NY Times Outs Major Retailer for Link Spam & Other SEO News…

Not too long ago, I posted about the importance of doing SEO right (that is, by not spamming your links and using “black hat” techniques)…

The thing is, I know why people do it… because it works… for a time. It’s like anything in life, taking a shortcut might mean instant results… take steroids for example.

However, taking shortcuts usually has consequences, as well… Look no further than what’s recently happened to JC Penney…

New York Times outs major US retailer for link spam

by Patrick Altoft on February 14, 2011

A very interesting story broke this weekend involving JC Penney (a big US retailer with 1000+ stores and $17.8 billion in revenue) and the New York Times. The retailer was basically outed for apparently using TNX to set up thousands of links on very low quality “spam” sites.

It seems that the campaign worked so well the site was ranking for pretty much everything, until the NY Times outed it and the site was moved down to 60th or worse for all the queries after Matt Cutts got involved. Search Engine Land and TechCrunch also covered the story very well.

J C Penney immediately sacked their SEO agency SearchDex who had been managing the campaign since 2004. It does seems strange to me that an agency who had worked with a client for so long would suddenly start building a load of spam links, unless serious pressure to improve results had been applied from the client. The links had been in place for around the “last three to four months” according to Google.  Read More…

Of course, Google is always taking steps to combat spam. Take a look at these articles on the subject…

Is Google Using Entropy To Combat Spam and Rank Documents? Answer: Probably.

By Ted Ives

Buried away in a Google patent application from 2006 entitled “DOCUMENT SCORING BASED ON DOCUMENT INCEPTION DATE“, there is a somewhat obscure reference to using the “entropy” of a document.  “Entropy” used in this sense is not simply as it’s defined in the field of physics, where your daughter’s room tends towards a maximum state of disorganization; instead, it refers to its definition in the field of Information Theory, which applies it to information rather than atoms.

Wikipedia has a lengthy entry on this,  but you can think of Shannon entropy as essentially measuring how much information is in a document.

If you have a 20,000 word document that simply consists of “all work and no play makes jack a dull boy” repeated 2,000 times, that document really doesn’t have a lot of information in it – in fact, it can be represented by “repeat ‘all work and no play makes jack a dull boy 2,000 times;”, so it really only has as much information as a 13-word document in which all the words are different.

If you have a 20,000 word document and every word is different, that document probably has a lot of information in it.

In this seminal paper, Claude Shannon’s concept of absolute entropy was supplemented by a concept of “relative entropy”, which can be thought of as essentially “how much information a document has versus how much it could have if every word was different”.

The Google patent application, in paragraph 61, says:

“the entropy of queries for one or more documents may be monitored and used as a basis for scoring. For example, if a particular document appears as a hit for a discordant set of queries, this may (though not necessarily) be considered a signal that the document is spam, in which case search engine 125 may score the document relatively lower.”  Read More…

How Google is going to fight spam sites in 2011

A few days ago, Google announced that they are going to fight search engine spam stronger than before:

“We’re evaluating multiple changes that should help drive spam levels even lower, including one change that primarily affects sites that copy others’ content and sites with low levels of original content.

We’ll continue to explore ways to reduce spam, including new ways for users to give more explicit feedback about spammy and low-quality sites.”

What exactly is Google going to do? Could Google consider your website spam?

Farms1. Google might downrank content farms

Websites with low quality content that has been created to get clicks for AdSense ads might have a hard time in the coming months:

“As pure webspam has decreased over time, attention has shifted instead to content farms, which are sites with shallow or low-quality content. […]

We hear the feedback from the web loud and clear: people are asking for even stronger action on content farms and sites that consist primarily of spammy or low-quality content.”

If your websites mainly exist to display Google AdSense then your site might lose its rankings on Google. Google makes it clear that running AdSense ads won’t help the sites to remain in the index:

“One misconception that we’ve seen in the last few weeks is the idea that Google doesn’t take as strong action on spammy content in our index if those sites are serving Google ads. To be crystal clear:

  • Google absolutely takes action on sites that violate our quality guidelines regardless of whether they have ads powered by Google;
  • Displaying Google ads does not help a site’s rankings in Google; and
  • Buying Google ads does not increase a site’s rankings in Google’s search results.”  Read More…
  • Google launches a new anti-spam algorithm against content farms

    Earlier this month, Google announced that they will release several new anti-spam algorithms this year. The first algorithm update has just been released and it deals with content farms.

    What are content farms?

    There are two slightly different definitions of content farms:

    1. Content farms are scraper sites that aggregate the content from other sources to get high rankings for a variety of long tail keywords. These sites don’t have unique content and they only aggregate the content from other websites to get clicks on their AdSense ads.
    2. Content farms are websites that produce low quality content in bulk. This content is often produced by workers from low-wage countries. The main purpose of these sites is to get high rankings for as many keywords as possible to get clicks on the AdSense ads that are displayed on the site.

    Sites that copy the content from other websites often ranked higher than the original site in Google’s previous algorithm. That’s why Google released the algorithm update.

    Google’s Matt Cutts confirmed the new algorithm:

    “[I mentioned] that ‘we’re evaluating multiple changes that should help drive spam levels even lower, including one change that primarily affects sites that copy others’ content and sites with low levels of original content.’

    That change was approved at our weekly quality launch meeting last Thursday and launched earlier this week.”

    Less than 0.5% of search queries have significantly different results

    Matt Cutts also said that most surfers won’t notice the change:

    “This was a pretty targeted launch: slightly over 2% of queries change in some way, but less than half a percent of search results change enough that someone might really notice.

    The net effect is that searchers are more likely to see the sites that wrote the original content rather than a site that scraped or copied the original site’s content.” Read More…

    Moral of the story? There are no shortcuts in life, not even with SEO ;)

    Give us a holler if you’re tired of paying for bullshit SEO services that don’t get you any more business… 970-739-9911

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