More European Automaker Sites Do Doorways & Should Search Engines Be Able To Enforce Spam Rules?

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.

Dave’s

found
this page
over at Porsche Denmark that redirects to
the Porsche Denmark home page. Disable JavaScript (use this handy
tool for Firefox), and
you can see the underlying textual content that’s being cloaked.

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.

Here’s a better example. Look for
klassiske porscher
on Google, then you get this
page, which
redirects to the home page. Disable JavaScript, and the redirection stops,
showing you the hidden content. A user never sees that. Porsche has no intention
for them to see it. They only want Google to see it, to rank the page well and
deliver them a user to a completely different page on the site.

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:

  • A
    Bridge Page Too Far?
    – From 1998, covers one of the earliest outings of a
    big company using doorway pages, State Farm.
     
  • What
    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
    doing.
     
  • FTC
    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.
     
  • Ending
    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
    delivery structure.
     
  • Spam
    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.
     
  • The
    Great Doorway Debate
    – From 2004, a long debate in particular on whether
    doorway pages (like those the automakers are using) should be considered spam.
     
  • Whitehat
    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.
     
  • What,
    Exactly, is Search Engine Spam?
    – From 2005, short, to-the-point rundown
    on some of the things search engines frown upon.
     
  • Comment
    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.
     
  • Talking
    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.
     
  • Google
    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.
     
  • WordPress
    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
.

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