve the cleanest and most relevant results they can. They really don't want spam of any kind in their results. However, many people do get away with it. Report them - and let the SEs do their job.
I have a couple of comments about your findings. That keyword tag with design repeated 209 times - which search engine did you find that high up in the results ? Post the URL to the result, I would be intrigued to see that, as that is a keyword density of around 18% for the keyword tag alone. Even in SEs that read the keyword tag, that would suffer a penalty on it's own. Not to mention the fact that most Search Engines only read the first couple of hundred characters of this tag.
Secondly, I take great exception to this statement:
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>The first page is highly "optimized" - as in "spammed" -<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
Optimization is not spamming. I work in the search engine optimisation business and have never spammed a search engine, never used cloaking, doorways, tiny text, etc. etc.
However, I agree that the search engines can be slow at doing their job, but if you do find spam, then report it. Some of these techniques are easier to pick up by humans than spiders, but in the end, these pages do get removed.
March 8th, 2002, 09:20 PM #5
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- January 18th, 2005
- West Coast USA
SEO = GOOD Spam
March 9th, 2002, 02:19 AM #6
Just my opinion.
To me, spamming can only mean two things: unsolicited and/or irrelevant.
The search engine is where people go to look for things. "unsolicited" is therefore not applicable in search engines.
And for relevance, as long as the website is not being promoted as something that it is not, webmasters should not be penalized for their creativity in helping people find what they are looking for.
[ 03-09-2002: Message edited by: nighthawk ]
March 9th, 2002, 06:15 AM #7
I second what Nightwatch said.
I clicked that URL of yours!! First, the URL is a bunch of keywords.
you have lots of keywords on your page...
Keyworded "alt" tags...
Your use of the words "search engine spamming" must get those pages to rank real high under those keywords...
But MAINLY, your page says you do "search engine optimization"!
Don't you realize that the "anti-spam" types would rather see ALL search engine optimizers go out of business? What are you doing singing their tune?
[ 03-09-2002: Message edited by: Leader ]
March 9th, 2002, 07:19 AM #8
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- United Kingdom
Leader, Actually, a lot of the anti-spamming types, including myself, are in the search engine optimization business.
As for NightHawk's comments. I don't want to get into a debate about relevance as it will go nowhere but these are the facts:
The search engines each determine what they consider to be spam - cloaking, hidden text, etc. They post this information quite clearly on their sites and, as it is their product, they are quite at liberty to set the rules for inclusion.
You may not like it, you may think they are wrong, but your opinion on this (and mine) is largely irrelevant. If the search engines say it is spam, then spam it is. If they turn round tomorrow and say all blue text is spam, you and I may think it is ridiculous and would let them know, but at that moment all blue text becomes spam.
They set the rules - you either play by them or you take a risk and suffer the consequences.
[ 03-09-2002: Message edited by: markymark ]
March 9th, 2002, 11:49 AM #9
"You may not like it, you may think they are wrong, but your opinion on this (and mine) is largely irrelevant.~MarkyMark"
I've seen that line of thinking on another forum and I heartily disagree with it! Just look at any category where the so-called spam exists and you will see just whose opinion is truly relevant!
"They set the rules - you either play by them or you take a risk and suffer the consequences."
I do have to wonder about your opening statement that a lot of anti-spamming types are in the SEO business. Other than putting some finesse on the effort, it seems to be the same to me--you're getting a page to rank higher than it would have, presumably using your knowledge of the algos!
March 9th, 2002, 12:55 PM #10
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- January 17th, 2005
You have to remember one thing, most search engines are run by morons when it comes to business.
They think they are competing with other search engines for traffic, so they figure the more pages we index the better. We can charge more for advertising if we index everyone and their dog.
But since every keyword is in essence a kind of classified ad, those who get in the top 20 to 40 get seen more often than those who do not. So there might be 25 million pages listed for a keyword and how do you determine
the listing rank.
Optimization based on any number of criteria.
Actually, it's beyond stupid to allow FREE site listing in any search engine.
It's also beyond stupid to allow people to list more than say a dozen keywords in their meta tags.
Charging $12 per year for a listing would prevent almost search engine spam.
A random listing generator would solve the problem of rank
One other thing I think would work would be you can only submit your Domain Name and say a flat number of pages that coincide with keywords.
