Web spam. Search engine spam? What is it? It is one of those concepts that everyone seems to believe that they know, and hate, but no one really can define it. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, as they say. One man’s web spam is another man’s useful information. And for those who practice SEO where is the line between putting your best foot forward, and actively spamming Google?
By Jason McDonald
Senior SEO Instructor – JM Internet Group
Posted: January 24, 2011
In a recent Google post on Search Engine Spam, Google engineer Matt Cutts claims that the search engine giant has improved its search quality vs. web spam. Cutts has a very very hard job at Google: combatting web spam. But what is web spam? Beyond obvious hacked websites and strange redirects, the devil with search engine spam is in the details. What to one person may appear to be web spam, may to another be a good search result.
Be that as it may, Google is wary of spammy websites, and you as an SEO practioner or company should be concerned with playing by Google’s rules. There is a difference between actively spamming Google and simply putting your best SEO foot forward through proper use of keywords and HTML tags like the TITLE or META DESCRIPTION tags.
Most sites I work with are commercial sites. They have something to sell, and they do not have the luxury of university academics or Google engineers who have nice fat salaries upon which they can pontificate about the evils of crass capitalism on Google!
Academics and engineers, God bless them. But both groups tend to think that marketing, commercialism, sales, capitalism, making a dollar, all of that – are bad things. So they tend to confuse commercial speech or commercially-based SEO efforts as ‘web spam.’ Obviously most web spam IS commercial speech but that does not mean that ALL commercial speech is webspam. Nor does it mean that companies that deploy SEO are engaging in Webspam.
In fact, for many searches – think of, personal injury attorney, best digital camera, herbal cure for a hangover, what searchers often want IS a commercial product. So the rough and tumble competition of sites to get to the top of Google’s organic searches is OK. In fact, no one really wants to read an academic paper on Wikipedia or elsewhere about their hangover: they want a cure, now.
Matt Cutts is clearly a hard-working engineer, and there are many great academics. But – speaking as someone with a Ph.D. – the academic / engineering influence over the Internet can be a bit much at times. The arrogance of the Wikipedia staff, for example, is one of the worst examples of this weird pseudo-communist culture that gets going on the Internet.
Putting your best SEO foot forward is not, I would argue, web spam. Identifying your target keywords, placing those keywords inside your key tags such as the TITLE tag, and writing keyword-heavy, dense Google-friendly prose – why, those are just best practices.
Ultimately, you are trying to attract qualified customers of your products and/or services. Is that webspam? Is that search engine spam? I don’t think so, and I hope Cutts and Google don’t throw the baby out with the basket here. Commercial speech and commercial sites do have their place on Google, and shouldn’t be confined just to AdWords.