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Fighting Webspam on Google

Posted on 8.08.2011

There is hardly anything more annoying than trying to run a quick Google search for something simple and being blindsided by a bunch of websites working around the system and spamming the search engine. What's worse is when you want to promote your business online and go through all of the work of search engine optimization and priming your website for great visibility in the search results, only to find that your competition is webspamming and getting themselves ranked higher than you.

Most search engines have rules against this type of thing, such as Google's Webmaster Guidelines, which lay out exactly what they consider to be spamming. This is helpful for two reasons. The first is that webmasters will understand what to do (and, more importantly, what not to do) when it comes to trying to increase how easily seen they are online. The second is because even though Google and other search engines work hard to fight spamming and eliminate these sites from the results, there are always those who can slip through the cracks. These guidelines allow other users to understand the nature of spam and report it if they ever see it.

In an effort to improve the reporting system, Google recently announced a new and improved webspam report form. Below are some of the new features that will help ensure quality and fairness:

- Finally, there is an option to report various search issues, meaning other reportable offenses, such as malware and phishing, can be sent in as separate incidences. This stems from an issue where users would occasionally use the spam report form to inform the company about these other practices. This would, in turn, cause a delay between when a user reports the issue and when Google can deal with it. The new form will make it much easier to report each individual issue directly to the proper teams, allowing problems to be rectified in a timely manner.

- They also redesigned the form to make it much easier to read and understand. They've made the text more concise and to the point, which helps, but the real upside to this redesign is the inclusion of links on the form's instructions. Users can now easily access the Webmaster Guidelines, so they can ensure that they are reporting on the proper infraction, as well as get advice on writing actionable form comments.

- Lastly, they've added some follow-through to the process. Upon completing the form, users will be directed to a thank you page that will explain what is going to happen once the Google team receives the report. It also provides users with a link back to the form page, to report more spam and gives some information on how immediately block the site you've reported from your personal search results.

There has been, in the past, some crticism of Google's handling of websites that have been reported for spamming. Many feel that while they encourage users to report the spamming, they don't actually do a lot to get rid of it. There has even been some speculation that Google allows these websites, that appear to be doing pretty well at circumventing their algorithm, to continue to do what they're doing in order to watch them more closely and study how they work.

Only time will tell, then, if there will be changes in these issues as well. Regardless of how Google approaches these reported sites, the end goal appears to be the same, which is to best utilize user submitted information to optimize the search index for everyone. In the end, hopefully, webspamming issues will be a thing of the past. Until then, all I'm saying is don't get too upset if you spend 20 minutes filling out a report only to find that Google doesn't remove the website immediately.

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