Most elaborate spam site of the month

by Maria on September 13, 2006

I thought I’d lost the ability to be shocked and awed by spammers’ ability to construct useless spam sites full of spammy spam. A google search for “learning and development consultancy” yields a top of the page result as follows:

“Learning and Development – consultancy and services from …
Performance By Design provides consultancy on how to increase the benefits of learning in organisations and enhance management development. – 38k”

Plausible tagline, plausible blurb, plausible url. But when you get there, it’s a bunch of advertising links for curtains, drapes and after-dinner speeches.

It looks like these people aren’t just busy gaming search engines for the top spot, but are putting significant effort into appearing to Internet users to be content-rich, legitimate sites. And yes, I do believe it is illegitimate to fool users into thinking they’ll find something relevant and useful when they click through, and not a page full of third party advertising, however ‘relevant’ it may be. (Parked domain monetization was a hot topic at a recent ICANN meeting. I wrote a long MBA paper about this issue a while back, and found these two papers on search engine gaming absolutely fascinating. And my colleague Dave Piscitello has rather firm views on the topic.)



tom s. 09.13.06 at 7:56 am

I have noticed a couple of similar results of searches recently, although usually further down the list. For me, the big question is the extent to which Google’s astonishing revenue numbers are based on click fraud from this kind of site, and the extent to which they are real. My cynical guess is that quite a few of Google’s dollars come from sites “full of spammy spam”. I don’t know whether to hope I am right or not.


Boo 09.13.06 at 8:30 am

The reason it ranks highly is that it used to be a legitimate site, as can be seen from the Google cache.

This is not an example of “putting significant effort into appearing to Internet users to be content-rich, legitimate sites.” It is just monetizing an expired domain. The next time Google spiders the site and reindexes it will drop.

Tom S., you are using the term “click fraud” incorrectly here. Moreover, click fraud has little effect on Google’s revenue. Advertisers evaluate their investment based on overall returns, not on individual clicks. If Google were able to eliminate click fraud, it would just increase per-click costs and advertisers would wind up paying the same overall costs for fewer clicks.


Barry 09.13.06 at 8:43 am

I abandoned Froogle due to outright fraud on the parts of many merchants. I found that, no matter what the phrase typed in the search box, a large number of sites would advertise themselves as selling that item, even if they didn’t.


Maria 09.13.06 at 9:08 am

Duh! Thanks, boo.


John Emerson 09.13.06 at 12:22 pm

My own old url, which happens to be my name (johnjemerson[.com]), goes mostly to a golden showers porn site, but partly to some motorcycle parts sites.


luc 09.13.06 at 12:27 pm

The next time Google spiders the site and reindexes it will drop.

Yes, but in the mean time Google earn their money with this practice, since the adverts on that page are all from Google. Not exactly third party ads there.

What surprises me it the sheep like acceptance of the internet activities of these companies. Even by adding two or three lines to your host file you’ll never have to see a Google ad again.
Shaping your own internet reality is far more effective than waiting for a consensus about what’s right and wrong, and having that enforced.

The phrase should be “who’s fooling who” when you think that Google is just a nice search engine. It is a nice search engine, but it is also a company that makes money from these dubious activities.

Don’t you find it rather odd that people write extensive scientific articles about how to prevent these spam sites from contaminating search results, while at the same time people fail to notice the most obvious method, namely calling the advertising department and using their database? Chinese walls are fine and well, but Google remains one company.


bi 09.13.06 at 12:55 pm

Google has a page specially for reporting sites which engage in googlespamming. I’ve no idea how well it works though — you can tell them about the page, but whether they’ll take any action is another matter.


luc 09.13.06 at 5:31 pm


If you’d fill out that page you would be complaining about Google googlespamming Google.

The page Maria complains about is genererated by Google as Google is active in the business of domain name parking. See

The ads are related to recent use of Google. I get for example a local Dutch company I googled, Maria get things about curtains and drapes.

The “performance by design” people let their domain go, and someone (, used Google’s domain name parking service to earn a few bucks.

I’m paranoid, so I don’t see anything out of the ordinary in this, but apparently Maria thinks better of internet people, and is still shocked by these things.

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