What should I do if my competitors are using webspam techniques?


Today's question comes from Hood River, where lisawilliams wants to know, "White hat search marketers read and follow Google guidelines. What should they tell clients whose competitors use black hat techniques such as doorway pages and whom continue to rank as a result of those techniques?" So first and foremost, I would say do a spam report. Because if you're violating Google's guidelines in terms of cloaking or sneaky JavaScript redirects, buying links, doorway pages, keyword stuffing, all those kinds of things, we do want to know about it. So you can do a spam report. That's private. You can also stop by Google's Webmaster forum, and that's more public. But you can do a spam report there. You can sort of say, hey, I saw this content. It seems like it's ranking higher than it should be ranking. Here's a real business, and it's being outranked by this spammer, those kinds of things. There are people who keep an eye on that forum, not just Google employees, but also sort of superusers or bionic posters. And they can also pass those reports on. So there are a lot of different ways to report specific incidents of spam. The other thing that I would say is if you look at the history of which businesses have done well over time, you'll find the sorts of sites and the sorts of businesses that are built to stand the test of time. If someone is using a technique that is a gimmick or something that's like the SEO fad of the day, that's a little less likely to really work well a few years from now. So a lot of the times, you'll see people just chasing after, OK, I'm going to use guest books, or I'm going to use link wheels or whatever. And then they find, oh, that stopped working as well. And sometimes it's because of broad algorithmic changes like Panda. Sometimes it's because of specific web spam targeted algorithms. But it can also be the case that we can crack down on even large companies. If you go back and look at the New York Times articles about JC Penney or Overstock, we're willing to take action on anything that we consider to be a violation of our guidelines. So my short answer is go ahead and do a spam report. You can also report it in the forums. But it's definitely the case that if you're taking those higher risks, that can come back and bite you. And that can have a material impact. So I would recommend that people avoid going with the black hat techniques. And we're happy to hear, we're happy to get feedback either at conferences, on Twitter, online, blogs, forums, if you're seeing sites that are prospering and are using black hat techniques. Now, it's possible that they have some low-quality links, and there are some links that people aren't aware of that we see that are actually high quality.  But we're happy to get spam reports. We're happy to dig into them. And then we'll try to find either new algorithms to try to rank the things more appropriately in the future. Or we're certainly willing to take manual action on spam if it's egregious or if it violates our guidelines. We have a manual web spam team that is willing to respond to those spam reports. So thanks very much.

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