Does Search Spam Really Exist?

37 comments
Source Title:
Is There Such A Thing As Spam Anymore?vvvvvvv
Story Text:

There's an outstanding discussion going on over at HighRankings, outstanding in that it shows Jill Whalen, owner and (at least once upon a time) resident "ethical seo" evangelist arguing the other side. I've watched Jill's stance slowly change over the last year, im not saying she's a spammer, far from it, but she's certainly got a much more balanced view than her reputation (from a few years back) would suggest. She asks Is there such a thing as spam anymore? and here follows some of the highlights of the debate...

Jill:

Someone or some company claims to be able to get high rankings for people's sites, but when push comes to shove,........They just don't get results.

To me, that is 1000 times worse than a company that uses spam techniques but at least gets rankings, traffic and sales to the site. They at least are doing what they claim they will do.

and an unrelated quote..

See I don't agree with that. I think there has to be actual intent for something to be spam. I agree that something might trip a spam filter, but that doesn't necessarily make it spam.

These next two are related...

Scottie:

But taking someone's money and doing little to nothing for them is pretty much stealing in my book. What people charge to add title tags these days just blows my mind away

Jill:

Exactly. Yet the pointy white hatters don't seem to discuss this. (At least I haven't noticed it.) They are so intent on outing the people that actually DO get results, albeit perhaps in a deceitful manner, that they ignore the worse "crime" of taking people's money and not delivering what they say they will deliver.

Interesting to see a discussion of that nature at HighRankings and worthy of note here i think...

Comments

Jill raises some very good

Jill raises some very good points - it's also worth noting that even if a file isn't linked to, it can still be indexed - I've had plenty of FTP logs and unused graphics files be indexed by Google - but Google generally does a good job of filtering them out.

I love

the

Quote:
"passively" spamming.

comment

What I think people always seem to miss is that all of the SE's have different and to be honest pretty arbitrary guidelines.

If I set up my own SE and was lucky enough to have it become important/popular, and my guidelines stated that I wanted sites to use white on white text to present keywords at the bottom of each page, then by the 'if it's accessable by a SE spider and breaks their guidelines its spam' argument every current WH site would become spam overnight.

So if we all get together to promote GurtieSearch(TM).....

With the coming age

of personalisation isn't spam just an old concept?

spam or not spam

google lets some spam happen...have you looked at some of the "adword ads" that are showing up under totally irrelevant keywords. They also allow Ebay to "spam" and a couple of other advertising "heavy hitters".

IMHO,
If a site has realvent information to what a person is seraching for..its just not spam...even if the site was created by some one whos whole intent was to earn adsense income. If a person is searching for say "golf clubs" and ends up on a "porn site"...that would be spam.

99/100 "normal" internet surfers would not know a "spam" website from a "normal" website (unless it was like the "porn" example)....and would most likely enjoy all the websites that the "high and Mighty SEOer's" are calling spam.

Only these "high and mighty" so called SEO'ers experts that charge $3,0000+ for a 2 page website are trying to impose standards on eveyone else...

Why, beacause they want to have a "profession"
that they consider to be up there with being a "doctor" or "lawyer".

I am sure everyone has run into a "real estate person" that acts like...what they do is so special that only a privilege select few can ever really do what they do (to the point they consider themseleves up their with doctors and lawyers)...YEA RIGHT...I have a real estate license and I am an idoit.

I know there are real estate persons & brokers etc... that have paid their dues learning the RE business...I am not trying to disparage the majority of fine real estate people in the world...just trying to make a small point about the attitudes of "some"...SEOer's.

But "SEOing" is really not the same as being a doctor or lawyer....and it never will be as long as there are people out there that can do what these "High and Mighty SEOer's want to charge $3,000+ for. If any number of guys here can do a better job for $45.00...

there goes that up standing and "exclusive profession".

I was at a "SEOer's" website the other day and this guy was charging $350.00 an hour just for "consultation"....WOW!

Had a rough day to day....take it easy on me...lol

Dan

BTW:

Heres a question for all the "pointed white hats".

