Website self defense: don't let your innocent page be punished as webspam

What is webspam?

Think of webspam as pages that are written for search engines instead of people. search results with deceptive methods." (Click here to read Google's definition.)

How does Google punish webspam?

If the violation isn't too bad, Google will reduce the page's Page Rank (PR).

Google ignores the worst cases. And by "ignores" I mean Google will ignore the page: the page will no longer be indexed by Google. That is called banning and it is an Intenet death sentence.

How serious is Google about punishing webspam? 

In January 2012, Google severely punished its own Google Chrome home page for violations. It might have been a publicity stunt, but whatever it was, it shows Google is serious. (You can read more the incident here. )

Should you worry?

Yes. There are several ways an honest page can end up classified as spam. Among them:
  • You make an innocent SEO mistake that doesn't look innocent
  • Someone on your page links to a "bad neighborhood"
  • Your content appears in more than one place on the Internet

What can you do?

This article will show you how to avoid the scenarios listed above and more. 

I'll only cover things an honest person could do inadvertently. We don't want your innocent page punished for a crime it didn't commit. We don't care about helping the bad guys.

By the way, I'm going to write as if I'm good buddies with Google's search robots, but obviously I'm not. Those robots are a clique-y bunch. I'm just writing based on my research. 

So, let's go. First step...

Don't screw up your SEO

When it comes to SEO, if it's not good, then it's bad. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing--either know what you're doing or don't do it.

Keyword stuffing. You've probably been told to research keywords and then use them a lot. 

Well, if you use them too much, it's called keyword stuffing and Google will penalize you for it. People who write for human beings do not repeat the same word over and over. If your text would annoy a user, it'll annoy Google's robots too.

Hidden text. Back in the old days, bad guys used to add a lot of hidden keywords. Robots could see them, but humans couldn't. It was their way of keyword stuffing without chasing away readers. It's a useless technique now, but Google is still on guard against it. 

So be careful of your font colors. If you accidentally put fuschia text on a fuschia background, you won't see that you've done it. But Google's robots will, and they'll think you're trying to do black hat SEO circa 1990. They'll laugh at you as they lower your PR. 

Try doing a control-A on your page to look for hidden words. Or just don't fool with the font colors.

Deceptive redirects. If you're a newbie, you don't need to worry about this. Long story short: it's a red flag if you redirect a robot but don't redirect the human. If you want to change how robots view your site, do it openly in robots.txt or in the meta tags.

Don't allow bad links

Good links are useful to users. Whenever you link to a site, think to yourself: Does this help my user? If the answer is no, don't do it. If you're participating in some kind of a link exchange, be honest with yourself. Is the link benefiting your user or are you just doing it for SEO? 

Guilt by association. Make sure you're willing to vouch for any site you link to. Think twice before linking to gambling sites or porn. 

Police your users. If you allow comments, then prevent commenters from linking to bad sites. Consider making all comments "no follow" if know how to do that. If you don't, then manually delete spammy comments. It's good practice, anyway. "You're artical was goodest ever. Click here for grow of manhood!" is not likely to interest other readers of your lesbian cat owners blog.

Don't allow duplicate content

Any duplicate content will lower your PR.

Plagiarism. Protect yourself. Some people have had their content stolen and then, themselves, been penalized for plagiarism. You can use this tool to check if anyone has copied your content.

If you find someone has plagiarized you, you can request to have Google remove the content from its index. Click here for Google's tool to help you do that.

Duplicating your own content. Don't do it. Users don't want to go here and there and end up reading the same thing with a little different packaging. Put your unique content in one place. If you want to use it somewhere else, link to it.


The take away message for this should be: Provide value to human beings on the Net. As long as you do that, you can't stray too far, but watch out for yourself, too. 

To learn more about how to create a page that Google will recognize as high quality, read Google's Own Webmaster Guidelines.


  1. I have been doing TONS of research on this very topic. You don't seem so protected yourself. The new trend seems to be to have ppl have to sign in using fb or twitter accounts to verify they are a 'real person.' You may want to change your own comment platform!

  2. Thanks for reading and commenting. Good point.

    People use FB, captcha, etc to try to filter out comments where people just say write something unrelated and then link to some site. Those comments don't contribute anything worthwhile so they lower the quality of the webpage, which translates to lower page rank. Sometimes they link so harmful sites or link to unrelated sites. More things that don't help the user and therefore lower page rank.

    I'm trying to encourage comments, even anonymous ones as long as they are useful, so I've got my comments wide open. If I start getting too many spam comments, I'll have to take up your suggestion.

    Thanks again!