For example: Your domain is www.xyz.com
That's the one you pay for but your keywords must relate to a specific page on that domain. Example: www.xyz.com/free.html, www.xyz.com/personals.html etc. And you are limited to say a dozen keyworded pages under that domain.
That would clean up the mess.
March 9th, 2002, 01:19 PM #11
OK, Fred, here is where we disagree. That should make everyone sit and take notice. LOL
So, you don't think search engines should have any content. That would be the result, you know, since no one is going to pay to have their content pages in search engines. Just a big yellow pages for advertisers. Never mind about that medical information you may desperately need someday. The one and only true purpose of search engines is so advertisers can make a buck.
Well, thinking like that is why all these changes are happening. Most people just don't want search engines like that.
In fact, if that were to happen, you know what? Most people would unplug their computers and go down to the video store, never to return. I think a lot of people already have due to the fact that they can't get information because of all the ads.
Take the content away from the internet and you will have no one left to sell your stuff to.
March 9th, 2002, 05:37 PM #12
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Someone has to pay for the distribution of information - I have rarely, that I can remember, ever seen a 100% content site. They have all had some form of advertising or a link to someone who paid them - like Overture.
If some one can't afford to pay a minimal fee for a listing, then they should decalre they are a non-profit group and go solicit a buck from 12 people.
FREE dosen't work when there are distribution costs involved.
The only reason it was free from the beginning of yahoo and such was because the dot.bombs were ppricking up the distribution cost and paying the Yahooites and such salaries.
March 9th, 2002, 06:35 PM #13
Yes, a lot of sites DO carry banners. Then again, a lot don't.
But, tell me, if you type in "heart attack" do you really want the better paid for site or the best information site to have the top placement?
That is a poor example, however.
If you type "Emperor Constantine" into MSN search, not one paid site is returned in the results. And, from a brief peek, not one of the first ten have banners. It is information like that that would be lost. And, it is for information like that, that people buy computers. They don't buy computers because it is a nifty way to go shopping. They like stores better.
People put up information sites and just hope someone will find them. Most of them don't know didly about search engines and could care less until they want to find something. They assume search engines are just that, search engines. And, they aren't about to start paying for the service when you consider that most don't even know you can do that and the rest are offended at the idea.
Yes, search engines need to make money. They will do that from the commercial sites. And, that will cover the costs of the free sites with that money. They have already discovered that if they don't return relevant content to searchers, the searchers are not interested in them as a search engine at all. If the searcher does not find what they want when looking for content, they don't like that search engine and won't use them even when they WANT to shop.
That is what all the changes are about.
March 10th, 2002, 12:26 PM #14
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- January 18th, 2005
- United Kingdom
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>I do have to wonder about your opening statement that a lot of anti-spamming types are in the SEO business. Other than putting some finesse on the effort, it seems to be the same to me--you're getting a page to rank higher than it would have, presumably using your knowledge of the algos!
This is an interesting view point, Leader. If I design and optimize a site from scratch, how am I getting a page to rank higher than it would have ? All I do is to use my knowledge of what the search engines want to see at the top of the results and give it to them. Simple (well, not simple, but you know what I mean).
Professor: I've only been on this forum and few days and you have already amused me greatly. Ah yes, the old rotate the links randomly idea - consequently, 99% of the time you have rubbish at the top of the results. It's been tried, it's failed, next...
Ssanf is spot on when he says that if SEs don't return relevant results, then searchers go elsewhere. Compare the growth of Google with the demise of AltaVista as an example.
March 11th, 2002, 03:34 AM #15
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>If I design and optimize a site from scratch, how am I getting a page to rank higher than it would have ? All I do is to use my knowledge of what the search engines want to see at the top of the results and give it to them. Simple (well, not simple, but you know what I mean).
My business partner was approached by a particular company (who has since deactivated at cj, BTW) about us marketing their products. When I replied rather curtly (I'd looked at their site when setting up and had decided against it), he whined to my business partner that perhaps I could "work my magic" (excuse me Ssanf, not my words, really) on his pages.
I sent a flaming reply back to my business partner that I didn't do anything that was illegal, cheating, or secret. Everything I did to get those pages ranked well under those particular keyword phrases is there to be learned on the internet itself. I flamed since the fellow was offering a commission at 1/2 of what the merchant we currently market is offering, or if we preferred, a $2/lead deal (!!!!!), or to pay us for SEO.
