An article in the September issue of Wired explores search spam and the role of .info domain names.
The article, titled “Spam + Blogs = Trouble” is a good overview of the problems of search spam, blog spam, and other various forms of web activity designed to take advantage of search engines. (The article will be online September 5, but you can read it on page 104 of the print edition that is available to subscribers now).
For those not versed in search spam, it’s basically creating multiple web sites, typically auto-generated by computers, to get good search rankings and then monetize the resulting search traffic through Adsense or affiliate programs. The article focuses much of its attention to splogs, or auto-generated blogs. It also talks about blog discussion and trackback spam. (I’m particularly familiar with discussion and trackback spam as it’s a constant problem on DomainNameWire. I have defeated much of the discussion spam using a CAPTCHA screener and am considering turning off trackbacks to eliminate the latter type of spam).
So what does this have to do with domains? According to the author, .info domains are the most used domains for splogs and search spam because they are typically the cheapest to register. If you’re going to generate hundreds or thousands of bogus web sites, would you rather spend a couple bucks per domain or $10? Do the math to understand the savings. Some registrars even give .info domains away free for a year. Most domains registered for splogging are not renewed. The article discusses giveaways that a site isn’t legitimate:
Another giveaway: Both [web site and the page it links to] had web addresses in the .info domain. Spammers flock to .info, which was created as an alternative to the crowded .com, because its domains are cheaper – registrars often let people use them gratis for the first year – which is helpful for those, like sploggers, who buy Internet addresses in bulk. Splogs so commonly have .info addresses that many experts simply assume all blogs [with .info domains] are fake.
It would be unfortunate for search engines to start discounting a site’s rank because of its domain extension. Especially a good, multi-purpose domains like .info. I’m a fan of .info domains, including my prized Blogs.info domain. But if the problem persists, you can bet that search engines will start changing their algorithms to hurt .info domains (if they haven’t already).
Although the article does a good job addressing web spam, the writer unfortunately confuses search spam with parked pages:
Sportals, as they are known, are Web pages consisting almost entirely of pay-per-click links, all of which shunt netsurfers to legitimate commercial Web sites, collecting money along the way for the spammers. Examples of these doorway pages include debts.com, lasvegasvacations.com, and 90210.com, all owned by industry pioneer Marchex of Seattle; another is photography.com, run by NameMedia, based in the Boston suburb of Waltham.
The author is confusing sportals with parked domains. A sportal is a computer-generated portal that typically uses content scraping to generate thousands of pages for search engine purposes. The examples the author gives are certainly enhanced parking pages, but certainly not sportals. (An example of sportal-generating software is Directory Generator).
Alas, there’s no easy or good solution to eliminating web spam. Let’s just hope sploggers don’t take the .info domain down with them.