SEO spam is a problem that has been around since the early days of the Internet. Webmasters and web visitors constantly battle with it because nobody wants to see irrelevant advertisements, flashing ads, or meaningless content on their screen.
There are different kinds of SEO spam: WordPress SEO spam, link spam, boosting, cloaking techniques, and content spam.
lHowever, according to the Google Webmaster Central Blog, the most crucial question is not what type of spam is but “What can I do about web SPAM?”.
Understanding SEO spam and How It Can Hurt Your SEO Efforts
Web Spam Taxonomy, Stanford, defines spam as any deliberate human action that triggers an unjustifiably favourable relevance or importance for some web page, considering the page’s actual value.
Spam can hurt your SEO efforts because search engines cannot properly evaluate a website that has been spammed.
So, when investing in search engine optimization, it’s essential to be mindful of SEO spam attacks; otherwise, this could hurt your search engine rankings. In fact, SEO spam attacks can be detrimental not only to your search rankings or website traffic, but you could even end up with a hacked website.
There are different ways how SEO spam can affect your SEO efforts :
Search engines use algorithms to determine the ranking of websites in search results. If a website is filled with SEO spam, the algorithms will demote the website in the rankings. This means that the website will appear lower in the search results, and potential customers will be less likely to find the website.
Search engines may also take manual action against a website filled with SEO spam. The search engine may remove the website from the search results entirely. This can be a devastating blow to a business, as it will lose all of its organic traffic from the search engine.
Loss of Traffic
Even if a website does not receive a manual action from a search engine, the website may still lose traffic due to the algorithmic demotions. This can be very costly for a business, as organic traffic is one of the most valuable traffic sources for a website.
It is essential to avoid SEO spam to avoid hurting your SEO efforts. If you suspect that your website has been spammed, you should take action to clean up the website and remove the spam. You can also contact a professional SEO company to help you recover from the damage that spam can cause.
Types of SEO spam
There are many different types of SEO spam, and each of them can harm your website’s ranking in search engines and its overall reputation.
Here are some of the most common ones:
Boosting is increasing or boosting your page through URL spamming & term spamming.
- Term spamming manipulates page elements like page title, meta description and meta keywords.
- URL spamming, as the name suggests, is the process of filling your website’s URL with keywords as much as possible
- Redirecting or 404-ing visitors to a site irrelevant to their search query is also considered boosting.
2. Cloaking Techniques
This type of SEO spam is more common than one might think.
It hides content from the user, making it impossible to find what they are looking for.
The most popular cloaking technique is a fake 404 page, which means responding with a generic page when a URL doesn’t exist on a site.
3. Link Spamming
Link spam is posting out-of-context spam links on websites unrelated to the website content but designed to benefit the spammer.
Examples of malicious links include:
- Excessive sponsored posts
- Link exchanges
- Automated link programs
- Spammy footer links
- Unnatural links in forums and blog comments
These malicious links may also be a part of a black hat SEO technique by SEO spammers. Link spamming is an SEO spam attack that may derail your rankings from search engine results. Therefore, website owners should be mindful of this black hat SEO method, which is also called SEO spam today.
4. Content Spamming
Content spamming is posting useless or irrelevant content online. This may flag your site as a spam page or one of the scam websites today.
An example of this would be the “keyword stuffing” technique, where a webmaster uses a keyword hundreds of times on their page without creating natural, readable content.
Another type of content spam is using automated online services that generate articles or online compendiums with no actual human content behind them.
SEO spam is any marketing content that interrupts the user’s experience. If you want to avoid SEO spam, it’s essential to create content with value for your customer and not just publish what you think will bring in the most traffic or ad impressions.
Doing so will help you maintain a good search engine ranking and be one of the top ranking pages today.
When creating a website, ensure no distractions; having too many links or images can be overwhelming for people who do not know where they should look next.
Stick with one call-to-action on each site page so visitors always know precisely how to engage with your business online.
How to Know if Your Website is Infected with SEO Spam?
There are many ways you can identify if your site is infected by SEO spam. An effective way to do this is to look within modified themes files, such as the header.php, footer.php and index.php.
It’s also worth looking into plugins or entire directories placed into the file structure with many SEO spam files.
What is WordPress SEO spam?
WordPress SEO spam is also known as spamdexing. It involves techniques to increase search engine ranking and visitors by manipulation.
Finding WordPress SEO Spam
Many are using WordPress for their websites. And it’s essential to keep an eye on SEO spam.
Here are some of the things you need to look into:
Your Site Displays SEO Spam Results on Search Engines
A simple Google search can already show you if your WordPress is affected with SEO Spam. All you need to do is type site: followed by your domain name.
When you notice meaningless word junctions as you wade through the research results, then it’s a WordPress SEO spam. This is because the malware is designed to divert Google searches away from your websites towards malicious websites.
New Files Appear Around Your Website
WordPress sites that are hit by SEO spam always have suspicious files. Usually, attackers create a directory in the wp-content/plugins/api-key with the files. Most of the time, these files contain malicious codes.
Disabled Google AdWords
More and more individuals and business owners are using Google Ads because they’re helpful. However, this opens them to vulnerabilities because these ads have become an easy way for hackers to direct users to malicious websites.
Hackers target users via Google ads or such websites with many ads and deploy bots or spammy ads to a particular page or an entire site.
