Google Could Manually Punish Websites For UGC Spam
Content creators typically conduct thorough SEO content checks before publishing a piece of content or linking to different sites and blogs. However, Google recently warned SEO content creators to double their precautions against user-generated content (UGC) spam.
According to a published blog post from Google, the search engine giant encourages everyone to protect their websites and prevent them from being used for UGC spam. Google also warned the web pages tolerating UGC spam, saying that it will have manual action penalties waiting for them as this practice is against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Manual action penalties can cause a massive drop in site traffic, so this warning should never be taken lightly.
What is User Generated Content Spam?
Link builders build profiles on different websites, leaving links in the posts and profiles. The problem is, an increasing number of forum spammers are doing it, too – and worse, they started making their links black instead of blue like a normal link.
Spammers use this sneaky technique to hide their links within a piece of content, which gives legitimate SEO content creators a hard time distinguishing spammy web pages from good quality ones.
Google stated that the most UGC spam was found in forums, social media platforms, guestbooks, internal search services, file uploaders, and free hosting services.
According to the search engine company, there are different ways that UGC spam can affect both websites and their users. If poor content makes its way to a few web pages, it can affect the whole website’s ranking.
Spammy content can redirect users to harmful or unwanted content, such as websites with phishing or malware; This could really damage a brand’s reputation and cause visitors to think that it is untrustworthy.
Moreover, spammy content can slow down websites and increase hosting costs. It can also risk the site’s rankings as Google demotes or removes web pages that have third-party generated spam as a way of protecting the quality of search results.
There is a huge possibility that Google is going to take severe measures and precautions to discourage or restrict UGC spam. Google is basically sending a message to all publishers, telling them to do thorough SEO content checks and comb through their comments or other parts of their sites to look for spammy content.
Tips For Preventing And Finding UGC Spam
Google provided the SEO community with several useful tips to fight off spam, many of which are already put into practice by SEOs who operate forum sites. They are the following:
- Block automated account creation – Businesses and website owners can require their users to answer CAPTCHAs or validate their accounts with emails before they can access the content. Additionally, there are site settings where webmasters can set up filters to block email addresses that seem untrustworthy.
- Turn on moderation features – Some websites do not allow guests to post or comment on their websites unless they have reviewed them. This means that the owner of the website should spend more time monitoring the comments from their readers. Although it may be time-consuming, this tip is best for sites that publish articles about controversial topics that invoke strong emotions from the readers.
- Clean up site for any issues and monitor for spammy content – Site owners can use Google Search Console to monitor manual action and security reports.
- Prevent Google search from following or showing untrusted content – The noindex meta tag is a great way to hide untrusted parts of a website, such as user profiles, from the search results. One can also use the nofollow link if they find UGC links on their site.
- Consolidate UGC content in a concentrated file path or directory – Google encourages SEOs to create a directory where UGC can be consolidated to easily find spam that is made by hackers using automated scripts.
- Use a blocklist to prevent repetitive spamming attempts – If a single profile keeps on spamming the website, website owners can simply place them into the blocklist. And if other spammy profiles come from the same source, it is better to add the IP address in question to a permanent ban list.
- Get help from the community – Other site users can also help fight off UGC content by flagging such spam threads or comments whenever they come across it. However, some users can abuse this type of system, so site owners must be careful how they implement it. One option is to remove a thread or post temporarily until the webmaster reviews and approves it.
Google also advised keeping web software up-to-date and locating and terminate spam accounts.
Another thing that helps businesses and webmasters is using Google Alerts to receive warnings when spammy content is linked to the website.
They can conduct Site Colon (site:) operator and type in spammy keywords, then they can change the settings to get a Google Alert for those searches. So, when a spammer makes spam using the keywords typed in, it will trigger a warning email, which Google sends to the site owner. For instance, one can search for [site:your-domain-name watch online] to locate spammy content on the website.
Google is implying that the SEO experts should never assume that their site contains no spam, and that they must be ever-vigilant. Everyone must start having this mindset that Google is very much capable of conducting manual penalties for UGC spam. The SEO community must be compelled to check their websites for any spammy links, content, or user profiles and get rid of them as soon as possible.
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