Official - Mahalo is Spam, According to Google's Internal Spam Documents

Mar 21st

Google's leaked documents defining spam state:

Final Notes on Spam
When trying to decide if a page is Spam, it is helpful to ask yourself this question: if I remove the scraped (copied) content, the ads, and the links to other pages, is there anything of value left? if the answer is no, the page is probably Spam.

Lets take a look at a typical Mahalo page
mahalo.com/Best_Computer_Speakers
That page has a #1 ranking in Google with 0 unique content and 0 value to the searcher (according to Google's above guidelines).

How can Jason Calacanis create a site that poor while slagging off everyone else as a spammer? *None* of my sites fit Google's internal webspam guidelines anwhere near as closely as Jason's site does here. Will Google engineers make the right call on this spam site? Only time will tell. And the results will be quite telling, especially when inline affiliate ads further pollute this page. The Jason Calacanis spam legacy continues.

Published: March 21, 2008

New to the site? Join for Free and get over $300 of free SEO software.

Once you set up your free account you can comment on our blog, and you are eligible to receive our search engine success SEO newsletter.

Already have an account? Login to share your opinions.

Comments

March 21, 2008 - 6:02pm

Aaron have you watched this vieo yet:

http://videos.webpronews.com/2008/03/20/ses-new-york-jason-calacanis/

Jason really comes off as a...well I wont even say it, but his realistic goal of creating a page for 30-50% of all searches in 5 years is so ridiculous. Considering that 20-30 of all searches are brand new for the first time.

I really cant believe he gets funding for his ideas. Just watching him talk feels like being waterboarded.

March 21, 2008 - 6:23pm

I don't even want to click on it.

March 21, 2008 - 7:52pm

That is a good post. I am sure Matt Cutts will look in to this because you totally right - that page is spam and has no value at all.

March 21, 2008 - 9:45pm

Aaron:

Great post and an interesting observation. Mahalo is building thin content affiliate pages with scraped content and many thousand volunteer editor/contributors.

On the other hand, I just take exception to Incrediblehelp's comment about funding. While the idea that people would be fooled into donating time seems far fetched, if you can get thousands of people to build your site, tremendous press coverage (including a smart and cynical SEO community) and build millions of SEO friendly pages to drive traffic, you can definitely make money as an affiliate publisher!

March 21, 2008 - 8:46pm

The internal document is very misleading.

Q: If you remove scraped content, ads and links from a Google SERP what will be left?
A: The logo and the footer.

Scraping can add value!

March 23, 2008 - 11:41am

Alrighty, there's a difference.
http://www.google.com/robots.txt
They block access to their SERP results and pages generated from user content, which Mahalo does not.
All major search engines do this(minus a few glitches courtesy of mainstream SEs that cannot write a decent robots.txt file)

While scraping CAN add value via restructuring and such, I do not believe that Mahalo fits the bill.

March 21, 2008 - 9:18pm

^ So True.

March 21, 2008 - 9:28pm

Here's something interesting about this particular listing

http://siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com/advsearch?p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.mahalo...

Does his volunteers go out and build links for the scraper pages?

March 21, 2008 - 10:02pm

At least Jason has an individual SEO to rant against now instead of an entire industry.

March 21, 2008 - 11:30pm

"Does his volunteers go out and build links for the scraper pages?"

No, according to these backlinks these are the normal announcements Mahalo makes via its blog, RSS, and social channels. Normal practice.

The others are scraper sites which have picked up this page in search results which they have copied and published (scraped).

March 22, 2008 - 12:11am

I posted a trackback to this blog entry, and Jason picked up on it pretty quickly and posts his response to the spam claim.

http://blog.derekville.net/2008/03/21/jason-calacanis-and-his-human-powe...

To combat the spam claim, shouldn't Mahalo be doing noindex on spammy pages instead of nofollow on the links within them? His approach doesn't make sense to me, but I'm not an SEO expert. Although as we all know, Jason isn't exactly one either. http://www.calacanis.com/2007/02/07/why-people-hate-seo-and-why-smo-is-b...

March 22, 2008 - 6:21am

To combat the spam claim, shouldn't Mahalo be doing noindex on spammy pages instead of nofollow on the links within them?

Spot on Derek. Jason just got caught with his pants down.

March 22, 2008 - 12:25am

fyi, those were sort of experimental pages as I discussed at the time:
http://www.calacanis.com/2007/10/21/best-computer-speakers/

We are actually no-following/no indexing lots of our pages that are light on content (i.e. all tag pages and user-generated pages), while producing more and more original content on our pages that are indexed. For example, these pages from the last couple of days are equal parts links and content:

http://mahalo.com/Taiwan_Presidential_Election_2008
http://mahalo.com/Obama_Race_Speech

Over time I think you’ll see our pages grow to be over 50% original content, 20% links, and 20% UGC (i.e. reviews, votes, comments).

all the best,

jason

March 22, 2008 - 8:32am

sort of experimental pages

If they were on my site you would have called them spam Jason. Their definition of what they are should not change based on who is hosting them.

