In computing, spamdexing (also known as search spam, search engine spam, web spam or Search Engine Poisoning)[1] is the deliberate manipulation of search engine indexes. It involves a number of methods, such as repeating unrelated phrases, to manipulate the relevance or prominence of resources indexed in a manner inconsistent with the purpose of the indexing system.[2][3] Some[who?] consider it to be a part of search engine optimization, though there are many search engine optimization methods that improve the quality and appearance of the content of web sites and serve content useful to many users.[4] Search engines use a variety of algorithms to determine relevancy ranking. Some of these include determining whether the search term appears in the META keywords tag, others whether the search term appears in the body text or URL of a web page. Many search engines check for instances of spamdexing and will remove suspect pages from their indexes. Also, people working for a search-engine organization can quickly block the results-listing from entire websites that use spamdexing, perhaps alerted by user complaints of false matches. The rise of spamdexing in the mid-1990s made the leading search engines of the time less useful.

Common spamdexing techniques can be classified into two broad classes: content spam[4] (or term spam) and link spam.[3]



The earliest known reference[2] to the term spamdexing is by Eric Convey in his article "Porn sneaks way back on Web," The Boston Herald, May 22, 1996, where he said:

The problem arises when site operators load their Web pages with hundreds of extraneous terms so search engines will list them among legitimate addresses. The process is called "spamdexing," a combination of spamming — the Internet term for sending users unsolicited information — and "indexing." [2]

Content spam

These techniques involve altering the logical view that a search engine has over the page's contents. They all aim at variants of the vector space model for information retrieval on text collections.

Keyword stuffing

Keyword stuffing involves the calculated placement of keywords within a page to raise the keyword count, variety, and density of the page. This is useful to make a page appear to be relevant for a web crawler in a way that makes it more likely to be found. Example: A promoter of a Ponzi scheme wants to attract web surfers to a site where he advertises his scam. He places hidden text appropriate for a fan page of a popular music group on his page, hoping that the page will be listed as a fan site and receive many visits from music lovers. Older versions of indexing programs simply counted how often a keyword appeared, and used that to determine relevance levels. Most modern search engines have the ability to analyze a page for keyword stuffing and determine whether the frequency is consistent with other sites created specifically to attract search engine traffic. Also, large webpages are truncated, so that massive dictionary lists cannot be indexed on a single webpage.

Hidden or invisible text

Unrelated hidden text is disguised by making it the same color as the background, using a tiny font size, or hiding it within HTML code such as "no frame" sections, alt attributes, zero-sized DIVs, and "no script" sections. People screening websites for a search-engine company might temporarily or permanently block an entire website for having invisible text on some of its pages. However, hidden text is not always spamdexing: it can also be used to enhance accessibility.

Meta-tag stuffing

This involves repeating keywords in the Meta tags, and using meta keywords that are unrelated to the site's content. This tactic has been ineffective since 2005.

Doorway pages

"Gateway" or doorway pages are low-quality web pages created with very little content but are instead stuffed with very similar keywords and phrases. They are designed to rank highly within the search results, but serve no purpose to visitors looking for information. A doorway page will generally have "click here to enter" on the page.

Scraper sites

Scraper sites sites, are created using various programs designed to "scrape" search-engine results pages or other sources of content and create "content" for a website.[5] The specific presentation of content on these sites is unique, but is merely an amalgamation of content taken from other sources, often without permission. Such websites are generally full of advertising (such as pay-per-click ads[5]), or they redirect the user to other sites. It is even feasible for scraper sites to outrank original websites for their own information and organization names.

Article spinning

Article spinning involves rewriting existing articles, as opposed to merely scraping content from other sites, to avoid penalties imposed by search engines for duplicate content. This process is undertaken by hired writers or automated using a thesaurus database or a neural network.

Link spam

Link spam is defined as links between pages that are present for reasons other than merit.[6] Link spam takes advantage of link-based ranking algorithms, which gives websites higher rankings the more other highly ranked websites link to it. These techniques also aim at influencing other link-based ranking techniques such as the HITS algorithm.

Link-building software

A common form of link spam is the use of link-building software to automate the search engine optimization process.

Link farms

Link farms are tightly-knit communities of pages referencing each other, also known humorously as mutual admiration societies[7].

Hidden links

Putting hyperlinks where visitors will not see them to increase link popularity. Highlighted link text can help rank a webpage higher for matching that phrase.

Sybil attack

A Sybil attack is the forging of multiple identities for malicious intent, named after the famous multiple personality disorder patient "Sybil" (Shirley Ardell Mason). A spammer may create multiple web sites at different domain names that all link to each other, such as fake blogs (known as spam blogs).

Spam blogs

Spam blogs are blogs created solely for commercial promotion and the passage of link authority to target sites. Often these "splogs" are designed in a misleading manner that will give the effect of a legitimate website but upon close inspection will often be written using spinning software or very poorly written and barely readable content. They are similar in nature to link farms.

Page hijacking

Page hijacking is achieved by creating a rogue copy of a popular website which shows contents similar to the original to a web crawler but redirects web surfers to unrelated or malicious websites.

