The Search Engine Spam Police, Part 2

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

Click here for part one of this article.

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 yesterday's issue of SearchDay we covered the advice and tips offered by the human compiled web directories. Today we'll focus on the policies of the crawler built search engines.

Tim Mayer, former Director of Web Search Product Management at Inktomi, stated that "Inktomi considers spam to be pages created deliberately to trick the search engine into offering inappropriate, redundant, or poor-quality search results." Spam is more about how and to what extent a technique is used, Mayer explained, rather than if a technique is used.

Some of the common practices that Inktomi considers spam are:

(1) Web pages that are built primarily for the search engines and not your target audience, especially machine-generated pages.

(2) Pages that contain hidden text and hidden links.

(3) "Great quantity and little value" pages.

(4) Link farming and link spamming, particularly free-for-all (FFA) links.

(5) Cloaking, a practice in which the search engine and the end user do not view the same page.

(6) Sites with numerous, unnecessary host names (i.e.,, etc.).

(7) Excessively cross-linking sites to artificially inflate a site's apparent popularity.

(8) Affiliate spam.

If a webmaster is caught spamming, Inktomi will either demote the offending web page/site from its index or completely ban it. If you wish to dispute a possible spam penalty, or if you wish to report spam, send an email to

Jen McGrath, Software Engineer at Google, advised webmasters to create sites with appropriate, relevant content and a straightforward design. In other words, make a useful site that clearly benefits your end users.

McGrath also advised webmasters to submit your site to web directories and let other sites link to you. Your site does benefit from the sites that link to it. However, your site can be penalized for the sites that you link to. Spam penalties include demotion and removal from Google's index.

Some items that Google considers spam are:

(1) Cloaking.

(2) Automated queries to Google to check positioning. The goal of this is primarily to tweak a site for positioning purposes, not to create content that benefits end users.

(3) Hidden text or hidden links.

(4) Stuffing pages with irrelevant keywords.

(5) Doorway pages, domains, and subdomains with the same or similar content.

(6) "Sneaky" redirects.

Report possible spam abuse via email to

Rolf Michelsen, Software Engineering Manager at FAST Search, defined spam as using techniques to artificially influence a search engine's precision or relevancy. Just as Mayer stated earlier, spam is based on effect rather than technique.

Michelsen presented the following guidelines:


(1) Focus on content.
(2) Create a site that is easy to use in simple browsers.
(3) Link to other relevant sites.
(4) Submit the URL of your main site.


(1) Cloak.
(2) Stuff irrelevant keywords into web pages using invisible text.
(3) Submit all URLs, every day, using the free submit.
(4) Participate in link farming or FFA links.
(5) Resort to "snake oil" search engine marketers. In other words, don't fight spam with spam.

Report possible spam abuse via email to

Inktomi's Content and Spam Policies

Google's Submission and Spam Policies

FAST's Submission and Spam Policies

Click here for part one of this article.

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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