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Old 07-14-2004   #1
dannysullivan
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Should There Be A Spam Checking Tool?

As part of the discussion about improving the reputation of SEO, Andy AtkinsKruger asked:
Quote:
Why can't we - as a body of professional SEOs - create a web-based tool that enables clients to input the domain name of their site and all sites that point at that site, the most important three keywords/phrases and it will warn them if there are any signficantly unprofessional practices going on - or suspected?

Not a perfect solution - but maybe it would help? Perhaps under the auspices of SEMPO or SearchEngineWatch? It would help clients to understand that there is good, bad and downright dangerous?

Is it technically possible?

We could pay for it by each paying a small subscription? I'll volunteer 100 if enough people think it's worth a go? Maybe the search engines would sponsor it too?
Thoughts, comments on the idea? Tools that already provide this?

I've spoken with the search engines before about some type of spam checking tool, most recently with Google. Why not make it possible to enter a URL and find out whether or not there's a spam problem. That would help the vast majority that assumes there's one, when there's not.

The response has been they don't want to do this out of fear of helping spammers test detection. Keep tweaking different pages slightly, and you might find something slips past.

Still, there might be some things they could provide through such a tool, such as verifying there's no robots.txt blocking, showing the text that will be indexed and so on. And if you had to register to use the tool, at least they'd start to form a relationship with some of these people.
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Old 07-14-2004   #2
Nick W
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>>The response has been they don't want to do this out of fear of helping spammers test detection.

Absolutely. But, any competent web developer could break such a tool in 5mins. Why bother?

Far better for SEO companies to provide a 'site sniffing' service as part of their offerings and check out potential partner sites, existing SEO work on site etc etc... for possible algo detection problems.

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Old 07-14-2004   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick W
>>
Absolutely. But, any competent web developer could break such a tool in 5mins. Why bother?
Why bother?

You get the industry behind you. Get your spam checking tool as the standard. Crown yourself oracle of all things spam. If you think it's spammy - it is.

This, though, isn't why you should bother - it's why I'd be worried about such a tool. Who gets to prime it? Who watches the watchmen?
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Old 07-14-2004   #4
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Sorry to be a squeaky wheel but here are my reactions to the Spam Checking Tool.

1. The Spam Checking Tool is attempting to provide an "off-line" simulation of the reaction of a given Search Engine to a given web page.
2. Presumably different search engines might require slightly different Spam Checking Tools, for example Yahoo! currently seems to evaluate Descriptions while Google does not.
3. The only people who would use such Spam Checking Tools are those who are not sure "which side" of the white hat/black hat line they fall.
4. If the Spam Checking Tool is believed to be precise, then the astute SEO can just nudge the web page across the line and change it from a black-ish gray to a white-ish gray.
5. So the Spam Checking Tool only seems to be of real value to those who want to work at the absolute limit of the boundaries.

The real problem is that we are dealing with shades of gray. There is no guru sitting with a Mountain View who can provide an objective determination of what is Spam and what is not Spam. I think there would be wide agreement on techniques that are very risky and techniques that are pretty well without risk.

Practically, the only definitive test of Spam for any Search Engine is what it chooses to exclude from its database. A Search Engine of course does not want to clearly define the rules for the same reason that a Spam Checking Tool is not appropriate given the 5 items above. However the way to shortcircuit the activities of disreputable SEO's is for Search Engines to give rapid feedback to website owners when their websites are removed from the index. There is no need to explain the reason for the de-indexation.

This extra information injected into the Internet population will give no increased ability to spam the Search Engines. It will empower many more website owners to "out" the disreputable SEO's. The Internet is superb at transmitting information widely. The Search Engines must provide this information. It is the biggest step in helping to clean out the bad actors.
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Old 07-14-2004   #5
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It may be difficult to create a detailed spam tool without people being able to figure out how to get around it. For some basics for consumers, it may be helpful. My guess is that it would be most helpful if the creator is not the search engines themselves, but an objective third party.
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Old 07-14-2004   #6
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I'd rather have an algo-buster, Danny. But, then again, if you give me the top 5 sites and the techniques they've used to get there, maybe I'd have an algo-buster, eh?
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Old 07-14-2004   #7
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For one thing, it would be performing a service that's generally provided as part of the services and procedures in the course of doing SEO consultations or evaluations - and those can often take a lot of visual inspection if things are detected. Not only is it very time-consuming in some cases, but there are things no automated tool could detect. If some things on some sites could be detected algorithmically, they'd already have been busted.

The biggest argument against it is the possibility of being vulnerable to legal liability. Plus, there are things site owners do with their sites that not only is the SEO not responsible for, but often is unaware of it happening until after the damage is done and then has to clean up the mess.

Clearly, no outside observer can tell for certain who is responsible for what, not at all times. Most times probably yes, but not always. Aside from that, unless it's the search engines themselves giving the input, which *can* theoretically leave room for some type of backroom corruption, it could easily be a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Who's to judge which camp which person actually belongs in, regardless of association? You've got the "First Church of Black Hat SEO" on one hand and the "First Church of White Hat SEO" on the other, with the choir members of each one respectively singing loud choruses of "How Great Thou Art" to each other.

Impressive association is not necessarily an accurate indication of character and/or integrity and/or adhering to what could be called best practices. There's far too much back-slapping, good 'ole boys club, and flat out PR buzz that goes around to buy into that.

I don't see how the search engines could possibly even get near it, it just takes too much eyeballing and clicking by a human to spot a lot of what's done.

Last edited by Marcia : 07-14-2004 at 09:34 PM.
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