O’Reilly joins the search engine spam parade

You growled at the thought of The Stanford Daily advertising “diet pills” next to articles about their dangers.

You roared in outrage when WordPress let a search engine spammer onto wordpress.org.

So, how do you feel about this?

O’Reilly’s ONLamp.com site, home of tons of interesting articles on Linux/Apache/MySQL/Perl/Python/PHP over the years, now also features (at the bottom of the left-hand sidebar, under the “oh, but it’s related, really” headline “Travelling to a tech show?”) eight links to the sort of garbage hotel sites that make it utterly impossible to find any useful information about hotels on Google.

O’Reilly’s OSDir.com, where amusingly enough I was looking to see what had happened to Danny O’Brien’s To Evil! column, is brought to you by things like Cuban cigars, mortgage refinancing, Jack Daniels (no, I didn’t click to see what sort of scam involves wanting to be highly ranked for “Jack Daniels”), online degrees, and cheap hotels: basically, the same folks who are spamming your comments, minus the rape porn.

O’Reilly’s XML.com, a site I used to take very seriously, because of all the scary-smart people who write there? Brought to you by hotel spam, mortgage refinancing spam, and one of those “directories” that only exists to feed off confused searchers by sending them right back around through Google’s AdSense division when they arrive from a Google search.

How horribly low have we sunk, that I’m not willing to link to O’Reilly sites without a rel="nofollow", because they are a bunch of low-life search engine spammers? X-bloody-ML.com, something that I won’t touch without a nofollow condom? This just sucks.


Comment by Brian Turner #
2005-08-24 06:05:21

I’m curious why certain people think that the internet is the only advertising media where all advertising must be entirely within a narrow topic range?

Also, seems to presume that search engines don’t have automated ways in which to devalue such links.

Comment by Phil Ringnalda #
2005-08-24 07:36:15

I don’t know, maybe if you find those people you could ask them?

Rationalizing that search engines are perfectly capable of recognizing and discounting this particular form of spam makes for a rather different ethical dilemma, doesn’t it? Or is it perfectly okay to sell something that should be harmful, as long as it doesn’t actually work as intended?

Comment by Anonymous #
2005-08-29 11:24:19

The beef with the O’Reilly text ads is they appear to be a scheme to exploit O’Reilly’s high reputation to unnaturally boost other sites that would not be so boosted except for the exchange of money. The subject matter of the sites isn’t really what the search engines care about.

Fact of it is, most search engine spam is relevant, i.e. mortgage spam tends to target mortgage/finance queries, not travel queries. The trouble with spam is it’s pollution, it displaces better answers.

Comment by Dan #
2005-08-28 05:04:16

”and one of those ”directories” that only exists to feed off confused searchers by sending them right back around through Google’s AdSense division when they arrive from a Google search.”

WTF does that mean Phil? You make no sense.

I really think you need to explain this. It really makes no sense.

Comment by Phil Ringnalda #
2005-08-28 08:28:32

Well, do you find Tim’s description any easier to parse?

Another so-called Web Directory is indeed a directory, but the only content when you get to the bottom of each category is a set of Google Adsense advertisements for the category.

And when the AdSense ads are actually contextual for the whole set of breadcrumbs down to the category, plus some other scattered words, they aren’t even ads for the category, often as not.

Comment by Dan #
2005-08-28 17:25:59


Why can’t you answer the questions and not point out what Tim wrote? I looked at that site and I see adsense ads and lots of sites listed in that directory.

Are you blaming adsense for displaying inncorrect ads? I’m not sure what you are getting at.


Comment by Danny #
2005-08-30 15:16:19

Just curious to know if you think there’s significant difference in the blogosphere between notion of advertising in the commercial, buy-this and advertising in the ”turn toward”, look-at-this sense.

…and which applies to comments, and didn’t this use to be slashdot…

Comment by James #
2005-09-02 14:12:49

And now onlamp.com has those nasty javascript-added pseudo ”intellitxt” links that really annoy me elsewhere. Hmm, but you can disable it at http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/general/intellitxt.html

Comment by Phil Ringnalda #
2005-10-16 02:41:27

Posted for Ian Davis, since my comment form refuses to let him comment:

At the Web 2.0 conference tonight, Tim O’Reilly asked Omid Kordestani about this specific issue. He asked whether Google were indeed being evil by not doing more to eradicate sites whose sole purpose is to generate adsense revenue. He claimed he hadn’t been aware that Google had a problem with the types of links on the O’Reilly site but now that he was, what were Google doing about this issue?

