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Spammer causes an entire web community's drop from Google.
Watch out if you run forums, or allow comments, or user blogs.
gethan

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3031282 posted 11:12 am on Aug 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

There's almost nothing a competitor can do to harm your ranking or have your site removed from our index. If you're concerned about another site linking to yours, we suggest contacting the webmaster of the site in question. Google aggregates and organizes information published on the web; we don't control the content of these pages.
Google Webmaster Help [google.com]

Scenario - top 10,000 alexa site, links from around 9,000 sites, community of around 20,000 active members, great reviews in NYT, WSJ, Yahoo!, etc, around 1 million indexed pages (Yahoo,Google,MSN) , 5 years of service. On the 20th July the site dropped from the google search index - traffic halved. The site can only be found for very obscure searches or url based searches.

No proof - but this does coincide with the actions of a very persistant spammer - who unluckily was missed by the moderators.

This is the event history.

~10th July: Spammer joins site: creates a member blog with V*~!ra or similar terms it. Doesn't get caught by administrators of the site.
~11th July: Spammer creates ~10,000 links to the created blog, listing spam terms. How? - I guess some spammer link package - all the links are from forums, comments pages etc.
~11th-15th: 10 new accounts created with other similar spam terms. Similar numbers of links created to these blogs.

20th July: - index page dropped from google, nearly all pages dropped, only obscure search terms bring up the site. site:example.com, allinurl:example.com show the site.
23rd July: - spammer found, accounts removed, spam pages removed (error 404's returned now), software updated to allow spam to be more easily identified by the administrators.

2nd August: - still missing from index - no idea of return date, major competitor occupies targetted search terms. Google help - disappointing. Seems that they basically funnel webmasters in to the sitemaps program.

I hope/expect that google will return the site to the index soon, but I do have some unease... I'm not saying that this was due to the actions of a competitor either, plain and simple spammer - we filter out hundreds of attempts of this kind of thing daily - these ones got through the shields...

So I'm currently writing sitemap scripts, for around one million pages this is quite complex... not what I intended to be doing with the next few days ;)

What additional actions would you take? Anyone had similar experiences? Anyone had good news after similar experiences?

Aside: really sad thing is that none of the none of the links in the spam blog actually worked... we use bb code - like WebmasterWorld - the spammer posted html...

 

jetteroheller

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jetteroheller us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3031282 posted 11:54 am on Aug 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

Thanks for pointing out a security hole in my system.

I have pages for formmail.

When the writer of the formmail does not give his email address, the responding screen shows his filled out form and tells, that he has forgotten the email address.

Maybe some spamers try to index the answer page.

I go now and check my system for this possible exploit.

leadegroot

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3031282 posted 12:14 pm on Aug 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

If you 're pretty sure you got it all - have you tried a recinclusion request? I think its on sitemaps

trinorthlighting

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3031282 posted 12:25 pm on Aug 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

Google has been working on the subdomain spam now. They are aware of it. Personally, I hate spammers like this, but at the same time I have to get used to the effects on the net like the million page guy did.

Spammers are just like drug dealers, when one gets busted, another will take his place. Its all about that pay per click.

jetteroheller

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jetteroheller us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3031282 posted 12:33 pm on Aug 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

If you 're pretty sure you got it all - have you tried a recinclusion request? I think its on sitemaps

Yes, it's on site maps, but You have to chcek 3 points before You sent the form.

My site does not breach the guide lines
I did not change anything to be within the guide lines

I lost only 90% of google traffic on June 27th

So I would have to lie 2 times, only to send the request

tgrahl

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3031282 posted 8:56 pm on Aug 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

You are not alone dealing with this problem. Same situation with my site. #1 one day for numerous terms, #141 next day same terms.

20,000 spammer links pointing to my site.

Of course other SEO "experts" insist that spammy incoming links won't hurt the SERPs.

Until proven wrong, that is the only explanation for the extreme drop in the site.

Sorry to say, it has been going on since March 06. All pages that the spammy links point to have been removed but the links to my site are still in the Google index. Basically, it is out of my control and I am at Google's mercy with no relief in sight.

Steph_R

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3031282 posted 12:35 am on Aug 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

Before you jump to conclusions, I would check the obvious reasons: does your site have duplicate content (or even duplicate meta tags), multiple domains on the same site (parking?), server issues, are you linking to other sites that you control or own, did you neglect to setup "href no follow" on the links that you allow your visitors to post on your forum, etc... I am not 100% convinced that the "spammer" you described could do this much damage. If you find the cause of the problem, you can fix it then do a re-inclusion request.