When a SE picks up a website link off say a blog and indexs the website...
Has that website owner "spamed" that SE when they never submitted the website to that SE for indexing in the first place?

Dan

I have a real estate

Quote:
I have a real estate license and I am an idoit.

That was my favorite bit :)

bingo.

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Why are we even comparing the two then? If they are such different animals, lets put them in different parts of the zoo.

Spam is a bad choice of words....

I really hate the word spam when used in SEO.

Spam is something unsolicited, and a 25,000 page dynamic site is not unsolicited. I'm not forcing search engines to crawl my site and I'm certainly not forcing them to rank it.

People can choose to build their sites how they like, and so be it. It's no ones business how Joe Schmoe built his site in my opinion. If the search engines like it, deem it relevant, than that is great for Joe.

There is no spam, just bad algorithims.

Perfect...

This is the best line of the day...no matter what Nick thinks about my real estate comment...lol

"There is no spam, just bad algorithims"
--thePhenomenal

Almost up there with:

“All people occasionally stumble across the truth, but most
pick themselves up and continue as if nothing had happened.”

--Winston Churchill

I like that! And will go a long with that way of thinking. As for the "high and mighty SEO'ers" I think I will always have a problem with them...LOL

Dan

What is a ...

What is a "pointy white hat"?

People can choose to build

Quote:
People can choose to build their sites how they like, and so be it. It's no ones business how Joe Schmoe built his site in my opinion. If the search engines like it, deem it relevant, than that is great for Joe.

Yep, and that was really my starting point in that thread.

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What is a "pointy white hat"?

Diane, think KKK only it's the SE "spammer" getting big "G"'s burned on their lawns.

Ah.

Would never have thought about that.

white hats...

The debate over whats proper SEOing has been divided up with two sides...the "white hats" and the "black hats"...its a common but stupid way people refer to others.

I just picture all the "high and mighty" seoer's with "pointy" white hats on...like big "good witch" hats.
( like the witch hat in the wizard of oz...but white)

Dan

maybe I have spelled it wrong

"It's no ones business how Joe Schmoe built his site"

Everything about Avis is Hertz's business.

The Internet is my business. Every single word and bit of html is my business.

I just picture all the "high

Quote:
I just picture all the "high and mighty" seoer's with "pointy" white hats on...like big "good witch" hats.
( like the witch hat in the wizard of oz...but white)

Well, actually there's the regular ole white hats (more like white cowboy hat) like me, and there's the pointy white hatters who would pretty much punch a "spammer" in the face if they saw one on the street. I personally want nothing to do with that type of white hat, and would quite frankly rather turn in my hat rather than be associated with that type.

Black hats seem to also have a few factions too with the types of companies everyone loves to hate such as TP, to others who people love to love such as DaveN. I'm pretty sure Dave wouldn't want to be put in the same group with TP, nor should he be.

Of course there's "spam"

(long post follows - I really need to say all of this)

---

Of course there's "spam" - and lots of it. "Spam" is what the search engines define as "spam", just like "speed driving" is what the local legislation defines as driving too fast.

Apart from this example/analogy you can't really compare SE guidelines and laws. SE guidelines are guidelines, nothing else (and specifically not laws).

---

Personally, I prefer the expression "SEO" in stead of "SPAM".

---

>> There is no spam just bad algo's

Wrong - just like you can't say "there's no speed driving, only bad police work". It's just not a valid statement. Valid statements would be:

  • I don't care about the SE definition of "spam"
  • I think the SE definition of "spam" is wrong
  • SE's shouldn't even have a "spam" definition
  • etc.

As it is, they do have a "spam" definition (albeit not very precise), and there are plenty of websites out there that have one or more elements that comply with this definition.

Not that it's necessarily "bad websites", "useless websites", or that "the person who built it is a moron". That's simply not the issue. Some of these sites might be incredibly useful even for persons that don't own them, and whoever built them and/or promoted them might be a very clever individual and even a nice guy/girl.

Still, "spam" is "spam". It is "spam" because it fits with the SE definitions.

---

The reason the definition is imprecise is that the people creating the "spam" keep finding new methods to do the "spamming". So, a static technical definition would not be adequate always. Which is why the issue turns to "intent" in stead. So:

- "did you intend to gain a higher position on that search engine?"

