A discussion on spam during a recent episode of Google’s Search Off The Record podcast made two things clear: first, site owners and SEOs should be aware of hack spam, and second, they should avoid trying to fight spammy competitors with equally poor tactics.
Spam has been at the top of mind for Google’s team and SEOs alike – just two weeks, ago Google finished launching its two-part spam update, which aimed to remove spammy content from SERPs.
Duy Nguyen, a member of Google’s Search Quality team, appeared on the podcast with Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller.
Adding onto their explanation of how Google handles spam, their conversation turned to an airing of spam-related grievances, and when asked what bothers him on the web, Nguyen spoke about spam caused by hackers.
“A lot of the ‘hack spam’ that takes place today any hacking,” Nguyen explained. “A lot of the tools and scripts that people discovered five six years ago are still being used today to exploit websites – especially older websites.”
Nguyen explained that site owners using old content management systems (CMS) are the most vulnerable. These systems, he explained, have been around long enough for hackers to figure out entirely.
Mueller suggested that site owners who don’t plan to update their content should use a static HTML site rather than a CMS like WordPress. The team also explained that keeping a website fully updated can stop hackers from successfully breaking in.
They also added that using Google Search Console can protect sites against hackers.
With Search Console, site owners “would have more data and they would realize that, ‘oh, yeah, running this very old version of CMS really hinders the site’s potential.’”
Dealing with Spammy Competitors
On the same episode, Mueller and Nguyen talked about what happens to site owners who use spam-fueled tactics to improve their rankings on SERPs. Mueller said he is often asked by site owners what to do if they obey Google’s webmaster guidelines, but find that competitors who disobey them perform better.
Answering the question, the team explained that Google avoids rewarding sites for using spammy language or tactics. However, if a spammy site performs well, there are plenty of factors aside from spam that could explain their successful performance.
Otherwise, Mueller and Nguyen recommend sending Google a spam report.
You can learn more about the Search Off The Record podcast here.