Tag Archives: SEO

abuse blogging comment spam compliment spam crawling Google Google Webmaster Tools hacked nofollow PageRank plugin search social engineering social software spam trust Twitter webspam WordPress

How my site disappeared from Google search

Seen my personal blog lately? Probably not, if you were searching via Google. Major sections of my site have been disappearing from the search index over the past three weeks. My homepage, my blog and many of the most recent articles on it no longer showed up in result pages. I’m no Matt Cutts, but I get a fair number of people coming to my site when searching for info about Google search, avoiding scams, and how to name their baby. All that traffic has been slipping away.

You can probably imagine how you would feel if this was happening to you. Does Google hate me? Was my site hacked? What do I do, and how much will it cost to get this fixed?

I will answer all of those questions, starting with the first:

My site is falling out of the index, does Google hate me?

Probably not. My situation is actually pretty illustrative – I’m pretty sure Google doesn’t hate me and isn’t unfairly slapping my site down because, well, I work at Google.

That’s right, Google was kicking pages from one of its own employees out of search results. I’m sure I’m not the first. Google doesn’t treat my site any differently than anyone else’s. BTW, standard disclaimers apply to this post.

So I knew there was probably a logical reason for the dropped pages, which brings me to the next question:

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Blog Comment Spam is Not Solved

With all the comment spam, trackback spam, and pingback spam out there, developers have created some pretty powerful anti-spam tools. So why did I create a small, not-so-powerful anti-spam WordPress plugin like O RLY?

Here’s a screenshot of my pending comments a little while back. Notice the second comment, which slipped past Akismet:

o-rly-spam-comments1

Apparently some dude named Casey Fronczek wanted to let my readers know about his fishing trips. I clicked on the O RLY button, and here’s what Google had to show me:

o-rly-spam-comments2

This spam comment showed up about 17,000 times!

This is an interesting case because it shows that spammers aren’t always looking to place links or pass PageRank. They are always looking for some kind of payoff though, and you can see the roundabout technique here. Hopefully anyone interested in fishing trips in southern Florida will Google this guys relatively unique name and result in a sale. You may also see phone numbers, ICQ or other IM accounts, and similar contact information in some comment spam.

This is a little tougher to automatically delete because a spammy link is a really good signal for an automated filter. Hopefully if people have enough little tools, we bloggers can improve the state of the web as a whole. Get the plugin from WordPress.org, and please let me know of other good anti-spam plugins in the comments.

Sick of compliment spam on your blog?

Not amused One of the great things about having a blog is getting comments on your posts. It’s particularly gratifying when someone takes the time to tell you that your post was helpful, entertaining, or well-written.

Spammers know this and exploit it by generating compliment spam. They’ll put together a few lines of general praise and slather them across the web, hoping that bloggers will fall for the trick and post their spammy links.

Abusive social engineering like this really annoys me, so when in doubt I always do a Google exact phrase search to see if the compliment is really for me and not from a bot. This is tedious, so I created a simple WordPress plugin: O RLY Comment Spam Search.

You can get the plugin directly from WordPress.org, where you can also give it a rating to tell other webmasters how great (or non-great) it is. By the way, the plugin browser/installer added in WordPress 2.7 is very cool, and makes it much easier to try out plugins.

Judging by the thousands of blogs my O RLY searches have found, this sort of spam works. But why do spammers do it? Since WordPress (and most major blog systems) nofollow links in comments by default, the spammers can’t expect to gain any PageRank from these links. My guess is most of this spam is either intended to get traffic via clickthroughs or is generated by naive site owners, SEOs and marketers who don’t really understand how things work.

Take a look and let me know if it’s useful in the comments below. Also, let me know if it’s breaking on certain comments or otherwise buggy.