In case you’ve not yet read about Google’s patent on rank modifying for spamming techniques, check out SEO by the Sea and SEOptimise. It’s a clever system from the Google folks designed to dissuade spammers (particularly link spammers) from being confident of their results. The basic premise is simple – after observing rank improving behavior on a page/site (either spammy or legitimate), Google may reduce the site’s ranking rather than increase it to see if additional actions are taken, and, if they are, they might investigate further or take punitive action. You’ve got to love this (excerpted directly):
For example, the initial response to the spammer’s changes may cause the document’s rank to be negatively influenced rather than positively influenced. Unexpected results are bound to elicit a response from a spammer, particularly if their client is upset with the results.
This patent is surely just the tip of the iceberg, but I like the devious thinking behind it. In order to combat spammers, you can’t just try to detect and outwit them algorithmically. You have to operate psychologically as well. If I were Google (or Bing), I’d try to mess with spammers in other ways, too, like:
- Ignoring some link networks or paid link purchases initially to see whether the sites spammers link to change (after all, smart spammers will test with one set of sites, but may be trying to actually boost the rankings of others)
- Associating spammers and spam networks by tracking social sharing through various accounts (most spammers don’t realize that Google webspam is under no obligation to restrict their analyses to the link graph)
- Create and sell honeypots of links through black hat forums, Fiverr, etc.
- Observe the domain registration behaviors of known black hat entities, addresses, DNS servers, etc.
- Run SEO competitions, particularly in countries where the webspam team is about to invest more seriously
- Modify search results for certain keyphrases that spammers frequently attempt to game to bias against classic signals (i.e. links) and towards newer ones (i.e. social/Google+, brand, etc) to see how and who begins to adopt those techniques (which are more traceable)
The list could go on and on, but the basic thinking behind it is sound. If your system is rife with abuse, there’s no shame in messing with the antagonists to demoralize them and remove their income stream. And if you’re a spammer who’s willing to attack Google, you should probably prepare to be attacked. The defense-only days of the webspam team are probably ending (if they aren’t already over).
p.s. No, I don’t hate spammers. No, I don’t support link buying despite what ancient quotes of mine might say. And, no, I still don’t believe negative SEO is possible against truly clean, established sites.