Buying expired domains

Some link spammers monitor DNS records for domains that will expire soon, then buy them when they expire and replace the pages with links to their pages. See Domaining. However Google resets the link data on expired domains. Some of these techniques may be applied for creating a Google bomb, this is, to cooperate with other users to boost the ranking of a particular page for a particular query.

Cookie stuffing

Cookie stuffing involves placing an affiliate tracking cookie on a website visitor's computer without their knowledge, which will then generate revenue for the person doing the cookie stuffing. This not only generates fraudulent affiliate sales, but also has the potential to overwrite other affiliates' cookies, essentially stealing their legitimately earned commissions.

Using world-writable pages

Web sites that can be edited by users can be used by spamdexers to insert links to spam sites if the appropriate anti-spam measures are not taken.

Automated spambots can rapidly make the user-editable portion of a site unusable. Programmers have developed a variety of automated spam prevention techniques to block or at least slow down spambots.

Spam in blogs

Spam in blogs is the placing or solicitation of links randomly on other sites, placing a desired keyword into the hyperlinked text of the inbound link. Guest books, forums, blogs, and any site that accepts visitors' comments are particular targets and are often victims of drive-by spamming where automated software creates nonsense posts with links that are usually irrelevant and unwanted.

Comment spam

Comment spam is a form of link spam that has arisen in web pages that allow dynamic user editing such as wikis, blogs, and guestbooks. It can be problematic because agents can be written that automatically randomly select a user edited web page, such as a Wikipedia article, and add spamming links.[8]

Wiki spam

Wiki spam is a form of link spam on wiki pages. The spammer uses the open editability of wiki systems to place links from the wiki site to the spam site. The subject of the spam site is often unrelated to the wiki page where the link is added. In early 2005, Wikipedia implemented a default "nofollow" value for the "rel" HTML attribute. Links with this attribute are ignored by Google's PageRank algorithm. Forum and Wiki admins can use these to discourage Wiki spam.

Referrer log spamming

Referrer spam takes place when a spam perpetrator or facilitator accesses a web page (the referee), by following a link from another web page (the referrer), so that the referee is given the address of the referrer by the person's Internet browser. Some websites have a referrer log which shows which pages link to that site. By having a robot randomly access many sites enough times, with a message or specific address given as the referrer, that message or Internet address then appears in the referrer log of those sites that have referrer logs. Since some Web search engines base the importance of sites on the number of different sites linking to them, referrer-log spam may increase the search engine rankings of the spammer's sites. Also, site administrators who notice the referrer log entries in their logs may follow the link back to the spammer's referrer page.

Other types of spamdexing

Mirror websites

A mirror site is the hosting of multiple websites with conceptually similar content but using different URLs. Some search engines give a higher rank to results where the keyword searched for appears in the URL.

URL redirection

URL redirection is the taking of the user to another page without his or her intervention, e.g., using META refresh tags, Flash, JavaScript, Java or Server side redirects.


Cloaking refers to any of several means to serve a page to the search-engine spider that is different from that seen by human users. It can be an attempt to mislead search engines regarding the content on a particular web site. Cloaking, however, can also be used to ethically increase accessibility of a site to users with disabilities or provide human users with content that search engines aren't able to process or parse. It is also used to deliver content based on a user's location; Google itself uses IP delivery, a form of cloaking, to deliver results. Another form of cloaking is code swapping, i.e., optimizing a page for top ranking and then swapping another page in its place once a top ranking is achieved.

See also


  1. ^ SearchEngineLand, Danny Sullivan's video explanation of Search Engine Spam, October 2008 . Retrieved 2008-11-13.
  2. ^ a b c "Word Spy - spamdexing" (definition), March 2003, webpage:WordSpy-spamdexing.
  3. ^ a b Gyöngyi, Zoltán; Garcia-Molina, Hector (2005), "Web spam taxonomy", Proceedings of the First International Workshop on Adversarial Information Retrieval on the Web (AIRWeb), 2005 in The 14th International World Wide Web Conference (WWW 2005) May 10, (Tue)-14 (Sat), 2005, Nippon Convention Center (Makuhari Messe), Chiba, Japan., New York, NY: ACM Press, ISBN 1-59593-046-9, 
  4. ^ a b Ntoulas, Alexandros; Manasse, Mark; Najork, Marc; Fetterly, Dennis (2006), "Detecting Spam Web Pages through Content Analysis", The 15th International World Wide Web Conference (WWW 2006) May 23–26, 2006, Edinburgh, Scotland., New York, NY: ACM Press, ISBN 1-59593-323-9 
  5. ^ a b "Scraper sites, spam and Google" (tactics/motives), diagnostics, 2007, webpage: GR-SS.[dead link]
  6. ^ Davison, Brian (2000), "Recognizing Nepotistic Links on the Web", AAAI-2000 workshop on Artificial Intelligence for Web Search, Boston: AAAI Press, pp. 23–28, 
  7. ^ Search Engines:Technology, Society, and Business - Marti Hearst, Aug 29, 2005
  8. ^ Mishne, Gilad; David Carmel and Ronny Lempel (2005). "Blocking Blog Spam with Language Model Disagreement" (PDF). Proceedings of the First International Workshop on Adversarial Information Retrieval on the Web. Retrieved 2007-10-24. 

External links

To report spamdexed pages

Search engine help pages for webmasters

Other tools and information for webmasters

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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