Is Google's Spam Fight a Sham? - InformationWeek

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7/2/2007
08:35 PM
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn
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Is Google's Spam Fight a Sham?

Google may say it fights spam but I'm beginning to have my doubts. A recent post on Google's Webmaster Central blog offers advice on how to build "startpages." What is a "startpage"? "Basically, it's a Web page with a lot of links about a specific topic," explain Selina & Jos, two members of Google's Search Quality Team in Dublin. So here's the question: How is a "startpage" different from a

Google may say it fights spam but I'm beginning to have my doubts. A recent post on Google's Webmaster Central blog offers advice on how to build "startpages."

What is a "startpage"? "Basically, it's a Web page with a lot of links about a specific topic," explain Selina & Jos, two members of Google's Search Quality Team in Dublin.

So here's the question: How is a "startpage" different from a "doorway page"?Wikipedia offers this definition: "Doorway pages are Web pages that are created for spamdexing, this is, for spamming the index of a search engine by inserting results for particular phrases with the purpose of sending you to a different page."

In practice, a doorway page looks like…well, a Web page with a lot of links about a specific topic.

There are probably arguable subtleties that distinguish "stagepages" and "doorway pages," but the major difference seems to be intent: Is the page author trying to create a useful information source or a deceptive information source?

And therein lies the problem: It's hard to judge intent. Google admits as much by asking its users to submit spam pages so they can be removed from its index. If Google could do so algorithmically, it wouldn't have to ask for help.

But it's hard to credit Google's sincerity in wanting spam pages to be removed from its index when Google supports and profits from domain parking. It has an entire program called AdSense for Domains that lets domain name owners put ads on undeveloped, or parked, domains that relate to the domain's name. Google is currently being sued for the practice.

AdSense for Domains treats domain names like search keywords for the purpose of placing ads on the parked domain. Thus, a domain like bathtubfurniture.com might have ads for bath-related furnishings, if such items and the domain really existed.

Google, I know, would defend these ads as providing useful information to Web searchers. If you ask me, it's a spam service. Google doesn't like people manipulating its index, but it seems to be okay with Web pages posing as real content.

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