This is the final installment in the Google Quality Rater Guidelines series.
What makes spam, SPAM? We all know that spam is bad; it clogs up the internet, making it harder to find the truly valuable sites. You don’t want your website to be labeled as spam, and to do that, you need to know what Google uses as criteria for determining which pages are spammy, and which ones are not.
According to Google, a page should be labeled as spam if it was created using deceptive techniques. In other words, no matter how useful your website is, if you’re trying to trick search engines, your page is still spam.
What makes a website spammy? Google lists four things:
- Keyword Stuffing. Using keywords too many times, or purposefully using the wrong (misleading) keywords counts as spam. Your URL also counts towards this; don’t fill it full of keywords. Use a natural-sounding URL that actually matches what your webpage is about.
- Sneaky redirects. Search engines see one page, traffic is redirected (without notice) to a second page. The first page is for SEO purposes, designed to impress search engines and improve rank on the SERPs. The second is what actual users will see. This only counts as spam when it’s done with the intent of tricking the user or search engine; a website that redirects to a newer version of the website, for example, is fine.
- 100% Frame with Java cloaking. It’s not hard to create a webpage with two areas, the first being the visible area and the second (where all of the SEO is) hiding behind the first. Users won’t notice the difference. A Google rater will, and the page will be marked as spam.
If you’re familiar with Black Hat SEO, these things should all look pretty familiar; these are four very popular techniques use by black hats to improve ratings. They all work, extremely well, until you get caught and labeled as spam.You’ll very quickly lose your rank, and may have to fix your site before Google will even include it in its index again.
Google lists one reason why a website would use spam to improve their rank: profit. Most of these pages have an abundance PPC ads (earning money for the site’s owner) or affiliate links. This isn’t always the case; sometimes spam techniques are used by people who just want their sites to rank higher, or by questionable SEO companies trying to get fast results.
When it comes to PPC ads and affiliate sites, Google does make a distinction between websites that are helpful (useful) to users and those that exist just to make money, without offering any real value. Also, having unique, high-quality content is essential. Unique content (not copied from another source) is the key to an income-earning site being marked as useful or as spam.
If a website exists purely for the financial benefit (through affiliate sales or paid advertising), it’s probably spam. If a website uses cloaking and other black hat SEO techniques to attract higher search rankings, it’s going to be treated as spam.
Throughout the entire guidelines, Google’s focus is on user experience. The top websites for any search should be the most helpful sites on that topic. Google’s many algorithm changes and updates are designed to push the most useful pages for any given query towards the top, and push the irrelevant pages towards the bottom of their search result pages. In that aspect, there was really nothing new in the guidelines; put the user first, always, and your site will probably do very well.