A Growing Spam Crisis at Google?


Every search engine spammer is familiar with the technique. The spammer locates ranking sites (especially .edu, .org and .gov TLDs) with a vulnerability that allows users to create and manipulate content on the site (WIKI and unmoderated guestbooks are favorites). The spammer creates a doorway page with a javascript redirect pointing to another site (either directly or indirectly the site that pays the spammer). The spammer floods the doorway page with thousands of inbound text links (usually themselves comment or guestbook spam) and viola -- instant organic search ranking.

While this technique is nothing new, it has of late enjoyed a startling degree of success at Google. If you've spent any time of late in the highly competitive, highly monetized spaces on Google (e.g., pharmaceuticals, gambling), this type of spam seems to have exploded in the past couple of months. For anything like tail terms in these spaces, it has virtually taken over page one rankings. At the bottom of this post I've appended an annotated search results set for "cheap viagra"; this query returns 100% spam for page one in Google.

Obviously my sample query addresses a hotly contested spam neighborhood, but these types of results are starting to appear all over in Google, and there's nothing to say that the success of this technique doesn't mean it won't work -- and find increasing traction -- in more "legitimate" query neighborhoods.

Despite the alarming abundance of this sort of page hijacking and redirection, I've seen very little out there on this issue. Sergey S. Kostyliov has recently commented on how robots process redirects, and John Andrews on a "Google-proof Javascript Redirect", but I've as yet found no discussion on how link-spammed malicious redirects have taken off in Google, nor any possible Google responses.

Organic Google search results for "cheap viagra", 12 Feb. 2007.

1. e-courses.cerritos.edu/ssmout/HED%20103/HED%20103/0000006e.htm?viagra
[Domain: E-Courses Online Management System]
- Spam (doorway; one line discussion forum post with link).

2. culturitalia.uibk.ac.at/forumSLI/_forumSLI/0000016e.htm?cheap-viagra
[Domain: Culturitalia/Hispanoteca]
- Spam (doorway; one line discussion forum post with link).

3. popaganda.com/AdvancedGuestBook/public/misc/3/cheapviagra.htm
[Domain: Propaganda: The Arts and Crimes of Ron English]
- Spam (js redirect).

4. www10.asphost4free.com/pharma/cheap-viagra.htm
[Domain: AspHost4Free]
- Spam (js redirect).

5. planetnana.co.il/fwefwef/cheap-viagra.html
[Domain: Nana Club]
- Spam (js redirect).

6. planetnana.co.il/gurvik/main6.htm?cheap-viagra
[Domain: Nana Club]
- Spam (js redirect). [Indented result]

7. labswe.org/ContEdDiscussion/00001851.htm?cheap-viagra
[Domain: Louisiana State Board of Social Work Examiners]
- Spam (doorway; one line discussion forum post with link).

8. emfy.com/dvmae/viagra.html
[Domain: E-Manuals for You.com]
- Spam (js redirect).

9. rubyurl.com/Got
[Domain: RubyURL.com (long URL rewriter)]
- Spam (js redirect).

10. sqlcore.geo.umn.edu/CoreVault/htmlCache/viagra.htm
[Domain: University of Minnesota Lumnilogical Research Center Data Vault]
- Spam (js redirect).