Dave Naylor's been doing a tour of European automotive sites and finding others that are doing the doorway page dance that got BMW banned from Google. Meanwhile, there's some concern in the blogosphere about whether people should be worried about Google's spam rules in general. A look at both issues, below.
It's hard to know what exactly is going on, as I don't read Danish. Since you can't get to this page from the Porsche Denmark home page -- and since it redirects to that home page -- it seems designed mainly to capture searchers looking for a particular topic and route them into Porsche. In other words, a classic doorway page operation.
In the comments on Dave's post, David Thulin points to this page at Chevrolet Sweden. Use that tool I mentioned above and disable styles. Now the pretty picture of a Chevy goes away, replaced by hidden text. My Swedish is as good as my Danish -- ie, I can't read this. But it doesn't seem spammy in terms of repetition. Still, scroll to the bottom, and you'll see links to additional doorway pages. Someone clearly realizes search engines don't like the graphical pages they are feeding out, so they've created a series of doorway pages. That degree of savvyness also means they should be aware that search engines generally don't like doorways.
Of course, the entire BMW situation has sparked some interesting pushback in new quarters, people who feel like Google in particular shouldn't be pushing "orthodoxy" or their own results on site designers. Google Orwellian at Publishing 2.0 is one example (I left some comments there), Death Penalty, Investigations? Sounds like the FBI... is another and Google Delists BMW-Germany at Slashdot has some similar comments. Jeremy Zawodny has some pushback of his own on the pushback over here: Google vs. BMW, a sanity check.
I think some of the outcry is mistaken. Google is simply doing what all search engines do, enforcing its own rules on what spam is. That's not anything new or Google specific. Sure, it does warrant examination. Then again, it has also been heavily debated in the past. Not everyone agrees with spam rules, but even those who don't understand that if they do something against the rules, they risk getting tossed out. But perhaps the times are a changing...
For those looking to educate themselves on spam issues, here's a reading list:
Bridge Page Too Far? - From 1998, covers one of the earliest outings of a
big company using doorway pages, State Farm.
Are Doorway Pages? - Originally written as a companion to the article
above, I last updated this in 2001, and it's still fairly useful. It gives you
an idea of how old school some of the spam tactics the automotive makers are
Steps In To Stop Spamming - From 1999, covers how the US government
stepped in to stop one of the worst cases of search spam, when content is used
to mislead people (in this case, searches for things like "kids internet
games" lead to porn).
Pagejacking Complaint Involves High-Profile Sites - From 2000, similar to
the above, covers the issue of content being stolen from a site, cloaked and
used to gain rankings. It was more useful in the days before link analysis,
when on-the-page factors counted for more.
The Debate Over Cloaking - From 2003, a very long look at what cloaking
is, why not everyone agrees it is necessarily evil despite search engine rules
and how the focus probably should be on the content rather than the technical
Rules Require Effective Spam Police - From 2004, revisits how search
engines have various spam rules but also how they don't disclose if someone's
been yanked from an index, something that would probably help site owners.
Great Doorway Debate - From 2004, a long debate in particular on whether
doorway pages (like those the automakers are using) should be considered spam.
vs. Blackhat, It Is All BS - From 2004, a long debate on our Search Engine
Watch Forums about what spam is, whether there are bad tactics and so on.
- Working With
Google Scholar -- And More Approved Cloaking - From 2004, covers how
cloaking isn't so bad if Google decides it helps users.
Exactly, is Search Engine Spam? - From 2005, short, to-the-point rundown
on some of the things search engines frown upon.
Spam? How About An Ignore Tag? How About An Indexing Summit! - From 2005,
covers in part how designers are questioning anew why they should worry about
what search engines think.
About Search Engine Spam - From 2005, summarizes a discussion on "white
hat versus black hat" tactics and how in my view, intent rather than actual
tactics may define what's spam. The summary leads to a long review of the
session for Search Engine Watch members.
Admits To Cloaking; Bans Itself - From 2005, shows that if Google's
following orthodoxy, at least it's happy to ban itself for violating that.
- Is Cloaking
Deceptive Advertising? Not Necessarily - From 2005, looks at why cloaked
content doesn't necessarily spoiled the "level" playing field some believe
happens in search engines.
Caught Spamming After Enlisting To Fight Spam - From 2005, looks at
doorway spam that was on the WordPress site and how large, important sites
caught up in spamming tend not to be penalized for very long.
- White Hat -
Gray Hat - Black Hat - From 2005, summarizes even more articles and forum
discussions on what spam is, should search engines enforce rules more
strongly, is going against guidelines unethical -- you name it!
Worthless Shady Criminals: A Defense Of SEO - Covers why designers would
be foolish to ignore the "third browser" of search engines. You might not like
the rules; you might think search engines should somehow magically understand
what your all image web page is about. But you could also complain that radio
needs to change because it refuses to play the pictures in your television ad.
Rather than trying to work around the rules, first consider if you can build a
web site that pleases human and search engines at the same time. Plenty of
people do -- and often end up with more usable web sites, as a result.
- Google Testing Notification Of Banning To Webmasters - Covers Google experimenting with warning site owners if they are doing something against the rules.
Need yet more? The SEO: Cloaking and SEO: Spamming categories of the Search Topics area available to Search Engine Watch members takes you back for years with articles on these topics. Plus, becoming a member helps support the site and the creation of content like you're reading right now.
Want to comment or discuss? Please visit our Search Engine Watch Forums thread, Google Removes BMW Germany For Spamming.