Google Blogoscoped


SEO Spam Case Study: ShopFactory's Backlinks Injection  (View post)

Mott [PersonRank 1]

Tuesday, March 20, 2007
14 years ago6,730 views

sending a spam report to Google. I don't believe they'll ever respond to it personally, much as Gmail doesn't send individual responses to complaints about mail spam.

I don't believe they'll launch a thorough investigation of each case, unless it's endemic, but instead will say – ahah that's a new strategy – let's adjust our algorithms. So yes, spam reports do cut it with me. Personally, I'd like to see a "mark as spam" link on Google Toolbar much as you have with mail clients – that will be activated every time click click on a result from a SERP where you can quickly and easily report spam with a description.

I also don't think getting a high ranking on such a complex query as "shopping cart software solutions" is much of a problem – obviously what they're doing hasn't been that successful. Getting a PR of 7 for "shopping cart" – now that /would/ worry me.

JohnMu [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Your spam reports are given much more weight if they are filed from within your Google Webmaster Central account.

In general, spam reports are mostly used to test the quality of the spam-recognition algorithms, they are usually not reacted upon on an individual basis. However, when things have gotten out of hand, they will react. We just need to keep on posting about it :-)

JohnMu [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Google's Adam Lasnik posted a bit about how Google handles spam reports in the Google Groups: ...

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

I think it'd be good that every once in a while Google takes a spammer and bans them, just to send a message that this can happen to everyone*. Along with improving scalable algorithms of course.

*I'm missing the English phrase for the German "ein Exempel statuiren", but that's what I mean...

Martin [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

Philipp: to make an example of

Mischa [PersonRank 1]

14 years ago # ...

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Thanks, I use Leo all the time but didn't even know they're this good at translating phrases!

James [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

Or in French, 'Pour encourager les autres' ...

alek [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

I agree that it would be good to make a public example of ... but along those lines, did Google send the right message when they banned BMW ... and then unbanned 'em a few days later?

Sebastian [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

This and crap like this seems to be a pretty common practice of shopping cart vendors. Here is an ecommerce artist getting all clients deindexed for sneaky JavaScript redirects: ...
Funny: they sell SEO services too ...

Gerhard [PersonRank 1]

14 years ago #

seems this blog is a bit behind the eight ball – I mean this whole story is about an old version of ShopFactory which hasn't been sold for quite a while. So what's the point of the story, then?
ShopFactory 7 which was released last year is not doing any of the stuff you are describing in your blog – so someone either got their wires crossed or didn't bother doing proper research.
I even received a message back then from ShopFactory making us aware of the issue and giving us a free upgrade to a version which did not include that text anymore.
And anyway, what kind of a comment is that they are lying about good search engine rankings, just because they use frames? I would have thought that a site calling itself Google blogoscoped would know better than claiming that frames don't work in search engines.
Actually ShopFactory has always given me top ranking with Search engines for my sites and the code you complain about above didn't really worry me. I mean that was simply a way to improve links to their own site. And what's wrong with that? I mean how can they improve the software if they don't get the sales?
Anyway the code this blog refers to doesn't exist in ShopFactory anymore, so you can all settle down. In fact Shopfactory 7 is really cool with search engines and even creates Google Sitemaps and stuff. Maybe target some other system still into it?

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Thanks Gerhard. The point of this post was not "news", but a "case study", as the title said – to make people aware of the kind of spammy SEO practices used today or in the past. It's good to hear ShopFactory stopped their practice (though as the effects of their practice are still live and active today, the Google quality team might consider banning their site nevertheless to correct the currently skewed search results).

> I even received a message back then from ShopFactory
> making us aware of the issue and giving us a free upgrade
> to a version which did not include that text anymore.

Can you please post a copy of this message?

> And anyway, what kind of a comment is that they are
> lying about good search engine rankings, just because
> they use frames?

Frames are bad accessibility, and bad accessibility is always also bad search engine optimization.

> Maybe target some other system still into it?

Can you please list some?

Gerhard [PersonRank 1]

14 years ago #

Hmmm, I would argue a lot about the bad accessibility stuff. I always preferred frames because they make sites more easy to navigate. But of course that's a personal preference.
In regards to search engines accessing frames – even Google themselves say in their guidelines that as long as you provide the proper info on the frame page they can find and index everything.
I would suggest it would be better to state that frames CAN be bad for SEO, when not properly set up for SEO. That is certainly something I can agree to. But that's one of the reasons I always used ShopFactory – because it does take care of that – which incidently I am sure other solutions do, too. Good enough anyway to get me even some No 1 rankings in Google.
Sorry, don't know any other solutions which do what you are referring to. I have used ShopFactory for many years now – so being a loyal user I thought I should point this stuff out.
Don't have the email anymore – its been quite a few months ago. But I remember that they even provided a fix for the superseded version 6 – so there wasn't even the need to upgrade to 7 to get this sorted.
Anyway, there's my two bob's worth.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

> I always preferred frames because they make sites
> more easy to navigate.

