Inspired by forum discussions, I tweeted about Google’s current approach to very spammy free hosts. I was surprised about the buzz the tweet created. In my opinion Barry Schwartz summarized the situation accurately. Google currently reserves the right to take action on free hosts that seem to be entirely spammy in order to protect the quality of it’s index and their users. From what I’ve seen, tackling almost entirely spammy free hosts happens rather rarely and personally I can only recall a handful of instances. I also think this approach makes a lot of sense: for example imagine a bucket full of bad apples, with just one or two really juicy ones — would you still feel comfortable eating any of these? I don’t think I would. I think the message is not new; in fact members of the webspam team have been saying this on several occasions, for example numerous times during conferences. While this policy is not new its effects might be a bit more noticeable on some webmasters’ radars lately.
Reading through webmasters’ recent reactions to my tweet, I’ve seen concerns over this policy affecting legitimate, quality sites. I think most webmasters running quality sites who raised their concerns have no reasons to fret. Of course, choosing a quality host is important but I don’t think that every webmaster needs to use a dedicated server. There are plenty of quality hosting services and free hosts alike. Why not look them up in Google? Alternatively, you can also ask your fellow webmasters for recommendations in the many webmaster forums, like the Google Webmaster Help Forum. I hear WordPress and Blogger are quite popular, but there are plenty more quality free hosting services on the web. One tip I will give you when you are deciding on a hosting services, is to check how they are doing in the Google Index by performing a search using the site: operator to see what is indexed on this particular host. Now, this is my 2 cents on the topic of spammy free hosts. Matt Cutts and John Mueller tuned in on this topic, too. I think both contributions are an interesting read. If you would like to share your opinion, please feel free to comment.
Update: I’ve been asked if there was a chance that Google’s current approach to very spammy free hosts may be applied to top level domains like .biz or .info. Since these are top level domains, not free hosting services, I don’t see how this policy was applicable. Another webmaster asked if there was a short term remedy for free hosting service owners affected by the policy. I’d say, if spam control slipped to the extent that the entire free host had to be removed from Google search, there’s probably no imminent solution for the problem but I’d strongly recommend to read my post on reconsideration requests.