This is also the reason Google AdWords now have strict policy upgrades to avoid the spread of malware through hacked websites.
In turn, Google AdWords now scans websites for hacked content and suspends ads running. Some of the signs that are indicative of this are malicious or unwanted software.
How to Avoid Website SEO Spam
Your website is susceptible to spam for a variety of reasons. The most common reason is that you have an open forum that allows users to submit data without verification.
This can be a contact form, comments section, or even a forum. Spammers will exploit these forms to post links to their own websites or products or to include offensive or inappropriate content.
So, how can you avoid SEO spam? Here are some tips:
1. Use a CAPTCHA
This is a code that must be entered to submit a form. This will ensure that only humans can submit data and not automated bots.
2. Require registration
This may deter some legitimate searchers, but it will also make it harder for spammers to post content.
3. Moderate all user-generated content
This means that you will need to manually approve all comments, forum posts, etc., before they are made public. This is time-consuming, but it is best to ensure that only quality content is posted on your site.
4. Use a spam filter
This will automatically scan all content for spammy keywords and links and delete or flag it accordingly.
5. Keep your forms as simple as possible
The fewer fields there are, the less likely it is that a spammer will be able to successfully submit their content.
By following these tips, you can help to avoid website spam and keep your site clean and safe for your target audience and searchers.
By being mindful of spam links whether on your WordPress site or on multiple pages, you need to be prepared for a spam attack. Even small websites can be a victim of spam online.
The good news is, by knowing how to recognise these spams, such as spam emails or comment spam, or even the hidden link that you find on your website, you will be able to dodge a bullet.
Keep in mind that the Google algorithm may penalise your website because of spam. Google penalties may be hard to recover from, so, as much as possible, be proactive in preventing SEO spam attacks.
Tools to Prevent SEO Spam
SEO Experts and web designers always recommend a few essential tools to help prevent SEOe spam. These tools can help you keep your website clean and free of unwanted content.
Here are some of them:
Google Webmaster Tools
The Google Webmaster Tools allow you to see who is linking to your site. Let’s disavow the wrong links and generate a sitemap for your website.
It shows you what keywords your website is ranking for. It also helps you track your progress over time. Lastly, it lets you see who is linking to your site.
Open Site Explorer
Using this tool lets you control which search engines can access your website. It can block crawlers from accessing sensitive areas of your website. It also helps prevent content scraping.
WordPress websites come with several plugins. It’s essential you ensure that there are no outdated plugins that will make hackers gain access.
Many WordPress security plugins can help prevent spammers from accessing your website.
Some of these plugins are:
Akismet: This plugin checks comments and contact form submissions against a global spam database to protect your site from malicious content.
Google Authenticator Plugin: It adds two-factor authentication to your WordPress login, helping to prevent unauthorised access to your site.
WPForms: This tool lets you create custom contact forms for your website. It includes a spam prevention feature that helps to keep your forms safe from spammers.
These are just a few of the many tools available to help prevent website spam on your WordPress site.
Using these WordPress site tools can help keep your site safe from malicious content and protect your visitors from being bombarded with spam.
How to Remove SEO Spam from Your Website
Spammy links can be detrimental to your website. If you don’t remove them, they can impact your rankings in the search engines. The question is, how do you remove these spam links?
SEO spam in your comment section is a form of spamdexing. Hackers use various methods to generate comments to improve higher rankings in the SERPs.
What you can do here is to mark the commons as “nofollow” so they won’t get indexed by Google.
Site-wide links are toxic backlinks that can hurt your website rankings. A website must have the necessary authority, otherwise, you may get these links from a low-quality website and Google may penalise your site.
Google Search Console
One of the most effective ways to get rid of spammy web pages from Google SERPs is by using Google Search Console. Here are the steps to do so:
- Sign into your Google Search Console account
- Choose the right property
- Choose the ‘Removals’ button in the right-column menu
- Click on the ‘New Request’ button
- Choose ‘Remove this URL Only,’ then enter the URL you want to remove and hit the ‘Next’ button. After that, Google will keep the URL hidden for 180 days but remember that the URLs will remain in Google’s index, which means you will take additional action to hide them.
- Repeat it as much as you need to, especially when you need to deal with large amounts of spam pages.
Serve a 410
You can restore your site’s previous state by restoring a backup. With this, you need to run updates and add additional security measures to ensure your website isn’t vulnerable. Check whether all the spam URLs have disappeared from your site.
The best thing to do would be to return a 410 HTTP status code when requested. Doing so will make it clear that these URLs are gone.
Create an Additional XML Sitemap
In a separate XML sitemap, include the spam URLs and submit it to Google Search Console.
This will let Google eat through the spam URLs, and from there, you can monitor easily the removal process through Google Search Console.
Final Notes on SEO Spam
SEO spam, such as WordPress SEO spam, is a problem that can be solved by using the proper techniques and tools. There are many ways to combat website spam, but the most effective method is to use a combination of methods.
The best way to fight website spam is to be diligent in your website content and design and use effective SEO practices.
With these steps in place, you can effectively fight website spam as well as WordPress SEO spam and ensure that your website is visible to search engines.
Ley us help keep your website secure at all times. Evolving Digital implements effective security measures and is up-to-date with the latest security updates. Get in touch with us.