New York Times nice to SEOs, while MSN says SPAMMER

It's a report in the New York Times about a research report out of MSN, on systematic publishing of junk pages designed to only show ads, by a few organized efforts suported by Google (blogspot and adsense) and more. The article goes 5 paragraphs in without mentioning SEO, describing the perpetrators as "rogue actors", "shadowy operators", and "rogue actors". The article properly reports on the identification of two ISPs/hosts seemingly involved, and repeatedly highlights how it is a defined activity of a small group with purposeful intent. When SEO is mentioned (paragraph 6), it is mentioned respectfully, properly, and positively:

Quote:
Using questionable or illegal techniques to improve the ranking of a Web site in query results is known as search-engine spamming. The practice has proved to be a vexing problem for the major search companies, which struggle to prevent both spammers and companies specializing in improving legitimate clients’ Web traffic — a field known as search-engine optimization — from undermining their page-ranking systems.

Yet when I click through to read the original report out of Microsoft, it starts like this:

Quote:
ABSTRACT: Spammers use questionable search engine optimization (SEO)techniques to promote their spam links into top search results.

It doesn't get any better, as throughout the paper Microsoft intermixes SEO and SPAM as if they don't know the difference:

Quote:
SEO techniques span a wide spectrum. Since the precise boundary between legitimate SEO techniques and search spam is often subjective and fuzzy, we focus on one type of spam – redirection spam – which is widely used by large-scale spammers to associate many doorway pages with a single redirection domain.

There's plenty to comment in the paper, but right from the start it offended me (as an SEO) so that was the Microsoft Brand Experience for my post. Nice work New York Times, and Microsoft you still don't get it.

Comments

C'mon you honestly can't say

Quote:
C'mon you honestly can't say that with a straight face now can you? Please find me one case of anyone being arrested, convicted, prosecuted or charged with changing a title tag to rank in a search engine.

OK. my english seems to be too poor to participate in discussion on this site.
I was sure writing "search engines treat (...)" will make it clear that I mean the rules set by search engines themselves.

SEO is SPAM

wow... nice discussion. Andrews rule: every discussion that mentions SEO and SPAM in the same sentence, willd evolve into an SEO is Spam debate.

I think there are other forums for that stuff... see ya lol.

Anyway I totally agree the NYT is "getting it" and that suggests that they "get it" in general... which means we should expect some quality competitive work from the NYT digital people, right? I mean, if the attitude is right, there is SO much room to dominate if you are the NYT (with the NYT archives, info flow process, influence, staffing, etc etc etc.)

The only entity as scary as Google when it comes to search is the New York Times (influence over the population). I would *love* to work at the New York Times on the digital team (note to self: did I just say I would actually enjoy working for someone else?)

semantics

well the difference between 'host' and 'enable' is a fine line for for url's such as http://www.usaid.gov/cgi-bin/goodbye?http://catalog-online.kzn.ru/free/verizon-ringtones/

Call them enablers if it sounds better but clearly they were (unknowingly) involved in spam, then MSN gave them the headsup and now they've fixed it. I don't think thats the MSN equivelant of calling the US government spammers is it?

People talk of the world in

People talk of the world in black and white for one of two reasons. Either they are trying to manipulate others or they are too stupid to see color.

Failure to Communicate

>search engines treat all types of ranking manipulation as illegal activity

C'mon you honestly can't say that with a straight face now can you? Please find me one case of anyone being arrested, convicted, prosecuted or charged with changing a title tag to rank in a search engine.

I'm going to go over here and sit on the Group W bench ...

search engines treat all

search engines treat all types of ranking manipulation as illegal activity.
so if you alter your title in a way that it contains more keywords, use keywords in internal links and do other regular stuff called "optimization" you want the page to rank higher.
ergo: you try to manipulate the ranking of your page.

however, if anyone believes a woman can be half-way pregnant, they definitely can distinguish SEOs from spammers.

We read the same thing

Quote:
We note that none of these 15 sites hosts only
spam and therefore cannot simply be blacklisted by search
engines.
Quote:
none of these 15 sites hosts only spam

Hosts only spam... it's implying that the site is hosting spam..

