Spam … the word has never been associated with anything all that tasteful. In the past, people knew spam as a precooked, canned meat made from pork and ham and some other stuff that garnered it a rather dubious reputation. Poor spam … how it was besieged with ‘mystery meat’ jokes about it showing up in kitchens and school cafeterias all over the country. Today, of course, spam is more associated with unwanted electronic messaging that internet users get bombarded with by the dozens or hundreds daily. Spam is what we now know as those ads that just don’t go away. So, what exactly is spam? How did it get its name? And what are the different types?
What is spam?
You may not know this, but in the world of electronics, the term ‘spam’ came from a sketch performed on Monty Python’s Flying Circus (a British show featuring a renowned comedy troupe). The sketch features two customers seated in a ‘greasy spoon’ diner ordering breakfast off a menu that includes the meat Spam in just about every menu item. The couple could not avoid it and, so, because of their superfluous and unrelenting nature, electronic ads became known as ‘spam.’ And that’s why spam is now synonymous with the meat that kept showing up in every dish in that Monty Python breakfast cafe.
The fact is that electronic spam sites are just as unrelenting in their attempts to rise to the top of internet search results. They use techniques that repeat key words over and over. They purchase links that embed invisible text onto the screen, abusing media and its searches. This abusive process results in the burying of relevant websites, making legitimate web owners’ pages more difficult to locate.
Types of spam
There are so many different types of spam, and new types seem to be popping up every day. Below are some of the most prolific types of spam currently being used.
Still one of the most prevalent types of spam comes through unsolicited bulk email (UBE) or unsolicited commercial email (UCE). This type of spam uses email messages typically with commercial content in bulk quantities to recipients chosen indiscriminately. Reportedly, spam sent through emails comprises upwards of 80 percent of all the email in the world.
Cloaking and redirects
Cloaking happens when a website appears to be displaying different content to human users than it does to a search engine reading the site. This type of spam is typically implemented in order to improve a website’s ranking. It misleads search engines into thinking the content is more relevant to a search than it really is. That’s why human users see it differently than the search engine robots do. Additionally, spammers often will use redirects in emails in order to send a recipient to other websites that contain no relevant information to their search before they actually reach their destination. These help spammers hide or cloak data, meaning spam filters will not classify them as unwanted.
Hidden text and keyword stuffing
Keyword stuffing is actually considered to be unethical in the world of search techniques. This is the process of loading a web page with repetitive key words in order to obtain top search engine visibility and rankings with particular words or phrases that will be used in searches. Hidden text often positions text behind images, thereby placing the text out of view of visitors. These types of spam are often easily detected by providers and given poor rankings to pages that employ such techniques. These types of spam are not to be confused with search engine optimization, or SEO. This is the process of affecting a website’s visibility by means of natural or unpaid search results. SEO experts seek to optimize search results in order to bring the most relevant information to users at all times.
Hacked websites and malware
Many times spam is created when websites are hacked by a third party in order to display ad links or content. Malicious software, or ‘malware,’ is a form of computer disruption performed by hackers to gather personal information or gain access to such. This type of spamming poses threats that can harm users’ computers and their data, leaving them vulnerable to viruses that can delete information and cause other serious hazards. It is considered hostile because it can lead to crimes such as identity theft, which is often its original purpose.
Parked domains are considered ‘placeholders’ in the world of the internet. What often happens with domain names is that users purchase them, but never use them or they take long periods of time to actually put any information on them. Not all search engine providers consider parked domains to be spam, but Google has recently come out calling it such. The reason for this is because they contain little or no relevant information, rendering them useless to users who are trying to perform web searches.
Unnatural links to or from a site
These are deceptive links that either point to a link or manipulate outbound links. They are often considered the result of buying links that pass algorithms used by search providers that rank websites according to relevance in search engine results.
Search engines such as Google and Yahoo have been aggressively fighting spam for years. Their algorithms are successful in addressing most spam automatically, and what these don’t identify as spam, their staff can often manually prevent. Though spam continues to be a negative presence on the internet, SEO experts and digital marketing strategists work to counteract this nuisance by optimizing data that are relevant and valuable to internet users.