Is Google Spam-Free? A Case Study on Spam in SERPs

Did Google Finally Kill the SPAM from the SERPS? – Case Study

No longer than one year ago, on June 11th 2013, Google, launched a new algorithm whose main purpose was to clean some very “shady” niches, such as “payday loans” or “buy Viagra”. These are very controversial niches that everybody knew about but hardly anybody talked about. One year earlier, in 2012 we tried to fire a warning shot concerning this matter,  but Matt Cutt’s answer came out 1 year later, when they released the initial Payday Loans Google Update.

There were people complaining about searches like Payday Loans […] So we have 2 different changes that try to tackle those kind of queries in a couple different ways. We cannot give you too many details about how they work but I’m kind of excited that we’re going from having general queries be a little more clean to going into some of these areas that traditionally have been a little more spammy, including for example some more pornographic queries […]

Did Google Finally Kill the SPAM from the SERPS? – Case Study

And although Google tried to make things right by targeting some very spammy sites and queries, the overall impact was still moderate. Tactics such as Parasite Hosting, Google Bombing or Cloaking & Redirects were still standing strong.  Improvement was needed in this area as spammers will always find new ways of “cheating” the system. Therefore, Payday Loan 2.0, whose explicit purpose was to crack down on very spammy queries and sites, was launched just a few weeks ago. But it was not enough. Spam was still ranking high.

Here we are, 3 weeks forward from the Pay Day Loans 2.0, and Google’s web spam team leader announces a new update of this algorithm Payday Loans 3.0. Before asking whether this algorithm was necessary or not, I think it’s worth lingering a bit on the way the big “announcement” was made. Oh, wait… there hasn’t been a real official announcement. And, don’t get me wrong, I am not expecting an invitation to a launch party with cake and champagne. I am just saying that yesterday, at the SMX Advanced conference  Matt Cutts mentioned that a new update to the Pay Day Loans Algorithm is going to be launched in the next few days. Today, the same Matt Cutts answered to a tweet with: “it is rolling out now”.
Did Google Finally Kill the SPAM from the SERPS? – Case Study
In reality, based on the case studies we are going to present in this article, this update rolled out before the conference, meaning BEFORE Google’s representative mentioned that “is going to be rolled out in the future”. All the same, maybe we will tackle Google’s official announcements policy in some other post as for the moment we have some very interesting case studies we want to share with you.

Super Competitive Shaddy Niches

There is a very productive niche for things that people are ashamed to ask for, but need them anyway, so they will try to look for them (and will usually find them online, along with anything else they might need).

One example of such a niche is the one for male potency pills. Apparently, over 45 tons of Viagra are consumed worldwide every year. And they’re not all coming from drugstores. The name of the blue pill has become synonymous with the male potency drug, so it’s really no wonder that most websites out there that deal with such products use “Viagra” as a keyword. It also makes sense that even websites that have no connection to the drug use it as a keyword, to draw traffic. Of course, Pfizer is not happy about it, and has requested that Google shall not allow advertisers to promote any sites on this keyword.

Another such area of ashamed-but-needed products and services is the Money industry. In particular, money beyond your spending capabilities (read payday loans). While the profits are not necessarily what you would expect, with net profits usually in the 10-12% range for payday lenders, the mirage of easy money still draws quite a large competition. That’s mainly because there’s such a large demographic that can be targeted and so many ways in which you can market yourself. And if you choose to advertise online, the investment is at a minimum.

Of course, the problem with that is that everyone in the field is thinking in the same way. So how do you stand out to the myriad of desperate borrowers? Most likely by adopting shady tactics. In fact, just a couple of years ago payday loan agencies in the UK were under scrutiny for aggressive advertising practices, as they started placing ads on social networking sites . More recently, other more complex schemes surfaced, such as hacking and hijacking unconnected sites for profit. Such was the case of, who just two years ago was hijacked to redirect to a payday loan agency’s website, but also to return as the main result when people searched for “payday loans”. And some examples can be found by the hundreds.

Before and After the Google Payday Loans 3.0 Google Update

Judging by the way keywords such as: “Payday loans”, “Buy Viagra”, gambling stuff ant other highly competitive keywords looked like (practically everything that makes tons of money), a Google Spammy Update was definitely imminent. And hopefully this time the update’s severity will be stronger than the spammer’s ingenuity.

Razvan Gavrilas
Razvan is the Founder and Chief Architect of cognitiveSEO, an SEO Toolset focused on in-depth analysis of ranking signals. His passion for search engine marketing led him to create his own SEO Toolset, trying to solve the issues that he is facing in the search engine optimization field.
Razvan Gavrilas

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5 thoughts on “Is Google Spam-Free? A Case Study on Spam in SERPs

  1. Some great examples, Razvan.

    The Payday loan industry is very competitive and even after payday loan updates 1, 2 and 3, we’re still seeing some spammy results appear in the SERPs. I worked on removing a penalty for in 2013 and we have focused on content marketing ever since – We now rank top 5 for many competitive terms and no longer fear the Google updates.

  2. Do you even know what parasite hosting is? WTF…. none of the websites on the picture of comparison is parasite hosted . THis method was used like 7 years ago so to be honest I got no idea what you are talking about in this article/

      1. Well that is hacked websites, parasite hosting is something else but anyway, good articles keep up the good work.