You’re likely familiar with the term “Spam” in the conext of the thousands of unwanted emails flooding your inbox each week (we’re all set on Viagra, thanks). And of course, there’s that delicious Hawaiian party meat.
However, there is one form of spam that all small business owners must be aware of and take measures to avoid being classified as: web spam.
According to Webopedia.com:
Webspam (also referred to search spam) is a phrase used to describe webpages that are designed to “spam Google search results” using SEOtactics that are against Google publishers guidelines. Pages that use webspam to improve search engine results page (SERP) rankings typically use black hat SEO tactics such as keyword stuffing or cloaking, the latter of which involves employing misleading redirects and/or doorway pages of websites.
These sites are usually full of weak content, poor design and a dizzying amount of ads. They try to manipulate search engines and take advantage of any loop holes in order to achieve a higher ranking.
Doesn’t sounds like your site? I suggest you keep reading. There are numerous ways your site can fall under the spam category without you knowing it. This means being dinged by Google, less traffic and little or no search engine visibility. You see, Google doesn’t appreciate spam if it’s intentional or not. If you own a small business, you might not have time to take care of your SEO and marketing. If this is the case, how do you know that the work being done is always legitimate? If you’re not outsourcing, you may still be jeopardizing your search rankings. Spamming is not always so black and white, there is a lot of grey area that you should be aware of.
In a recent article on hubspot.com, they discuss 8 qualities of a search engine spammer. To make sure you don’t fall into this category, you need to ask yourself the following question:
If you have concerns about your website being considered spammy, here is a list to review for yourself and/or with anyone doing SEO work for you. As you read through these items, ask yourself, “Do I or has anyone working on my website ever employed these practices? Does this describe my business — even if it’s wasn’t intentional?”
1) They Rarely Use Social
It’s a fact. Granted, there are people who are spammers in social media, too, but those people are usually a different type of spammer — their end goal is not to get their website ranking higher in search results. Spammers simply don’t dedicate the time to build relationships with people and, thus, are rarely found in social networks. Help to distinguish your website and marketing from web spam by building relationships online in social media with prospects and customers.
2) They Over-Optimize
The repetitive use of keywords in content, where they unnaturally appear word after word … after word (you know what I’m talking about) — that’s referred to as keyword stuffing or, more innocently, over-optimization. Call it what you will; it’s not a good practice either way. Most frequently, you’ll see repetitive keywords in the following areas: page titles, on-page copy, and in domain names/URLs. To prevent keyword stuffing, follow best practices for optimizing your content, and aim to write as naturally as you would speak.
3) They Don’t Focus on Content
Spammers don’t care about creating quality content — or content that is unique in any way, for that metter. In fact, spammy sites will often consist of stolen content, content repeated again and again, or content that has been pulled in via RSS feeds from other websites. Avoid this type of spammy behavior by making sure all the content you publish isunique and compelling.
4) They Stuff Their Sites With Ads
Spammers create the type of websites where more than 50% of the content on any given page is advertisements. Remember, the spammer’s goal is to make a lot of money, and running a ton of ads will help get them to that goal. Don’t risk looking like a spammy site. Make sure to dedicate the top half of your web pages with quality content and calls-to-action. Don’t waste valuable website real estate with third-party advertisements that add no value to your business or its users. Google is not a fan of excessive ads on websites, and they’ll ding you for it.
5) Their Sites Have Lots of Dead Ends, Pages Not Found, and Broken Links
For a spammer, maintaining a legitimate website requires too much upkeep that they just let pages expire and neglect to make necessary updates and changes. As a marketer, make a commitment to keeping your website fresh and up to date. It pays to do some housekeeping, so don’t let the cobwebs build up.
6) They Attract Lots of Low-Quality Inbound Links
Unfortunately, there is such a thing as bad, low-quality inbound links. The good news is, if you’ve only ever participated in white-hat SEO practices, you’re most likely in the clear. But if you’ve gone a little black hat in your day (buying inbound links for instance), this one’s a no-brainer. After all, who links to spam, except for spam? Remember: A great source of high-quality inbound links is high-quality content you create that naturally entices other websites to link back to it. Another great way to attract high-quality inbound links is through guest blogging, so leverage your networks to help build a stronger reputation and more powerful influence online. And if you have attracted some subpar inbound links in the past, consider using Google’s new Disavow tool to help clean up your online reputation.
7) They Own Lots of Domains or Microsites
Spammers are notorious for not only purchasing lots of domains, but also setting up site after site that consist of just one page each and never gets updated. Of course, there are some exceptions to this, but as a best practice, try to keep all your content on one primary, authoritative domain/website.
8) They Employ Other Traditionally Black-Hat Tactics
These tactics include things like doorway pages, text that matches the page’s background color (so the human eye can’t catch it, but search engines can index it), and the use of misspelled content and keywords intentionally used wrong just to rank. Hidden text, meta-tag stuffing, scraping other websites for content — it’s all bad. As a marketer, just don’t do it. You know it’s bad, and if you’re unsure of whether a particular practice is black hat, do some research, or ask an SEO expert. Conduct your own sniff tests, and if something isn’t up to snuff, then don’t do it.
Google wants to see that you’re writing quality content. They want to see unique and compelling content filled with videos, images, testimonials, etc. You’re content needs to be from you. It needs to be heartfelt and well thought out.
Next, you should base your optimization decisions first and foremost on what’s best for the visitors of your website. They’re the main consumers of your content, and they’re using search engines to find your work. Rather than focusing hard on specific tweaks (AKA “gaming the system”) to gain ranking positions in the organic results of search engines, focus instead on putting your site’s best foot forward. In other words, aim to please your ultimate consumers: your users, customers, and prospects … not search engines
Creating your website around your consumers needs will results in a product that your audience loves as well as search engines. You can’t lose.
If you suspect you have been penalized in search engines for spammy behavior, there are a few things you can check. Start with the following:
- Do you show up in the search results? You can start by simply doing a search for your site. Searching for your site with the following command (search:domain.com) will give you a sense of what’s indexed.
- Check your traffic metrics — volume and sources. Has your traffic remained the same or at least steadily increased? If so, that’s good. If, however, your traffic shows any sudden drop-offs without a rebound, it’s an indication you may have been dinged.
- What types of links come in to your website? Take a look at the type of inbound links you’ve attracted for your site. Do any of them look suspicious?
- Are you still generating leads? Traffic alone isn’t the only factor to consider. If you’ve stopped getting conversions and leads without changing much or without reducing the volume of content and offers you produce, I would encourage you to look into it further.
Use your website as a tool to communicate, engage, and build trust and authority. That’s all that Google expects of you. Web spammers, on the other hand, manipulate users and search engines, ultimately creating a less than optimal experience for them as a result. Don’t be that guy.
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Image source: wikipedia