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Spammer making external links to competition 404 page
teokolo




msg:4335710
 12:32 pm on Jul 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

In my top website (high traffic and high revenue niche) I recently discovered a huge amount of external links to non existing pages, coming from spam forums and websites.

Is there any kind of penalty concerned in "external broken links" ?

To "fix" this problem I've created a page for every missing page linked from those spam website: is this better than having lot of 404 or the website is likely to be tagged for spam methods?

I'm pretty sure this "link building service" has been intentionally done by one of our competitors, but I really have no idea how to stop this.

 

Hoople




msg:4335767
 2:53 pm on Jul 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

If this were my site I would 301 redirect them to an existing page that matches the targeted kewords.

A way to turn their SPAM into your HAM :-)

wheel




msg:4335790
 3:22 pm on Jul 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

I've never measured this, but I'm suspicious that sites with lots of broken links suffer some sort of negative when it comes to rankings in Google. How much, or even if it's true I've no idea. But I would be somehow redirecting them to a valid page.

rainborick




msg:4335805
 3:42 pm on Jul 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

My concern would be that when you redirect such links, you're essentially "adopting" them. They never have any PageRank to speak of, and certainly no trust or authority value, so the upside is negligible. And it wouldn't make sense for these 404s to hurt your site since they originate from other domains. With all of the poorly written scripts out there, I don't believe that the search engines count the bad links they create against the target sites UNLESS you redirect them. So if you're even slightly concerned about the origin of these links, I believe it's best to simply let them go 404.

Hoople




msg:4335837
 4:23 pm on Jul 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

Good point rainborick. Expanding on rainborick's thought:

Look at the pages these links com from. Those pages that have no/lesser value could always be set to return a 410 (status = gone) error rather than 404. This is a way to address your excessive 404 concern.

Personally I wouldn't throw away all of them, especially if they contributed to making your back-link profile look more natural. All sites have some marginally spammy back-links.

wheel




msg:4335844
 4:31 pm on Jul 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

And it wouldn't make sense for these 404s to hurt your site since they originate from other domains.

Then I've misunderstood.

If A points to B, and the links are broken, then I agree - no affect on B, B doesn't care.

But IMO, A should care. I think it's bad if your site has lots of outgoing broken links.

I'd understood the OP was in control of both the originating and destination sites. If you're not in control of A, then I'd just go back to sleep and forget about it.

lucy24




msg:4335957
 7:34 pm on Jul 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'd understood the OP was in control of both the originating and destination sites.

He wouldn't be describing his own sites as "spam forums" would he? I think it was just the wording "links to, coming from".

teokolo




msg:4336007
 8:42 pm on Jul 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'd understood the OP was in control of both the originating and destination sites.


I own destination website (B)

Right now I've created a page for every broken link, but I think I'll use 410 status code as described by Hoople.

Thanks everybody for your suggestions.

rowtc2




msg:4336025
 9:37 pm on Jul 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

In my opinion, rankings may be affected only if your internal links points to 404 pages.

If external links point to 404 pages should not be a problem at all, you cannot control this.

g1smd




msg:4336028
 9:46 pm on Jul 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

When I previously ran into this situation, I simply changed the ErrorDocument directive to instead pull a PHP script that sent the usual HTTP 404 status code and HTML 404 error message along with helpful links pointing to useful sections and pages of the site. The script then also recorded all those accesses in a separate analytics profile. It was easy to see within a few weeks whether any of those links generated any meaningful traffic.

It was then an easy matter to change the few that were useful to redirect to real content, and carry on serving 404 to the rest. The data can be revisited from time to time. The data also showed a number of malformed links that were meant to point to real pages but where a typo had been introduced. Redirecting those requests added about 5% to the number of useful incoming links, several giving reasonable traffic numbers and previously unfulfilled due to the typos.

SEOPTI




msg:4336069
 11:00 pm on Jul 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

I see it, tons of 404 with the string "&sa". Really disturbing.

