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The way SEO works is as follows. You want the google page rank algorithm to put your page very high. One way to do that is to have other websites link to it. This works best, if the other websites are legitimate, important and popular so SE would be a good target. So you post a reasonable looking question on SE that contains a link to your website.

I suspect that this question and this one where created with this purpose (I have no proof, they just look that way to me).

Question: Should SE try to fight being used that way and if so, how?

The first linked question is marked as duplicate, but that doesn't change anything here because it still appears in regular searches. The questions would need to be closed to thwart their use as SEO.

  • Astroturfing - "the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organization... to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by grassroots participants. It is a practice intended to give the statements or organizations credibility by withholding information about the source's financial connection..." Happens sometimes at Stack Exchange – gnat Nov 29 '19 at 14:42
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Question: Should SE try to fight being used that way and if so, how?

It appears that doing so has already been prevented: The link in question (and I assume all links from questions), contains the follow attribute:

rel="nofollow noreferrer"

This should already indicate to search machines that this link should not change the ranking of the linked page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nofollow

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    I didn't know that. Looks like people thought about it and found much better solutions that I could come up with. – quarague Nov 29 '19 at 15:36
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    Setting those attributes is pretty much standard practice for any platform that allows users to post links, partly to foil attempts at SEO gaming - but also to prevent back-blow of low scoring links dragging your own page rank down. – HorusKol Nov 29 '19 at 19:17
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Posts should be self-contained, i.e. not depend on external links.

If it is dependent on the link, it should have some version of the relevant content edited into the question (which can also be done with images) or be closed. You probably want to keep the link for attribution.

If it's clearly just an attempt to spread the link (especially if the question isn't at all on topic), it should flagged as spam.

If the link isn't relevant at all, it should just be edited out. Although possibly not if the link is clearly spam but it looks like a legitimate question without the link. In that case you probably want to just leave a comment making the issue clear and flag it as spam. Or edit it out and use a custom flag to explain the situation.

Links here are nofollow, as noted in the other answer, so this isn't an issue for search engines. But you still don't want users visiting the question and clicking on the link if it's spam.


Regarding these examples, I'm not too suspicious about them, mostly because they come from established users who've both asked legitimate questions on other sites. If it weren't for that, I'd have been more inclined to say it might be spam, but those judgements aren't always easy to make and can be wrong (case in point).

In this case the image could just be edited into the question, although that might not be worth it when the question is closed (as that would bump it and might send it to review).

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