Historical Search Spam Patterns and Link Reciprocation

Some people are wildly speculating that Google and other engines may create historical databases of SEOs and site relationships to identify spam. I have no doubt that some sites that go way too far stay penalized for a long time, and that some penalties may flag related sites for review, but I think search engines have enough data and most people leave enough footprints that search engines do not have to dig too deep into history to connect the dots. And there is little upside in them connecting the dots.

If they did connect the dots manually that would take a long time to do it broadly, and if they did it automatically they would run into problems with false relationships. Some sites I once owned were sold to people who do not use them to spam. If ownership relationships took sites out by proxy I could just create spam sites using a competitors details in the Whois data , or heavily link to their sites from the spam sites.

Where people run into problems with spamming is scalability. If you scale out owning many similar domains you are probably going to leave some sort of footprint: cross linking, affiliate ID codes, AdSense account numbers, analytics tracking scripts, a weird page code, similar site size, similar inlink or outlink ratios, similar page size, or maybe some other footprint that you forgot to think of.

Many of those things can be spoofed too, (what is to prevent me from using your AdSense ID on spam?), so in many cases there has to be a hybrid of automated filtering and flagging and manual review.

And even if you are pretty good at keeping your sites unique on your end, if you outsource anything they are going to have a limited network size, likely a routine procedure with footprints, and if their prices are low they are probably going to be forced to create many obvious footprints to stay profitable. And if you use reciprocal or triangular links associated with those large distributed link farms that puts you in those communities far more than some potential historical relationship of some sort. By linking to it you confirm the relationship.

Search engines do not want to ban false positive, so many spammy link related penalties just suppress rankings until the signs of spam go away. Remove the outbound reciprocal link page that associates you with a bad community, get a few quality links, and watch the rankings shoot up. The thing is, once a site gets to be fairly aggressively spammy it rarely becomes less spammy. If it was created without passion it likely dies then turns into a PPC domainer page with footprints. Hiding low value pages deep in the index until the problem goes away is a fairly safe idea for search engineers, because after a domain has been burned it rarely shifts toward quality unless someone else buys it.

Published: February 8, 2007 by Aaron Wall in seo tips


February 8, 2007 - 4:30pm

"Hiding low value pages deep in the index until the problem goes away is a fairly safe idea for search engineers, because after a domain has been burned it rarely shifts toward quality unless someone else buys it."

I agree, i would even go a step further to say that if it is pushed down deep in SERPS and you do improve the quality, and you were the person that owned it, your sol. The red flags are there, if you own a domain, it was dinged at some point, you clean it up and it still has "footprints" that you did not think of, I think the odds of moving up are slim. Its possible, but slim imho.

February 8, 2007 - 4:55pm

Well that is the thing though. Sites are usually made with passion or without it. Rarely does passion enter the factor after a site has already been aged and spammed to bits, but since that is the case the marketer will probably put less and less effort in unless it started showing returns.

I think if you remove lots of the ties to spam (like reciprocal link pages linking to low quality sites) and add a few quality links you can see a quick bounce in rankings.

February 8, 2007 - 5:22pm

like reciprocal link pages linking to low quality sites

I agree 100% i have seen some positives by removing old crusty links from days of old when that kind of thing was acceptable (a looooong time ago) and some sites get back, but others don't. I wish i knew why some make it and some don't, but if i knew something like that, i would not be bringing it up lol. Good post, got me thinking.

February 8, 2007 - 11:33pm

I tried to start a site in the forex market, but I am not promoting it anymore.

I think that if you want your site to be successful, passion is a must have, otherwise your site will never be able to dominate a niche, unless you outsource.

Good post AAron.

February 10, 2007 - 3:20am

Would you say that reciprocal links *always* hurt your site rankings? Let's say you have a site with some authority, and you have some good inbound links, and you only swap links with other good sites that are in your topic area -- mainly because it's still considered a "friendly" thing to do among people in your niche. Still bad?

February 10, 2007 - 3:52am

Yeah it is fine to do a bit of reciprocals with good sites...especially if they are natural.

Where you run into problems is when that is all you do, when you do it heavily off topic, or when you let that dominate your marketing strategy so much that you miss out on other easy opportunities.

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