Keeping Free Hosting Free of SPAM
Free hosting services can be a great start for newbies in the online industry. No money invested with a chance to learn how hosting and setting up a website works. Unfortunately, anything free on the net is subjected to mass spam, and Google obviously knows that.
In the recent article Google posted they talk about free hosting services and provide some valuable advice on how to keep your free hosting website spam free and valuable for the users. Alternative is getting dragged down by the spam your users brought upon your service. Google stance is clear:
“If a free hosting service begins to show patterns of spam, we make a strong effort to be granular and tackle only spammy pages or sites. However, in some cases, when the spammers have pretty much taken over the free web hosting service or a large fraction of the service, we may be forced to take more decisive steps to protect our users and remove the entire free web hosting service from our search results.”
Some of the advice given by Google is rather classic and I don’t think it will have much weight on fighting spam, but some of the advice can be put to good use.
Although I am all for a clean TOS and abuse policy, having one and actively implementing it are two different things. Most sites have a clear abuse policy for everyone to see, and that is all great, but unless the webmasters themselves don’t act upon their own TOS no one will mind the clearly visible abuse policy as it means nothing.
Second advice is always recommended for any type of site, using CAPTCHAs or any other form of verification tools during sign-up that will lover the number of automatic sign-ups. This is not perfect, but it will lower the number of spam considerably.
Next advice boils down to manual upkeep, which is always needed. No matter if it is a free service, if you want a good service you need some moderators and a form of customer support. So going over the website hosted on your service should be mandatory in my opinion. If you neglect doing so you will soon have to fight off hundreds or thousands of spammy sites with with multiple redirections, massive ads, cloaking etc… and that will lead to an undesirable solution for you, getting left out of Google search.
Most valuable advice Google mentions in their post is going through the signup records. Just by looking at the records you can easily identify spam patterns, just like going through spam comments. So look for the number of requests that come from the same IP’s, user agents, short completion time and similar spam signed values. Keep in mind that not all of them are most likely spam, but certain patterns will emerge and with some investigation you will be able to eliminate spam considerably with this step.
The following advice is a great advice for any webmaster having a blog, ecommerce site or a hosting service, and that is to watch out for traffic spikes and identify the cause. Not to go much further, this can be beneficial for countless reasons, one of which is getting read of spam for new sites created on your hosting.
Spam sites can sometimes be known for malware, so checking that often is highly recommended. Google suggests using their Safe Browsing API to test websites on your hosting service.
These are all fine, but the last advice is something you should strive for, and that is logic and sanity. The example they used is perfect, if a Polish hosting service has hundreds of Japanese sites and you don’t find that to be suspicious, well, you deserve to be removed from the serp along with your service.