Quote:
until one of the rocket scientists that didn't defect to Google noticed that their might be real content other than some viagra links.

It's exactly what I said :)

all idolw are

all people nicknamed idolw are ___

they write _____ comments and do illegal things. problem is there is no way to stop that so they use other words to name that.

illegal?

@idolw:
There's nothing illegal about manipulating the rankings.

re: New York Times
Keep in mind who exactly is the head of SEO at the New York Times. The New York Time is actually one of the few media outlets out there who "get it".

all SEOs are spammers. they

all SEOs are spammers. they manipulate the rankings so they do illegal things.
problem is there is no way to stop that so they use other word to name that.

are we looking at different reports?

>>It's almost saying that usaid.gov is one of the leading spammers on the internet. It's saying that people are using security flaws in the the .gov site and doing shady redirects... from reading it it appears their solution was to ban the entire .gov site until one of the rocket scientists that didn't defect to Google noticed that their might be real content other than some viagra links.

no sorry, you're going to have to tell me where you read that - I saw this

Quote:
and the remaining two (oas.org and usaid.gov) are
Universal Redirectors, which take an arbitrary URL as an
argument and redirect the browser to that URL .....
We note that none of these 15 sites hosts only
spam and therefore cannot simply be blacklisted by search
engines.

which is almost the exact opposite of your take on it.

I'm really not understanding how we can all sit and whinge at MSN about their SERPs and then when they address the issue by releasing a report which (skim read only I admit) seems to be actually attempting to address the spam issue at source (ie; deal wth the money and stop people funding and clicking if possible, instead of just keep changing the algo continously which impacts more and more on webmasters so WH they don't do any SEO let alone spam) we complain.

Live search is pretty crappy, I'm not defending it, but if we want the SERPs cleaned up then surely we should support efforts to address the root cause (don't we complain about Google not doing that?). Personally I'm not so bothered, crap in SERPs keeps me in a job and a lot of friends of mine very rich, but I don't think picking holes in reports like this is a good way of improving things, is it?

@John

throughout the paper Microsoft intermixes SEO and SPAM as if they don't know the difference

MSN's SERPs attest to that ;)

the study itself was a bit underwhelming. it only served to point out things that were already pretty obvious - e.g. drugs, ringtones and gambling are areas with heaps of spam (wow!), and google provides many of the tools necessary for the trade (adsense and blogspot):

At least three in every four unique blogspot URLs that appeared in top-50 results for commercial queries (that they selected for this study) were spam (77% and 75%).

however, i was favorably impressed by the NYT drawing a distinction between spamming and SEO - they seem to have a much stronger grasp of the terms than many of their peers in traditional media.

trying to define spam

Isn't the real definition of spam:

Someone Positioned Above Me?

Did you guys see that report? I mean read it?

It's almost saying that usaid.gov is one of the leading spammers on the internet. It's saying that people are using security flaws in the the .gov site and doing shady redirects... from reading it it appears their solution was to ban the entire .gov site until one of the rocket scientists that didn't defect to Google noticed that their might be real content other than some viagra links.

Frankly, I'm sick of people

Frankly, I'm sick of people trying to define spam.

but but

but spammers do use questionable seo techniques don't they?

and SEO techniques do span a wide spectrum with the precise boundry between legitimate SEO techniques and search spam being subjective and fuzzy, don't they?

Personally I can look at both of those comments in a positive light - by stating that spammers use questionable seo techniques microsoft are surely inferring that they consider a) some SEO techniques to be valid and b) at least some SEO's to be using the valid techniques and therefore good guys?

And we can hardly argue that "subjective and fuzzy" is untrue. Its so subjective that we argue amongst ourselves about it. I'm pretty sure I know the difference between SEO and SPAM but I freely admit that I see some things as subjective and fuzzy - when is a link a 'paid' link? when is cloaking a 'sneaky redirect'?

How can MS publish a paper about spam without attempting to define spam?, and how can they do that without stating that there are legitimate SEO techniques and (in their opinion) non legitimate ones? I think we may be attempting to hold MS to impossible standards here to be honest.