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Google's pointers on countering Web spam

Google's Matt Cutts offered the Web 2.0 Expo audience some tips to cut down on Web spam, plus a plug for a Google service that can help.

SAN FRANCISCO--It's no secret that spam now pollutes Web sites as well as e-mail in-boxes. But Web site operators can take actions to combat it, a Google expert in the area said Friday.

Matt Cutts, Google's lead engineer for combating Web spam, at the Web 2.0 Expo
Matt Cutts, Google's lead engineer for combating Web spam, at the Web 2.0 Expo Stephen Shankland/CNET Networks

Matt Cutts, head of Google's Webspam team and an engineer who's been working on the problem for eight years, offered some tips about combating it during a speech at the Web 2.0 Expo here.

"Spammers are human," Cutts said. "You have the power to raise their blood pressure. Make them spend more time and effort...If spammer gets frustrated, he's more likely to look for someone easier."

How? Forthwith, some tips for those who manage their own or others' Web sites.

• Use captcha systems to make sure real people, not bots, are commenting on your site. He uses a simple math puzzle--what's 2 + 2?--but he also likes KittenAuth, which makes people identify kitten photos.

One blogger merely requires people to type the word "orange" into a field. "The vast majority of bots will never do that," Cutts said.

• Reconfigure software settings after you've installed it. A little modification of various settings will throw bots off the scent. "If you can off the beaten path, away from default software installations, you'll save yourself a ton of grief," he said.

• Employ systems that rank people by trust and reputation. For example, eBay shows how long a person has been a member and how satisfied others are with transactions with that person.

• Don't be afraid of legitimate purveyors of search-engine optimization services. "SEO is not spam. Google does not hate SEO," Cutts said. "There are plenty of white-hat SEO (companies) who can help you out."

Registering your Web site at Google's Webmaster Central site can help find bogus search-engine optimization tricks others may use on your site, such as keywords written in white text on white backgrounds, he added.