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25 Signals of Crap
So many threads on Signals of Quality - let's take the reverse approach...

 5:34 am on Jan 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

A recent thread I read in the supporters forum that mentioned the ever-popular phrase "signals of quality" got me thinking. Why don't we try and compile a list of possible "signals of crap"?

I realize that many of the list items would logically just be a perceived "signal of quality" reversed but if we all dig down into our experience then this exercise just might bring up a few unique and useful insights. Here's a start:

25 Signals of Crap

  1. Reciprocal link request pages.
  2. No Privacy policy.
  3. Outdated copyright date or last modified date visible on the pages.
  4. error pages that don't send 404 headers or send content regardless of the page requested/querystring entered.
  5. Massive numbers of incoming links from link farms.
  6. dead/404ing links.
  7. High link churn.
  8. No published contact address, email address or phone number.
  9. A high bounce rate (surfers clicking back on their browser and selecting another search result).
  10. Too much duplicate content.
  11. Whois info for the domain which is the same as other domains previously penalized or banned. (Could also be true of adsense publisher/affiliate ID's and other identifiable footprints)
  12. Use of/links to affiliate programs that are known scams
  13. Domains previously used for spam or that are blacklisted.
  14. Stagnation (Site never changes)
  15. excessively long URI's/URL's (query strings or folder and file names)
  16. A high percentage of affiliate links vs regular outbound links.
  17. No / very few outbound links.
  18. No / very few inbound links.
  19. All inbound links are to homepage only
  20. Outbound links to questionable/spammy/crap sites.
  21. Profanity or explicitly adult language on a non-adult site.
  22. Too many spelling errors.
  23. Contains unrelated subjects (ex: a site that reviews toys and tries to sell insurance or viagra).
  24. Lack of interest from social bookmarking sites.
  25. MySQL or PHP errors in the pages

I'm not claiming any of these are definitely a signal of crap, but they make my list of possibilities based on my own conversations and observation.

Please add/subtract/modify and let's see if we can find a new perspective and learn something.



 2:14 pm on Jan 28, 2007 (gmt 0)

Images that aren't compresses and take forever to load.

I don't know if the bots take that into account or not but they should. It amazes me there's still sites out there that do this.


 3:59 pm on Jan 28, 2007 (gmt 0)

Images that aren't compresses and take forever to load.

This brings up an interesting question: Just what do we mean by "crap"? Are we talking about badly-designed pages, or about search-engine spam?

A photographer's page of up-close-and-personal Emperor Penguin photos might be badly designed, with uncompressed 300Kb JPEG photos, but to the person who's really interested in Emperor Penguins, waiting for a dozen photos to download might be a small price to pay for seeing first-rate, detailed photos of Emperor Penguins in their natural habitat. Certainly the page wouldn't be "crap" in the eyes of an Emperor Penguin fancier, though it might be annoying to penguin fanciers who have dial-up connections.

Similarly, a page that looks ugly might be "crap" to a graphic designer, and a page with source code that doesn't validate might be "crap" to an HTML purist. But unless there's statistical evidence that uncompressed JPEG images and non-validating code are associated with a lack of intrinsic information value (see Google's mission statement), they're unlikely to be "signals of crap" from Google's point of view.


 7:46 pm on Jan 28, 2007 (gmt 0)

There is only one signal of crap...

- site gets very few visitors and therefore makes little money


 11:44 pm on Jan 28, 2007 (gmt 0)

Myspace ... Scores about low on anything but popularity ... lol


 9:29 pm on Jan 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

How about
1) Pop-ups , Pop-Under, DHTML Windows sliding, Flouroscent brackgrounds / Black background + Bright text color?

2) Highjacking the Browser back button?

3) Trying to install spyware / Malware?

4) Extremly long Multi-level marketing webpages with user tesimonies trying to tell you how u can make $#*$!#*$! per month working from home?
(Site otherwise ok technically)


 9:45 pm on Jan 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

And yet, amazingly, you can have a site with none of these signals of poor quality, and its pages rank right along with all the sludge of the Internet on Google.

Nice job, Google. Original, unique content apparently means nothing these days.


 9:49 pm on Jan 30, 2007 (gmt 0)

I like this thread, this should be pinned up for a while.

Most of the threads started about penalties or people ranking poorly can all be attributed from these signals of crap.


 10:34 pm on Jan 30, 2007 (gmt 0)

25. MySQL or PHP errors in the pages

Would you mind to change this to :
25. Database related or Server side errors in the pages


 10:49 pm on Jan 30, 2007 (gmt 0)

The point about privacy policy deserves more attention.
I also looked in my last month logs and could not find a single request for the w3c/p3p.xml file!
With all search engines visiting my site everyday, I would expect them to check for the privacy policy once in week, at least.

Patrick Taylor

 12:04 am on Jan 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

europeforvisitors (#:3234859), good post.


 12:27 am on Jan 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

<<< No real menu or information architecture -- just a laundry list of links going on down the page<<<<<

Say it isn't so Tedster.
I know of no other way.:(


 12:28 am on Jan 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

Why would a privacy policy be a sign of quality when you don't collect visitor information? Does anyone really believe Google wants webmasters to warn their visitors that the site uses adwords, which is one of the biggest dangers for their privacy (apart from the Google toolbar)?


 2:32 am on Jan 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

In this day and age privacy pages are very important. Especially if your in the US. If you do not think they are you should talk with a lawyer.

Too many large lawsuits out there now due to privacy issues.


