The Real Reason Google Fights Web Spam

Web Spam image

Sorry, couldn't find anything more appropriate to illustrate this article about web spam. Image in the public domain, if Google objects against using their logo in an editorial piece (fair use assumed), they know where to find me 😉

Ok, gals and guys, that will be another of this long-winded and far too in-depth posts, so please pour yourself something nice to drink and take a few minutes out of your busy life 😉 For the purpose of making it a bit easier to understand, I skip those parts of Google that have little to do with internet marketing like Android (OS for mobile devices) and concentrate on those that concern those of us that make money online: Adsense, Adwords and Search. First let’s have a look at what Google actually is and then let’s have a look at bigger picture of what Google actually wants – and why! And yes, it sounds simple at the beginning and I know some of you feel now already the temptation to stop reading, but bear with me, it will get really interesting!

Google is a Search Engine

Ok, that is not a big surprise, this is how all started out 😉 Google is not only ‘a’ search engine, it is the most used search engine and the absolute leader in this market. And Google wants to stay the market leader because it earns, indirectly, money from the searchers. So, to stay market leader, and continue to earn big bucks, Google needs to keep searchers happy by providing each of them with the best results for their individual search queries.

Google is an Advertising Platform / Middle Man (Adwords)

Adwords is Google’s main income stream, last year Google’s total advertising revenues were USD$28 billion, that are a lot of bucks! Google makes money by ‘selling’ ads on their search result pages and by acting as a middle man for website owners (us, also called publishers) and advertisers (other website owners). Without going into too much details how the whole Adwords / Adsense system works (this would be worth an own blog post) the most important point to remember is that the ones that pay money into Google’s pockets are the advertisers, NOT the website owners (publishers) that display said ads in return for an Adsense share.

Googles Relationship with Advertisers

Therefor, see paragraph directly above, Google naturally pays far more importance to the ‘happiness’ of its advertisers than it does to the one of its ‘publishers’. So, what does make said advertisers happy? The answer is simple: Ads that convert into more business (=money) for the advertisers. This conversion can take many forms, but the most common ones are:

Lead generation: Signing up to a newsletter, contacting the business etc. In short everything that gets people to contact the advertiser who, in turn tries then to convert the ‘contact’ into ‘customer’.

Sales: No matter if product or service, most advertisers want to sell something, so conversion is also when a potential customer not only contacts the site in any shape or form, but starts buying from it.

Other, minor aspects, are brand awareness and similar, but that is not really important in this context, conversion is what matters most for advertisers.

So, if you look at it the other way round, you see what does NOT make advertisers happy: Clicks that don’t convert!

Sympathy Clicks

The all time dumbest case of this I saw on a WordPress.com blog that carried the line “If you found this blog post useful, please hop over to my blogspot blog and click on one of the Google Ads there. Thanks!” all over the place. Needless to say that this kind of clicks doesn’t convert at all for the advertiser and last time I checked, that blogspot blog didn’t display any Google ads anymore, most likely because this ‘oh so clever guy’ got kicked out of his Google Adsense account with a vengeance! (Wonder why they didn’t ditch his blogger blog in the process???)

But even if you are not that dumb, sympathy clicks are still a real risk, especially if you have a personal website / blogs with Google Ads on it. Many people think clicking an ad means equals a ‘Thank You!’ to you and don’t realize that they can jeopardize by doing so your whole online business.

And for entertainment value my own stupid mistake in a similar category:

I have a blog post here about the ‘clickbomb problem’ and ran, for a while, Google Ads on this blog. Guess what happened. Somebody did a search for click bombing (ads were set via plugin to show only to search traffic btw), found my post which is meandering around the first page of Google for this and related terms and ‘BOMB!’ – had to try it out instantly, on my blog *sigh* Don’t bother looking, I don’t have any Google ads here anymore and thankfully I could save my account also. So here the lesson I learned, if you speak even remotely about ‘clicking ads’ and what it does, don’t give them something to click! (Affiliate banners are fine, btw, do and click those, that doesn’t hurt!)

That also goes for showing your website to friends and relatives! Imagine granny in her nursing home gets all her friends to see her great-grandson’s great new website and to ‘do him a favor’ everybody starts to click your ads … Always remember that Google shots first, and most of the time doesn’t even bother to ask questions later. And remember also that losing your Adsense account, means to 99% losing it for life, you can’t ‘just’ get a new one.