The answer? Not much except some fluff about Google having focussed some energy on this in the past few quarters. Disappointing.

2005-08-21 07:42:46

I am not responsible for making Google better

Like the Stanford Daily and WordPress before, O’Reilly’s been called out for allowing a search-engine-spam network to place links on their network of sites. I’ve written about this before, and have thought about it since, and have decided that this so…

Trackback by Read/Write Web #
2005-08-21 15:15:17

Ads, Spam, Commercial use of RSS feeds

A bit of admin – just so you know, I’m testing out a new type of RSS advertising with Feedburner. I’m testing it because it’s pretty close to the type of RSS advertising I described in this post back in…

Trackback by Virtuelvis #
2005-08-22 02:33:50

O’Reilly joins the search engine spam parade

Is it ethical to sell your Google Rank for money? Are you more entitled to it because you are O’Reilly?

My single-word-answer for both is: *No!*

Trackback by Agylen #
2005-08-22 05:03:59

Friends don’t let friends spam

After WordPress and Syndic8, now it’s O’Reilly’s turn. While I can understand the small guys falling for this, it’s hard to think that a large publisher like O’Reilly would be so desperate for money to accept these kind o…

Trackback by rc3.org #
2005-08-22 08:53:10

Ain’t that a shame

Looks like O’Reilly has added its name to the list of companies whoring out their PageRank to search engine spammers. I expect better from them. By the way, don’t miss the comments on Phil’s post, inspired by the fact that…

Trackback by Geek News Central #
2005-08-23 03:34:47

GNC-2005-08-23 #93

Join me on the Computer Outlook Radio Talk Show this coming Wednesday at 5pm PST and also if you are…

Trackback by SFist #
2005-08-24 04:07:44

Get Ur Geek On

Well, Google is set to announce their Google Talk and Google Desktop v2.0 tomorrow — but folks have already been using Talk for a few hours now (and the client has been released). Was the leak to create ’buzz,’ mayhaps? Danah Boyd doesn’t call Google…

2005-08-24 09:56:09

O’reilly’s should hire an Ad Compliance Officer

[sigh] More SE pollution. Or at least that’s the allegation. There will be no “piling-on” in this post. And I think I’ve got a positive solution so please keep reading, but first some history for those new to this story.
Phil …

Trackback by Backup Brain #
2005-08-24 17:29:32

Are we spammers?

There’s been an interesting cross-blog conversation going on lately: Phil Ringnalda: O’Reilly joins the search engine spam parade Tim O’Reilly: Search Engine Spam? Shelley Powers: Who is gaming who? In the interest of full disclosure: we’re running the…

Trackback by kottke.org #
2005-08-25 08:43:08

These are the people in my (Web) neighborhood

In reaction to some ads of questionable value being placed on some of O’Reilly’s sites (response from Tim O’Reilly), Greg Yardley has written a thoughtful piece on selling PageRank called I am not responsible for making Google better: Google, Yahoo, Mi…

Trackback by ashusta's I.S. life #
2005-08-25 11:11:50

Ads for Bots

Content creators shouldn’t winge about revenue from ads. If they’re legitimately concerned with adverse impacts on user experience then they have a duty to themselves to evaluate advertisers more carefully, not to whine to the blogosphere.

Trackback by Microsiervos #
2005-08-27 14:47:30

Enlaces de texto publicitarios como spam

Las siguientes anotaciones son muy buenas, y mejor aún los comentarios – de lo mejorcito que he leído últimamente. Tal vez sea el mejor hilo temático del año. No son del todo recientes, pero es que las vi tarde. Durante…

Comment by Apple #
2006-01-05 10:46:08

I surfed to those O’Reilly sites mentioned but couldn’t find any links to spam sites. Did they remove those links?

Comment by Phil Ringnalda #
2006-01-05 20:06:29