Free content based domains are beacons for Spam
I was over at Bill Slawski’s excellent blog earlier today researching text to link proximity stuff, and stumbled across a post Microsoft Follows the Money to Find Spammers which referred to this interesting Spam research paper from Microsoft entitled: Spam Double Funnel: Connecting Web Spammers with Advertisers. For the geekazoids amongst you there’s lots of interesting snippets and observations. Bill’s already covered most of the headlines over at his blog, so I won’t regurgitate that.
What stuck out to me was set amongst the conclusions, the main one being that blogspot domains were the biggest culprits when it came to originators of spam.
…doorway domains, we showed that the free blog-hosting site blogspot.com had an-order-of-magnitude higher spam appearances in top search results than other hosting domains in both benchmarks, and was responsible for about one in every four spam appearances (22% and 29% in the two respectively, to be exact). In addition, at least three in every four unique blogspot URLs that appeared in top-50 results for commercial queries were spam (77% and 75%). We also showed that over 60% of unique .info URLs in our search results were spam, which was an-order-of-magnitude higher than the spam percentage number for .com URLs.
I don’t know if the findings of papers like these bear any weight or consideration in any subsequent re-jigs of search engine algorithms. Only the search engines truly know what is and what isn’t a consideration in any equation. We can certainly say that if a mainstream domain owned and controlled by a party other than the search engines were to be responsible in similar ways, then their tenure in the SERPs (search engine results pages) would be very short lived. Their authority score would suffer, as would their overall trustrank. In essence once identified they’d be dead in the water.
Search algorithms aren’t changed on a whim of course, its a relatively safe bet to assume that search models are consistently tested and evaluated internally, before any public release. Documents like the one referenced, give interesting insights into the minds of the people who look at webspam.
Perhaps it’s for these very reasons that people behind other platforms that allow human access to write and create content make such public pronouncements detailing there determinism to eliminate or at least drastically reduce spam in their indices. After all failure to do so, in light of the above for example, could quickly lead to a diminution in trust and authority with the resultant knock on effect of poor ranking ability and negative monetisation effects that would usually follow significantly reduced traffic levels. By publicly affirming their commitment to tackle it, they may well save themselves from the heavy axe a search engineer can wield.
Jason Calacanis of Mahalo was kinda right when he said
When I had SEOs on the last CalacanisCast they raved about Squidoo and it’s ability to game the system, and if SEOs love your platform you have a HUGE problem.
The fact is, that web spammers, (not all SEO’s are web spammers Mr C) will indeed game the system. Some see it as their job to take competitive edges and work with them to the max; the rationale being if they didn’t then somebody else would.
I guess its up to platform owners to ensure that access and effectiveness are reduced. It’s a big reason why wordpress and all the major blogging platforms introduced nofollow into their software. For those who don’t know, nofollow restricts the ability of a link to pass pagerank, or link juice or link love or whatever else you want to call it, to the page to which it points.
Perhaps Mahalo and Squidoo and Blogspot should just ‘nofollow’ everything they link out to, maybe they should just close it all off to spiders and bots. They haven’t been created for the benefits of search engines after all…
Perhaps serious individual content creators should just go out and buy a domain for $20, grab a WP install, get some cheap blog hosting and just run their own show. It isn’t exactly rocket science after all. It does make you wonder why a person would bother writing content and help make some other guy rich …unless of course you we’re writing it to funnel people elsewhere and monetise it to your own ends.
I do have some sympathy with what those guys say though, It narks me a little though, as it suggests that people like me are scum sucker sleaze buckets. Most of us aren’t, it’s just a small minority of uber spammer who spoil it for everyone else.
Maybe the likes of Mr Godin and Mr Calacanis could help by using the term web spammers instead of SEO’s. It’s a far more accurate descriptor.
Meantime, if you are blogging and on a free platform, then perhaps you ought to at least consider moving on..