I was reading Loren’s write up on a new link selling service from V7N. He points out an interesting claim from the company, which says
Contextual Links @ V7N are undetectable to search engines. Whether it be by human or algorithmic filtering, our links are impossible to detect. Additionally, an enforced non-disclosure agreement prevents both publishers and advertisers from revealing participating publishers and advertisers.
(emphasis preserved from the original.) Suffice it to say, if “undetectable to search engines” is listed as one of the major selling points of a particular link scheme, it probably violates our quality guidelines and the guidelines of other major search engines.
The “undetectable” claim brought up fond memories of another time someone claimed to me that their spam was undetectable. It was November 2002, so cue up the wavy time-warp special effect and let’s go back in time.
I had just removed a very large data recovery website from Google. They asked me why their website appeared to be penalized. I replied with this email:
appear to have garbage doorways with text about random SCSI things.
Visiting those pages in Internet Explorer just redirects to your
homepage. Using doorways + sneaky redirects is a serious violation
of Google’s spam guidelines. In order to relist you (and it will take
about 7-8 weeks), we need to have clear evidence that all these pages
are gone, and that we won’t see these sort of tricks on your domain
(domain name removed to protect the guilty back in 2002.)
By the way, you can see the main criteria for a successful reinclusion request to Google haven’t changed in the last four years: remove the spam and find a way to assure us it won’t happen again.
The data recovery company evidently forwarded their email to their SEO to get an explanation. I like to imagine that they said something like “Um, dude. Google removed us completely because they found a bunch of crappy doorway pages that you made. What do you have to say for yourself?”
All well and good, but what happened next is where it gets funny. The SEO replies, but he doesn’t write back to the data recovery company that he spammed out of Google’s index. No, the SEO accidentally wrote back to me instead of his client. And here is what the SEO tried to say to his client but said to me instead:
I know what to do. I’m going to call you…
(name trimmed so as not to reveal the identity of the SEO)
I laughed so hard, I nearly bust a gut. His old system was undetectable, but he was worried he might be caught, so he was working on a spiffy new scheme which was really *really* undetectable. But only 99% bulletproof. As you might be able to guess, I was easily able to find all of the fellow’s “undetectable” doorway pages and all of his clients with a single Google query — I didn’t even have to use any of my internal tools. I still chuckle when I hear the word “undetectable.”
One thing I do like about working on webspam at Google is that you collect really good stories. I don’t always tell the funny ones, but I share this one to make a point. The moral of this story is that “undetectable” spam sometimes stands out a lot more than you’d think.