Matt Cutts, Google’s head of search spam, answers a question about what it’s like to fight webspam in his latest Webmaster Help video where a users writes in to ask:
What is a day in the life of a search spam team member like? What is the evolution of decisions in terms of how they decide which aspects of the search algorithm to update? Will certain things within the algorithm never be considered for removal?
The webspam team consists of engineers and manual spam fighters, Matt explains a bit about both.
Manual spam fighting, which Matt has done a lot of, is both a proactive and reactive process. Upon receiving a spam report, or being alerted that someone is spamming Google, a manual spam fighter would then react to that. A large part of a spam fighter’s day is making sure spammers don’t infest the search results, they do this by seeking out and removing spammy content that is ranking relatively well.
Matt says the best spam fighters are the ones capable of detecting trends and moving into a proactive mode. Being proactive involves trying to figure out how certain spammers are ranking so highly, what loopholes they’re exploiting, and how to get to the root of the problem.
The average day of a spam fighting engineer, on the other hand, is spent coding and testing new ideas. For example, they’ll write up an algorithm designed to fight a particular type of spam and then run experiments to see how well it works and in what areas it needs to be improved.
As new ways to fight spam are developed, the spam fighting team then goes back and looks at what older algorithms are no longer needed. This is very challenging, Matt says, because with so much spam on the web the landscape is always changing and they’re constantly having to rearrange their priorities. When they look back at the end of the year at what they accomplished versus what they wanted to accomplish at the beginning of the year, it’s often very different.
There is no average day in the life of a spam fighter, Matt says, because something new is thrown at them all the time. They have to respond to complaints, attacks, and various feedback from users which makes every day a bit different. The webspam team takes a critical look at all feedback they get because if it’s affecting one user it may be affecting many, and if that’s the case they want to fix it.
For a full, in-depth explanation of the job of a spam fighter, please see Matt’s video below. Running at roughly 8 minutes in length, he goes into more detail than he usually he does in his videos so this is highly recommended viewing.