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In computing, spamdexing (also known as search engine spam, search engine poisoning, Black-Hat SEO, search spam or web spam) is the deliberate manipulation of search engine indexes. It involves a number of methods, such as repeating unrelated phrases, to manipulate the relevance or prominence of resources indexed in a manner inconsistent with the purpose of the indexing system. It could be considered to be a part of search engine optimization, though there are many search engine optimization methods that improve the quality and appearance of the content of web sites and serve content useful to many users. Search engines use a variety of algorithms to determine relevancy ranking. Some of these include determining whether the search term appears in the body text or URL of a web page. Many search engines check for instances of spamdexing and will remove suspect pages from their indexes. Also, people working for a search-engine organization can quickly block the results-listing from entire websites that use spamdexing, perhaps alerted by user complaints of false matches. The rise of spamdexing in the mid-1990s made the leading search engines of the time less useful. Using unethical methods to make websites rank higher in search engine results than they otherwise would is commonly referred to in the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) industry as "Black Hat SEO."
- 1 History
- 2 Content spam
- 3 Link spam
- 4 Other types of spamdexing
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
The problem arises when site operators load their Web pages with hundreds of extraneous terms so search engines will list them among legitimate addresses. The process is called "spamdexing," a combination of spamming — the Internet term for sending users unsolicited information — and "indexing." 
Spamdexing is the practice of search engine spamming. It is a form of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) spamming, which is the art of making a website attractive to the major search engines for optimal indexing. Spamdexing is the practice of creating websites that will be illegitimately indexed with a high position in the search engines. Spamdexing is sometimes used to try and manipulate a search engine’s understanding of a category. The goal of a web designer is to create a web page that will find favorable rankings in the search engines, and they create their pages according the standards that they believe will help. Some of them resort to spamdexing, often unbeknownst to their clients.
While spamdexing has interfered with the finding of information on the internet, measures have been taken to curb it with some success. Spamdexing was a big problem in the 1990s, and search engines were fairly useless because they were compromised by spamdexing. Once Google came on the scene, that all changed – Google developed a page ranking system that fought against spamdexing quite well, discounting spam sites and awarding true, relevant websites with high page rankings.
These techniques involve altering the logical view that a search engine has over the page's contents. They all aim at variants of the vector space model for information retrieval on text collections.
Keyword stuffing involves the calculated placement of keywords within a page to raise the keyword count, variety, and density of the page. This is useful to make a page appear to be relevant for a web crawler in a way that makes it more likely to be found. Example: A promoter of a Ponzi scheme wants to attract web surfers to a site where he advertises his scam. He places hidden text appropriate for a fan page of a popular music group on his page, hoping that the page will be listed as a fan site and receive many visits from music lovers. Older versions of indexing programs simply counted how often a keyword appeared, and used that to determine relevance levels. Most modern search engines have the ability to analyze a page for keyword stuffing and determine whether the frequency is consistent with other sites created specifically to attract search engine traffic. Also, large webpages are truncated, so that massive dictionary lists cannot be indexed on a single webpage.
Hidden or invisible text
Unrelated hidden text is disguised by making it the same color as the background, using a tiny font size, or hiding it within HTML code such as "no frame" sections, alt attributes, zero-sized DIVs, and "no script" sections. People screening websites for a search-engine company might temporarily or permanently block an entire website for having invisible text on some of its pages. However, hidden text is not always spamdexing: it can also be used to enhance accessibility.
This involves repeating keywords in the meta tags, and using meta keywords that are unrelated to the site's content. This tactic has been ineffective since 2005.
"Gateway" or doorway pages are low-quality web pages created with very little content, but are instead stuffed with very similar keywords and phrases. They are designed to rank highly within the search results, but serve no purpose to visitors looking for information. A doorway page will generally have "click here to enter" on the page. In 2006, Google ousted BMW for using "doorway pages" to the company's German site, BMW.de.
Scraper sites are created using various programs designed to "scrape" search-engine results pages or other sources of content and create "content" for a website. The specific presentation of content on these sites is unique, but is merely an amalgamation of content taken from other sources, often without permission. Such websites are generally full of advertising (such as pay-per-click ads), or they redirect the user to other sites. It is even feasible for scraper sites to outrank original websites for their own information and organization names.
