What Marketers Should Know About Spam in the Google Index

Rick Burnes
Rick Burnes

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Last Sunday the online marketing world declared that  the emperor has no clothes : The almighty Google, it seems, is riddled with spam.

Blogger Paul Kedrosky stumbled across this problem when he  spent the weekend using Google to search for a dishwasher : "To a first approximation, the entire web is spam when it comes to appliance reviews." Techcrunch's Mike Arrington followed up with a piece about the end of " hand crafted content ." VC Fred Wilson  added to the discussion , as did  Read Write Web  and  John Battelle .

The gist of the conversation? Low-quality content is ruining search.

As a marketer -- particularly an  inbound marketer  -- this discussion might feel like an earthquake. Search is part of the foundation of inbound marketing, and if search is broken -- if customers can't find what they're looking for in Google -- the foundation of inbound marketing is ruptured, right?

Not really. Search spam is a problem, but not one that calls for drastic new actions by inbound marketers.

Here are a few reasons why:

(1) Google will be important until it stops sending you traffic. Google remains the biggest source of free traffic for most marketers. Spam may pose a theoretical problem, and it may annoy you when you're searching for appliances, but it won't have an impact on your business until it starts reducing the traffic Google sends you.

(2) If low-quality content is abundant, high-quality content is relatively scarce. That scarcity is an opportunity for your business. If everybody else is churning out low-grade muck, you can distinguish your business by producing thoughtful, useful blog posts and webinars.

(3) People who stop using Google will use Facebook and Twitter as their replacement.  If the quality of Google's link- and keyword-based filtering falls, the Web has an emerging replacement: social search. In aggregate, the social graph of sites like Facebook and Twitter, combined with their content, can be an equally efficient filtering technique -- and possibly harder to game.

(4) As a marketer, you should be more concerned with getting found, and less concerned with getting found in search engines. Don't get too attached to search. If your referral traffic is growing and quality is consistent,  who cares  whether it's coming from Google, Facebook or Twitter?

Regardless of how the search world evolves, inbound marketing will help your business get found.

If you're concerned about spam in the Google Index, you should focus on creating quality useful content, optimizing it, engaging on social networks, then sharing that content on those networks. That's how your business will get found in a social search world.

Of course, if you're not concerned with spam in the Google Index, you should do the exact same thing. However search evolves,  content social media  and  optimization  will be the keys.  

Photo:  From the Wikipedia article on The Emperor's New Clothes .  

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