Working Together Against Blog Spam

Our job is to provide the most relevant and useful results to a user’s search query.

Sounds easy.  But, unfortunately there’s a powerful financial incentive for a small subset of people to try to manipulate the results so their sites come up to the top – at the expense of our customers.

Fighting this web spam is one of the harder parts of our job.  Spammers are very creative people who evolve their techniques over time.  Over the past year, being the newbie to the search engine block, we have had to discover and combat all of the techniques that have been developed over the past 5 years.  Now, finally, we get to move forward!

One thorny source of spam that we’ve seen is people stuffing blogs with comments that include links back to their sites.  We have taken some steps to combat this – but we really wanted to find a way to put bloggers back in control.

I was excited to wake up this morning to an email from my long-time friend and college roommate who is currently an engineer working on search at Google.  Don’t worry Paul – I won’t blog any outrageous stories about our time at Princeton. :-)

Paul told me that Google is planning on announcing support for a <rel=”nofollow”> tag on individual <A> links.  Any link with this tag will indicate to a crawler it is not necessarily approved by this page and shouldn’t be followed nor contribute weight for ranking. Our Search Champs suggested this and it has been a part of our plans since, we think it’s a great idea.

I quickly circulated this around our hallway and also to the MSN Spaces team – and we got quick agreement from both teams.  Over the coming weeks, our MSNBot crawler will start respecting this new tag, and sometime after that MSN Spaces will start to support this as well (I expect Mike Torres and MC will have more details – the team has already made investments to help prevent blog spam to begin with). Cheers to Yahoo! and Six Apart for also supporting this movement.

This should be a good thing for search customers, bloggers and webmasters. Let us know if you agree (or not) either in our comments or in our wiki. We’ll be listening and learning.

Ken Moss
General Manager, MSN Search Dev & Test