We need to separate technology from appearance in this discussion. The technology of frames is bad accessibility, for different reasons including that it breaks URLs/ linking, and breaking links is very bad SEO. However, the appearance of what frames typically achieve can be created with CSS and server-side templates, so if you like to have a scrolling navigation on all pages, well, that's easily possibly without frames.

Again, if ShopFactory continues to make use of frames, they serve bad technology to their customers. There are extremely rare cases where frames can be the right compromise (there are more such cases for Iframes) but a shop site is not one of them.

> Don't have the email anymore

It would be interesting to see some official statement on this from ShopFactory. I've dropped them an email.

By the by, even ShopFactory's latest terms include this statement:
"[The maker of ShopFactory] has the right to access ... website content to use for promotional purposes".

Steffan Klein [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

Hi Phillip,
we have received your email to us and, after reading your Blog, would like to point out a few issues.
1: The fact that you found 86,600 shops created with our software is extremely impressive especially considering that the latest versions of our software no longer contain the links you are referring to. Meaning you missed out on many more shops. This shows how widely used and popular our solution is – which is the main reason for our Google rating.
2: Version 7 released in 2006 and the last release of the previous version 6 (a free update to SF6 users) of our software do not contain links of the type you refer to.
3: Many shops created with our solution have in the past ten years achieved and maintained top search engine rankings with many search engine sites before Google was launched and, after Google’s rise, also with Google. I therefore reject your generalized and somewhat unqualified statements in regards to Frames. I appreciate Gerhard taking up our cause, but it may be worthwhile to read the following article on frames, which Google refers to in their information to Webmasters: ...
This article makes very clear that search engines do have problems with framed websites provided they are NOT rpt. NOT properly set up. However at 3D3 we have had a strong focus on SEO for a long time and DO set things up properly. Many of our customers know what we do works, based on the top search engine rankings achieved by them for their search words.
Please note that I have no interest in changing your mind in regards to frames. I have had over the last ten years had too many discussions with so called Search Engine Experts who knew all about Search Engines, and who, without proper knowledge or research, always made the same claims as you did in this Blog in regards to frames. When enough people make the same claim and distribute the same half truth, it becomes THE truth, regardless of whether it is right or wrong. No matter how many websites created with our software achieve top rankings.
Another statement made by you that frames can easily be replicated via CSS, is also incorrect. Doing this changes the behavior of browsersand locations of scrollbars, and requires many work-arounds and JavaScript calculations to make it work in a similar way to actual frames. Even then it is impossible to completely match the behavior of real frames, as making complex CSS driven DIVs shrink and grow in the same way as frames when resizing browser windows across multiple browser platforms is not possible. We know this, as ShopFactory 7 is using DIVs to emulate frames. If you know of a way to replicate frames in all their functionalities in DIVs across multiple browsers while maintaining the same behavior browsers display when working with a real framed website, please let us urgently know. Many of our customers would like to continue to use real frames based on the different behaviors of CSS driven “DIV-Frames” sites.
Steffan Klein

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Thanks for your statement.

> We know this, as ShopFactory 7 is using DIVs to
> emulate frames.

Why did you switch from frames to divs?

Percey [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

Common, this has obviously become a bash ShopFactory BLOG

Frankly I use ShopFactory myself and I'm number 1 on a substantial amount of content on GOOGLE for that matter.

John Andrews [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

Hmm.... has the initial observation been lost here?

A company that sells itself as very much aware of SEO allegedly embeds cloaked backlinks in it's product, and requires customers to grant them an unlimited license to publish content on customer's websites. That sure seems like balatant, deliberate explotation of customer web sites.

This is news. It reflects horribly on the ethics and integrity of the ShopFactory company and it's managers. So what if the version was replaced for free? If they got caught, what else could they do but try and clean it up?

I wonder why we don't hear that management was changed, people were fired, internal company policies were rewritten, a formal statement of vision was produced to ensure it won't hapen again, etc.

Shop Factory customers should be thinking "if they did this before, why not expect them to exploit their customers again in clever SEO ways?"

And this is especially true if that claus reported here is actually in the ShopFactory license agreement: “3D3 .COM [maker of ShopFactory] has the right to access website data and website content to use for promotional purposes and the supply of other services.”

That's wide open permission to exploit the customer website for Shopfactory's benefit in the future. Tsk tsk. Nasty stuff.

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