I bet most of us can answer "Yes" to that question without any doubt. At least for queries that return more than ten results.

Which is why the whole thing is wrong. This definition groups any and all SEO efforts as "spam".

There is some kind of SEO that is even desirable to the SE's as it improves their results (by their measure). Other types of SEO does not improve their results (by their measure). So, if the intent is the same for these two groups, how to you distinguish?

You can't. That's why a spam definition has to be technical and specific, even if it gets outdated. So, update it.

---

Now, spamming a SE is not illegal in any way. Some people make their living from spamming, even. People should call a spade a spade - and if spamming is what you do you should take pride in it and do it well - or find yourself another job.

If you prefer to "ignore the speed limit" then that is what you do. Pretending otherwise is only fooling yourself, which leads to nothing.

---

So, we're all "spammers" to some degree. The degree is about the methods we use, and here, the "hat color" destinction is useful:

  • "white hat spam" is typically about modifying titles, headers, page and site structure, etc. Low risk SEO, that is.
  • "grey hat spammers" do a little of everything, or whatever, depending on task
  • "black hat spam" is typically about "posting on blogs and in guestbooks", generating "dynamic sites", and creating "customized landing pages". High risk SEO, that is.

That said, I don't really like the hat terms. Intelligent people tend to use different methods for different purposes, so it's not really the hat (the person) it's the task/site at hand (the method).

Plus, nobody wears hats these days anyway. At least not in this part of the world.

---

Some people would prefer that the term "SEO" only covered "white hat spam" while the term "SPAM" only covered "black hat spam".

Well, SEO covers both sides and everything in-between. The significant part of the "hat color" difference is only that

  • white hat spammers pay attention to the SE guidelines and try to stay within those, while
  • other "hat colors" care less about SE guidelines.

That's the essense of it, imho. It's as simple as that, and not even a matter of personal taste.

Of course, the less/more you care about the SE guidelines, the higher/lower risk of your tactics. Which is the reason why I personally prefer to speak in terms of "high risk SEO / low risk SEO".

I don't remember who coined the terms but it wasn't me. I do like them a lot though. Just like the other example "it's all driving".

---

So - yes there's plenty of "spam". Possibly it's all "spam" (all SEO). Definitely, "SPAM" is "SEO".

If any type of SEO is "more spam" than another, then the high-risk SEO methods have the highest likelihood of being "spam". The low-risk methods have the largest likelihood of being "non spam"

That does not make any of it less qualified SEO though. It's just another type of SEO.

hehehe

Can you feel the love yet :)

in the SEO world I honestly believe it comes down to NO Risk, Low Risk, High Risk and Too Risky for most ;)

There is no black and white ... never was just different levels of risk.

There has been loads of discussions about WH sites getting canned from Google... Hey Once if your banned you BH hahahahaha ... Not anymore now if your banned it was a BH site that caused it lol... Google decides what ranks and what does not Rank, not me and not the White Army.

DaveN

I'll take DaveN's definition

There is no black and white ... never was just different levels of risk.

Yeah, for me it's all about risk.

I don't have the resources to be a black hat, at least not effectively over a period of time. And I can't afford the risk to live through another Google ban. Though MSN/Ink paid my rent and fed me for almost two years, I live much better with my main site being in G's good graces.

Build another one

>>>I can't afford the risk to live through another Google ban.

Then build more sites, hide the whois and don't link them.

Cuz, you never know when google is going to get a hair up its ass and decide to nuke your site, just for fun or whatever.

I agree with DaveN as well, it is all about risk. Cept, I have yet to see a "no risk" site... ;-)

In a nutshell....

How can you say there are any morals or ethics in SEO? Regardless of what you are doing, you are manipulating search results.

Who deemed putting your site in a bunch of crap directories more ethical than interlinking all 200 of your sites?

Who deemed it good to hire a content writer over scraping Google's results pages?

What God decided that using an H1 tag on your page is ethical but stuffing hidden text keywords on the bottom of your page is spam?