No harm in being honest at this point Jason. Spam is spam.

March 22, 2008 - 1:29pm

When google/yahoo and others do it it's called spidering when anyone else does it its called scraping. Why?

March 22, 2008 - 3:31pm

Likely because Google does not try to get their search result pages indexed in Yahoo!

March 22, 2008 - 6:10pm

OK so it's scraping if the scraped content gets spidered/indexed and it's spidering/indexing if the scraped content does not get spidered/indexed.

March 22, 2008 - 4:57pm

like the fact that Jason love so much SEOs while using nofollow/noindex... but I am still hoping to see a real competition to Google, so wishing good luck to Mahalo in all their ''sort of experimental pages''

March 22, 2008 - 7:34pm

New stuff for me. I went to the site, and if I was an average net user, say for example, my sister, the site would be useful as it pulls together known reviews from top review sites (amazon etc.).

So the question is: is mahalo.com/Best_Computer_Speakers an objective compilation of reviews on the subject or an affiliate bonanza site in disguise? Not sure why the latter would be penalized given the fact that yahoo, google, and others are vivaciously pimping out the net for every red nickel.

March 23, 2008 - 4:56am

is mahalo.com/Best_Computer_Speakers an objective compilation of reviews on the subject or an affiliate bonanza site in disguise? Not sure why the latter would be penalized

If Google indexed (and ranked) a bunch of fake reviews or recycled content and recycled reviews at the top of their search results people would eventually trust Google less, plus the people who created and compiled the information are not getting paid for their work...

  • Amazon.com sets up a review marketplace
  • Mahalo scrapes Amazon reviews
  • Google ranks the Mahalo page of scraped content

Google generally likes to have as few levels as possible between the content source and the search results.

March 22, 2008 - 10:42pm

Obviously this page was built just to backlink the other 2:

http://www.calacanis.com/2007/10/21/best-computer-speakers/

Shouldn't those links be no-followed as well?

March 23, 2008 - 6:53am

When trying to decide if a page is Spam, it is helpful to ask yourself this question: if I remove the scraped (copied) content, the ads, and the links to other pages, is there anything of value left? if the answer is no, the page is probably Spam.

Also fits the profile of EzineArticles.com perfectly, yet they dominate the search engines and are a Premium Adsense Publisher meaning they are receiving big traffic and money off duplicate content.

Go to any article page, there's more ads than content. There's 3 link units, 3 ad units, an image ad and a Google search box. Remove the Ads, dupe content and navigation you're left with a logo that looks like it was done in MS Paint.

I had an Article Directory that was rapidly gaining authority and outranking Ezine on most queries of documents submitted to both sites, only to wake up and find my site slammed off the face of the earth obviously due to a "Quality Raters" assessment.

Search extracts of any article in there, chances are it's replicated across 100's of sites.. Yet Ezine has been given the Premium Ticket to print money.

March 23, 2008 - 1:39pm

Aaron,

Thanks again for starting up this thread. We've had some great discussions about it internally, and I think you'll see some great things come out of your advice to us.

1. If you take a look at the page now we've added even more original content. I'm thinking with this original content AND with the time we took to cut across all the information out there, this page is worthy of a top 10-20 ranking on the "best computer speakers" pages. Do you agree? If not, can you give me examples of pages which deserve the slot more?

2. We're thinking of doing a nofollow/noindex thing on any page inside of Mahalo that has under 400 original words. As an expert in SEO would you advise this? From discussions with leading SEOs they think this would be a great idea. What does the SEOBook say?

Again, really appreciate you bringing up this important issue and for giving us such great advice. Our tag line is "We're here to help" and our mission is to make research easier for people. The last thing we want to do is make the research process worse for people!

do ping me if you're ever in Santa Monica... would love to give you a tour of Mahalo!

all the best,

Jason
www.calacanis.com

March 24, 2008 - 2:49am

1.) The only original(ish) content on the page is out of the foveal view of a person who comes across the page, stuck in the right column where most people would never see it (this usability article talks about how that design strategy is designed to be ignored). Other than that low level content created by a person who obviously never reviewed any of the speakers, I am not sure how the page has changed.

2.) Scraping content is not just about how many unique words are on the page. It is more about weather or not you add value. If you felt your original content added any *real* value (or was actually *here to help* - as your slogan suggests), I would suggest placing it in the left rail above all the ads.

March 24, 2008 - 10:30am

good job stirring up the waters.

anyway, if jason is actually successful in what mahalo sets out to do we all will benefit

a massive part of the equation is time. wasnt AOL 1.0 great?