Good luck and don't lose hope.

[edited by: Steph_R at 12:36 am (utc) on Aug. 3, 2006]

jetteroheller

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jetteroheller us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3031282 posted 8:35 am on Aug 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

20,000 spammer links pointing to my site

"example.com" -site:example.com

(I mean my site with example.com)

Shows at me 29700 pages.

Maybe 75% spam, and I can do nothing against it.

WiseWebDude

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3031282 posted 1:12 pm on Aug 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

I was wondering if you all set the links to rel=nofollow as well. IF you run a major forum, this is simply a MUST now. It can break you not to have that tag automatically set for outgoing links. Hope all goes well for you! We have all been in your shoes, I have stopped allowing almost any types of comments or posts anywhere except my forum, which is vBulletin so it can protect you pretty well.

[edited by: WiseWebDude at 1:13 pm (utc) on Aug. 3, 2006]

mattg3

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3031282 posted 2:20 pm on Aug 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

How many different ways can one write: " Today it is sunny 23 degrees with north easterly wind.

Well you can mix around the word abit, still in billions of webpages the likelihood that some or more people write the same is getting bigger and bigger.

And most people write by somehow regurgitating stuff they read on many other pages, conciously or subconsciously. With more and more pages a small likelihood will get increasingly more likely.

gethan

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3031282 posted 6:05 am on Aug 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

20,000 spammer links pointing to my site. - about 60,000 that I can find, pages are gone links remain pointing - can't look good to any automated system such as google.

have you tried a recinclusion request? I think its on sitemaps - submitted yesterday - though am expecting an email that says - "your site is in the index look site:www.example.com"

Same situation with my site. #1 one day for numerous terms, #141 next day same terms. - OMG - that is exactly the position I found the first reference to my site for the main search term... was that just a flippant example or is the the #141 google effect?

Before you jump to conclusions, I would check the obvious reasons: - site returned 403's on July 4th, for 6hrs... ran out of disk space due to a run away log file... no change in SERP positions until the 20th so... possible - hope that's the cause.

I was wondering if you all set the links to rel=nofollow as well. - no - though may change this - without user links (legitimate users) the site would have very few external links at all, plus I am a purist - I want good sites to get the benefit of a relevant link from my site. But if it hurts my site then I will change that.

Thanks for the support everyone :) - will keep the thread updated with progress (or lack of)!

jaffstar

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3031282 posted 8:16 am on Aug 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

I have been monitoring this on Google, and what I am finding ALARMS me about Google. It also alarms me that what should not be working, in terms of ranking, linking, actually is....

I have found +- 20 domains in one industry alone, the exact same thing happening to you.

For example: There are a few sites that are dominating some very competitive sectors, top 2/3/4 positions. The page is completely random junk with h1 tags, and keywords in bold, which redirects to a PPC or sponsor landing page.

When I started to do a IBL search. I noticed that one of these sites had accumulated over 5000 ibl's in a matter of weeks to one page alone.

The scary thing is that all of these links are guestbook spam, comment spam, message board spam and that these sites can clean up in Google in a matter of weeks , so much for the sandbox.

A quick story: I used to work at a hosting company. Occasionally someone we hosted went mad and mailed 20 million people, 100% Spam. In this situation, the hosting company was 100% blacklisted, guilty until proven innocent until the spammer was removed from the network. I guess that is ALWAYS a risk of having someone else on your network what can at a moments notice cause havoc.

In your situation, you have your terms of service, such as the hosting company, but some people ignore that, especially in your situation, hence where you have landed up.

Due to the fact that these spammers are driving links to multiple locations on your domain and to multiple pages ie /spampage 1 or /keyword-spam etc, Google has acted appropriately but trying to minimize damage control and blacklisting your domain. Yes, some of the innocent are presumed guilty, but due to the fact that the floodgates have opened, what should Google do?

Itís almost like a virus has broken out in a village, what do they do? Quarantine

In theory, as with the hosting company, once the spammer is removed, the site should be restored to its original state, + 30k spammy links to your site.

We have all "believe" the assumption that we can control who we link to, but not who links to us. If your domain has been blacklisted as a result, Google probably thought your were doing this, so I advise you to contact Google with your case.

Some points:

1. Is it this easy to manipulate Google by driving 100% spam links to a site to get top 5 ranking? So much for these links do not count.

2. Is it this easy to completely nuke your competitor? Drive 30k IBL to their domain, and then report them, and they gone?

