Google Notifies Sprint Of Spam Penalty; Seeks Advice In Google Help Forums

google-spring-penaltyThe latest large brand to be hit with a user-generated content spam penalty notification is Sprint, the large US wireless communications company.

Similar to Mozilla’s penalty and BBC’s penalty, Sprint was penalized for user-generated content spam on a portion of their site that was open to anyone to post links and content.

Also similar to the BBC and Mozilla, Sprint went to the Google help forums to seek advice  because Google’s warning message itself doesn’t provide detailed information about what’s wrong. The employee wrote:

I received a message on 5/17/2013 that “Google has detected user-generated spam on your site.”  I have run queries against the site, but haven’t found the content referred to in the alert.

I have read Google’s documentation regarding how to prevent this in the future, but how do we find the issue we currently have in order to help us address this as quickly as possible?

Can Google send us some links or actual examples of the content Google found?

Google has previously said that publishers should turn to volunteers in the forums there for further advice, as we covered last month:

In this case, the current “Best Answer” suggested it was related to content in a community area:

I am pretty sure that were I put in charge of this for Sprint I would be seeking new employment.

I do not believe Google will provide you any examples, don’t know that for sure.

It is most likely going to be link drops like these

It might be that Google has only applied a “granular” penalty to a specific page or pages of the Sprint Community forum. If you remember, with Mozilla, Google only penalized a single page and with the BBC, Google only penalized a single article.

The issue still remains; it is hard for webmasters of large sites to pinpoint the problem area on their site. Even if webmaster help, without Google giving the webmaster the specific page with issues, they can spend weeks or months trying to figure out all the problems with their site.

Of course, I am sure Google wants webmasters to step back and review their whole site for spam loopholes, but not all webmasters and companies have budgets for such large audits.

That being said, Google has not yet directly responded to Sprint in regard to this webmaster notification. It is unclear if Google will respond or not.

Postscript: Google’s Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s Web spam team, has now posted in the thread:

Hi Kent, when you see a message like this, it’s a good idea to check around for various forums, bulletin boards, and community areas where users can leave comments. We typically send this message when we see a lot of spam in those areas. Rather than Google removing those pages from our index, it’s usually better if you can remove the pages on your side so that they don’t show up in other search engines either.

I just took a quick look; try doing a Google search like [ watch] to see some examples where spammers are posting a bunch of messages. I noticed that older pages with this sort of spam are mostly gone or removed–which is great. You might just look into some ways to try to catch the spam a little faster or see if there are some ways to make it a bit harder for the spammers to post a large amount of messages on the community pages.

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About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

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  • Jamie Anderson

    Suppose it’s only fair that the big boys get the same treatment as us little guys. I wonder who the next high profile victim of Google will be?

  • Deepti Gupta

    Really it is very difficult to keep track of it in large websites.

  • Simon

    This won’t affect Sprint’s earnings lol

  • lty83

    I’m sure Google will rush to the rescue of Sprint and have the penalty removed within days, as they do with all large corporations.

  • Josh

    Ah, no wonder my 4G has such horrible service on Sprint…

  • Taylor Toussaint

    If Google really want’s to improve the SERP’s then they should provide exact details or at least the exact page with the content violating the webmaster guidelines.

  • Putri Arisnawati

    I am lucky, my site is not large today.

  • Social Media Sutra

    So, when you grow bigger by user generated contents, it makes more sense to be extra watchful lest you hear from big daddy – Google, to watch-out.

    The very people who are provided a platform to share become the destroyer.

  • ToiletFlusher

    When will Lysis be banned from the Google Forums? I’m sick of seeing that guy show up in every post with nothing important to say.

  • Alan

    Granular penalty? When are the small websites going to get one of these “granular penalties?” Seems to be something they reserve for big branded sites. Once again it seems to be a very non-level playing field.

  • Peter Mutiso

    Tough times ahead for webmasters – especially those who encourage commentators without moderation

  • Peter Mutiso

    It can also affect the smaller sites

  • Putri Arisnawati

    akhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh danger…..

  • Putri Arisnawati

    I think he busy… so he doesn’t have much time… hahahaha

  • Raviraj

    It makes a hectic task for webmaster’s to analyze and figure out the exact page which is causing the problem in large websites.

  • Guest

    I have see certain websites that have been extremely watchful about their comments. One such example is
    It is a political forum for Pakistanis and recently when I met the owner of the website, I was shocked to know when he told that he has moderated around 2 million comments during the last two years while rest were removed from the forum. It really is a hectic job, but those going carefully, in the end, get the benefits.

  • or zilberman

    It seems like google is trying to catch high authority sites and fight somr spam through them. They are aware of the abuae made by forum profiles, signature links and just plain posts link and they try to fight it from the source untill all websites will put rel nofollow on all user generated content.

    They are targeting big authority and publicity websites because they know those websites are specially targeted by blackhatters for those valued links and also, every hit on such website is getting to all webmastrrs out there. If they would just hit a pr 8 blog it will bot have the same reach and also the authority issue of course.

  • enthrense

    I’m sure Google will rush to the
    rescue of Sprint and have the penalty removed within days, as they do
    with all large corporations.

    Protein diät

  • angel femmy

    I applaud the changes that will be made google, towards a better change it legitimate. however, our expectation of a change will do is we want to google there are no losers. I believe google has a good policy to make a difference, so please do not let it interfere with the performance of our changes.

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