 4:09 am on Jan 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

* Show different content to visitors and bots
* Show different content to different bots
* Disable particular SEs and allow other SEs (pages/sites designed for specific engines)
* Use of scripts to position PPC ad under your mouse when you try to navigate, and similar tricks using technology, ooops this is thievery not only crap
* Call for bookmarking or telling a friend

A high bounce rate (surfers clicking back on their browser and selecting another search result).

Could be article too scientific for avg user, shop in the face of information seeker or information in the face of shopper, of which none is crap. Instead, a quick return to same search is a signal of honesty as opposed to long time spent on site to only realize after some time that everything is fluff and the site's purpose is to keep you as long as possible and maybe click an ad in desperation.


 12:42 pm on Feb 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

What if a competetitor submits your website to 10000 Link Farms, How can u really control?


 12:45 pm on Feb 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

The way I see it google does nothing, it just ignores the links.


 2:57 pm on Feb 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

<meta name="GENERATOR" content="Microsoft FrontPage 5.0">



 11:27 pm on Feb 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

Somebody please flame me if this is old news.

Link Geometry

By this I mean of you start at the bottom of a page and draw a box and label it the name of your site,

and then above it you list in a box each the sites that link to your site,

and then above that you list the sites that link to the sites that link to your site,

Does if form a big diamond, or some other predictable geometric shape? If it does, there is probably some pattern or system that you are using to get the links to your site.

Ideally (me thinks) from a Google perspective it would look like a crazy Etch-a-Sketch drawing, with no discernible pattern.

So in this case pretty, and symmetrical link geometry (A term I just coined unless I am actually ripping it off from someone :)) means crap, and crappy erratic link geometry means quality!

Again, somebody please flame me as to how professor Higglemeister of Bethlehem Institute of Technology already wrote about this in his 1976 synaptic presentation on emerging phone spam, so I won't think too highly of myself for having figured this out.



 11:28 pm on Feb 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

P.S. If the diagram of link geometry created a likeness of Matt Cutts, this would be taken as a sign of quality.

Visit Thailand

 11:33 pm on Feb 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

I often find lists like this to be even more beneficial than the 25 Signals of the Best of. Thanks.

Jordo needs a drink

 6:25 am on Feb 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

Signals of bad Quality from a human point of view...

Adsense - Yes good sites have it, but more bad sites have it and as a surfer, hit the back key when I see a page full of it.

Signal of bad Quality from a bot point of view...

Keywords - A page that says absolutely nothing, but you(or the bot) definitely knows what keywords are being targeted.


 10:13 am on Feb 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

- Times New Roman font
- "This site is optimised for Internet Explorer" or the site doesn't display correctly in Firefox/Opera/Safari.
- 1995 style Animated GIFs
- Low quality JPEGs with artifacts
- email address listed in plain text on website (no contact form)
- overuse of stock images that appear on a million other sites.


 11:06 am on Feb 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

* Call for bookmarking or telling a friend

Why is a tell-a-friend option a signal of crap? Seems like a useful feature to me. To the visitor, that is. Unless, of course, the tell-a-friend form is packed with co-regs and whatnot.


 11:21 am on Feb 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

Email address

The Contractor

 12:36 pm on Feb 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

Why is a tell-a-friend option a signal of crap? Seems like a useful feature to me.

Yep, I created a script for myself which allows them to add/send it up to 3 email addresses and a message. It sends me a copy of whatever they sent and lists who they sent it to, their email, their IP, etcetera. Not being nosey, just want to know if someone is using it to spam others with..hehe

On my own site it gets between 34-116 uses per day (my low/high). I implemented on a couple clients sites and the one site it gets used at a steady rate 15-18% of all traffic (meaning out of 100 visitors 15-18 people use it). Think of the traffic increase...


 3:55 pm on Feb 4, 2007 (gmt 0)

Steve B

After reading all of the posts, I am most interested in your post below:

More than 25% links from blogs
No links to the site from any domain in the top 100 for a query where the page ranks in the top 20 for that query

Steve, could you expand your thoughts on item #2 especially. But, also you were one of the first to mention Adsense...so a few thoughts on that. And if you respond to this, you might as well offer a few comments on the last item.

I hope that you are able to respond. Thanks


 1:57 pm on Feb 5, 2007 (gmt 0)


I have had a 'Reciprocal Links Policy' page for a few years now.

It simply says...

"We don't do them - sorry

It is not too hard to get into our directory but it is absolutely impossible to get in by offering an exchange link."

I have wondered from time to time if the SEs pick up on it and if so, whether they are able to distinguish between text that invites exchange links and text that actively rejects them.

Probably not, but it certainly cuts down on the endless requests!



 2:07 pm on Feb 5, 2007 (gmt 0)

Somebody rename this thread: "25 tips on how to get rich on crap pages"!


 2:11 pm on Feb 5, 2007 (gmt 0)

Given that this is the Google Search News forum, shouldn't we be discussing "25 signals of crap" only from a search engine bot's point of view?

Some people may not like FrontPage, Times New Roman, or AdSense, but it's unlikely that those are statistically meaningful "signals of crap" (whether they're taken alone or in combination with other factors).


 2:15 pm on Feb 5, 2007 (gmt 0)

Whois info for the domain which is the same as other domains previously penalized or banned.

I would like to add "Private domain registration."


 2:38 pm on Feb 5, 2007 (gmt 0)

"22.Too many spelling errors."

But comments on my blogg have milions of speling erors. What can I do about it?

This 98 message thread spans 4 pages: < < 98 ( 1 [2] 3 4 > >
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