3. If this has happened now, I think it can happen in the future, and you should possibly amend your business model.

4. Some of .edu's who have deleted the spam page, still have 10k + pointing to the old spam page. The result? The site is not banned by google, and still has top 5 ranking. So much for onpage factors :)

Any Feedback?

soapystar

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3031282 posted 8:41 am on Aug 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

Is it this easy to manipulate Google by driving 100% spam links to a site to get top 5 ranking?

this appears to be the case post BD and have posted so on many occasions.

proxx

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3031282 posted 5:35 am on Aug 22, 2006 (gmt 0)

have the same problem.

what can be done?

PR is preserved, but the #1 spot is lost

gethan

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3031282 posted 10:53 am on Aug 22, 2006 (gmt 0)

22nd August: - still missing from index

No idea of return date, major competitor occupies targetted search terms. No response from reinclusion request. No spam on the site. Sitemaps still shows requests for the pages which return 404's "you might want to take a look at these errors" - Google - these are not errors - it's working as intended.

Waiting for the 27th and a new index. Fingers crossed.

jaffstar

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3031282 posted 12:55 pm on Aug 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

Hi,

Your site was affected by the actions of a spammer. There are still so many sites getting hit , the way you were hit. However, Google has only detected a small % of these sites.

Before you get re-included, I would they think they would try and take care of this massive problem . They remove one and three more arrive... Pathetic!

Quadrille

WebmasterWorld Senior Member quadrille us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3031282 posted 2:03 pm on Aug 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

Certainly a lesson on the need to take moderation seriously.

Always helps to make registartion a little more difficult too.

But It really is dangerous to make assumptions about the causes of the problem.

you say you have 9000 incoming links; that's too many to have happened by chance. If you have (or have had in the past) a link exchange scheme, nows the time to cleanse your site. the recent affair may have been the 'last straw' - but the damage may have been a disaster waiting to happen - and once those filters get triggered, a return to last month may not be enough.

Also check your naviagtion and the duplicates issue as advised above.

DO NOT send a reinclusion request unless you really are very sure the site is squeeky clean; they are resource-heavy, and Google will not think kindly if they get a request too soon.

What about all the other member-installed links? I'd think quite seriously about nofollow.

proxx

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3031282 posted 6:39 am on Aug 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

this has nothing to do with moderation.

Spammers create forums, blogs, web pages on our host, then they start spamming OUR urls (which automatically get redirected using some encoded javascript method) to thier pharmancy/casino/porn link sites.

Google has a serious flaw in their algorithm to allow such abuse to hurt popular websites like ours.

gethan

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3031282 posted 7:21 am on Aug 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

> Certainly a lesson on the need to take moderation seriously.

Yes - though even with good moderation something slipped through on an area I wasn't expecting.

> Always helps to make registartion a little more difficult too.

That's a also a problem - you then deter legitimate users too.

> But It really is dangerous to make assumptions about the causes of the problem.

Erm disagree - what could happen from making an assumption? - maybe google will drop all my pages from their index... oh, that's already happened.

> you say you have 9000 incoming links;

Around 9000 - organic links, probably 200 alone due to being featured in the NYT - yes this is a BIG established site... no link schemes, 9000 is not too many - see link:webmasterworld.com

> What about all the other member-installed links? I'd think quite seriously about nofollow.

The pages that caused this problem (probably) didn't have any out going links - just failed attempts at linking out due to using BBCode - the problem is the ~10K IBL from guestbooks, forums, comments pages that I have no control of.

> this has nothing to do with moderation.

It does a little in our case - if we'd spotted the pages before the the spammer started creating the IBLs then maybe he wouldn't of bothered - but then again someone else would have.

> Spammers create forums, blogs, web pages on our host, then they start spamming OUR urls (which automatically get redirected using some encoded javascript method) to thier pharmancy/casino/porn link sites.

In this case - my site is the host. But other than that - yes that's what happens everyday - and everyday thousands and thousands of attempts are blocked or caught by moderators. *sigh* - pharmancy/casino/porn - the big threee.

> Google has a serious flaw in their algorithm to allow such abuse to hurt popular websites like ours.

Agreed - is my only option to locate the spammers and request the same treatment of my competitors sites in order to level the playing field?

Fortunately my site is popular enough that it's still growing, still gaining traffic - purely from word of mouth.

24th: slight change in status - the ibls no longer show when doing link:example.com

Quadrille

WebmasterWorld Senior Member quadrille us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3031282 posted 8:47 am on Aug 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

> But It really is dangerous to make assumptions about the causes of the problem.

Erm disagree - what could happen from making an assumption? - maybe google will drop all my pages from their index... oh, that's already happened.

It's dangerous to make an assumption that "it has to be this" - because if you are wrong, you've done nothing to fix the real problem.