March 24, 2008 - 10:37am

if jason is actually successful in what mahalo sets out to do we all will benefit

How so?

March 23, 2008 - 5:27pm

ah, ok... scraping is like shaved ice, taking small bits from an existing block(s) of ice, then pouring syrup (ads) all over it. I guess by giving away the shaved ice treat they call it a service. ok, worst analogy ever, but I think I learned something from this thread.

March 24, 2008 - 3:15am

I can read this stuff, and I understand it, but you guys are really involved in this entire process. It is very interesting, and I should read more of it. My problem is that I am looking for less involved solutions that take up less of my valuable time.

I run a radio show and am working in many other areas of my business besides working up some, or as much SEO as reasonable. I would, or could afford 100 bucks, but not every month, not right now. Sure would be cool if it were just 100 bucks. I would pay that in a heartbeat.

March 24, 2008 - 4:29am

If I charged a one time fee I would be getting clients that were not very committed to learning, who would buy in not to learn, but just to ask me to optimize their sites for them for that one time $100 fee.

If after a one time fee there is no further charges that leads to people assusiming my time is worthless, I like reading 15 page emails, etc. But those assumptions are simply untrue.

Put another way, if I told you I wanted a lifetime ad on your radio station for a one time $100 fee your company would tell me no. And placing an ad into rotation is a lot less involved than offering ongoing personalized business strategy advice in a rapidly changing marketplace is.

March 24, 2008 - 11:41am

and take your spam site that is pretending to be a search engine with you. Mr. SEO is bullshit...lol. The irony here is that Mahalo is bullshit. All SEO professionals should boycott this guy and anything he is associated with.

March 24, 2008 - 9:27pm

Now that is a great analogy:

"put another way, if I told you I wanted a lifetime ad on your radio station for a one time $100 fee your company would tell me no."

March 27, 2008 - 9:26pm

I was impressed with Jason's willingness to speak to a somewhat hostile audience. I personally felt he was a bit disingenuous and was giving underhanded compliments to the SEO crowd which made me little annoyed. He didn't endear himself to anyone and his arrogance was under the surface all the time. I had never heard of Mahalo before hearing him speak so I had no prejudice towards it. But at the end of the hour I knew I didn't want to be a part of it.

Of course I hope it turns out to be what he hopes, but I don't see it happening and it appears to be another site competing with my honest clients who actually need traffic to support their businesses.

May 22, 2008 - 7:37am

I am just not sure how to handle this. I have a sit I put up a few months ago, and I have been watching my link popularity grow and grow, usually about 100 links or more per month, BUT its a lot of spam sites linking to me. Is this bad? It can't be helping my PR. is there a way to Stop this garbage? Here is my article, please read the questions, and make comments I would love to get some good answers to this so that I may pass the information on to others.
Thanks

September 22, 2008 - 7:06pm

after 6 months, I still don't see any action taken against Mahalo by Google. That page still ranks at #2. Though to be fair to Mahalo, the other result pages are not that good either, so may be Mahalo is web 2.0 version of about.com :)

Pushkar

October 13, 2008 - 9:35am

Would I put you on my radio station forever for 100 bucks? No, but I would for 3 months or so. Making money on the Internet is pretty difficult. So 100 bucks is not bad money. I just can't justify 100 a month to become an SEO professional when I will only be doing it for myself.

I know Aaron knows his shit, that I have no doubt about. I just wish there was a condensed program for people like me. That's all.

October 13, 2008 - 9:38am

I looked at that dudes page. Pretty much like 99% of pages out there these days. They all look the same. No style, just the same.

October 13, 2008 - 7:01pm

I have spent well over $1,000,000 on marketing in the past few years. For a business $100 to be on the cutting edge of online marketing is such a small investment.

February 20, 2010 - 9:27pm

Thanks for improving our collective vocabulary Aaron:

"The foveal system of the human eye is the only part of the retina that permits 100% visual acuity. The line-of-sight is a virtual line connecting the fovea with a fixation point in the outside world."

New to the site? Join for Free and get over $300 of free SEO software.

Once you set up your free account you can comment on our blog, and you are eligible to receive our search engine success SEO newsletter.

Already have an account? Login to share your opinions.

  • Over 100 training modules, covering topics like: keyword research, link building, site architecture, website monetization, pay per click ads, tracking results, and more.
  • An exclusive interactive community forum
  • Members only videos and tools
  • Additional bonuses - like data spreadsheets, and money saving tips
We love our customers, but more importantly

Our customers love us!






    Email Address
    Pick a Username
    Yes, please send me "7 Days to SEO Success" mini-course (a $57 value) for free.

    Learn More

    We value your privacy. We will not rent or sell your email address.