Cheating the system: Google cracks down on SEO fraud
Insurance fraud is a term that most of us are familiar with, but how many of us are familiar with the term Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) Fraud? Companies have been found trying to “cheat the system” to manipulate Google’s SEO algorithms so they show higher up on natural searches and appear to be more popular than they actually are.
Google combat SEO ‘Cheats’
The Internet Search Giant, estimated to be worth over $400 million, is one of the World’s largest and most powerful businesses over shadowing any that the UK has to offer. Its latest reminder of its omnipotence is known as ‘Brand Penalty.’
This is Google’s latest reminder to us of it’s all knowing internet power is through seeking out those committing Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) Fraud and handing out hefty punishments to those found guilty. Basically, this involves creating ‘shell sites’ which contain links to the main website, suggesting that the site enjoys rather more popularity than it actually does; and ‘popularity’ is a key metric that the search engines use when deciding which content to rank highest in the search results. More and more sites are being found out as they try to artificially manipulate their apparent popularity – and now risk heavy penalties. A Google spokesperson said,
“Sites sometimes violate Google’s webmaster guidelines in an attempt to game out algorithms and trick their way to the top of our results. If they success, this hurts the search experience for people coming to Google, because high quality information gets blurred by spammers”
In short, sites don’t get to compete on a level playing field. One of the more high profile cases of Brand Penalties occurred last year within the insurance industry.
On 12 December last year, Google found ‘unnatural links’ to the insurer Protect Your Bubble. This resulted in a 3 month ban of Protect Your Bubble appearing in search listings. Stephen Ebbett, the companies Global Director says that these links had been generated by, “third party agencies who had been engaged to optimise the natural listing position” of Protect Your Bubble and that the company knew nothing scandalous was going on, however he accepts “full responsibility for these links”.Once Protect Your Bubble had ceased to work with the third party agency the ban was lifted but the company then had to pay higher search engine fees amongst other changes.
Content is King when it comes to quality SEO
So how can this affect your company? The lesson we can learn from this is: If you wish to actively manage the natural listing results of your company by outsourcing the work then pick your third party agencies wisely and oversee the work that they are doing. Make sure your SEO is done through creating high quality and relevant content rather than breaking Google’s internet rules. In other words, be ethical and make sure your content is what the consumer really wants. One thing to bear in mind is that Google continually changes the rules and keeping up isn’t easy. Aviva sales and marketing director, Heather Smith says that “SEO is an ever-changing landscape” yet it is “an integral component” to a thriving business on the web. So not only should you make sure your SEO is effective, remember to check the strategies used. Could your company work without the help of the Master of the Internet that is Google?