The published insights are not that spectacular. But insight in Google's evaluation of websources is rare. I wanted to forward the details to the web community to get some discussion. Why? People should know how a search engine works. Basically, it's a stupid thing. Intelligence has to come from the user. If he/she doesn't ask a smart question, he/she gets a stupid answer.
GoogleGuy requested that the documents not be posted, so they may get removed. Downloading copies for internal use and training may be a good idea. The spam guidelines document goes on to show a number of sites deemed as search spam and how / why Google would evaluate them as such. Since affiliate marketing or reselling pay per click ads are the usual forms of search spam most of the examples fall into those categories.
When comparing spam sites to good sites the document states:
To appreciate the difference, ask yourself this question: would any user want to go to www.bookfinder4u.com rather than directly to Barnes & Noble? To http://us.store-directory.org/dvd/movie/B00005JM5E.html rather than to Amazon? The answer to the former question is Yes, because at Barnes & Noble, the user would not be able to see any direct price comparison between the B&Nâ€™s price and competitorsâ€™ prices for any given item; the answer to the latter question is No or Indifferent between the two.
They also bolded the following statement:
To determine whether participation in affiliate programs is central or incidental to the siteâ€™s existence, ask yourself this question: Would this site remain a coherent whole if the pages leading to the affiliate were taken away?
They also go heavily into reviewing hotel sites, stating IAC properties are whitelisted, and showing many spam sites, offering additional tips such as:
One cannot both be an affiliate of others and offer affiliation opportunities. So the presence of the link to become an affiliate is your hint that the site has its own booking functionality and can complete transactions for its visitors.
Automation VS Unique & Useful:
As a summary, most search spam sites are heavily automated and provide little useful, unique, or compelling to the end user.
Recently Rand did a review of a paper about link spam as well, stating
The paper also notes the common achilles heel of spam pages - automatic generation.
It is also the opinion of the author that link spam will eventually require such sophistication and effort that it lose its ROI and become a less effective tactic than attempting to obtain natural incoming links through quality content and legitimate promotion.
Why the Spam Guidelines Document is Useful:
Google's reviewers may not be used to directly effect search results, but at the very least they are used to help train the relevancy algorithms. By seeing how Google trains them you get to see what Google wants. If you know what they are looking for it is far easier to give it to them.
Just like pay per click, SEO is a game of margins. Search engines aim to decrease the margins on both fronts so they can extract maximum profits.
Automation can bring great returns until it is caught. Algorithms, editors, search reviewers, and other webmasters who may link to you all look for reasons why people should WANT to visit your site instead of thousands of competing sites.
Due to a lack of sophistication (especially within the young MSN Search) many people are still making large sums of money from low quality bulk affiliate or AdSense websites.
Owning a few of those types of sites might be a good call for creating passive revenue streams, but most webmasters who like the web would do well to create at least one great site about something they were passionate about.
Further coverage on the Google search review labs:
Gain a Competitive Advantage Today
Your top competitors have been investing into their marketing strategy for years.
Now you can know exactly where they rank, pick off their best keywords, and track new opportunities as they emerge.
Explore the ranking profile of your competitors in Google and Bing today using SEMrush.
Enter a competing URL below to quickly gain access to their organic & paid search performance history - for free.
See where they rank & beat them!
- Comprehensive competitive data: research performance across organic search, AdWords, Bing ads, video, display ads, and more.
- Compare Across Channels: use someone's AdWords strategy to drive your SEO growth, or use their SEO strategy to invest in paid search.
- Global footprint: Tracks Google results for 120+ million keywords in many languages across 28 markets
- Historical data: since 2009, before Panda and Penguin existed, so you can look for historical penalties and other potential ranking issues.
- Risk-free: Free trial & low price.