The world wide web is awash with spammy content and spammy websites. That’s hardly a revelation, and if there is one thing nearly everyone can agree on, it is that we hate spam in all of its myriad forms.
Still, however much we may hate it, we have all pretty much resigned ourselves to accepting spam as a normal, if irritating, part of life on the internet. But webmasters and online users aren’t alone in their dislike of spam, search engines hate it just as much.
With the introduction of Google’s Panda and Penguin updates, the search engine giant has made it abundantly clear that it is taking measures to protect its users from spammy websites and poor links. In theory, this is good news, and will hopefully result in the disappearance of many spammy websites.
In practice, it means that many innocent websites are likely to get mistaken as spam due to poor site design and clumsy SEO strategies.
Now, more than ever, webmasters need to review their sites and evaluate them with an eye toward what Google considers spam. Let’s look at a few topics webmasters need to address to keep their sites form being mistaken for spam.
The driving force behind a quality website that continues to rank well in SERPs is original content. Spammers don’t focus on creating quality content for their sites, and they have no interest in building an ongoing relationship with an audience. When spammers publish, their content is likely to be stolen from other websites, or simply a series of disconnected articles designed to game the search engine algorithms.
To avoid being mistaken for a spammy website, make it a priority to publish valuable, authoritative, content on a regular basis, and remove any older blog posts that may fail to pass the spam filters. Otherwise, you must take the time to re-visit old blog posts and give them a fresh set of eyes and make sure they’re not in violation of Panda. One bad post has the potential to take down your entire site’s value.
We’ve all encountered overly optimized web pages, where every other word is a keyword. Keyword stuffing is one of the cardinal sins of web spammers, and Google’s search engine algorithms have become sophisticated enough to recognize when a block of text is merely a vehicle for keywords and search terms, and is one of the triggers in their recent Hummingbird update.
Repeatedly using keywords in page titles, domain names, URLs, and in on-page copy will get your site dinged by Google. Be judicious in your use of keywords, and deploy them carefully. Above all, just be conversational in your blog posts.
Spammers rarely use social media to promote their websites. They are not interested in building relationships with a customer base, and are simply not going to spend the time to connect with the public via a prominent social media platform. Google judges websites and online businesses with social signals to be of higher value than those sites that exist in isolation. If social media doesn’t play a part in your SEO strategies, it should. At the most basic level, make sure you have social sharing buttons on your blog pages.
Broken Links and Dead Ends
A well maintained website is an indication of quality, and tells Google that the site is active, and that its administrators are interested in providing value to the end user. Broken links, dead ends, and ‘page not found’ errors are typical of spammy sites, and are red flags for Google’s spam filters.
To avoid having your site mistaken for spam, it is important to regularly evaluate your sites, taking any necessary steps to keep them up to date and free of broken links and 404 errors. The best way is to use Screaming Frog to crawl your site. The free version has a 500 page max and should be enough for most small business sites.
The spammer’s goal is to make a lot of money quickly, and to do that they stuff their websites with advertising. It is not unusual for a spammy website to devote more than half of a given web-page’s content to ads. To avoid looking like a spammy site, keep any paid advertising to a minimum.
Dedicate the bulk of your web pages to quality content, and avoid giving prime website real estate to third party ads that bring little or no value to your site. Most recently, Google has released 3 updates to their “top heavy” update targeting ad placement.
Low Quality Inbound Links
Link building makes the internet go round, but low quality links can send the wrong signal and can get your website flagged as spam. We should all know this by now. If you have been careful, and have based your link building strategies around creating high quality content that attracts links from reputable sites, chances are you’re in good shape.
If you do find that your site has some undesirable inbound links, use start a removal process of these links immediately before they can hurt your online reputation. However, chances are they already hurt you and you need to catch up!
Spammy websites will never be totally eliminated, and Google and their search engine competitors will continue to devise new techniques to identify, and penalize, spam filled websites.
Whenever the fight against spam escalates, innocent websites run the risk of getting caught in the crossfire. But by maintaining a quality website, and avoiding the pitfalls outlined above, webmasters can ensure that their websites are never mistaken for that old enemy – spam.