I think it’s fair to assume, that unless you’re one of the people sending it and producing it – spam sucks. While many of us have developed a filter that enables us to block it out, it just becomes background noise and only affects us when we end up on a spammy website and a spammy page that someone has spent a lot of time and effort on to manipulate Google’s rankings.

But not all spam, is spam. There’s SEO spam and poor spam.

SEO spam is where a small company may have innocently paid an SEO company/professional to help them rank their site – and rather than do actual SEO, they pump a site full of spammy blog comment links, directory submission and classic link wheel favourites to manipulate a site’s ranking before it eventually subsides and falls victim to a justified and deserved penalty from the algorithms.

The other type of spam, is naturally occurring and is down to a company just genuinely having a poor website. This can be either from neglect of not updating the website and maintaining best practice, or not following best practice with content and linking strategies.

“Quality Score” is important

A page with a low quality score might not necessarily be a spam page, it might just be a genuinely poor page. But if you create a page to deliberately deceive users and not to satisfy their search intent, you won’t score highly. I’m not talking about DA (Domain Authority) here, or your Trust Flow/Citation Flow score – but your quality score, as defined by the Search Quality Guidelines.

A lot of digital marketers look to metrics such as Moz’s domain authority as a replacement for Page Rank. The criteria that domain authority looks at isn’t the same as Page Rank, and isn’t a true reflection of a domains actual power. Having a powerful website (in terms of DA) doesn’t mean that it’s going to rank. You can point a PBN or spammy links at a domain and boosts it domain authority over a few weeks easily.

So what affects your quality score?

If your site is deceptive to users, your score will be lower

If you design your site to deceive users (or to try and trick the engines) rather than help them, you will get flagged as spam, simple as. Google in recent years has got very good at identifying false testimonials on products and company pages, or you’ve created pages that focus users to click on paid advertising links. These do not provide any user value and are deliberate.

Google also flags the below as spam:

  • Your website is deliberately trying to mimic another, or a well known brand’s site
  • You have pages that look like surveys, but in fact capture and steal user information such as passwords and banking details
  • You claim to offer independent reviews of products, but is in fact created to funnel traffic to those products through affiliate links. Google is also good at recognising ‘false page updates’, where the date is changed (e.g. from 2015 to 2016 or a small line of content being added to try and deceive the engine into thinking the page has ‘fresh content’)
  • Your site claims to have a celebrity endorsement or be the personal site of the celebrity

You use internal redirects and redirect chains

If you’re site is just full of landing pages that redirect a user to another page/site entirely in an attempt to con both users and Google, you’re spam.

Some webmasters used to earn some good money using 301s to redirect users down affiliate links, but this is thankfully dying out now. When Google or the other search engines crawl your website, you want all the URLs and links they find to resolve in 200 status codes.

Your site doesn’t have any real content

Pages that are thin, or have poor quality content as their main offering can be seen as spam by Google.

By poor quality, I mean content that has been “optimised for SEO” through the use of keyword stuffing. I’ve had conversations recently where SEO copywriters have spoken to me about ‘focus keywords’ for pages. For content to be truly SEO friendly, it needs to be user focused and of a high quality – not written specifically to target a certain keyword.

So what should I do?

If you want your site to rank, you need to have a good site, with good architecture and a good database – that has good technical SEO. Without this you’re competing in the SERPs with one hand tied behind your back.

With your content, unfortunately it is a marathon, not a sprint and the days of buying backlinks are dying out. Some SEOs will claim they still work and swear by them, but getting good links in 2017 and beyond comes from building your brand and outreaching great content.