How Google fought webspam in 2015


Google recently published a post setting out the various ways it fought webspam 2015. Google includes some interesting statistics showing the scale of those efforts, including trends, the scale of spam fighting efforts as well as how they worked with users to educate webmasters.

It is useful first to clarify what Google means by Webspam. Webspam refers to webmasters that use deceptive or manipulative behavior to raise their ranking artificially in Google Search. Webspam relates to a number of different techniques that Google specifically says to avoid, including:

  • Automatically generated content — This is content that has been created using automated tools, such as translated text without human review, or combining text from different websites without adding extra value.
  • Participating in link schemes — This refers to any links passing PageRank created with the intention of increasing a site’s ranking.
  • Creating pages with little or no original content — This includes pages that contain auto-generated content, doorway pages, low-quality blog posts, or thin affiliate websites.
  • Cloaking — This refers to showing different content or links to users than to the search engines.
  • Sneaky redirects — This relates to the act of sending visitors to different URLs to those they initially request. This includes mobile redirects.
  • Hidden text or links — This relates to using deceptive practices such as using white text or links on white background, or hiding text behind images in order manipulate search rankings.
  • Doorway pages — This involves using techniques that use multiple pages to target different regions or cities, or pages created to funnel users to the usable portions of your website. You can read more about these type of pages here.
  • Scraped content — This involves websites scraping content from other popular websites and posting them on their own. This includes websites that use auto spinners to change the content slightly or websites that fail to add any original content.
  • Participating in affiliate programs without adding sufficient value — There is a tendency for affiliate websites to reproduce product descriptions on mass, largely resulting in a lot of duplicate content that may appear hundreds of times around the web. Google wants to see original content that adds value.
  • Loading pages with irrelevant keywords — This refers to “keyword stuffing” and may include lists of keywords a website is looking to rank for such as blocks of texts listing cities. Other examples include repeating keywords so that the text appears unnatural.
  • Creating pages with malicious behavior, such as phishing or installing viruses, trojans, or other malware — You may not distribute content or software in such a way as to counter what a user might expect.
  • Abusing rich snippets markup — Using rich snippet markup in a deceptive way, or for a purpose that was not intended is not allowed.

2015 webspam trends

There has been a trend in 2015 for webmasters to abuse two methods of trying to manipulate the search engines:

  • Hacked websites — Google has seen an 180 percent increase in the number of websites being hacked.
  • Thin \ low-quality websites — There has been an increase in the number of websites using thin or other low-quality content. Google indicates these websites are often scraping content from other websites.

2015 spam-fighting efforts

The efforts to combat webspam were undertaken via Google’s webspam and search quality algorithms, along with their efforts to warn users about deceptive downloads or adverts. Here are some interesting statistics:

  • Google sent more than 4.3 million messages to webmasters in 2015 notifying them of manual actions they took on their website.
  • The number of websites that successfully rectified their website (i.e. after a successful reconsideration process) after being served with a manual action increased by 33 percent.

How Google Works With Users to Improve Search Quality

Google is actively liaising with the community to help and educate users on how to undertake legitimate SEO. It does this by allowing webmasters to report webspam, undertaking live events to help educate the community, as well as having active webmaster help forums to assist users with specific questions.

Here are some interesting statistics:

  • More than 400,000 spam reports were made in 2015. After prioritizing the reports, 80 percent of them were considered, and 65 percent of them were acted upon.
  • More than 200 live events were held, in a total of 17 different languages.
  • Many tens of thousands of questions were answered on the webmaster help forum, including over 35,000 by top contributors.

Overall, it is clear that Google takes webspam very seriously and is making significant efforts on helping webmasters in the community do SEO the right way.

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