Internal Webspam on Websites – The Enemy Within!

Note: This post has some assumptions on how Google works since nobody, with the exception of a select secretive few at Google, is fully informed about the insides of Google’s search engine rankings. Please keep that in mind while reading this post.

One of our major clients told us that they lost in traffic to their #1 competitor. They told us to review their website and see if there’s anything that can be done technically that can improve its search engine rankings and restore the website’s former glory! The website, of course, was powered by Joomla.

We checked everything on the website: The speed was fast (but not that fast, and that’s why we’ll be doing a round of optimization soon), all the meta tags were there and they were OK, the website was up-to-date as well as all the extensions, the website was clean (it wasn’t hacked), and the website’s traffic didn’t fall by that much, but it did fall.

We then looked at the content, the first article was OK, the second article that we checked, however, was not. The second article merely consisted of a long tail keyword as a title, and a small sentence linking to another, much more lengthier article on the website. Hmmm…

We immediately emailed our client and told them that this practice of trying to lure long tail traffic using long tail keywords may work at first, but it will definitely backfire at one point, when Google starts thinking (and rightly so) that they’re trying to game the system. Google has a technical name for this practice; it calls it webspam. For those who don’t know, here’s how Google addresses webspam:

  1. It checks the reputation of the website. If it’s an established website with a high reputation (such as our client’s website), it gives it the benefit of the doubt. Neutral reputation/non-established websites get penalized swiftly.
  2. Since the website has a high reputation, Google considers these short posts as beneficial to the web’s ecosystem and will return them in top results; effectively granting more traffic to the website through these very short posts. Those writing content on the website are lured into thinking that their strategy is working, and so they start writing more and more of these short posts to claim more traffic.

  3. Once the traffic generated by these short posts is noticeable, Google will start thinking, “hmmm, are they really doing that?”, and so Google starts reducing the traffic generated by these posts.

  4. Once the traffic generated by these posts is significant to the traffic’s website, then Google will think, “they are doing that… And I’m going to do something about it.” At this point, Google will penalize the website.

  5. Once penalized, a website may take literally years to fully recover. During these years, the administrator should beg Google every month until Google thinks that it won’t be gamed again by that website.

Our client told us that they will stop writing these short posts immediately, and they asked us if it’s a good idea to delete the previous short posts they have written. We told them “No”, because if they did, then this will be a red flag for Google. We told them that what’s done is done, and that the most important thing is not to do it.

We will closely monitor our client’s traffic to see if improvement is made over the next few weeks. If the situation further deteriorates, then we might ask for more radical actions on the website, such as deleting these short posts.

Now, some of you might be asking, since this is internal webpsam, is there an external webspam? Well, yes. External webspam is when you do the exact same thing, but on a different website. So, for example, the person will create a blog on WordPress, and will write one-sentence-posts over there (with long tail keywords), and then, in those posts, will link to his original website.

External webspam is less harmful than internal webspam because of 2 reasons: 1) Google is not 100% sure that the person writing these posts on the WordPress blog is an administrator on the original website, and not some competitor trying to get the website penalized and 2) Google can easily discount all the links incoming from the WordPress blog, without penalizing the original website.

If your established website (Joomla or non-Joomla) has started to lose some traffic, then you should check whether you are involved in the, ahem, webspam practice. If you are, then you should stop doing it immediately since not only you are not benefiting anyone out there, you are also harming your website. If you need help reviewing your website, then please contact us. Please note that our super affordable fees apply.

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