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Why does Google eat the spam some webmasters are giving it?

Posted by drew on May 4, 2014, 6 p.m.

Recently, I’ve been reading several articles about spammy sites that are using black hat (or at the very least grey hat) SEO techniques, and Google seems to be rewarding them. It’s instances like this that make SEOs like me want to rip my hair out. Fusionbox has always been a strong practitioner of white hat SEO in Denver. Why do I spend time being white hat when my sites will be outranked by spammers anyway?
 

No-spam

Let’s look at some examples that have come to my attention. Mark Jackson of Vizion Interactive published an article in Search Engine Watch a few weeks ago in which he called out MainStreetHost.com for ranking first for [search engine optimization companies]. Some digging revealed that two thirds of MainStreetHost.com’s backlinks use the anchor text “affordable seo” or “seo services.” That amount of keyword targeted anchor text is usually enough to raise some penguin-related suspicions from Google.
 
Moreover, these links aren’t even from quality sites, as it looks like MainStreetHost.com is employing a lot of comment spamming techniques on foreign blogs. While Mark has gotten some criticism for pointing the finger at another company by name, I understand why he did it. Black hat SEO companies give our entire industry a bad name (especially when Google somehow rewards them).
 
A lot of people already think of SEO as a kind of “snake oil” peddled by slick salesmen, and when Google defies its own guidelines, ranking black hat companies over white hat companies, it just further discredits the work that we do. Sites like MainStreetHost.com encourage other SEOs to start using black hat techniques for themselves and for their clients, which reduces the overall user experience of the search engine.
 
Brent Payne of Loud Interactive also wrote recently about Google giving positive ranks to spammy sites. His article on Search Engine Land focuses specifically on the online couponing industry, where he did some research into keywords like [nordstrom coupons]. Brent takes issue mainly with SBWire.com, which is filled with grammatically incorrect, keyword stuffed content. Here is a sample of the content he pointed out in the article:
 
Nordstrom promo code helps one to receive up to 30 per cent of discount on all branded clothing and electronic items. Moreover customer get free shipping on every purchase which acts like a cherry on the cake. Online coupons are specifically designed for price conscious customers who try to save money on every shopping done.”
 
Content like this violates Google’s guidelines on quality content. Usually, this kind of site is penalized by the panda algorithm update, but once again, Google didn’t seem to catch this spam in time (at least in time for Brent to write that article). It is worth noting that at the time of my writing, SBWire.com no longer seems to be ranking for the query [nordstrom coupons], and a quick search with SEMrush shows that the site is only ranking for 3 common keyword phrases, none of which are in the coupon realm.
 
I’m not sure if this is a result of Google taking action and removing the spammy content from the index or if SBWire.com removed that content themselves. In any case, the principle still stands that, sometimes, Google doesn’t do a very good job of keeping spammy sites out of the search results. This is always frustrating to white hat SEOs, and it hits home when I find spammy sites outranking my own sites or those of my clients.
 
I have personally seen spam blogging and keyword stuffing get sites ranked #1 for competitive keywords. This is, of course, why people are so attracted to the black hat techniques. If they never worked, no one would do these things. As members of the SEO industry, however, I think we have an obligation to help police search engine content, encourage webmasters to practice ethical behaviors, and ultimately increase the experience for the end user of a search engine.


If you’re curious about white hat SEO vs. black hat SEO, contact Fusionbox, and we’ll have a chat about it.