Google does. Last time I checked my bank account, they weren't mailing me any checks for keeping their search results spam free. It boggles my mind that people are so adamant about respecting a company who is profiting from your website. Google isn't some giant goodwill project to provide relevant results to Internet users, they are a business.

My take is this. All SEO is unethical in the search engines eyes. No matter if you just change title tags or create 10,000 doorway pages, you are manipulating the search engine results. If Google doesn't like the way I build my site, they have all the power in the world not to include it in their index. It is their search engine, and their results. When they start sending checks to those who abide by their rules, I'll start playing by them.

Then build more sites, hide

Then build more sites, hide the whois and don't link them.

Never said I still had all my eggs in one basket ;)

It's not hats, and its sure not risk

What is called "white hat" is usually more risky than "black hat", but not always. Risk has nothing to do with it, although I know some people like to put it that way.

Building 5000 sites with "black hat" tactics has nearly zero risk. Building one "white hat" site is nearly infinitely riskier. Building only one "black hat" site would likely be the riskiest. Regardless though, risk and the the concept known as "spamming" are not really related at all.

Building 5000 sites with

Quote:
Building 5000 sites with "black hat" tactics has nearly zero risk. Building one "white hat" site is nearly infinitely riskier. Building only one "black hat" site would likely be the riskiest.

*lightbulb* I never thought of it like that.

and you a PHD

>I thought that a ranking algo based on links was going to do that NFFC?

Thats just a mechanism for mass filtering of web pages.

In the age of personalisation a user requests a set of web pages and these are tailored to their preferences. These preferences can be tweaked, the user can block pages or sites from appearing in their results for example. In this context the mere concept of spam dies, the user requests a set of results and filters them according to their preferences, whats left is what they want which can never be spam. See?

Without Prejudice (as my lawyer would say)

WITHOUT PREJUDICE (as my lawyer likes to write)

Quote:
Who deemed putting your site in a bunch of crap directories more ethical than interlinking all 200 of your sites?

Who deemed it good to hire a content writer over scraping Google's results pages?

What God decided that using an H1 tag on your page is ethical but stuffing hidden text keywords on the bottom of your page is spam?

Google does.

Spammers made the rules (we don't like).

Rules are the product of environment; a handbrake on a canoe isn't gonna stop you in an emergency. Similarly, a straw hut is no house in the Antartic and nor are daily car-trips to the bank viable if you're business is depositing 100's of thousands of £/$ everyday.

You build a basic SE and it gets exploited... what're ya gonna do? A tile falls off the space shuttle, what're ya gonna do? A burglar enters your home via an unlocked door... what're ya gonna do tomorrow?

When managing the environment, we learn the rules; When we are the environment, we make the rules - WH's, BH's, users and other operators have only ourselves to blame when bitchin.

Evolution and revolution, black and white, yin and yan... necessary bedfellows in the quest of excellence.

The'Post

Spammers made the rules

NO they didn't SE's made the rules... Spammers have no Rules

DaveN

uhm? Building 5000 sites

uhm?

Building 5000 sites with "black hat" tactics has nearly zero risk. Building one "white hat" site is nearly infinitely riskier.

How is "nearly zero" less risky than "zero" ? What is it that I don't understand about a "white hat site" that should make it risky to build?

Not "A" - "ONE"

One site that you invest all your time, effort and cash into vs lots of eggs in a variety of baskets. I think that is what is meant.

i see

(eggs and baskets)

- but then you might as well build 5000 white hat sites. Or five of each. You should compare the same number of each, that is. Well, nevermind...

Spammers have no Rules Who

Quote:
Spammers have no Rules

Who made that rule up?

I think you missed the point though; spammers make-up part of the environment (along with users etc...) in which the SE's have to operate... they make the rules in response to our actions.

The'Post

Well, nevermind...

Obviously you wouldn't comapre 5000 "white hat" sites to 5000 "black hat" sites as part of the point of going black is that you build multiple sites, many duplicates, and so on. Comparing the same number would be pointless. One strategy deals in quantity, one strategy deals in quality. Generally, there is less risk in quantity.

back to the origional thread

Quote:
You don't think that at least 80% of people who call themselves SEO basically suck and couldn't outrank my guinea pig's SEO with his hands tied behind his back? (He's dead now but he could still outrank 80% of the SEOs out there.)

gets a big round of applause. And needs a t-shirt Aaron :)

Well, it's true!

