Google SEO & Search Engine Marketing Services

Keyword Stuffing & Link Spam Will Make Google Love You! What Are Google Doing?

The new features Google introduce have been coming thick and fast, previews is live in the UK now, does nothing from an SEO point of view but could effect CTR, places is still running despite the ugly lay out and a floating map down the left disguising the cheap clicks, brand ‘related results’ is slowly filtering in making everyone wonder what Google considers a brand, then we have instant which (in my opinion) is pointless.

All these changes yet there is one that I am really struggling with and that is the change to the SERPS that seemed to happen around the middle of October, it has seen a return to the good old days of keyword stuffing and some of the cheapest link building tactics I have come across since 2004.

However let me give you a little background to help you understand why this is so disappointing.

A couple of months ago Rand Fishkin at SEOmoz published a post expressing his worry for the SERPS and the amount of spam in the top results.

When I read this post I wondered what all the fuss was about, my opinion was that the UK SERPS were looking as healthy as ever, sure there were a few exact match URL’s in the results and the odd link spam technique delivered short term value, however on a whole the top results seemed to be the right ones.

Keyword Stuffing

So I am feeling pretty optimistic about the way Google are going (so much so that I cleaned a few dodgy links I had) and then, disaster, hundreds of exact match domains hit the top ten, keyword stuffing seems to be all the rage and some of the worst links I have seen in a long time seem to be passing loads of weight, what a nightmare!

I decided to surprise some one this week with flowers, so I simply entered the word ‘florists’ into Google;

florist spam

Nice result huh?? Let’s just clarify this title tag; florists florist london florists florist london london florist I don’t know about you but I think they want to rank for florist & florists? Just a hunch :)

Now these tactics worked really well back in 2004, however they shouldn’t even be appearing in the top 200 now let alone number 1!

So you think the ranking is based on links, all I will say is please don’t go there, some of the worst links I have seen in a long time, I’m sure Google will jump all over this before long but the point is, why now!

Even the Big Boys are Joining in!

Do you remember the link building technique of buying expired domains putting up a crappy page and linking to all your sites? Should have stopped working around 2007?? Well it’s back and it is helping sites rank for the most profitable keywords.

Take a look at this web page:

Spam Site (notice the no follow)

car insurance spam

The page is clearly set up for link spam yet it seems to be passing weight to the top 5 guys that rank for car insurance! Surely Google should be all over this??

Now I know there will be those of you who say ‘it may be other links passing the weight’, my answer is 90% of the links in question are just like this with very little in terms of quality to all the sites gaining a lovely link from this page.

Internal Linking

To top all of this off you may have noticed Google is ranking deep pages of websites instead of the stronger home page in an attempt to increase relevance. The problem is they seem to be deciding on these pages using internal anchor text!!

So you remember those sites with hundreds of keyword rich footer links? They are ranking once again, very well in fact.

Now I know your thinking to yourselves how could Google take such a step back? It’s a good question, my hope is that they are going to flick a switch in a couple of weeks that will remove all these results and kill the tactics used to achieve them.

I have no issues with the sites involved, they’re just examples, they have finally got the benefit of the slightly dated techniques they’re using, my issue is the SERPS are a mess, so much so that my wife (who knows nothing about SEO) is asking why site A etc.. is ranking when it is completely irrelevant.

Please Google sort it out, the SERPS are a pretty ugly place at the minute I can’t see who it benefits apart from websites using SEO’s from 1999.

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Author: Tim (296 Articles)

is the owner and editor of SEO wizz and has been involved in the search engine marketing industry for over 9 years. He has worked with multiple businesses across many verticals, creating and implementing search marketing strategies for companies in the UK, US and across Europe. Tim is also the Director of Search at Branded3, a Digital Marketing & SEO Agency based in the UK.

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Ben Krull November 14, 2010 at 2:36 pm

“my hope is that they are going to flick a switch in a couple of weeks that will remove all these results and kill the tactics used to achieve them.”

I think you hit the nail on the head right here. This happens all the time before sweeping algorithm changes.

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Tim November 15, 2010 at 1:59 am

Hi Ben,

Ye I have seen this behaviour before right before a mass up date, I guess it’s just frustrating, a month or two ago I thought the SERP’s looked pretty clean, in the UK at least. Since then new results have been seeping through, even some of my own exact match domains with zero links are now page 1. I just hope Google get on top of it, with all the other changes they have going on it’s a bit of a mess at the minute.

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PotatoChef November 14, 2010 at 4:39 pm

The changes in SEO are relentless and everyweek seems to bring with it new rules. I have just about given up on trying to keep up with the whole ball of wax.

