Web SPAM – Should We All Snitch For Google?

To snitch or not to snitch, that is the question.

Should we report our competition or sites we come across for Web SPAM, or is it Taboo? Does it make you a snitch or a rat? Is it OK to publicly point it out but not in a private report?

I think everyone would have a somewhat different opinion of what the Utopian Web would be like. Ask 100 people the question, “What is Web SPAM?” and see how many answers you get. Some will tell you it’s the ocean of scraper sites that steal data for content so they can run ads. Others say it’s the numerous sites that come up top 10 for unrelated content or that come up top ten but have little or no content, just a big funnel towards AdSense. Just like we won’t all agree on that question we also don’t agree on how to police the web and whose job it is to fight webspam. This is another example of  how SEO and search mirrors politics.

What are SPAM reports?

Matt Cutts recently asked for SPAM reports but what are they? Are they reports that show people buying links? Is Web SPAM really sites that buy or sell links? Maybe indirectly, because people buying links can, in many cases, have their sites rank higher than those that don’t. I’m sure by now you have heard some stories about what kind of links you can buy for the price of a MacBook Air 🙂

SPAM is not just those buying links and in many cases a purchased link should not be considered a bad thing, in my opinion. I’m sure there are a lot of people who paid to be in Best of the Web that don’t actually use the site or expect others to, they just wanted the link.

Should content scraping and 100% pure funnel to AdSense type SPAM sites be included and addressed in SPAM reports too? Is Google’s AdSense partly responsible for creating the Web SPAM they claim they want to get rid of?

Can the community police itself?

If Microsoft’s Bing Team and Google’s Web SPAM team listen then I think so. When the MacBook issue hit TechCrunch the pages that may have benefited were pulled down (as far as I know), and I think this can be credited to the web community and peer pressure, partly. Score one for the community. Now there is a ton of talk about Mahalo and SPAM. Some claim that something is being done, others say no. I like to think that Google has acted as Big Daddy and contacted Mahalo and we are in a holding pattern, just waiting to see the response. This is speculation on my part and many will argue that this isn’t fair because their little $500 per month MFA site would just get burned down without warning if they violated the terms of service. Let’s not be naive, you aren’t Mahalo, you don’t count and the big boys always play by different rules. That said, we do expect after numerous warnings have not been addressed that action will be taken. If not, the community will not be capable of policing itself. Bing and Google must listen and take action for that to work. If they don’t, the top 10 search positions for all but the smallest niche markets will eventually be filled with corporate built, Made-For-Adsense or advertising websites. Don’t get me wrong, not all MFA sites are SPAM. There are some bright people building useful sites and their original intention was to make money from AdSense or other ads; they chose to do it by providing “real” content.

Let me know, should we snitch publicly, privately, or not at all? Tell me what you consider to be the worst type of Web SPAM or at least what your definition is.

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3 Responses to “Web SPAM – Should We All Snitch For Google?”

  1. Alysson says:

    Google is not your friend. By asking us to submit SPAM reports, Google is asking us to help them do a better job…for free. No thanks. They make the big bucks. They like to pretend they’re smarter than everyone else. Let them earn their paychecks and their moniker as the self-appointed Internet Police. Any SEO worth their mettle has probably, at some point, done something that Google would frown upon. Karma is a bitch. And I want her on my side.

    Spraining an ankle running to tattle on someone to Google doesn’t help anyone but Google. It’s also the quickest way to introduce yourself to Google as a part of the search marketing industry. You do not want to be on that radar. Seriously.

  2. Rob Scott says:

    “Any SEO worth their mettle has probably, at some point, done something that Google would frown upon”

    Okay, but this is just an example of why you should not use “Any SEO” if you want long term success.

  3. John Nagle says:

    Search spam is essential to Google’s business model. If organic search takes you directly to the site that’s selling what you want, Google makes no money. But a trip through a few AdWords-heavy spam sites brings in revenue. This fundamentally conflicts with “don’t be evil”.

    It’s quite feasible to put a huge dent in search spam. What’s needed is to find the business behind the web site, do some automated due diligence on them, and apply some basic standards, like having a business address, business license, corporate identity or d/b/a name, BBBonline rating, etc. We do that at SiteTruth.com, as a technology demo. This down-rates out what we call “bottom feeders”. SiteTruth was developed as an experiment to see what the web looks like if you take a hard line on web spam. It seems to help.

    This has to be automated; trying to use manual reports will at best catch the most blatant spammers. We’ve learned that from email spam control.

    None of the major search engines do anything tough in this area. They should. There’s some of that in the B2B directories like ThomasNet. There, though, the site operator has to formally sign up to be listed, and may have to pay.