SEO spam comments: can we do something?

For the past year or more, numerous map comments have been created, usually by accounts that do nothing other than create a single comment. These all look SEO spammy: they have a description written in that “fake news” style, some details, and invariably a link to the business’s web site. They are also usually in the wrong location … sometimes many suburbs away. Here are two examples:

I wouldn’t have a problem with them creating legitimate POIs, but the comments are annoying and obviously intended for SEO.

Apparently Wikipedia mitigates similar problems by setting a flag on all outbound links that signals to search engines that they should not factor the links into their ranking calculations. Does OpenStreetMap do this?

Also, assuming there are just a small number of spammers operating from a small number of IP addresses, could we IP ban them?

Edit: Unlinked examples.

I think the term link spam is more common, and I would have used the term marketing-speak (and your first example is actually rather toned down as marketing speak goes).

OSM does set the tag you mention (rel=nofollow), e.g.:

<br />Web: <a href="https://www.vaporREDACTED/" rel="nofollow">https://www.vaporREDACTED/</a></p>

It could possibly do better and include /note in along with most of the other database derived content, but notes won’t be crawled unless explicitly linked from outside (e.g. because you linked them from this forum :frowning: ) because the other robots.txt rules will prevent the links to the notes being found by the crawlers…

I’m not actually convinced that these notes are being added for SEO purposes. I think the notes layer looks very much like the business POI layer in other online maps, and they see it as end user content. They don’t always have any URLs included. The more sophisticated ones will actually be hoping that a mapper will add them to the map, although it doesn’t take much sophistication beyond that for them to actually map them themselves, and there are examples of this.

If people are adding them as link spam, their advertising executives are wasting their time, through incompetence.

If somebody sells a service adding spam links to maps and makes money doing so I wouldn’t call that person incompetent. Fraudulent, yes. Antisocial, yes. Scum of the earth, yes. Incompetent, no.

I would be less convinced if they consistently used the same username, but they generally create a new account for each note.

Nonetheless, if we already use rel=nofollow as you point out, then they can’t be gaining much directly and are little more than a nuisance. I will keep closing them if they’re at some arbitrary location, otherwise I might create the POIs.

That is not preventing search engines from indexing individual notes in the notes folder – 50% of results on the first page of are individual notes.

The purpose of nofollow is to ensure that the linked content does not (positively or negatively) affect the search merit of the site that provides the link. It does not prevent the page that contains the link from being indexed, and therefore found when searching for any of the words that have been stuffed into the note.

The proper way to attempt to keep notes out of web search results is to add Disallow: /note/ to – doing that would ensure not only that notes are no longer crawled, but will also ensure that notes that are already indexed are progressively deleted.