On another note, I took to heart your posts about brand and building links with branding in mind. As a matter of fact I’m in the middle of a 2 part experiment to see if it actually works. It is way too early to tell anything…….but

A keyword that was ranking number 12 has moved up to number 8. Not much and not enough time. I still have more to throw more at it. This post has been up for a year.

Maybe of more interest is a brand new post on another site that does not have any links pointing to it. At the beginning of the experiment the post did not show up in the top 500 results on Google. The only links that are being sent to it are “brand” type links. There will be a total of approximately 80 of them. It will be interesting to see how much power they truly have.

In Las Vegas, Google is returning for a search of “Florist”.
#1 http://www.FTD.com
#2 http://www.Florist.com
#3www. Teleflora.com

Top companies and the companies you would expect to see at the top of the search results.

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Tim November 15, 2010 at 2:07 am

Hi Pchef,

Let me know how the testing goes, I have got a couple on going myself so we can compare notes.

The dig at the florists wasn’t so much that they shouldn’t be there, they are a well know company, what surprised me was the tactics employed to get there. If they were there with good on page optimisation and at least some quality links then I could except it, I just can’t believe are falling for tactics I saw work in 2004. :)

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Chris Smith November 15, 2010 at 2:47 am

Good observation..Tim. Liking to the stuff you come out with. But outing sites for getting ahead is old. What they are doing is working for them good I say. So what you trying to point of these sites in hope Google comes over and do a hand job on them right. That’s lame.

I know people want relevance, but at the same time Google is just like any other global conglomerate. They are interested in the bottom lime. So if a web-master can temporarily get one over on Google, I got no problem as long as the result is relevant. If their SEO strategy is short term one, they will get burn.

Also, the people at Google are not stupid You think they don’t know that when they turn certain dials in the algo, a cause and effect happens.

Perhaps your seeing spammy links ranking because Google devalued a whole lot over-optimised anchors, link sellers and networks and that’s all that left.

If you see certain things working, just observe it and learn from it.

Stop outing sites.

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Tim November 15, 2010 at 6:10 am

Hi Chris,

This post really wasn’t meant to be classed as outing, and I think you’ll agree if I really wanted to out someone I could have made a much better job of it. Plus keyword stuffing isn’t outing I’m just showing what’s working in the SERP’s currently ;)

The spammy links were just ridiculous in my opinion, 5 of the top ranking guys getting the links from the same spam pages, they should be embarrassed about it, again I could have shown much worse links than that if I’d have opened up their profiles, hardly an outing.

My frustration is Google, other people have access to SEO software too, by Google allowing such bad tactics to dominate the SERP’s is an advertisement to webmasters everywhere that spamming pays. I honestly thought the SERP’s were going to improve, I thought things were going to get cleaned up, however it’s just not the case.

I know Google ain’t stupid, so the obvious question is, why do SEO infant tactics still give results after 12 years of evolution? My message in this post was not, ‘Google sort out these bad boys’ but more ‘Google will never be able to produce a clean set of results’. If the sites do get slapped it will be no ones fault but their own, due to the employment of cheap tactics that are easily filtered, or at least should be.

With all the SEO software on the market I really think it’s impossible to out, everyone has access to your links.

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Dr Horst Joepen November 16, 2010 at 9:01 am

Tim – great job in demonstrating that keyword stuffing can still work. It’s a shame to see, but I believe this case – like many – must have just slipped through the net. It can surely only work on a short-term basis before Google will clamp down on it and those organisations that operate ethical, best practice SEO will rise to the top again.

Then again, visibility on search engines is one thing, conversion into a sale something else altogether. A keyword-stuffed site may rank highly (temporarily) but when the surfer – a human – enters that site are they going to be able to find what they need? Will it convert to a sale?

Good SEOs know that they have to please two audiences – the search engines and humans. Only then can they derive true business value from their search rankings, so it’s essential to get the right tools in place to equip themselves to identify and distribute keywords accurately.

It would be interesting to see how the London Florist ranks in a few months time…

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Tim November 16, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Totally agree, I don’t think the site will be there as we push into 2011. I think the site does a good job of converting but this kind of tactic really lets it down.

I’ll be keeping an eye on it :)

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Robyn S November 17, 2010 at 8:55 am

Hi Tim,

It’s funny to me that every time you post about the deep page linking it seems to manifest on my site in a new way! One of our search terms (a 4 word term with a fair amount of traffic) used to rank on a deep page category page. Now it’s ranking (same position as it did previously) on an even deeper product page! We didn’t make any new efforts to target the deeper product page for that term. So I am assuming there is a change in the algorithm and Google has decided to rank various factors in a new way (pre-existing internal anchor text? click through rate? It’s our most popular product on the category. But who knows). I don’t know whether to sit this out a bit longer or come up with a new strategy to take advantage of these changes.

