January 22, 2011

Google Works To Cut Spam-laden Search Results

Google announced Friday that it has made it harder for spam-packed websites to rank high up in results pages on the world's leading Internet search engine.

While the amount of "webspam" in search results is less than half what it was five years ago, Google has seen a slight increase in recent months, according to Google principal engineer Matt Cutts.

"Webspam is junk you see in search results when websites try to cheat their way into higher positions in search results or otherwise violate search engine quality guidelines," Cutts explained in a blog post.

"We recently launched a redesigned document-level classifier that makes it harder for spammy on-page content to rank highly," he said.

Google considers web spam a critical issue, as it increasingly endangers it's search business. If low-quality content continues to find high placement in search results and generates enough revenue -- through Google ads, third party ads, or direct sales -- to fund further Web spam creation, users will slowly but surely turn to other means of content discovery.

Social search is a potential contender within this scenario, which explains why Google is worried about the continued rise of Facebook.

The new classifier better detects words or phrases that are seemingly "junky, automated, self-promoting" comments repeated on pages at spam websites, according to Cutts.

Google also "radically improved" its ability to detect when legitimate websites have been infected by hackers in the kinds of attacks that were a major source of spam last year, said Cutts.

Other spam-fighting techniques the company is considering include identifying websites overloaded with content copied from elsewhere on the Internet, he added.

Google has faced increased criticism over spam laden websites within search results. Cutts' response to that criticism was to simultaneously deny the accuracy of the complaints and to offer assurance that further steps to stamp out Web spam are being taken.

Cutts concedes that Google can and should do better, even as he suggests that users' perception of the prevalence of Web spam may be the result of "skyrocketing expectations."

The trouble is that Web spammers are also trying to do better.

If Google prevails, it may have to forgo some ad revenue in order to starve web spammers that feed off Google.

Cutts stressed that having Google-powered ads on pages did not elevate them in search results or bar websites from repercussions of violating quality guidelines.


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