LunaC




msg:4336210
 7:31 am on Jul 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'm not sure I'd go with a 410 either. I may be panda paranoid but wouldn't saying they're 'gone' imply they had existed at some point and also be sort of adopting them? Or am I misunderstanding the difference between gone and not found?

Personally I'd leave it a 404, or better yet the way g1smd is doing it to catch any real traffic. (g1smd, are you willing to share that script? I'd love a copy :))

topr8




msg:4336235
 9:35 am on Jul 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

a 410 should only be used in the case of 'permanently removed' eg Gone!

if you serve google a 410 it should stop trying to spider the page

tedster




msg:4336463
 5:12 pm on Jul 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

The frequency of googlebot requests for a 410 usually falls off much more rapidly than a 404 - but Google does not ever completely stop checking on any previously known URL. Websites do change their mind, even when they say "Gone" and Google doesn't want to miss any active URLs.

lucy24




msg:4336580
 8:03 pm on Jul 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

Websites do change their mind, even when they say "Gone" and Google doesn't want to miss any active URLs.

But if you bring back a previously dead page-- or reuse its name for some new page-- there will be current links to it from currently active pages. If there are no links and it isn't on your current sitemap (as opposed to the one from 2007 that you've replaced several times), there's no reason to keep it in the database.

g1smd




msg:4336584
 8:06 pm on Jul 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

Google keep everything forever, to use it for whatever they think up next.

tedster




msg:4336589
 8:12 pm on Jul 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

It's important to accept a very big fact - Google engineers don't think like the average geek.

g1smd




msg:4336651
 9:56 pm on Jul 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

That's both their biggest strength AND their biggest weakness. :)

Sgt_Kickaxe




msg:4336711
 12:47 am on Jul 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

...sites with lots of broken links suffer some sort of negative when it comes to rankings in Google.


No sir. If that was the case I could write a TON of links that I make up, all looking like example.com/aishfuihniufnoiansiodnoqwe.html. It's broken links leading OUT from your site you need to worry about.

Also, Google starts a history for EVERY SINGLE URL you have from almost the moment you publish it. If you have a high percentage of pages that disappear over time it might become a problem. Incoming links to non existent pages never will be, too easily manipulated.

teokolo




msg:4377907
 1:36 am on Oct 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

An update on this issue.

Today we had a drop from position #4 to #12 and after some hours we received this email (I try to translate into English):


it is a long time we're linking you from banned websites and at last we have been able to make you disappear from the 1st page. Something worse is going to hit you!


Since SERPS are changing quite often (lot of spam websites around) I'm not sure our rankings dropped because of this kind of spam, but they confirmed they're trying to damage us.

Should I try to contact Google (using reconsideration request form maybe) and explain the situation?

g1smd




msg:4377964
 6:42 am on Oct 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

At this point it might now be a matter for the police.

jinnguyen




msg:4378277
 10:35 am on Oct 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

I have a high traffic site that dropped with a similar unwanted external broken links too. The unknown sites linked to my site in a massive site wide manner. I first thought and believed that external links cannot harm us, but after I found this thread, it make me think differently from now on.

Google is broken, that's all I can say.

Leosghost




msg:4378279
 11:09 am on Oct 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

External links have always been able to hurt a site, "blackhats" have been selling the "bring a site down" "service" for many years now, using software designed to generate large /massive numbers of links ..and adding human placed links has been used in conjunction with that, to refine the technique, or "sharpen the point of the knife" used to wound the target site.

Nothing new here, an old technique..in this respect Google has always been "broken"..despite Googles claims in the past..

Google have assured us of many things , a lot of what they say, needs to be treated with suspicion and more than a grain of salt ..( they changed their wording on this matter a long time ago from "nothing" to "almost nothing" incoming links from a competitor can do to harm your site*.

If this technique could not work , neither could "Google bowling"..they depend on very similar quirks of the algos..

