Link farms, keyword stuffing, exact-match anchors – sounds like a list of “what not to do in SEO 2014”, right? Contrary to what we’re led to believe by Google and industry experts, the aforementioned web spam techniques are still alive and well and being employed by some of the biggest brands in the world.
Over the years we’ve seen major brands make embarrassing SEO fails (remember the JC Penney PBN scandal of 2011?), along with the rise and fall of overused techniques (article marketing, directory links and, most recently, press releases), so it comes as a shock to me to find so many massive websites still employing these shady SEO techniques today. I’m not the only one that’s noticed, either. ViperChill recently published an excellent write-up of Desk.com’s footer link spam practices.
There’s some debate in the SEO community about the ethics of ‘revealing’ another site’s strategies. Some believe it to be fair game, while others complain about “outers” who name and shame other (successful) sites. It’s my opinion that regular case studies and experiments are valuable to everyone (including the brands involved) and constitute an important part of our collective SEO knowledge.
With that said, I believe it’s pertinent to publish data in order to show:
a) How big brands leverage SERP boosts with web spam.
b) Why Google’s algorithms favour size over relevance.
c) How small sites can compete.
By “web spam”, I refer to linking strategies that directly violate Google’s Quality Guidelines, in particular, link schemes.
The Big Spam Project covers a range of brands across different industries and reveals a variety of web spam techniques in action. Rather than write a single 10,000-word mega-post, I’m breaking the project down into 6 easily-digestible sections:
[Update from the future: I never got around to writing up parts 2, 3 , 4 or 5 of this series. Real-life SEO got in the way!]
The final section will address the David versus Goliath question: how can small sites compete with mega-brands? There, I’ll explain how it’s still possible to leverage substantial organic, social and paid traffic regardless of your website’s footprint and budget.
If you’re ready to dive in, head over to Part 1.