I don't do "my magic" for $2/lead, nor do I want to get into the SEO business for anyone else (no offense Markymark, but I am really enjoying having only myself to answer to when I need a day off or can't get to some task).
On some level I do have to ask myself whether search engine "spam" is in the eyes of the beholder when I feel offended. For instance, I was interested in going gung ho into furniture marketing, but took a look at the most popular keywords and saw that a TON of FurnitureFind affiliate sites had plastered the google results. I was offended for a couple of reasons:
<LI>the framed affiliate sites all look the same when you get there, with only a minor variation of the main frame landing page,
<LI>the term which I was searching for was often NOT relevant to said landing page,
<LI>and every single site looked exactly the same and did not really help me navigate the FurnitureFind mega-site any better.
On the other hand, I was recently searching for some sort of cream or rub for a friend with leg pain and was very happy that some niche marketers had set up sites that made it easy for me to find the product I was interested in within moments of searching.
Was I really offended by the one since I was researching competition whereas the second I was shopping? Is search engine "spamming" all relative?
That said, it's all my own rambling.
Markymark welcome to the "Amused by Fred" club. Personally, I keep scrolling without even reading any more. Just too long winded to even take my time.
March 11th, 2002, 07:28 AM #16
"This is an interesting view point, Leader. If I design and optimize a site from scratch, how am I getting a page to rank higher than it would have ? All I do is to use my knowledge of what the search engines want to see at the top of the results and give it to them. Simple (well, not simple, but you know what I mean).~MarkyMark"
Uh, that's exactly what the so-called "spammers" do (except those bent on getting pages miscategorized)! Plus, if someone hires an SEO, they must figure their original pages need help...to help a poorly ranked page by rewriting it with rank in mind is INDEED causing it to rank higher than it would have!
Fred, your idea of only allowing keyword-related pages frankly sucks...because it would SCREW all of the virtual malls like mine that have very few (or only ONE) pages related to any particular keyword.
Your idea is akin to saying that WalMart would have to run 10,000 little stores, and advertise them separately, instead of putting all the products under one roof and advertising them with one flyer!
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>
If you type "Emperor Constantine" into MSN search, not one paid site is returned in the results. And, from a brief peek, not one of the first ten have banners. It is information like that that would be lost. And, it is for information like that, that people buy computers. They don't buy computers because it is a nifty way to go shopping. They like stores better.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
First, I don't know where you got the idea that people buy computers to find that kind of info. It sounds to me that that's what YOU did, and suddenly that has become "people"! I would think more people would buy an encyclopedia for that stuff...
And the comment "they like stores better" is BULL HOCKEY for those living in any cold state or in Canada. Going out into the 30 degrees and under to just to buy what can be delivered to our snowy doors is NOT preferred!!! Online shopping is a multi-billion dollar a year INDUSTRY. It did NOT get that way because "people like stores".
Shoppers will indeed come to shopping engines with no content--JUST AS THEY TURN TO THE CONTENT-LESS YELLOW PAGES for physical shopping. It's a pipe dream that content is required for anything!
Commerce shall win this war--and it is WAR!--against the commies who would destroy our profitability in the name of Content!
I use the word "Commies" very precisely, too--they (the Soviets) claimed everyone should be equal, share, not be in things for the money, that capitalism was bad, etc... REMEMBER THE BREAD LINES, THE DEPRIVATION, AND THE GENERAL EFFECT ON THEIR SOCIETY that resulted from such FOLLY!
And before someone says "do you really think that," the answer is YES! If I didn't I wouldn't have posted it!!
March 11th, 2002, 07:53 AM #17
Wow.. Daniel has certainly stirred something up here [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif[/img]
You've got to define Spam as opposed to Search Engine Optimised listings.. we all (most) try to optimise our sites one way or another.. personally, I like to do it by getting listed in every place I think relevant..
..but the FurnitureFind sites were clearly Spam, the entries existed for no other reason to get an artificially good ranking in Google.
So how do you define spam.. where is the divide between optimisation and spam?
I personally think it's wrong to assume the the *successful* SEs don't care about Spam.. the fact that so many people here have been hit by the Page Rank Zero issue is testament to the fact the Google is trying to eliminate it, but not always getting it right. And there are other search engines hungry to be the next Google, so they have a motivation to keep the results relevant.
I guess one of the key problems for SEs is economics - Google indexes 2 billion web pages, so how do you keep them all spam free *and* keep your business on an even keel?