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The Definition of Spam

Spam can bring down your website faster than a speeding bullet, but what is spam? Originally, spam referred to unwanted emails. We all hate the tons of email we receive day after day trying to get us to buy that or click this. I can't go a day without someone trying to steal my personal information so they can get into my bank account. Does everyone else get the fake paypal emails? They look just like paypal emails, but usually if you look at the links they have ip numbers instead of in the address. Obviously, letters from Nigeria, fake paypal emails, and the host of other either crooked or just plain annoying emails can clearly be defined as spam. Of course, email newsletters that have been subscribed to are wanted and would not be spam. I love getting my daily webmaster newsletters. They are great for helping me stay on top of what is going on in the website development world.

Another type of spam, that believe it or not webmasters still employ, is hidden text. This is obviously a bad idea. Google's guidelines clearly state "Avoid hidden text or hidden links". Now to be fair sometimes it's hard to keep all hidden links off of your site if you are using Microsoft FrontPage or other similar editors. The newer 2003 version of FrontPage incorporates the split screen, which makes getting rid of hidden text much easier. The older versions tend to leave hidden links behind in the HTML code after you delete the text. I have recently found tons of hidden text links everywhere on my sites. So, if you have this problem I can feel your pain.

Everything that is a bad SEO practice isn't necessarily spam. Just because Google changes it's algorithm tomorrow doesn't mean all practices banned were actually spam. Sometimes, I feel that many webmasters let search engines dictate what they call spam. For example, linking to your own site from another one of your sites. Is that spam? Some might say you are attempting to alter search engine results and thus you are a spammer. I do have the right to advertise my sites or other sites on my own website, after all. Currently, from other webmaster articles and from what I've seen personally, if your link text is the same everywhere then Google will not allow you those keywords. This has put an end to the Google bomb, but it's unfortunate side effect is the penalization of webmasters adding a link to their own sites from another site. For example, say I have a site about TV DVDs and another one featuring a entertainment blog. It's very simple to enter a link one time into a text file using an ssi include or other similar method that might say "Entertainment Blog" linking back to my blog site. This example populates all my sites at once and thus now I've given everybody interested in my DVD site a little ad to my blog site. Google might penalize the blog site, and so you lose hits from Google. Thankfully, so far Yahoo hasn't taken this step. I guess we could blame the guys who started the Google bombing, but I for one disagree with Google on their method. My only choice in linking back to myself now is to forget adding a standard link in the menu, and put a link back to the blog site one page at a time with different link text and perhaps linking to different pages within the blog site.

Now pop-ups to me go into the category of spam. Anything that is not asked for by the visitor, like a pop-up or email should definitely be classified as spam. Of course, there aren't any penalties for pop-ups from search engines.

Google apparently is targeting affiliate sites now as well. On one hand, I don't blame Google for not wanting exact duplicates in their search results, but their basic rules should still apply. Taking out a site just because it has affiliate links is really not a fair practice. Someone who takes months and perhaps even years of their time to create, maintain, and promote a site, deserves to make money just as much as the big dogs, as long as they are not using deceptive practices. Which brings me back to the main point. What is the definition of spam? Certainly, trying to earn a honest dollar on the net by offering affiliate links shouldn't be considered spam. But sites trying to promote one set of keywords and offer something else on their page should be considered spammers. It's the unwanted promotion tactics and deceptive practices that are now and will always be true spam. Is it spam to offer a rearrangement of Amazon's products? No, not if your title tag says books, and I find books on your page.

Webmaster of the new Webmaster Tips featuring website articles, web hosts, domain registrars, free scripts, and more.

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