How Search Engines Define Spam

In terms of SEO, the term "spam" describes techniques used to artificially inflate the perceived relevancy of websites with the goal of high search engine rankings. Throughout history, various techniques have been implemented with varying degrees of success. Examples of these spam techniques include hiding links, cloaking, link farming, keyword stuffing and using style controls to mask content. Since spam practices are constantly evolving, SEOToolSet® has decided to hold our Certified Analysts, Organizations and Partners to a common SEOToolSet® Code of Conduct rather than outlawing individual bad practices. However, we believe that it is important to know what the major search engines specifically say about spam and what practices are definitively discouraged by top-tier search engines. Plus, every ethical SEO should know how to properly report any spam that they see so search engines can adjust their algorithms accordingly.

How Google Defines Spam

As part of its Webmaster Guidelines, Google outlines recommended techniques for site owners to use to help Google locate, index and rank your website. They also specificially state that the following techniques may lead them to remove your site from the Google index:

  • Hidden text or hidden links
  • Cloaking or sneaky redirects
  • Automated queries to Google
  • Pages loaded with irrelevant keywords
  • Multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content
  • "Doorway" pages created just for search engines, or other "cookie cutter" approaches such as affiliate programs with little or no original content

Keep in mind that these aren't the only practices that Google disapproves of. Generally, Google doesn't like their results manipulated by deceptive practices. Their recommendation for webmasters is:

Webmasters who spend their energies upholding the spirit of the basic principles listed above will provide a much better user experience and subsequently enjoy better ranking than those who spend their time looking for loopholes they can exploit.

To combat common deceptive search engine spam practices, Google has posted a list of practices that should raise a red flag when you are looking for a search engine optimizer. According to Google, feel free to walk away from an SEO who:

  • Owns shadow domains
  • Puts links to their other clients on doorway pages
  • Offers to sell keywords in the address bar
  • Doesn't distinguish between actual search results and ads that appear in search results
  • Guarantees ranking, but only on obscure, long keyword phrases you would get anyway
  • Operates with multiple aliases or falsified WHOIS info
  • Gets traffic from "fake" search engines, spyware, or scumware
  • Has had domains removed from Google's index or is not itself listed in Google

NOTE: If you are having trouble finding an ethical search engine optimization specialist, take a look at our Directory of SEOToolSet® Certified Analysts and Organizations. Everyone certified by SEOToolSet® is audited at random at least once a quarter to make sure that they are not using practices that would violate our Code of Conduct or Code of Ethics.

How to Report Spam to Google

Google has a form that allows you to report spam to Google or you can e-mail Google at Note that Google rarely manually removes websites from the engine. Instead, it modifies factors within the search engine algorithm and spam detection software in order to eliminate the spam technique's effectiveness.

How Microsoft Bing Defines Spam

In its Online Help documentation, Bing describes its identification and handling of spam:

"Some pages captured in our index turn out to be pages of little or no value to users and may also have characteristics that artificially manipulate the way search and advertising systems work in order to distort their relevance relative to pages that offer more relevant information. Some of these pages include only advertisements and/or links to other websites that contain mostly ads, and no or only superficial content relevant to the subject of the search. To improve the search experience for consumers and deliver more relevant content, we might remove such displayed search results, or adjust our algorithms to prioritize more useful and relevant pages in displayed search result sets."

How to Report Spam to Bing

Bing offers two ways to report spam. The first is on the home page through the "Feedback" link on the lower right of the page. Bing also has a feedback form. If using it to report spam in search results, include the query the spam was found, the URL of the spam link and the position of spam result.

How Yahoo! Defines Spam

NOTE: AltaVista is owned by Yahoo! so the Yahoo! spam policies and webmaster guidelines also apply to the search engines.

According to Yahoo!, search engine spam includes web pages “that are considered unwanted and appear in search results with the intent to deceive or attract clicks, with little regard for relevance or overall quality of the user experience.” Officially, Yahoo! does not want to include pages with:

  • Text that is hidden from the user
  • Misuse of competitor names/products
  • Pages that have substantially the same content as other pages
  • Multiple sites offering the same content
  • Pages in great quantity, which are automatically generated or of little value
  • Pages dedicated to redirecting the user to another page
  • Pages that give the search engine different content than what the end-user sees
  • Pages built primarily for search engines
  • Pages that use excessive pop-ups, interfering with user navigation
  • Pages that use methods to artificially inflate search engine ranking
  • Sites with numerous, unnecessary virtual hostnames
  • Excessive cross-linking with sites to inflate a site's apparent popularity
  • Pages that harm the accuracy, diversity, or relevance of search results
  • Pages that seem deceptive, fraudulent, or provide a poor user experience

How to Report Spam to Yahoo!

If you find a site that is spamming in Yahoo!, you can report the abuse.

NOTE: In addition to reporting spam, you can also report copyright violations to Yahoo!. To request that they remove any content published in violation of copyright protection, e-mail them at

How and Teoma Define Spam

You can expect that both IAC search properties, and Teoma, discourage manipulative tactics and avoid ranking sites that meet the following criteria: 

  • Having deceptive text
  • Having duplicate content
  • Having Meta data that does not accurately describe the content of a Web page
  • Including off-topic or excessive keywords
  • Fabricating pages to lead users to other web pages
  • Showing different content than the spidered pages to users
  • Using intentionally misleading links
  • Using self linking referencing patterns
  • Misusing affiliate or referral programs

How to Report Spam to and Teoma

To report search engine spam to or Teoma, use the provided form to submit an issue to the support team or use the "Feedback" link at the footer of a search result page.

Have you seen any search engine spam lately? Instead of submitting spam reports to each engine, you can also simply submit a spam report through SEOToolSet®.

NOTE: If you have seen one of our Certified Analysts or Organizations engaging in spam practices, please report the spam violation through a Certified Spam Report so we can conduct a spam audit of their practices as soon as possible.