 Accidental Clicks

These are most likely due to poor layout choices. The usual culprits are arrows that point in the wrong direction, things that should get clicked are too close to ads, ads can be mistaken for navigation etc. Without going into too much detail about what can get wrong, here a few tips:

  • Check your layout in all major web browsers and in different screen solutions. This way you can see if anything screws up. This tends to happen especially easily with fluid site layouts. It looks fine on your wide-screen laptop, but on your narrower desktop screen the social bookmark icons you want people to click are pushed over the Google ads displayed, making accidental clicks an almost certainty. Uh, oh!

 Poorly Optimized Landing Pages

An old black hat favorite, that one. Build a page, preferably on an auto-blog, that concentrates on one keyword, push it up in the SERpentines and display mostly ads on it, leaving people nothing else to click. Used to work, since Panda it works a bit less well. But this can also happen to people that are not actually mean nor are black hats. Sometimes these people are simply misguided or misinformed. An example, compare these two keyword phrases:

  • What is >keyword<
  • Where to buy >keyword<

In the first case the searcher (yes, we are back to Google as a search engine for the moment) is obviously looking for information about >keyword<. Perhaps the searcher heard the term and wants to know what the heck >keyword< is, perhaps he has an inkling, but wants to know more, doesn’t matter, if we, the website owner now optimize a page in a way that it fulfills the searcher’s needs, great. Searcher is happy, searcher will use Google again, as he got good results this time, Google is happy because searcher is happy and therefor Google is also happy with you, the website owner = your search rankings are likely to go up and not down.

In the second case ‘Where to buy >keyword<‘ lets imagine for a moment that the searcher ended up on the same exactly same article, full of information about what >keyword< is, how desirable it is to have >keyword< and even how to clean your >keyword<! Only one problem, this is NOT what the searcher was looking for. What s/he looked for was basically a place to buy >keyword< or at least a good list of place to go to and buy it. This kind of site set-up mistake is what a lot of webmasters still make, sometimes even because it got promoted by certain internet marketing gurus. The idea behind is / was something like this (Not anymore recommended!:

  • Find profitable keyword (high CPC).
  • Build thin MFA (Made for Adsense) site around keyword.
  • Fill it with content that speaks about >keyword< but doesn’t provide the solution the searcher is looking for.
  • Hope that ads appear that provide / promise the solution and hope that visitor clicks through and makes you a buck or two by providing them nothing else to click on.
  • Promote the heck out of your thin MFA site (read, build a lot of links to it) to make sure it ends up on the first page of Google.

Now, what is wrong with this approach?

From the searchers perspective it adds an extra step to the journey to what s/he actually is looking for. Could have clicked on one of the Google ads in the search results and would have ended up in the same place. Depending on the site content the searcher might be mildly annoyed or really p***ssed off and remember also searchers can provide negative feed back to Google about your site. A few of those and a manual review of your site is on your door step. And are you sure that your site could hold up to a manual review by Google? Additionally, for future searches, the person might decide to switch to Bing, for example, instead of continuing to use Google. Remember what I wrote above? Google needs to please searchers with good results, if not they could use another search engine next time and Google could lose, long term, its market leader position. And if that would happen it would also lose its advertisers, those that fill Google’s pockets with cash. Keeping the users of its search engine happy is paramount to keeping Google’s shareholders happy! Without searches, no advertisers and no cash, it is as easy as that, really!

From the advertisers point of view example 2 might, or might not, work. Depending on the connection between search intend and ad displayed it might work out quite well or not all all. Again, if the advertiser is not happy with the conversion rate, chances are good that s/he excludes your site from the campaign and that s/he even reports you to Google. So, what ever you do on your site, make sure that the ads you display convert well for the advertiser because if that happens they will also convert well for you!

A few tips here to achieve this:

  • Make sure that only one article on your site targets a specific keyword AND that it is truly the best result for this search query the searcher could wish to find.
  • Take advantage of the resources in the Adsense Help Center and pay special attention to the topics that speak about how to optimize your site for Adsense and what to do / not to do.
  • Again, try to see your website with the eyes of a potential advertiser and / or a visitor that comes via a search engine, not with your own website owner eyes!

