Lenssen said he would halt the practice after being chastised by a wiki operator. “Pilipp, I have had to lock four of my wikis to control your trashy misuse of them,” Prometheus wrote. “For many people, the internet is a production tool. Converting portions of it to your own little SEO litterbox is arrogant conceit.”
Even if Lenssen does cease and desist, his demonstration – and the WebProNews article explaining the strategy – has likely put Wiki spam on the radar screen of those with less restraint, including spammers and disreputable SEO practitioners seeking to improve their Google PageRank. “Google measures its PageRank based on links from one site to another, plus the PageRank of the site linking to the other,” notes the WikiSpam page at Meatball Wiki. “Wikis are PageRank machines, being both massively linked and with hundreds or thousands of pages. These two factors – openness and PageRank – make wikis the ideal target for spam attacks.”
Posts in sandbox wikis are regularly deleted, but even the temporary presence of a link appears to boost a site’s Google ranking. Wiki maintainers can make their sites less attractive targets by using their robots.txt file to instruct the Googlebot and other search engine spiders to skip the sandbox pages. The same strategy could protect other areas of a Wiki as well – but only at the expense of the Wiki’s own Google placement. Other access control strategies have been outlined by the Wiki community.
The interest from SEO practitioners may well test whether Wiki’s core philosophy of openness is its greatest strength or an exploitable weakness.