Search Engine Spam Creates Problems, Too

NEW YORK — Shari Thurow has identified 19 types of search engine spam, or Web pages that are created deliberately to trick engines into offering inappropriate, redundant or poor-quality search results.

“What does inappropriate mean?” she asked in a session at yesterday's Search Engine Strategies 2005 conference, then gave an extreme example: an adult site targeting the keywords “Barney the dinosaur” or “the little mermaid.”

Thurow, Webmaster/marketing director at Grantastic Designs Inc., Carpentersville, IL, then shifted to the “questions to ask” portion of her presentation, which began with, “Does the content benefit your site visitors?”

“This is something that you have to ask your site visitors because, of course, the search engine marketer is going to say, 'Well, of course it benefits your target audience,'” she said. “You can determine this by using focus groups and usability tests and Web analytics.”

Thurow also asked: Am I doing this if Google and Yahoo did not exist? “The second you go down the road of, 'I'm doing this for search engine positions,' it tends to be spamming,” she said.

Thurow's 19 types of search engine spam are: keywords unrelated to site; keyword stacking; keyword stuffing; hidden text; tiny text; hidden links; link farms; page swapping (bait and switch); redirects; mirror/duplicate content; doorway/gateway pages; cloaking; gibberish; domain spam; mini/micro-sites; typo spam and cybersquatting; affiliate spam; blog/forum spam; and CSS spam.

Greg Boser, president of WebGuerrilla, Valencia, CA, also spoke at the session and drew laughter by introducing himself with, “Good morning, my name is Greg, and I'm representing the spammers.”

He told attendees that his priority was to ensure that “you, as a site operator, understand how things really take place … and what you should or should not do to further your business online.”

He said that he is irritated by hardworking smaller companies making no search engine optimization decisions because they are petrified of being banned by Google-bot and “being put in purgatory forever” if they put “one little hidden element” on their site.

“That's not really how it works,” he said. “That's probably not going to happen.”

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