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What exactly is Spam ?

Is a spammer just a better SEO than you ?


mark roach

2:59 pm on Oct 16, 2000 (gmt 0)

I am sure this question has been batted around before, but I would just like to add my take on the subject.

I read many threads in these and other forums from people complaining about what they call spam. The thread usually goes like this.

"Look at the first x results for "keyword" search on a certain engine. They are using such and such a technique, I thought this was spam"

To which someone else nearly always replies:

"Yes it is spam, report them and the engine should remove their listing".

So what exactly is spam and what is a spammer?

Is a spammer someone who just happens to get better results for your keywords than you do, by using a trick you don't have the bottle to use ?

There is a well known phrase which says :

"If you can't beat them, join them"

It strikes me that some SEOs prefer to use :

"If you can't beat them, bleat on them"

So what is your definition of spam and more importantly why ?

I think that my one and only definition of spam is a page that been deliberately targeted at an irrelevant keyword. Everything else that is commonly regarded as spam is OK in my book.

I don't think to myself "I am not going to use hidden text because it is spam and therefore is morally wrong", I am more likely to think "I am not going to use hidden text because it doesn't work".

(Flameproof Jacket on)


4:18 pm on Oct 16, 2000 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Well, we could discuss hundreds of subtly different doorways that clog up search results, massively annoy the users and create bad-feeling towards the chump that made them. (Not that there is anything wrong with doorways, per se.)
Or we could look at the 'bleat' argument. If you are happy to flout the search engine submission rules, fine, but if I see hidden text, I'll report it if it's in my way. You can't have it both ways. (Though not once has any action been taken as a result of my reporting it, so sometimes I wonder why I bother).
Do you cheat at cards? (not a fair question really, I'm sure you don't ;) , but if you are in a high-stakes game and see someone dealing from the bottom of the deck, I think you'd 'bleat' and pretty damn sharpish too. So what's the difference there, to your mind?
Anyway, the point I'm making is if you do take a risky approach using win-at-all-costs techniques you have to remember the "at-all-costs" proviso, and therefore you have to be prepared to get burned once in a while. You can't have it both ways.
I don't think you'll be needing your flame proof jacket either, this isn't that sort of crowd. :)


4:39 pm on Oct 16, 2000 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member rcjordan is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

>definition of spam
Anything a SE specifically indicates is against their submission rules.

It's their football. I'm the one asking to play.

What really burns me up is a spam definition made on-the-fly, or without a consistent policy.


6:02 pm on Oct 16, 2000 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Spam is defined by each individual search engine. I have learned long ago not to make my own definition on this subject.

Do I have a problem with some of the technics used by some SEO? Yes I do, but if the search engines say it is alright then I guess it is my problem and I need to get over it.

I think that doorway pages, cloaking, keyword stuffing, hidden text and several other things are not for me. I don't feel that these technics show the quality of the page to the search engines. I do know that some of these technics work. I really hate doing a search and finding pages ahead of the one I am working on that use these technics. I feel that if it is spam, then the SE will pick up on it and deal with the page.

I learned one other thing a LONG time ago. It isn't worth getting upset, tense or stressed over something some one else is doing with thier site. Things change too fast in this line of work and you need to keep up on it. Having an ulser just doesn't help when you have to change at a moments notice. :)

mark roach

11:50 am on Oct 17, 2000 (gmt 0)

I think you have all answered the question nicely. That Spam is anything that breaks the sumission rules. The trouble is where are these rules actually defined ?

I have just checked Altavista and all I can find is a wooly bit of text that talks about repeating the keyword sex 3000 times, and even then it doesn't actually say that breaks the rules.

I guess what I was getting at is that unless the rules are clearly defined then any technique should be fair game and people who push these to the limits should not "grassed up" by their fellow SEOs.

BTW - The only thing I do that I think might break these (unwritten) rules is to use invisible gifs. I use these to ensure that all the pages in my sites are cross linked for the spiders.

Does anyone want to turn me in :)


1:31 pm on Oct 17, 2000 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Here are the rules for the AV.


>>>In order to maintain the integrity of the search index, we must sometimes exclude sumbissions that manipulate search results.
Examples of such manipulation include, but are not limited to, the following.

Pages with text that is not easily read, either because it is too small or is obscured by the background of the page,

Pages with off-topic or excessive keywords,

Duplication of content, either by excessive submission of the same page, submitting the same pages from multiple domains,
or submitting the same content from multiple hosts,

Machine-generated pages with minimal or no content, whose sole purpose is to get a user to click to another page,

Pages that contain only links to other pages, or

Pages whose primary intent is to redirect users to another page.

Attempts to fill AltaVista's index with misleading or promotional pages lower the value of the index for everyone. We do not allow
URL sumbissions from customers who spam the index and will exclude all such pages from the index. <<<

I think that is pretty clear.


9:45 am on Oct 20, 2000 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

The real problem is that thats the definition for Altavista.
There is no 'universal' definition.

Also, if i'm not using irrelevant keywords .. i'm in no way optimising the page for any other market/subject/product/service other than the one my client is focused on.. (i.e the optimised page is highly relevant) then what is the problem.

"Attempts to fill AltaVista's index with misleading ... lower the value of the index for everyone".

I agree with the above.. all my pages are not misleading, if you search for something on or related to "widgets" (the page i worked on) will lead you to widgets.

But for more on spam.. Check out MIKKEL SVENDSON's post on cloaking and cloaking spam... covers most of these issues.

mark roach

10:18 am on Oct 20, 2000 (gmt 0)

The reason are started this post was to suggest that, before automatically reporting anyone who (in our opinion) appeared to be spamming, we might like to stop and think.

There are many legitimate reasons for why what appears, to us, to be spam to exist in an engines database.

1) Different engines have different rules (It may infringe YOUR definition of spam, but not the engine in question).
2) A spam definition made on-the-fly (When the page was created and submitted it may not have broken any rules).
3) Accidental Spam - being dicussed here [webmasterworld.com] (It might have been completely accidental)

Can anyone honestly say that they have never spammed (purposely or not) any engine ?

And how would we feel if we lost all of our positions (and potentially our reputation and livelihoods) just so one vindictive SEO could rise one lousy place in the rankings (this week).


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