The Search Engine Spam Police, Part 1

A special report from the Search Engine Strategies 2002 Conference, March 4-5, Boston, MA.

"We hate spam!" Representatives of LookSmart and the ODP offer guidelines and advice for webmasters to avoid the wrath of editors and get successfully listed in these crucial web directories.

The major search engines and web directories consider spammers to be those who take extreme measures to get web pages ranked well. What types of pages are considered spam? In a Search Engine Strategies session entitled "The Search Engine Spam Police," representatives from search engines Inktomi, Google, FAST Search, and web directories LookSmart and the Open Directory Project explored the issue of spamming and presented the audience with some general guidelines to follow.

In this issue of SearchDay, we'll cover the advice and tips offered by the human compiled web directories. Tomorrow we'll focus on the policies of the crawler built search engines.

Bob Keating, Editor-in-Chief of the Open Directory Project (ODP), defined spam as the aggressive and continuous submission of identical sites to the same or multiple, inappropriate categories, and sites that violate submission policies for inclusion.

Types of sites that ODP considers spam are:

(1) Affiliate sites with same or similar content but a different site designs.

(2) Mirror sites. Submitting mirror URLs to different categories is also considered spam. Multi-lingual sites are acceptable as long as the URL resolves to the appropriate language.

(3) Sites that use redirects or any type of bait-and-switch practice. Using frames to hide a real URL, commonly referred to as "poor man's cloaking," is also considered spam.

(4) Sites whose sole purpose is to drive traffic to affiliate links or sites that contain these types of links.

If an editor or a submitter is caught spamming, the editor is immediately removed from ODP without notice, and future submissions are either deleted or blocked. If the spam is particularly relentless, ODP might remove "listable" listings as well. If you suspect that an editor or submitter is spamming, report the spam abuse to

Kate Wingerson, Vice President and Editor-in-Chief at LookSmart, considers spam to be any site which explicitly disregards or violates LookSmart or Zeal (LookSmart's volunteer-built directory) guidelines (see links below).

In general, LookSmart considers spam to be domains/URLs submitted more than 5 times, mirror sites, sites that use redirects or bait-and-switch tactics, and sites without original content. If a site is a commercial web site, selling goods or businesses online, LookSmart is the place to submit. Report possible spam abuse to LookSmart to

If a site is a non-commercial site, Zeal is the place to submit. Zeal considers spam to be:

(1) Any commercial site submission
(2) Attempts to circumvent the community submission process
(3) Harassment of members via message boards or email
(4) Abuse of spelling and capitalization, overuse of keywords, and biased descriptions

In Zeal, report all possible spam abuse to the community message board, post a message to the site submitter, or file an intervention request to receive immediate staff attention.

Submitting to the Open Directory Project

Submitting to LookSmart

Additional Guideslines for Submitting to LookSmart and Zeal

Dealing with Yahoo, LookSmart and the ODP
SearchDay, May 14, 2002

Getting your site listed in the major Web directories is crucial. Representatives from the Big Three share tips and techniques that help you facilitate the process.

Click here for part two of this article: Spam detection and management policies of several major crawler built search engines.

Shari Thurow is the Marketing Director and Webmaster for Grantastic Designs, Inc. <> She has been design and promoting web sites since 1995 for businesses in a wide range of fields.

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