Thomas Claburn over at InformationWeek just wrote an article entitled “Is Google’s Spam Fight a Sham?” I had a bunch of spam-related work to do this morning, so I just dashed out a 15 minute reply. Of course, InformationWeek’s comment system wouldn’t let me post the comment, saying
The comment was rejected by the system. Please try again later.
plus the InformationWeek comment system works in such a way that Firefox can’t recover the comment. Bah. Luckily I’m paranoid and saved the text before I tried to post it. Here’s my very very quick reply:
Hi Thomas, I’m the head of webspam at Google. Having worked at the company for 7+ years and on webspam for 6+ years, I can say with confidence that Google’s spam fight is not a sham.
It makes sense that you’re not familiar with start pages; they’re much more common in Dutch. That’s why the second half of the post was in Dutch. Over half of Google’s traffic is from outside the U.S., so it’s only natural that we communicate about quality and spam in other languages — I believe we’re the only major U.S. search engine that does so. Google provides guidance in lots of non-English markets about individual practices in that market. For example, link exchanges are more popular in Polish and French than in English. I wouldn’t expect you to know that, but we pay attention to spam trends in lots of different languages, employ algorithms to counter webspam, and additionally try to communicate with webmasters and site owners to prevent spam in the first place.
Let’s see, you’ve got a couple other criticisms:
- We provide a way for people outside Google to report spam (That form is available in 10+ languages. Just change the “hl=en” to the language you want). We do the majority of our work internally rather than off of spam reports, but outside reports are helpful to see how we’re doing. Other major search engines solicit spam reports and feedback as well, and I believe it’s a sensible practice.
- You criticize AdSense for Domains. Before Google offered a product for parked domains, I know that some parked domains have at times hosted pop-ups and sometimes worse (things like malware). My personal opinion is that a reputable option for parked domains is a better alternative for domain owners and the web than some of the other choices; no one likes to type in a domain name and worry about malware, and AdSense for Domains lessens the chance of that happening. Note that AdSense for Domains is not my area of the company, but a quick search will turn up their FAQ at
Q: Are there any restrictions on the domains directed to the AdSense for domains service?
A: AdSense for domains must adhere strictly to Google’s AdSense policies. Domain names submitted to may not contain or link to any of the following content: illegal activity; site promotion of incentive or fraudulent clicking; violation of trademark (and related rights), copyright, trade secret, patent or other intellectual property right of any third party; software which contains a virus, worm or other code that could be damaging or harmful to a user’s computer system or stored information; libelous, defamatory, obscene or hateful content; or any subject matter not in line with Google policy.
Q: Is Google involved in the select or registration of the domains in the AdSense for domains program?
A: Google is not involved with the selection or registration of these domain names, and is not in a position to arbitrate trademark disputes between the registrants, our partners, and trademark owners. Accordingly, we encourage trademark owners to resolve their disputes directly with the registrants or registrars. As a courtesy to trademark owners, Google provides a simple publicly available complaint procedure and, once notified of a legitimate complaint against a specific domain, Google will no longer serve ads to that domain. For instructions on how to file a complaint, please refer to the Trademark Complaint Process page.
Okay, back to work killing webspam. Brian White found an interesting trick this morning that we’re in the process of shutting down, for example. Selina and Jos, thanks for writing your post about startpages to highlight which practices are good vs. bad. I know that the reception in the Netherlands has already been positive because Google is participating in the conversation about marketing there.
And Thomas, you’re more than welcome to listen in as we talk to site owners, webmasters, and SEOs around the world, but I wish you’d contacted someone at Google before commenting on our webspam efforts.