Implications of search engine spam on the visibility of South African e-commerce Web sites

Mbikiwa, Fernie; Weideman, Melius

South African Journal of Information Management

Mbikiwa, F.N. & Weideman, M., 2006, ‘Implications of search engine spam on the visibility of South African e-commerce Web sites’, South African Journal of Information Management 8(4), December 2006, 14 pages.

Some research has been done regarding what is considered as spam. However, no evidence could be found of empirical work, which has included search engine spam and its effects on Web site visibility. The aim of this study was to determine the implications, if any, that spam has on e-commerce Web sites with respect to search engine indexing and rankings. Most search engine policies state that Web sites containing spam will not be indexed. The objective of this research was to determine the implications that search engine spam have on the visibility of e-commerce Web sites. It also aimed at determining whether search engines comply with their policies and exclude Web sites that do contain spam. From the literature, it was claimed that spam is often applied to distort search engine results, and that Web designers apply 'unethical' SEO practices with the sole purpose of achieving high rankings in search engines. However, from the empirical results, it was evident that a relatively small number of ecommerce Web site designers are using such spamming techniques. Of the e-commerce Web sites that were analysed, only 21,3% contained spam. This apparent contradiction could be ascribed to a number of factors. The Web sites inspected in this study were all South African e-commerce ventures. It could be that South African designers are not as acutely aware of the possible ways of spamming search engines. Furthermore, competition in the online world is possibly not quite as strong in South Africa compared to the American market, and it has not become necessary to compete for high search engine result placings at any cost, as it has in the USA and the UK.
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