Article spinning involves rewriting existing articles, as opposed to merely scraping content from other sites, to avoid penalties imposed by search engines for duplicate content. This process is undertaken by hired writers or automated using a thesaurus database or a neural network.
Similarly to article spinning, some sites use machine translation to render their content in several languages, with no human editing, resulting in unintelligible texts.
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Publishing web pages that contain information that is unrelated to the title is a misleading practice known as deception. Despite being a target for penalties from the leading search engines that rank pages, deception is a common practice in some types of sites, including dictionary and encyclopedia sites. The search for "We could not find the full phrase you were looking for"[clarification needed] in Google shows 13 million results from wordreference.com. So even though the page states that it doesn't have any information about the full phrase, it still is the main information in the page title, coming before anything else.
Link spam is defined as links between pages that are present for reasons other than merit. Link spam takes advantage of link-based ranking algorithms, which gives websites higher rankings the more other highly ranked websites link to it. These techniques also aim at influencing other link-based ranking techniques such as the HITS algorithm. There are many different types of link spam, built for both positive and negative ranking effects on websites. (See Negative SEO).
A common form of link spam is the use of link-building software to automate the search engine optimization process.
Link farms are tightly-knit communities of pages referencing each other, also known facetiously as mutual admiration societies. Use of links farms has been greatly reduced after Google launched the Panda Update back in February 2011, making significant improvements in its algorithm to detect link farms meant to game ranking.
A Sybil attack is the forging of multiple identities for malicious intent, named after the famous multiple personality disorder patient "Sybil". A spammer may create multiple web sites at different domain names that all link to each other, such as fake blogs (known as spam blogs).
Spam blogs are blogs created solely for commercial promotion and the passage of link authority to target sites. Often these "splogs" are designed in a misleading manner that will give the effect of a legitimate website but upon close inspection will often be written using spinning software or very poorly written and barely readable content. They are similar in nature to link farms.
Guest blog spam
Guest blog spam is the process of placing guest blogs on websites for the sole purpose of gaining a link to another website, or websites. Unfortunately often confused with legitimate forms of guest blogging with other motives than placing links. Made famous by Matt Cutts publicly declaring "war" against this method of link spam.
Page hijacking is achieved by creating a rogue copy of a popular website which shows contents similar to the original to a web crawler but redirects web surfers to unrelated or malicious websites.
Buying expired domains
Some link spammers monitor DNS records for domains that will expire soon, then buy them when they expire and replace the pages with links to their pages. However, Google resets the link data on expired domains. To maintain all previous Google ranking data for the domain, it is advisable that a buyer grabs the domain before it is "dropped". Some of these techniques may be applied for creating a Google bomb — that is, to cooperate with other users to boost the ranking of a particular page for a particular query.
Cookie stuffing involves placing an affiliate tracking cookie on a website visitor's computer without their knowledge, which will then generate revenue for the person doing the cookie stuffing. This not only generates fraudulent affiliate sales, but also has the potential to overwrite other affiliates' cookies, essentially stealing their legitimately earned commissions.
Using world-writable pages
Web sites that can be edited by users can be used by spamdexers to insert links to spam sites if the appropriate anti-spam measures are not taken.
Spam in blogs
Spam in blogs is the placing or solicitation of links randomly on other sites, placing a desired keyword into the hyperlinked text of the inbound link. Guest books, forums, blogs, and any site that accepts visitors' comments are particular targets and are often victims of drive-by spamming where automated software creates nonsense posts with links that are usually irrelevant and unwanted. Many of the blogs like, Wordpress or Blogger, make their comments sections nofollow by default due to concerns over spam.
Comment spam is a form of link spam that has arisen in web pages that allow dynamic user editing such as wikis, blogs, and guestbooks. It can be problematic because agents can be written that automatically randomly select a user edited web page, such as a Wikipedia article, and add spamming links.