 Because here is what happens when an advertiser is not happy:

  • S/he will exclude your website from showing their ads. And you can bet that Google monitors such reports closely! If your website(s) get continuously excluded by advertisers, chances are that your whole Google Adsense account is subject to a manual review. And that is also the, not so secret, reason why you are only allowed to hold one Adsense account. It is easier for Google to find out the bad boys and girls and all of their sites that display Adsense ads.
  • The advertiser reports you directly to Google – nuff said.

Googles Relationship with You (Publisher)

Repeat after me: Publishers are replaceable, publishers are replaceable, publishers are replaceable! There are literally billions of websites lining up wanting to display Google ads, kicking those out that don’t do the job well, doesn’t hurt Google’s income stream in the slightest, keeping bad sites (and accounts!) in the system does.

Understanding Google’s Business Model

  1. The better the search results fit the searchers needs, the more likely the searcher is to use that particular search engine again.
  2. The more people use the Google search engine, the more ads are potentially clicked, both on the search result pages and on the websites that display ads.
  3. The better these ads convert for the advertisers, the more likely they are to advertise again on that platform.
  4. The more people advertise with Adwords, the more money Google makes.

Skipping all the steps in the middle you can see why displaying the best possible search result for the searchers query is directly linked to Google’s income stream. And that is why Google fights web spam, nothing else.

What Does This Mean For Us As Website Owners?

If you have a website, especially when it is monetized with Google Ads, I strongly suggest that you start to see it with the eyes of somebody that has their ads displayed on your site and as somebody that is looking for >keyword< but not with the eyes of the website owner.

Checklist

  1. Is the article really the best possible result for the specific search query (keyword) it is optimized for?
  2. Is the ad layout misleading in any of the main browsers and screen resolutions?
  3. Is there anything on the site that could provoke accidental or sympathy clicks?
  4. Consider switching to a plugin / method that allows you to display ads only to visitors that come via a search engine. That isn’t a complete cure (see above), but can help to prevent / minimize a lot of problems.

Summary:

  • Google is a company and therefor wants to make money.
  • In order to make money they have to do two things:
  • Attract and retain people that use their search engines.
  • Attract and retain people that pay for advertising on Adwords.

For us, the website owners, this means basically that we are easily replaceable as there is an unlimited supply of websites available that are happy to display Google Ads! Advertisers that pay Google are not in unlimited supply! And the real reason why Google fights web spam is not a better internet – It is revenue — Now there is a surprise!

To not be ‘replaced’ by Google, following the Keyword Strategy approach (see my review) if you haven’t a clue what I am speaking about) + a decent, not misleading ad placement layout, might be a good idea 😉 and the following checklist might also help:

0. Make sure your ad placement is in such a way that chances are high that a click converts for the advertiser! Ads that were clicked accidently, typically don’t convert well!

1. Each article caters well for the need of the person that searched for >keyword< and is truly the best possible source of information available. That makes sure that the right ads are displayed, those that convert well for the advertiser and keeps the searcher happy.

2. Keyword is targeted by only one article. See above.

3. An ‘informational keyword’ is catered for with information, a ‘buying keyword’ is catered for with a relevant product. Think from the searchers point of view.

4. Good site navigation for readers is available.

5. Internal linking is well-thought out and supports 2.

6. On page SEO is keyword focused (image tags, relevant categories and tags (if used), urls are SEO friendly, meta description is appropriate etc).

7. Check your ad placement again, test in different browsers and screen resolutions

Last but not least, if ads convert well for the advertiser on your site, a few good things will happen:

  • You get more expensive ads displayed at your site.
  • Your quality score goes up in the Google system.

 

So, be patient and play by the rules, which pays better in the end than trying to game the system.

 Anything I forgot to mention? Something I got wrong or you don’t agree with? Please leave a comment 😉

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4 comments to The Real Reason Google Fights Web Spam

  • All very good points. I think at the end of the day that there are no short cuts – create the best content and give no reason to Google to penalise you is the best approach when building any website.

    Any attempt to game the system is going to run the chance of being caught.

    • hospitalera

      Thanks Rick! Unfortunately many people don’t believe in this simple approach, internet marketing gurus are partly to blame for that, whilst some have really good products that help to build a Google compliant site, others are only out there to sell their ‘super-secret success recipe’. The other bit is that many people are convinced they need to try to game the system, because – it can’t be so easy as putting up the best content possible …

  • greek seo

    Yes! Finally something about seo.

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