As g1smd says..strictly speaking it may well be a matter for the police ( but that depends on what is covered by the laws in your jurisdiction ) ..even if these threats do break a particular law in your jurisdiction, you may well have to trust to "blind luck" to get your complaint as far as someone who actually understands how the web and Google's algos in particular can be manipulated..

IMO you should also contact Google urgently, giving them all the details, they may decide to "ignore" these links when rating you, the fact that they have been able in the past to take manual action to nullify certain famous cases of "Google bowling" demonstrates that they can do so ..whether they will in your case, is another matter..

But you won't know if they will act, unless you try to contact them..

*paraphrasing.. as I can't find my copy of the original text from Google,( before they changed it )..it is on an archive HD, which is hard to get at right now..

teokolo




msg:4378656
 2:03 pm on Oct 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

Explaining this kind of attack to the police would be very difficult, I don't believe they can do something: logs show connections from Tor exit nodes...

We are back to first page but SERPS are changing every day, we're moving from position #4 to position #8 .

I'm going to prepare a detailed analysis of the problem and submit to google.

Zivush




msg:4378754
 5:06 pm on Oct 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

My second best traffic website has almost 1000 of these broken links reported in WMT.
No worries. Ignore these spammers - These are links mostly from Chinese websites that start to flourish after Panda attacking innocent sites.

My logic is on the same page with --
In my opinion, rankings may be affected only if your internal links points to 404 pages.
If external links point to 404 pages should not be a problem at all, you cannot control this.


I don't think 301 is a good idea as you adopt these URLs (someone mentioned this).

jjray




msg:4381923
 3:36 am on Nov 1, 2011 (gmt 0)

I too am experiencing the problem of large numbers of spam inbound links that are broken. As to the 301 move, I get the argument that it is a bad idea to redirect to a meaningful page on your site as doing this means the redirect landing page(s) then has the manure of the spam links dumped on it but doing nothing is also very harmful. These spam links are killing my search engine traffic. I've tried an intermediate tactic of redirecting to a new page named "spamlinks.htm" and assigned it a priority of ".0" in my sitemap.xml for this site. I look at it as akin to grounding a lightning strike. I've redirected the spam links to a page that theoretically causes no harm to my site. I'll give this corrective action time to see how it plays out and report back.

Bewenched




msg:4382194
 6:07 pm on Nov 1, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'm getting alot of crawl errors showing up in WMT, but it doesnt show where they are coming from, basically part of the URL is chopped off

They appear something like this
mysite.com/catgory/Some......page.
When the real url is like this
mysite.com/catgory/Some-individual-page.html

It shows nearly 600 of these mal-formed urls and currently they throw a 403 error

Should I 410 these or try to figure out some way to redirect these links to a real page?

Andem




msg:4382219
 6:43 pm on Nov 1, 2011 (gmt 0)

Until recently, I had thousands of these (non-)links from Google itself showing up in webmaster tools: example.com/widg... Strangely, they disappeared the same day I posted about it here on WebmasterWorld. [webmasterworld.com...]

On the other hand, literally tens of thousands of search engine scrapers link to pages like "example.com/red/widg" OR "example.com/red/wi..." OR "example.com/red/widgCACHED" and they are reported on webmaster tools. I personally see a correlation between the amount of these error reports and site ranking. These are all spammy links.

Bewenched




msg:4382316
 10:20 pm on Nov 1, 2011 (gmt 0)

These look like partial links to real pages on our site... just wish WMT would show me where the heck they are getting these from so I can get it fixed

jjray




msg:4382696
 5:16 pm on Nov 2, 2011 (gmt 0)

bewenched, the source of the bad links in my site showed up in google webmaster tools a few days after the initial listing of the bad link. The source is usually China or Eastern Europe. They are spam pages. What would you do with that info "fix" the problem?

[edited by: tedster at 5:47 pm (utc) on Nov 2, 2011]
[edit reason] no personal URLs please [/edit]

This 41 message thread spans 2 pages: 41 ( [1] 2 > >
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