Try to keep an open mind; the problem you have identified needed to be fixed, but there could be other issues here.

abates

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3031282 posted 10:45 pm on Aug 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

I find it surprising that there are still web sites which allow people to create/edit pages, yet don't limit what HTML they can use in order to prevent abuse.

Having a site where people can create free pages and then add any code they like there is like putting up a sign for spammers to say "Come abuse my site!"

gethan

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3031282 posted 8:23 am on Aug 31, 2006 (gmt 0)

August 31st: No Change.

No google update?

> but there could be other issues here.

Yeah - you are right - there are always lots of issues to fix on a very large site - this is the one that occured at the same time.

> I find it surprising that there are still web sites which allow people to create/edit pages, yet don't limit what HTML they can use in order to prevent abuse.

The site affected doesn't allow html - it uses BBCode like here for example.

proxx

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3031282 posted 8:42 am on Sep 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

I have received a response from Google, yet they have not fixed the problem.

So, effectively a competitor/spammer was able to knock our PR7 Alexa 500 site from #1 spot for top keywords.

This is stupid!

scottmci

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3031282 posted 7:26 am on Sep 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

If you are telling the whole story (and I often find forum complaints like this to often be self-serving and not completely open) it must look very suspicious to Google for you to only take action after you have been dropped from the SERPs.

There seems to be a lot of webmasters of old domains taking advantage of their trust by setting up spam pages for pharmacy and casino search terms. In these cases I'm glad google drops these old trusted domains from their SERPs.

So it looks like you were either caught out misusing your trust or are an innocent victim of a spammer. From Google's point of view it would be difficult to tell which one and they probably error on the side of caution and assume the worst.

gethan

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3031282 posted 7:05 pm on Sep 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

Status: - 5th september no change in google.

It's as though the index page is missing from google - which starts to make me think this could be a 301 problem?... how do I verify this?

The index page only shows for the exact title as listed in DMOZ - and only this term. All other searches - even for long text strings that only appears in relation to this site, put the site at the bottom of the results.

> If you are telling the whole story

Yes - we were featured as Yahoo site of the day, in the NYT, top 100 site in sector in The Times. It would never have been in our best interest to attempt to game any search engine - and we didn't need to as the site is doing very well - though not as well as it would be if google listed it properly.

> From Google's point of view it would be difficult to tell which one and they probably error on the side of caution and assume the worst.

I agree that this icould have happened - the problem here is that even though the site is now clean from the spam (for over a month - blogger.com for example can not claim the same) google still hasn't caught up - and though the site continues to grow - people don't find us when really they should.

Conclusion - Google is broken. There is no way to tell google that google is broken - that's actually listened to. My budget on adwords is way up - coincidence...

Making my way to a google free future is going to be painful. Step 1 - Yahoo! search results instead of google on the site search, Step 2 - Please introduce YPN for europe.

proxx

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3031282 posted 9:08 am on Sep 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

gethan,

I am in exact same position as you.

The index page only shows for the exact title as listed in DMOZ - and only this term. All other searches - even for long text strings that only appears in relation to this site, put the site at the bottom of the results.

same here:
I agree that this icould have happened - the problem here is that even though the site is now clean from the spam (for over a month - blogger.com for example can not claim the same) google still hasn't caught up - and though the site continues to grow - people don't find us when really they should.

It still shows that my site has PR7.

So what can we do?
This is pretty bad.

mr_lumpy

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3031282 posted 10:24 am on Sep 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

This has happened, in essence, to our large widget "collector" (think collectible action figure) website as well.

We were targeted, relentlessly, by forum spammers and scrapers, at a truly alarming volume and pace, and we have essentially been decimated from Google.

Google of course will not even respond, or even acknowledge receipt of our inquiries.

The reason we were targeted is because the site is 100% white hat, 100% original content. So of course moralless webbot/scrapers/scammmers reaped the rewards of our work for a brief period, and our site is now essentially invisible to the world.

But as my Mom always said, "The world isn't fair. It's misery interrupted by brief moments of happiness". How true...

whatson

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3031282 posted 10:37 am on Sep 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

I see this as a serious problem for website owners of this type. It is in no way fair that Google chooses this solution to remedy the situation.
Its just because they dont have the technology to filter spam yet.

mifi601

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3031282 posted 10:54 am on Sep 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

On my forums I have installed a random picture, similar to craiglsist and paypal, for verification. It's an additional step to post, but it seems users understand and rather go through that than have to deal with a spammy forum.

It has kept out spammers for a while now (except of course the manual ones, which any admin can delete ..)

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