Google’s Fight Against Webspam


This week Google released its Webspam Report for 2016.  This gives insight into the top webspam trends and what Google is doing to fight it. Here’s a brief summary of key data points from the report:

Webspam trends in 2016

  1. More sites are getting hacked. Last year Google saw more hacked sites than ever, with a 32% increase compared to 2015.
  2. In addition to sites being hacked, Google saw a lot of sites affected by social engineering, unwanted software, and unwanted ad injectors.
  3. There was a significant increase in spam targeting mobile users. Given the fact that Google now gets more traffic from mobile than desktop this isn’t surprising. Google says that much of the mobile spam redirects users, without the webmaster’s knowledge, to other sites or pages. These redirects are inserted into website pages through widgets or via ad units from various advertising networks.

How Google fought spam in 2016

Google fought back in a range of ways including:

  • Refining search algorithms — the most notable being that the Penguin algorithm (which tackles link spam) was incorporated into the main algorithm and now works in real-time, rather than periodically.
  • While Google is driven by algorithms, it has its limitations and some spam still has to be handled manually. In 2016, Google sent over 9 million messages to webmasters to notify them of webspam issues on their sites.
  • The increasing importance of structured data means that this is an area increasingly being spammed. Google responded with manual actions on more than 10,000 sites that did not meet the quality guidelines for inclusion in search features powered by structured data.
  • In addition to Google proactively fighting spam themselves, they also rely heavily on user feedback. In 2016, Google received over 180,000 user-submitted spam reports and considered 52% of the reported sites to be spam. That means even if spammers manage to fool Google there’s a strong chance they’ll eventually get dobbed in by users affected by their actions.

Why should you care?

Most businesses simply don’t have the resources or technical expertise to fully protect themselves from webspam and so it’s great to know Google’s got their backs.

Cynics could argue that while Google makes their actions look magnanimous with statements like “We think everybody deserves high-quality, spam-free search results” the reality is they do this to protect themselves.

That’s true — Google knows that, despite its market dominance, it’s only as good as the last search result it provides each user. If the integrity of these results gets compromised then users’ trust in Google falls and eventually they look for alternatives.

Which is exactly what happened with previous giants of search, like AltaVista.


Whilst by no stretch everything Google does meets its “do no evil” mantra, Google deserves accolades for the significant investment put into fighting webspam.

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About the Author Mark Sceats

Mark is a Partner and Senior Consultant at SureFire which he founded back in 2002. Prior to establishing SureFire he worked for KPMG Consulting. Today Mark heads up SEO, embracing the challenges that can come with complex website implementations. Outside of work, his interests beyond his family are running, snowsports, diving and fishing (badly).

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