What Is Spam? What Is Relevant?

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What Is Spam? What Is Relevant?

By Aaron Wall

You can read a lot about what search engineers want by looking at how the search results change. You can learn a bit more by listening to how they try to guide / influence / manipulate the market while engaging in discourse.

And you can learn a lot more by reading their guidelines for how they expect people to rate search quality.

The reasons that the internal communication documents are so powerful are

• they do not discuss search from "in an ideal world" approach, but cover the current marketplace from a pragmatic standpoint solving real issues

• the documents may display algorithmic holes that require manual intervention

• the documents may show clues as to the hints search engineers give raters to quickly infer quality and relevancy

• the documents show issues or relevancy infractions that merit a lower relevancy rating

• the documents show how ratings change based on the quality and availability of information on the topic

• how something that is considered spam in some instances is considered fine if it is associated with a large well known brand

• how things that are relevant in some verticals are irrelevant in others if Google runs a competing offering

• the current documents are the result of years of back and forth communication between quality raters and search engineers

For organic search junkies the Google Gods have tossed us another gift. An SEO Black Hat member discovered an April 2007 Google Evaluation Guidelines document, referenced here.

In April 2007 Yahoo! Music did offer lyrics, but the official Google query evaluation guidelines from that time-frame stated

Call Today For a Free Domain Consult

Exceptions (Scraped Content that is not Spam) Lyrics, poems, ringtones (that the user programs rather than downloads), quotes, and proverbs have no central authority. When you see pages with this content, you cannot judge it to have been copied, and the pages should not be assigned a Spam label. Unfortunately, some content is written specifically for Spam pages and you will not find it on another source.

Although you may be convinced that the intent is to deceive, if the content makes sense and appears original, you will not be able to label such pages Spam.

In a sense, if a spammer or copyright violator is the only person providing the information online for free it is not considered spam, even if it would have been deemed spam by the traditional guidelines. The same is likely true if Google is trying to work on business negotiations to own that content directly (how could they state there are no central authority sites for music lyrics when sites like Yahoo! Music offer them?).

Because Google has not partnered up with the record labels to create a Google database of lyrics somehow those copyright violations are deemed acceptible even if they would have been judged as spam under Google's typical guidelines. And, of course, after Google creates a relationship to get those lyrics hosted on Google.com, many of those lyrics sites will indeed be deemed as spammers.

In other words, spam is only spam if it does not help Google achieve its business objectives. Who cares about the laws. Good to know.

You can compare the current query evaluation and rater document to the 2003 versions I referenced here and here. And the 2007 document has been leaked online.


About the Author:
Aaron Wall is the author of SEO Book, a dynamic website offering marketing tips and coverage of the search space, free SEO videos, and free SEO tools. He is a regular conference speaker, partner in Clientside SEM, and publishes dozens of independent websites.
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