In a recent blog post, Google announced the release of its Webspam Report for 2018, detailing the way in which certain pieces of content look to manipulate ranking algorithms and harm users.

According to Google, the term ‘web spam’ refers to anything that degrades from the search experience, particularly behaviours that violate its webmaster guidelines.

The report has revealed that less than one percent of results visited by users are for spammy pages, which Google will consider a success in its aim to provide the highest quality results for any search.

However, it also called on webmasters, developers, and users to utilise Google’s own resources to prevent and report web spam.

Webspam trends in 2018

Google says that of the types of spam it fought in 2018, three continue to stand out:

  1. Spam on hacked websites

In 2017, Google reported that it had seen a substantial reduction of spam from hacked websites in search results. While this continued in 2018, it achieved a faster discovery of hacked web pages before they affected search results or were put in harm’s way of users.

However, hacked websites remain a major security problem affecting the safety of the web, as Juan Felipe Rincón, Google Webmaster Outreach explained:

“Even though we can’t prevent a website hack from happening, we’re committed to helping webmasters whose websites have been compromised by offering resources to help them recover from a hacked website.”

  1. User-generated spam

User-generated spam, which includes spammy posts on forums along with spammy accounts on free blogs and platforms, continues to be a focus for Google. This is because it is not meant to be consumed by humans and can often disrupt conversations while adding no value to users.

Thankfully, Google was able to reduce the impact of user-generated spam by more than 80 per cent in 2018. But Rincón says there is still work to be done…

“While we can’t prevent websites from being exploited, we do want to make it easier for website owners to learn how to protect themselves, which is why we provide resources on how to prevent abuse of your site’s public areas,” he added.

  1. Link spam

As any SEO professional knows, authoritative and relevant links are a significant ranking signal. For this reason, Google continues to protect their value by dealing with egregious link spam swiftly. In fact, it has made a number of bad linking practices less effective for manipulating rankings.

But above all else, Google has been engaging with webmasters and SEOs to dispel common misconceptions around linking practices.

“We continue to remind website owners that if you simply stay away from building links mainly as an attempt to rank better and focus on creating great content, you should not have to worry about any of the myths or realities,” said Rincón. “We think that one of the best ways of fighting spam of all types is by encouraging website owners to just create great quality content.”

What does it all mean for your SEO efforts?

One of the reasons why those in the SEO community should take note of Google’s latest report is because it wants to empower webmasters, developers, and search engine experts. This includes running SEO health checks on web pages, educating site owners on best practice, and providing users with channels to report spammy content.

It goes without saying Google needs a safe and secure ecosystem from which to deliver search results and provide information. The same goes for sustaining and increasing advertising activity from both users and marketers.

Therefore, search results full of webspam are bad for business, not just with respect to Google, but also those that prioritise SEO and PPC.

Working alongside Google for a better web

One of Google’s overriding aims is to create a better web for everyone. To this end, it is highly reliant on users to help find spam, malware, and other issues in search that escape already established filters.

For example, Google received over 180,000 search spam user reports and were able to take action on 64 per cent of those processed in 2018.

Another way in which Google wants improve the web and remove spam is by letting website owners know when issues have been detected. In 2018, it generated over 186 million messages to website owners calling out potential improvements, issues and problems that could affect their site’s appearance on search results.

“Our dedicated team members meet with webmasters around the world regularly, both online and in-person,” said Rincón. “We delivered more than 190 online office hours, online events and offline events in more than 76 cities, to audiences totalling over 170,000 including SEOs, developers and online marketers.”