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Will Splogs Kill .INFO Domains?

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 websites, 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 websites, 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 [website 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.

By Andrew Allemann, Domain Name Blogger
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Related topics: DNS, Domain Names, Spam, Web
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Re: Will Splogs Kill .INFO Domains? Daniel R. Tobias  –  Aug 26, 2006 7:52 AM PST

I have several sites in subdomains of dan.info, such as domains.dan.info, and they seem to be well-ranked in search engines under relevant queries.

Re: Will Splogs Kill .INFO Domains? Paul Tattersfield  –  Aug 27, 2006 8:55 AM PST

A search of the engines for 'Spain'

A .info site is No 3 out of 875,000,000 pages
http://search.yahoo.com/search?p=spain

A .info site is No 1 out of 54,567,840 pages
http://search.msn.com/results.aspx?q=spain

Re: Will Splogs Kill .INFO Domains? DomainNameWire  –  Aug 27, 2006 9:16 AM PST

Guys, noticed what I said:

It would be unfortunate for search engines to start discounting a site’s rank because of its domain extension.

So I don't understand why you are taking time to point out that many .info domains are ranked well now.  I have several .info domains that are ranked well. 

The point is that if these issues continue we might start seeing search engines discount the domain.  They might start by discounting the value of links from .info domains.  This isn't a stretch, since many search engines give bonus value to links from .edu domains.

Re: Will Splogs Kill .INFO Domains? Suresh Ramasubramanian  –  Aug 27, 2006 5:37 PM PST

Googlespamming is getting to be a nuisance - but .biz and .info are already widely enough abused by email spammers that finding those in a URL, in email, tends to get that email a fairly high score in spamassassin.  Or at least with some filters, an outright block on the message.

Re: Will Splogs Kill .INFO Domains? Paul Tattersfield  –  Aug 27, 2006 5:42 PM PST

This isn’t a stretch, since many search engines give bonus value to links from .edu domains.

is a common fallacy.

The Engines are agnostic towards the .TLD part of incoming links.

Re: Will Splogs Kill .INFO Domains? DomainNameWire  –  Aug 27, 2006 6:36 PM PST

This isn’t a stretch, since many search engines give bonus value to links from .edu domains.
is a common fallacy.

The Engines are agnostic towards the .TLD part of incoming links.

This isn't a fallacy.  Several search engines give higher weight to .edu tlds.  This has played a larger part in rankings as search engines have tried to counterattack people buying links.

Re: Will Splogs Kill .INFO Domains? Paul Tattersfield  –  Aug 28, 2006 3:49 PM PST

Representives from the major engines have stately publically that they do not weight on TLD.

In our tests we have not seen any weighting on the TLD in the link. What matters is the content at the end of the link.

Re: Will Splogs Kill .INFO Domains? DomainNameWire  –  Aug 28, 2006 5:49 PM PST

gpmgroup.com, that's possible.  I'm going on what employees of several search engines have told me, but I guess it's not entirely relevant to the discussion.

Re: Will Splogs Kill .INFO Domains? John Berryhill  –  Sep 01, 2006 10:10 AM PST

The registrar Registerfly has an interesting twist on this practice.

They register hundreds of .info domain names for splogging, and instead of using fictitious whois data, they use the actual contact data of people with whom they have had any of the multiple reported problems with Registerfly generally.  These names include cybersquatted domain names containing famous trademarks, among other things.

I'd be interested in hearing from anyone who is tracking .info splogging and who may have noticed large numbers of splogged .info names registered via Registerfly.

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