Anyway this is a topic that definitely interests me and you’re one of the few I’ve seen writing about it. So keep up the good work!!

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Tim November 17, 2010 at 9:45 am

Hi Robyn,

I think your right in sitting tight, until Google announces something there is no telling how this is going to go. Interesting about your product page though, keep an eye on that and let me know how it holds up. Personally I have tweaked the way we approach campaigns and are now targeting links internally and to the homepage with the same anchor text.

We shall see how it pans out :)

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Ben November 18, 2010 at 8:17 am

It’s frustrating when all the hard work you’ve put in using ethical methods, laborious link building and other things and finally got your client ranking well on page one is wiped out by keyword stuffing – even if you kow it’s only going to be temporary!

What gives more food for thought is, as many have said, this sort of thing happens before a major change to the algorithm – so what will THAT be?

Either way, we’re not about to change the way we go about things just yet…

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Tim November 22, 2010 at 2:33 am

Hi Ben,

I think there needs to be a change in the algo soon, the SERPS really are looking the worst I have seen them in a long time, exact match domains have gone from crazy to absolute insane and paid links seem to be God again!

Mr Cutts did hint that there would be massive changes for exact match domains in the new year so we shall see.

I honestly though around July that things were looking healthy and those sites who were clearly buying their way to the top had been knocked off, now it has reversed but do we revert to buying a ton of links, my feeling is 2011 will see some harsh ranking drops experienced across the board and those who have invested heavily in buying links will feel the sting. I just can’t see how such a messy SERP’s can be maintained.

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Ebrar November 26, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Hello Tim,
You top man, I know this florist company very well they
are playing very dirty game, thanks for showing the world what’s going on, I have bookmarked your website, I will always visit it and recommend you guys to everyone

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Tim November 29, 2010 at 5:34 am

Hi Ebrar,

The keyword stuffing I pointed out is the last of their worries, when some of their linking strategies are found out I doubt the site will survive it, I have seen viagra websites with cleaner link profiles :)

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surfvoucher December 1, 2010 at 8:38 pm

And you haven’t taken a look at the pharmacy/drugs keywords, all the top 20 sites are blog spamming and 50% of those are .edu forums redirects… RIDICULOUS!!! I have no idea what is google doing, but it makes me wanna cry…

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Tim December 2, 2010 at 2:39 am

My only hope is Google jump on this quick, it won’t be long before a negative impact in search volume is seen. Unfortunately it is that bad

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Ivar January 14, 2011 at 11:18 am

Was curious, but using Google.co.uk still gives the same no 1 result… So much for new algorithms, lets dust off the old SEO tricks again… Your number two seems to be number five now. Have looked at the link profile a bit, amazing…

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lab January 18, 2011 at 5:42 am

I have another doubt. I am in India. working with UK client. I use google.com to search the positions of targeted key words. My client is searching in same google.com. But i know the servers are different. So there are small variations in results. So how to find the accurate positions of the key words from India from UK server.

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Tim January 18, 2011 at 5:57 am

Change .co.uk to .com – and add &gl=US to the end of the URL, this will get you the right results

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Denis January 25, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Now that people talk about algorithms but what I think is that there is no such thing as clear algorithm with the search engines. Why? I carefully write articles and they rank nowhere. And when I write without any concern like not puting keyword in the body of the article, It ranks first page. The article I wrote somewhere and get indexed. I copy paste the article to some other site and the second one comes above the first one. Sometimes give my article a lot of backlinks but it goes nowhere and some times a single article ranks quite well without any linking whatsoever. Do you think it is only me that is confused watch this thread in digitalpoint forum >> http://forums.digitalpoint.com/showthread.php?t=2018522
What I do now is that I write an article and JUST HOPE it may rank. If it does okay. If it doesn’t then I will move to the other.

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Tim January 27, 2011 at 2:44 am

Hi Denis,

I think you’re right, the algorithm isn’t clear, however there are certain things that if you do implement will have a positive impact on your rankings, anchor text, title tags, pr, social etc… The only reason a site wouldn’t benefit from these things is if it was penalised. However, above you’re discussing long tail article rankings which is a different thing all together, the site theme, keywords, internal links, external links and hundreds more factors make up those rankings not to mention the overall authority of the site and the competitiveness of the keywords. It’s much more unpredictable but the best practices will still have a positive impact.

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