Wiki spam is a form of link spam on wiki pages. The spammer uses the open editability of wiki systems to place links from the wiki site to the spam site. The subject of the spam site is often unrelated to the wiki page where the link is added. In early 2005, Wikipedia implemented a default "nofollow" value for the "rel" HTML attribute. Links with this attribute are ignored by Google's PageRank algorithm. Forum and Wiki admins can use these to discourage Wiki spam.
Referrer log spamming
Referrer spam takes place when a spam perpetrator or facilitator accesses a web page (the referee), by following a link from another web page (the referrer), so that the referee is given the address of the referrer by the person's Internet browser. Some websites have a referrer log which shows which pages link to that site. By having a robot randomly access many sites enough times, with a message or specific address given as the referrer, that message or Internet address then appears in the referrer log of those sites that have referrer logs. Since some Web search engines base the importance of sites on the number of different sites linking to them, referrer-log spam may increase the search engine rankings of the spammer's sites. Also, site administrators who notice the referrer log entries in their logs may follow the link back to the spammer's referrer page.
Other types of spamdexing
A mirror site is the hosting of multiple websites with conceptually similar content but using different URLs. Some search engines give a higher rank to results where the keyword searched for appears in the URL.
Cloaking refers to any of several means to serve a page to the search-engine spider that is different from that seen by human users. It can be an attempt to mislead search engines regarding the content on a particular web site. Cloaking, however, can also be used to ethically increase accessibility of a site to users with disabilities or provide human users with content that search engines aren't able to process or parse. It is also used to deliver content based on a user's location; Google itself uses IP delivery, a form of cloaking, to deliver results. Another form of cloaking is code swapping, i.e., optimizing a page for top ranking and then swapping another page in its place once a top ranking is achieved. Google refers to these type of redirects as Sneaky Redirects.
- Adversarial information retrieval
- Web scraping
- Index (search engine) — overview of search engine indexing technology
- SearchEngineLand, Danny Sullivan's video explanation of Search Engine Spam, October 2008 . Retrieved 2008-11-13.
- "Word Spy - spamdexing" (definition), March 2003, webpage:WordSpy-spamdexing.
- Gyöngyi, Zoltán; Garcia-Molina, Hector (2005), "Web spam taxonomy" (PDF), Proceedings of the First International Workshop on Adversarial Information Retrieval on the Web (AIRWeb), 2005 in The 14th International World Wide Web Conference (WWW 2005) May 10, (Tue)-14 (Sat), 2005, Nippon Convention Center (Makuhari Messe), Chiba, Japan., New York, NY: ACM Press, ISBN 1-59593-046-9
- Ntoulas, Alexandros; Manasse, Mark; Najork, Marc; Fetterly, Dennis (2006), "Detecting Spam Web Pages through Content Analysis", The 15th International World Wide Web Conference (WWW 2006) May 23–26, 2006, Edinburgh, Scotland., New York, NY: ACM Press, ISBN 1-59593-323-9
- Smarty, Ann (2008-12-17). "What Is BlackHat SEO? 5 Definitions". Search Engine Journal. Retrieved 2012-07-05.
- "secrets-to-keeping-your-new-email-address-spam-free". webspam.org. Retrieved 2 January 2014.
- Segal, David (2011-02-13). "The Dirty Little Secrets of Search". The NY Times. Retrieved 2012-07-03.
- Davison, Brian (2000), "Recognizing Nepotistic Links on the Web" (PDF), AAAI-2000 workshop on Artificial Intelligence for Web Search, Boston: AAAI Press, pp. 23–28
- Link spam types guide - Spam Flag
- Search Engines:Technology, Society, and Business - Marti Hearst, Aug 29, 2005
- The decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO - Matt Cutts, Jan 20, 2014
- Mishne, Gilad; David Carmel and Ronny Lempel (2005). "Blocking Blog Spam with Language Model Disagreement" (PDF). Proceedings of the First International Workshop on Adversarial Information Retrieval on the Web. Retrieved 2007-10-24.
To report spamdexed pages
- Found on Google search engine results
- Found on Yahoo! search engine results
- Found on Spamdexed website
Search engine help pages for webmasters
Other tools and information for webmasters
- AIRWeb series of workshops on Adversarial Information Retrieval on the Web
- The Definitive Guide To Manipulative Links