WhenU, the Adware firm, has been banished from Google and Yahoo search engine results after reportedly using a search engine spamming method known as cloaking. The search spamming violations were reported to Yahoo and Google by anti-spyware activist Ben Edelman, a Harvard PhD student.
Benjamin released a report which documented thirteen sites which were operating as a part of WhenU which use prohibited methods such as cloaking to manipulate search engine results.
Benjamin states on his blog:
“Some of these cloaking sites do offer information about WhenU, but their genuine information is interspersed with a mix of gibberish as well as with articles copied, without attribution of any kind, from the New York Times, c|net, and others. Meanwhile, most or all of the sites were registered with invalid whois data — most registered on the same day through the same registrar, but to five different names with five different gibberish email addresses in four states.
Sound too weird to be true? It turns out these behaviors are part of a practice called ‘search engine cloaking’ — designed to make search engines think a site is about one subject, when in fact the site redirects most visitors to totally different content. The situation is complicated, and the easiest way to understand it is to read my article, complete with HTTP transmission logs and annotated HTML code.
Meanwhile, Google’s response was swift: I notified Google of the cloaking infractions on Sunday, and WhenU’s sites were removed from Google by Wednesday. Try a Google search for ‘whenu’ and see for yourself: You’ll get critics’ sites and news coverage, but not www.whenu.com itself. ”
Avi Naider, WhenU’s CEO, blames an outside search optimization firm for the problems. Naider told ClickZ’s Janis Mara that WhenU learned of the issue Thursday and “instructed the outside firm to reverse their actions.”
“We were alerted to this issue today [Thursday] and immediately addressed it. Those Web sites have been taken down,” Naider said. “We anticipate being back up listed with the major search engines very soon.”
WhenU bundles with and installs itself through a variety of partner downloads including other software, MP3 players, screensavers, online games and shopping tools. It describes its contextual targeting solution as software examining “keywords, URLs and search terms currently in use on the consumer’s browser — without collecting or transmitting this data — and then select[ing and displaying] relevant and useful advertisements.” WhenU then serves advertising via pop ups, DHTML and other means that are argeted to sites a user is surfing on or search engine terms.