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And needs a t-shirt Aaron

OOooo, I want one! Will go nice with that black Google hat I won for the limerick!

a study of incompetence

Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments

Quote:
In 1995, McArthur Wheeler walked into two Pittsburgh banks and robbed them in broad daylight, with no visible attempt at disguise. He was arrested later that night, less than an hour after videotapes of him taken from surveillance cameras were broadcast on the 11 o'clock news. When police later showed him the surveillance tapes, Mr. Wheeler stared in incredulity. "But I wore the juice," he mumbled. Apparently, Mr. Wheeler was under the impression that rubbing one's face with lemon juice rendered it invisible to videotape cameras

Actually it's a serious study and an interesting read (although a long one)

Quote:
Although our analysis suggests that incompetent individuals are unable to spot their poor performances themselves, one would have thought negative feedback would have been inevitable at some point in their academic career. So why had they not learned?

One reason is that people seldom receive negative feedback about their skills and abilities from others in everyday life ( Blumberg, 1972 ; Darley & Fazio, 1980 ; Goffman, 1955 ; Matlin & Stang, 1978 ; Tesser & Rosen, 1975 ). Even young children are familiar with the notion that "if you do not have something nice to say, don't say anything at all." Second, the bungled robbery attempt of McArthur Wheeler not withstanding, some tasks and settings preclude people from receiving self-correcting information that would reveal the suboptimal nature of their decisions ( Einhorn, 1982 ). Third, even if people receive negative feedback, they still must come to an accurate understanding of why that failure has occurred. The problem with failure is that it is subject to more attributional ambiguity than success. For success to occur, many things must go right: The person must be skilled, apply effort, and perhaps be a bit lucky. For failure to occur, the lack of any one of these components is sufficient. Because of this, even if people receive feedback that points to a lack of skill, they may attribute it to some other factor ( Snyder, Higgins, & Stucky, 1983 ; Snyder, Shenkel, & Lowery, 1977 ).

Late to the Topic

Sorry to revive an old thread but I just ran across it.

Just to take a quick issue with the opening post:

I've watched Jill's stance slowly change over the last year, im not saying she's a spammer, far from it, but she's certainly got a much more balanced view than her reputation (from a few years back) would suggest.

See, that's the bad thing about being associated with the people you hang out with. Jill's stance has not slowly changed, it's been the same all along. She's just made more of an effort to get out there in different venues so that people can make up their own minds instead of joining the lynch mobs of "Jill said this" or "Jill said that" who never bothered to read what she actually said.

She's had the same message for years and anyone who actually took the time could go through IHY and see where she's never condemned anyone for how they work, she's simply stated that she wouldn't do it that way or that she didn't agree that this or that was the way to go. But she's never, ever been part of the "kill-every-spammer" brigade- old posts at IHY will show you she spent a good part of her time there disagreeing with Doug.

The thread referenced here came back to life this evening and I think the exchange is a classic example of regular white hat vs pointy white hat.

A link to where the interesting stuff starts:

http://www.highrankings.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=15343&view=findpost&p=146327

Sums it all up

My favorite quote for anyone who doesn't have time to read the whole thread-

Jill replying to Connie:

Unlike you, I don't believe in smacking right and wrong into people. I prefer to smack them into thinking for themselves. If I have to tell someone every single thing that is right and that is wrong, they will never learn. If the search engines have to tell them everything that is right and wrong, they won't get it, and they will make mistakes, and they will worry their heads off as to whether they are doing things right.

So Sick Of Connie

and his self-proclaimed, "I'm not an SEO, but..."

If you're not an SEO, why in the HELL are you moderating Dougie's White Hat Supremist SEO forum?

Shut up already!

You guys need to move on and quit trying to be the CIA of the Internet.

Good for you, Jill, getting away from these morons and being able to think for yourself.

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