Matt Cutts SquareThink Google’s attack on unnatural links and link spammers is limited just to the US? Think again. Google has made it clear they are targeting spammy practices from around the world, by attacking Polish and German link spammers over the past month, and now Matt Cutts has announced Spanish and Italian webmasters breaking guidelines will be the next to get taken down. For more information, you can check out the report from Search Engine Land.

Yesterday we reported on the mass hijacking of thousands of Google+ Local listings. In short, over a short period of time a huge number of hotels with business listings for Google Maps and Search. The story was broke open by Danny Sullivan from Search Engine Land, who attempted to track down the source of the spam attack, with no concrete evidence to suggest who the culprit actually is.

While the issue could have a big affect on many businesses it the hotel sector, it is more notable for showing that other attacks could happen in the future. Even worse, no one outside of Google has been able to explain how this could occur, especially with the number of big hotel chains affected. The hotels hit with the spam weren’t mom-and-pop bed and breakfast places. Most of the listings were for huge hotel chains, such as the Marriott hotel shown in the example of a hijacked link below.

If Google does know how this was able to happen, they aren’t telling. In fact, Google has been terribly quiet on the issue. They’ve yet to issue an official public statement, aside from telling Sullivan that he could confirm they were aware of the problem and working to resolve it.

The only direct word from Google on the hijackings is a simple response in an obscure Google Business Help thread from Google’s Community Manager, Jade Wang. If it weren’t for Barry Schwartz’s watchful eye, it is possible the statement would never have been widely seen. Wang said:

We’ve identified a spam issue in Places for Business that is impacting a limited number of business listings in the hotel vertical. The issue is limited to changing the URLs for the business. The team is working to fix the problem as soon as possible and prevent it from happening again. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

It has always been a little unclear how Google handles their international market. We know they have engineers across the world, but anyone that has tried to search from outside the US knows the results can seem like what Americans would see five years ago: a few good options mixed with a lot of spam. That’s a little bit of a hyperbole, but Matt Cutts says we can expect to see it continue to get better moving forward.

According to Cutts’ recent Webmaster Help video, Google does fight spam globally using algorithms and manual actions taken by Google employees stationed in over 40 different regions and languages around the world. In addition, they also try to ensure all of their algorithms will work in all languages, rather than just English.

SEO Roundtable points out you could see the international attention to Google’s algorithms when Penguin originally rolled out. At first it was only affecting English queries, but was released for other languages quickly after. With Penguin’s release however, all countries saw the release on the same day.

Matt Cutts did concede that English language queries in Google do receive more attention, which has always been fairly obvious and understandable. There are far more searchers there and that is the native language of the majority of engineers working for the company.

In the past 18 months, Google has waged war against spammers. It began with their attempts to purify organic search rankings by introducing the Panda and Penguin updates. Now, with an AdWords policy update this week, Google has targeted those evil doers of the PPC game.

Ali Harris has an in-depth look at the changes at ClickThrough Marketing, but here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know.

Google’s goal is to improve the ad experience across the board, meaning only those with ill intent will object and most users and campaign managers will applaud.

By weeding out the spam, your Quality Score will likely rise and your cost-per-click will likely drop. But, you have to know the rules and follow them.

  • Your ads and keywords must be easily relatable to the landing page they point to.
  • If you mention a specific promotion or product in an ad, the landing page must feature it too.
  • No more throw-away lines like “Click Here Now!”
  • Just like in English class, poor grammar will be punished.
  • Keyword campaigns must be relevant and clear.
  • If your landing page has ads, they must be clearly discernable from original content.
  • No phone numbers
  • No email inbox look-alike ads

Essentially, you are expected to use common sense and be sincere in your advertising. If your goal is to trick users into clicking your ads, you will be punished.

Those punishments start modest but can become severe.

Campaigns that are flagged as not in compliance won’t run the disapproved ads until they are changed. If advertisers feel they were judged unfairly, they are able to submit their ad for review again.

Suspensions could be doled out to domains to temporarily stop their use of AdWords.

For repeat or serious offenders, accounts could be banned along with any related or future accounts.

Most likely, you’re already keeping tabs on AdWords metrics, particularly Quality Score. But now would be a good time to go through your campaigns with a fine-toothed comb in order to be sure you’re in compliance.


Security researchers at FireEye and SpamHaus have shut down a botnet called Grum whose servers were mainly in Panama, Russia and Ukraine. The people controlling the botnet quickly worked to move the command and control servers to secondary servers, but a major server in Panama was successfully shut down.

A researcher at FireEye named Atif Mushtaq said that more than 20,000 computers were still part of the botnet but that after shutting down Grum they would soon be ineffective.

Find out more details on this story at BBC News.

As many blogs that get decent traffic know, you often get a lot of spammy comments on your posts, even when you have a decent anti-spam plugin or two.  Well, there are other routes to go when you STILL get spam comments.  And I’ve found a nice one. Read more