Search engine link spam?
July 27, 2004 8:03 AM   Subscribe

I was about to buy some shoes from Zappos.com today. Before I did so, I thought I would google the model number to see if there were other shops online with a better deal. The first 3 pages or so of hits (maybe more) are strange in that there is not really any content to the websites returned. They just contain a bunch of links to zappos.com What is going on here? [MI]

Is this some strange way to make money by providing referrals to Zappos? What is this called? Is it legal? If it is a money-making scheme, are people really make money?

Here are the main pages of the sites that Google returned for my search.

www.cha-cast.net
www.youthlead.org
www.lassobooks.com
www.leansustainment.org
www.thecyberscene.com

(And also, what is this all about?)
posted by topherbecker to Computers & Internet (15 answers total)
 
It's a link farm. They're used to increase the Google(r) PageRank(tm) of a site.

Basically, it's search engine spam.
posted by majick at 8:06 AM on July 27, 2004


your "this" link looks like a basic spam trap -- it's meant for robots who spider the web looking for email addresses, theoretically to fill them up with useless, randomly-generated fake addresses. (Not much point to it, since any reasonably adept robot programmer could adjust their program to spot this sort of thing pretty easily. Always assuming that they care whether most of their addresses are bogus, which they probably don't.)
posted by ook at 8:40 AM on July 27, 2004


Try Froogle.
posted by swift at 8:54 AM on July 27, 2004


I find this is happening more and more often lately. Google seems to be gamed more effectively. It usually shows up when I search for something commercial.
posted by srboisvert at 9:15 AM on July 27, 2004


Using these techniques can get you banned from Google.
posted by o2b at 9:17 AM on July 27, 2004


It is called either link stuffing or link farming.

Anil Dash did a similar thing to kick some nigritudinal ultramarine SEO ass.
posted by srboisvert at 9:24 AM on July 27, 2004


Here is a good overall explanation of web spamming and the external links have interesting information on how google and others fight this problem
posted by srboisvert at 9:28 AM on July 27, 2004


>It's a link farm. They're used to increase the Google(r) PageRank(tm) of a site.
Okay, but what's the point if your site isn't selling anything?

Also, if Google is such a great search engine, why are the first 30+ links to link farms and not to the relevant site (here zappos.com)
posted by topherbecker at 9:35 AM on July 27, 2004


the farm is owned/paid for by zappos, who are selling something.

read the links - google purposefully changes tactics and ratings to discourage this kind of thing. as far as google is concerned, it's not supposed to work.
posted by andrew cooke at 10:06 AM on July 27, 2004


the farm is owned/paid for by zappos, who are selling something

Not exactly.

These link farms and search engine spammers are driven by one thing: associates programs. It looks like zappos has one, and the "shoe space" on google is easy to game, so some morons set up these gateway sites to kick themselves a buck or two when someone heads over to zappos and buys something. I seriously doubt zappos would want to encourage this sort of activity, but when you setup an associates program, you never know how far people will go to make a few bucks off you.
posted by mathowie at 10:30 AM on July 27, 2004


Also, if Google is such a great search engine, why are the first 30+ links to link farms and not to the relevant site (here zappos.com)
Google is a victim of it's own success. People think up new ways to scam themselves a top position in google and google thinks up new ways to defeat it. If Altavista were still the most popular engine they'd face the same problem.
posted by substrate at 10:34 AM on July 27, 2004


(If you're worried about Zappos itself after discovering all this sketchiness from their associates -- for what it's worth, I just bought some shoes from them this weekend. It was the first time i'd bought shoes online, and the experience was fine. Free fast shipping, too: ordered them Saturday, got them Monday morning. I have no affiliation with them.)
posted by lisa g at 12:21 PM on July 27, 2004


Also, if Google is such a great search engine, why are the first 30+ links to link farms and not to the relevant site (here zappos.com)

Generally because no one else is saying anything (good or bad) on the web about them. And if they do they aren't including links. I find I get link farms when I've, usually by accident, made my search to narrow.
posted by Mitheral at 3:13 PM on July 27, 2004


The important difference between this and a link farm is that since they're all using affiliate links rather than direct links, Zappos.com isn't getting any page-rank benefit (and that's why they're not the #1 result.)
posted by mmoncur at 10:07 PM on July 27, 2004


Another more cool example of spam-trapping and how it works - http://www.westfieldnetwork.com/zacc/email.zac

Try following a link, or even just refresh

(Technically a self-link... but... dude.)
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 9:02 AM on July 28, 2004


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