SMX Advanced: Penalty Box Summit

Filed in Conferences/Educ. by Matt McGee on June 5, 2007 0 Comments

Danny and the entire panel put on “Jason” goalie masks to play up the hockey-related “penalty box” theme. (see photo)

Tim Mayer, Yahoo

Comments first on recent articles which had a misquoting about Yahoo’s commitment to search. The situation is “unfortunate, but we are very committed to search. I wouldn’t be here if we weren’t.”

On to presentation….

Spam is about the INTENT with which you use a technique and the EXTENT to which you use a technique, not about a specific technique. There are legitimate uses for almost every technique.

It’s a fine line and will vary by industry.

Peter Linsley, Ask.com

Penalty box candidates
– hurt the user experience; can include useless pages, pages with a lot of dead links…
– game the search engine

Links and content issues are main factors in penalty situations — link farms, scraper sites, cloaking, hidden text, etc. If you have a blog, keep an eye on comments and remove spam.

Aaswath Raman, MSFT Live Search

Spam = Content/techniques generated for search engines not users in an attempt to inflate ranking. Intent and targeting the search engine are the key factors.

What We Look For
1. Page-level – are you doing things useless for end users
2. Link-levels – are outbound links relevant; inlinks can’t be controlled, but are you getting too many suspicious links
3. Deceiving end users

Suspicious, spammy behavior is accounted for in rankings. Disruptive attempts to game rankings will result in de-listing. All de-listings are periodically re-evaluated in case we made a mistake.

Matt Cutts, Google

Most people have a pretty good intuition about what spam is.

Communication and education is foremost. If we can convince people there are better ways to make money, that’s the best way forward. After we’ve taken action, sometimes we will alert the webmaster. Webmaster can later do a re-inclusion request.

We’re working on beefing up our webmaster guidelines with more detail and examples.

We’re not averse to taking manual action against spam. We do distinguish between different kinds of webmasters. Small mom-and-pops will get the benefit of the doubt, compared to a power webmaster/SEO.

Q&A Session

Q – Why are so many .edus ranking for “buy viagra”?

MC – We could patch that up manually, but it wouldn’t handle “cheap viagra,” “phentermine”, “cialis” and all the others. We do have a couple things in the pipeline that we think will help. Automated solutions are the best approach.
TM – Automated approaches will be the best for this.
AR – We will use algorithmic solutions to this situation.
PL – You could have 2,000 employees working every day on this and you wouldn’t come close to cleaning this up.

Danny does some sample searches and congratulates MSN Live Search — no .edu spam in their Top 10.

Q – Why don’t you announce penalties? Tell the entire industry.

Danny asks the crowd if we want public penalty announcements. More than 50% raise hands. Danny asks if you’d like to know if your own sit has been penalized. Everyone raises hands and cheers.

TM – One concern is that if we reveal all penalties, other spammers can reverse engineer the situation to see what we caught and what we didn’t.

Q – Reinclusion request was accepted in 6 days, but we still don’t get any backlink credit, no PageRank, etc.

MC – PR and backlinks get pushed every 3-4 months. Look at your traffic – if it’s growing from natural search, you’re okay.

Q – Why can’t we report spam right from the SERPs? This is Web 2.0 for cryin’ out loud.

AR – It might be an invitation for lots of users to try to punish competitors without warrant.
PL – What if there was one place to submit spam reports to all engines?? (Lots of clapping and cheers to that idea.)

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