Google Blogoscoped

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Wordpress Caught Spamming

Andy Baio caught blogging provider Wordpress search engine spamming. On March 30, he writes:

“Wordpress is a very popular open-source blogging software package, with a great official website maintained by Matt Mullenweg, its founding developer. I discovered last week that since early February, he’s been quietly hosting at least 120,000 168,000 articles on their website. These articles are designed specifically to game the Google Adwords [AdSense] program, written by a third-party about high-cost advertising keywords like asbestos, mesothelioma, insurance, debt consolidation, diabetes, and mortgages. (...)

Why Wordpress? The Wordpress homepage has a very high Google Pagerank of 8/10, largely because every Wordpress-powered blog links to the Wordpress homepage by default. The high pagerank affects their ranking in Google search results, making context-sensitive Google ads very profitable. This, in turn, makes Wordpress very attractive to advertisers.”

Andy says that Google is actively removing this linkfarm-like Wordpress content from their index at the moment, but he saved a Google result page as it was before. I found Wordpess is removing the articles as well, but you can still reveal some from the cache of search engines like MSN.

Jason Luster of Wordpress in the meantime responsed in his blog:

“Let’s get the first response over with – please, please, please stop calling it “Spamming”. Regardless of how you stand towards the deeper issue at hand, diluting a word by mixing pretty much everything into the basket of spamming is not a good idea. Yes, the postings were made to improve the Google rank of someone else, yes there was a financial transaction involved, and yes, the postings were not topical to the wider sense of the site, but it’s not spam. Spam involves other, involuntary, carriers. No comment boxes were contaminated, no mailboxes, no Usenet forums, and certainly no one spent a single byte of extra bandwidth (with the exception of the links from Wordpress.Org) on it. It’s not spam.”

In fact, search engine spam is just as bad as any other kind of spam – it clutters the search results, and steals the time of those looking at them. E.g. for many Germany search queries, the Google result has become unusable due to spam. This is why popular SEO (Search Engine Optimization) contests always make sure to use exotic words or phrases which may not exist yet or are not likely used in everyday searches, like “Seraphim Proudleduck”. Search engine spam may differ from more traditional spam such as bulk emails in that it is not illegal today, but if it’s going against the rules of the search engine, they may ban the site upon finding out.

Suw Charman wraps it up by saying:

“I don’t think there’s all that much to be said about the pros and cons of the case – it was probably a mistake for Matt to enter into an agreement with a company in which he assists them in gaming Google for money. It doesn’t just run counter to the ’spirit’ of the blogosphere, where we are constantly fighting against spammers and gamers, but more importantly it has created a lot of ill-will, and open source projects like Wordpress depend on goodwill. But the furore will die down, and Matt and Wordpress will survive, and maybe Matt will be a wiser person in the future.”


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