Thursday, May 12, 2016

Google Confirms: Deceptive and Harmful = Spam

What is spam? We all know spam when we see it--and because of its ubiquity, we've all seen it. Spam is ugly, incongruous, often nonsensical. The writer, Colin Dickey, slyly pointed to the nonsense in a recent tweet:

The true riddle is inadvertent. Like so much Twitter spam, this bot's attempt to communicate makes little sense. This is the spam we're all familiar with. We see it, prolifically, in our spam folders, in emails making absurd promises:

"The sum of USD$25.7M only will be transfer into your account after the processing of all relevant legal documents with your name as the bonafide beneficiary..."

This line arrived today, in my email, from a certain "Dr. Chiunadue Eze" of the "Central Bank of Nigeria." Spam of this kind has become a white noise, a necessary evil of the Internet, largely ignored but still annoying.

It's hard to believe this sort of spam is effective at all. Yet as we noted before:

"A spammer works on the principle of nearly 100% quantity. Blasting emails to millions, regardless of the recipient's preferences, spammers care little about the quality of their image. Instead, spammers play a numbers game, hoping for bare minimum conversions: 1% or less. Sounds inefficient? Well, it is, in a sense. Yet a 1% conversion for one million emails is still 10,000."

Please Read: Quality or Quantity: A Different View of SEO Marketing

Of course, any business would take 10,000 customers--but at what cost?

For a sustainable business, spam is not the answer. Spam degrades your brand image: You attract 10,000 customers, repel 990,000 others. And, of course, that 1% conversion is likely generous. Does anyone really fall for emails of the sort Dr. Eze sent me?

The true riddle of Colin Dickey's spam, and all such spam? What's the point?

Unfortunately, not all spam is of the puzzlingly pointless variety. In fact, the spam industry has evolved. Today's spam is more tricky; and very often, frankly, today's spam successfully masquerades as a legitimate business. Many businesses--from J. Crew to any matter of Internet marketers--practice some form of spam.

Even then, it is a terrible association--to be linked with spam. So how do you avoid it?

Google might have something to say about this. Just yesterday, the search giant decided to ban ads for "payday loans"--the sort of loans, as Forbes reports, "that are due within 60 days and...have an annual percentage rate of 36% or higher."

Forbes quotes a Google blog post on the loans, citing David Graff, director of global product policy at Googles, who says “This change is designed to protect our users from deceptive or harmful financial products."

In the past, Google has done its best to limit deceptive or harmful products, banning, as Forbes notes, "weight loss scams, counterfeit goods and phishing sites." Google also "prohibits ads for illegal goods and services like guns and drugs."

These bans are largely due to the Penguin algorithm, which was introduced on April 24, 2012, to limit the rankings of Black Hat websites that violate Google's Webmaster Guidelines. With Penguin, Google proved, more then ever before, that its main objective was to offer its users only high-quality content.

To put it another way, reversing Google's characterization of payday loan ads as "deceptive or harmful," the search engine is looking for two key assets: honesty and helpfulness.

Does this describe your site? You might believe your product is helpful, but do you market honestly? If you blanket users with information they do not want or need; if you offer your products out of context (or: in any context), you are practicing a form of spam.

The value of organic SEO is precisely in targeting your core audience. Unlike spam, organic SEO is not senseless, random marketing. Organic SEO works to deliver the most relevant and high-quality results to your unique customers. In this way, Google's algorithm update and bans are not meant to stymie SEO. The changes dissuade spam and encourage organic SEO.

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