A problem of web spam from search engine perspective

Yesterday I was searching for ergonomic chairs as anyone sitting 8+ hours a day is ought to,  and to my amazement huge percentage of search results were made-for-Adsense sites with rubbish content written by an outsourced penguin. Made-for-Amazon sites were in the strong second place.

It is in my belief that much of the web spam appearing on top pages of search engines could be easily solved on the algorithmic level by simply 'penalizing' (or completely removing) pages with Adsense or similar contextual ads.

The reason for this is most of the spam sites were made to leverage not-so-perfect search engine ranking algorithms, get free traffic and use ads or affiliate links to make money. There are more subtle techniques that involve buying traffic but the end result is the same.

Simply if there are three or four Adsense blocks on the site and they have affiliate links on top of it, that's exactly the kind of site I don't want to be seeing in my search results.

The algorithm would simply penalize the sites based on number of ads they run, using exponential valuation. Adsense, affiliate links, banner ads - over do it and you get heavily penalized.

And there lies the biggest problem. Google makes bulk of their revenue through Adwords/Adsense. If they wanted to clean their search results in this way they would clean themselves of big portion of their profits.

On the other hand Bing does not have to rely on ads as Microsoft has other income streams, and nothing stops them from implementing such algorithm. And if a user likes to see ads they could just have an option to include these sites.

Does it make sense?


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11 Comments

  1. Sep 14th, 2010 2:39 AM

    Yes, it makes a lot of sense, unfortunately I feel forced to put a few Google ads on my site for the same reason. If Google is the #1 ranked site and they are determining the market then who am I not to rank up a bit by putting their advertising on my site, especially if they might pay me a bit to do it. Is there a way around this? A way to get the desired effect without being in a compromised position? My blog at this point has relevant content in 4 or more areas so it is not a problem. Your thoughts are most appreciated, and thanks for the youtube plugin, I have not tried your other programs yet but that plugin is excellent. Be well, Katz

  2. Kristina
    Aug 23rd, 2010 3:06 PM

    "And there lies the biggest problem. Google makes bulk of their revenue through Adwords/Adsense. If they wanted to clean their search results in this way they would clean themselves of big portion of their profits."

    LoL! Pretty much... Thus the cleaning up of spam would not be so profitable for Google after all..

  3. dan
    Jul 13th, 2010 6:25 AM

    i think this is one of the reasons google is getting into many other fields. if they can make good money from other services they might be able to crackdown on mfa /spam sites and present good search experience.

  4. May 28th, 2010 7:46 PM

    I think the problem all stems from what you mentioned in your post. Google makes most of it's money through ad revenue. If they start penalizing sites that run their service, pretty soon the advertisers would stop spending their money at the big G and go elsewhere.

    I think the system is fine. Sure, I'd love for it to be better, but we as humans can see that three sites are crap and only one might be really good. I think that's the fallback Google relies on - people being able to make choices on their own. They see crap, and then find a great site.

    hmm...

    • May 28th, 2010 8:20 PM

      That's true and the final outcome should be a better search engine which does not have to rely on ads to live, and can provide results without this kind of spam. I am sure someone has been busy in their basement lately..

  5. May 28th, 2010 5:53 PM

    I see your point about adsense ads littering the landscape, when really you are looking for some good infromation about chairs and some real prices .. both hopefully from competitive chair makers, who have invested money in studies and ergonomics.

    but for someone who has both made MFA and affiliate sites, I can pointedly tell you that they chair makers, outsource web marketing to either nobody, or to the top affiliate programs. Who let anyone sign up. As far as all that rewritten spamticles (spam articles), well google rewards new content, updated frequently, in a SEO well written way... When the people who make chairs really don't write that often (I mean why would they do more than a press release about a new chair). So its go ogles fault that they like the new spam information, over the real chair sites.

    Now if you put on your tinfoil hat (I wear mine all the time now), I can say without hesitation that google will dump your site into the abyss if you have too many affiliate links (too many being more than 1), but they love love love sites with adsense and amazon on them. Furthermore, if you are able to let the spammers take the top spots in search, that leaves companies the only other option -- paying google via awords to get back in the game. You can see the circle here, google takes away the companies web traffic until they pay them to give it back....

    We all know that google is big/rich/smart, but have they created a beast, that will just fill up there search engine with more and more crap, while they add more and more barriers to spammers, to the point that only the spammers know how to get ranked -- good bye little store owner... gotta go, I found an original article on the internet and I am going to spin it 1 million times into some splogs...

    • May 28th, 2010 8:19 PM

      Good point there Bruce, spotting this 'circle'. As if Google likes the current situation. What happens to their "don't be evil" policy?

  6. soquinn
    May 28th, 2010 4:51 PM

    Interesting, but I'm not sure the "adsense filter" alone would work simply because it could weed out legit sites using adsense. You can only run 3 adsense placements anyway and the different between 3 and 0 is a short exponential scale. Google also sand boxes new sites and that would include made for adsense ones. The hope would be that some of those ranking well in the their SERP would have survived the other 101 factors related to ranking well for say "ergonomic chairs"?

    Either way, it's certainly something google's competitors should implement to differentiate themselves. But even google now offers various filtering options on the left side nav.

    http://tinyurl.com/3ylvg2e (used more shopping)

    but I didn't see the filter you wanted. Wouldn't be rocket science though to include a "No Adsense or Affiliate Ads" (NASAA) option :-)

    • May 28th, 2010 5:25 PM

      Yep nice name.

      You can actually run 5 adsense blocks (3 + 2), add couple affiliate offers and few banners and you have 10 ads on a page. Which is what surprisingly high number of sites listed on first page for many results have.

  7. May 28th, 2010 3:42 PM

    I don't think just because a site has adsense means it should be removed. I believe there may be other ways to reduce spam sites, such as age of the site, update frequency, and probably a few other factors.
    "Spam" sites tend to be newer and often a few scraped set of articles are put up and left. Most spammers wouldn't have the patience to maintain the site for a few years.

    Our site has ads, but we also have a real service. I have written all of the content by myself. The ad revenue helps compensate for much of the free information that we provide.

    Our site is over 10-years old and gets frequent updates.

    • May 28th, 2010 4:06 PM

      The proposed idea relies on evaluation based on exponential scale. So if you have one ad the penalty would be very low on non-existent, but if you have 10 ads on the page you get a big penalty. Which makes sense, as the search engine should send people to pages to look at the content not ads.