How to help Google identify web spam

Thursday, November 04, 2010 at 2:00 PM

Webmaster level: All

Everyone who uses the web knows how frustrating it is to land on a page that sounds promising in the search results but ends up being useless when you visit it. We work hard to make sure Google’s algorithms catch as much as possible, but sometimes spammy sites still make it into search results. We appreciate the numerous spam reports sent in by users like you who find these issues; the reports help us improve our search results and make sure that great content is treated accordingly. Good spam reports are important to us. Here’s how to maximize the impact of any spam reports you submit:

Why report spam to Google?

Google’s search quality team uses spam reports as a basis for further improving the quality of the results that we show you, to provide a level playing field for webmasters, and to help with our scalable spam fighting efforts. With the release of new tools like our Chrome extension to report spam, we’ve seen people filing more spam reports and we have to allocate appropriate resources to the spam reports that are mostly likely to be useful.

Spam reports are prioritized by looking at how much visibility a potentially spammy site has in our search results, in order to help us focus on high-impact sites in a timely manner. For instance, we’re likely to prioritize the investigation of a site that regularly ranks on the first or second page over that of a site that only gets a few search impressions per month. A spam report for a page that is almost never seen by users is less likely to be reviewed compared to higher-impact pages or sites. We generally use spam reports to help improve our algorithms so that we can not only recognize and handle this particular site, but also cover any similar sites. In a few cases, we may additionally choose to immediately remove or otherwise take action on a site.

Which sites should I report?

We love seeing reports about spammy sites that our algorithms have missed. That said, it’s a poor use of your time to report sites that are not spammy. Sites submitted through the spam report form are reviewed for spam content only. Sites that you think should be tackled for other reasons should be submitted to us through the appropriate channels: for example, for those that contain content which you have removed, use our URL removal tools; for sites with malware, use the malware report form; for paid links that you find on sites, use the paid links reporting form. If you want to report spammy links for a page, make sure that you read how to report linkspam. If you have a complaint because someone is copying your content, we have a different copyright process--see our official documentation pages for more info. There’s generally no need to report sites with technical problems or parked domains because these are typically handled automatically.

The same applies to redirecting legitimate sites from one top level domain to another, e.g. example.de redirecting to example.com/de. As long as the content presented is not spammy, the technique of redirecting one domain to another does not automatically violate the Google Webmaster Guidelines.


If you happen to come across a gibberish site similar to this one, it’s most likely spam.

The best way to submit a compelling spam report is to take a good look at the website in question and compare it against the Google Webmaster Guidelines. For instance, these would be good reasons to report a site through the spam report form:
  • the cached version contains significantly different (often keyword-rich) content from the live version
  • you’re redirected to a completely different domain with off-topic, commercial content
  • the site is filled with auto-generated or keyword-stuffed content that seems to make no sense
These are just a few examples of techniques that might be potentially spammy, and which we would appreciate seeing in the form of a spam report. When in doubt, please feel free to discuss your concerns on the Help Forum with other users and Google guides.

What should I include in a spam report?

Some spam reports are easier to understand than others; having a clear and easy-to-understand report makes it much easier for us to analyze the issue and take appropriate actions. Here are some things to keep in mind when submitting the spam report:
  • Submit the URLs of the pages where you see spam (not just the domain name). This makes it easy for us to verify the problem on those specific pages.
  • Try to specify the issue as clearly as possible using the checkboxes. Don’t just check every single box--such reports are less likely to be reviewed.
  • If only a part of the page uses spammy techniques, for example if it uses cloaking or has hidden text on an otherwise good page, provide a short explanation on how to look for the spam you’re seeing. If you’re reporting a site for spammy backlinks rather than on-page content, mention that.
By following these guidelines, your spam reports will be reproducible and clear, making them easier to analyze on our side.

What happens next?

After reviewing the feedback from these reports (we want to confirm that the reported sites are actually spammy, not just sites that someone didn’t like), it may take a bit of time before we update our algorithms and a change is visible in the search results. Keep in mind that sometimes our algorithms may already be treating those techniques appropriately; for instance, perhaps we’re already ignoring all the hidden text or the exchanged links that you have reported. Submitting the same spam report multiple times is not necessary. Rest assured that we actively review spam reports and take appropriate actions, even if the changes are not immediately visible to you.

With your help, we hope that we can improve the quality of and fairness in our search results for everyone! Thank you for continuing to submit spam reports and feel free to post here or in our Help Forum should you have any questions.

Comments:

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