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Spam and unwanted clutter

December 10, 2004

In an ideal and virtually perfect world, each search engine would produce the most relevant set of results for its audience. Unfortunately the world is not perfect, and some webmasters will attempt to trick search engines into listing their pages (instead of the most relevant pages) in response to a specific keyword search.

They do this by feeding spam and unwanted clutter to the search engine spiders. Spam and unwanted clutter in the major search engines cause many problems for the engines because it does not allow them to deliver the most relevant results to their audiences.

Their ability to calculate relevancy is distorted by the spam. Furthermore, spam and unwanted clutter has caused many search engines to move heavily towards using off-the-page factors to calculate relevancy. A good example of this would be Google. Nevertheless, spam is still very real and has to be dealt with.

As might be expected, spam also causes irritation among users themselves, as they are confronted with results that sometimes have little or anything to do with their search. To help search engines deliver quality relevant results, nobody should ever feed them spam to their spiders. How can you tell if what you are doing is spam, rather than just search engine friendly? What exactly is spam? How can one define spam?

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There are no hard and fast guidelines on what actually defines spam. Some search engines will insist that you must feed the same content to their spiders as would be seen by all human visitors to your pages. However, if you already deliver different content from the same URL to different human visitors, then under these search engines' rules you must be delivering spam to them, which is usually called cloaking and it's done with the use of doorway or gateway pages.

Of course if you ask spammers, they will often insist that they deliver relevant content to search engine spiders. The problem with this argument is that it is up to the search engine, and nobody else, to determine relevance. The search engine, if it is to use on-the-page factors to calculate relevance, must use the page that is shown to humans, otherwise what is the point of using on-the-page factors at all?

About the only way one can determine if you are spamming is this: If your web site needs the IP address or user agent of any search engine crawler, then you are probably spamming and you could face the consequences of being banned from certain engines, either on a temporary or permanent basis. If, on the other hand, you show exactly the same content to spiders as you do to humans, then you are certainly not spamming.

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Article written by Serge Thibodeau,
President & CEO,
Rank for $ales
Copyright (c) Serge Thibodeau 2003

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