Search Engines face many people who try to manipulate search results and have their pages rank higher than their competitors. These people may engage in Search Engine Spam to do that. The search engines have filed patents and have written papers that describe how they may fight against the manipulation of search results.
The ultimate goal of any spam detection system is to penalize “spammy” content.
~ Reverse engineering circumvention of spam detection algorithms (Linked to below)
Four years ago, I wrote a post about a Google patent titled, The Google Rank-Modifying Spammers Patent. It told us that Google might be keeping an eye out for someone attempting to manipulate organic search results by spamming pages, and Google may delay responding to someone’s manipulative actions to make them think that whatever actions they were taking didn’t have an impact upon search results. That patent focused upon organic search results, and Google’s Head of Web Spam Matt Cutts responded to my post with a video in which he insisted that just because Google produced a patent on something doesn’t mean that they were going to use it. The video is titled, “What’s the latest SEO misconception that you would like to put to rest? ” Matt’s response is as follows:
I’m not sure how effective the process in that patent was, but there is a now a similar patent from Google that focuses upon rankings of local search SEO results. The patent describes this web spam detection problem in this way:
The business listing search results, or data identifying a business, its contact information, website address, and other associated content, may be displayed to a user such that the most relevant businesses may be easily identified. In an attempt to generate more customers, some businesses may employ methods to include multiple different listings to identify the same business. For example, a business may contribute a large number of listings for nonexistent business locations to a search engine, and each listing is provided with a contact telephone number that is associated with the actual business location. The customer may be defrauded by contacting or visiting an entity believed to be at a particular location only to learn that the business is actually operating from a completely different location. Such fraudulent marketing tactics are commonly referred to as “fake business spam”.
A couple of interesting patent applications surfaced at Google recently, involving the use of photography in Local Search, to identify whether or not businesses actually exist, or might be closed, or might be Web Spam.
The first of these looks at Street Views images, and is:
For as long as SEOs have known, Google has had one person in charge of leading their fight against Webspam. His name was Matt Cutts, and his position had evolved over the years into that of being a mouthpiece for Google, speaking on actions that Google might take to fight web spam, and low quality content. Matt Cutts is presently on an extended leave of absence from Google.
News came out a few days ago, that Google would be replacing Matt Cutts as Google’s Head of Spam, but that news tells us that the new person in charge of WebSpam at Google wouldn’t be as vocal as Matt Cutts had been, nor reveal his or her identity.
In the past few years, Google has been busy building what has become known as the Google Brain team, which started out by having its deep learning approach watching videos until it learned to recognize cats. Unsurprising that Google would start using something like Deep Learning Classification to fight web spam.
The title from a Google local search patent reached out and grabbed me as I was skimming through Google’s patents. It has the kind of title that captures your attention, as a weapon in the war that Google wages against people who might engage in Business spam against the search engine.
The title for the patent is Reverse engineering circumvention of spam detection algorithms. The context is local search, where some business owners might be striving to show up in results in places where they don’t actually have a business location, or where heavy competition might convince them that having additional or better entries in Google Maps is going to help their business.
The result of such efforts might be for their local search listings to disappear completely from Google Maps results. The category Google seems to have placed such listings under is “Fake Business Spam.”
There are things that we just don’t know about search engines. Things that aren’t shared with us in an official blog post, or search engine representative speaker’s conference comment, or through a publicly published white paper. Often we do learn some aspects of how search engines work through patents, but the timing of those is controlled more by the US Patent and Trademark Office than by one of the search engines.
For example, back in 2003 Google was filing some of their first patents that identified changes to how their ranking algorithms worked, and among those was one with a name similar to the original Stanford PageRank patents filed by Lawrence Page. It has some hints about PageRank and Google’s link analysis that we haven’t officially seen before.