Research: Long Tail of Google's Search Results Dominated by Doorway Pages & Other Spam

The people from SEO Digger recently put together some research on search spam. Some of the terminology they use (like using the word illicit) is inaccurate, but the trends they discovered align well with what one would expect.

Spam Dominates Longtail Adult & Pill Search Queries

In high money niches, spam sites tended to dominate longer search queries while having less exposure in search results for shorter queries. View the below graph with adult, pills, dating, cars, gifts, and casinos. It shows the normalized density of spam sites ranking in Google by 1, 2, and 3 word queries.
spam breakdown.

Why is Casino an Anomaly?

I believe the reasons casinos appear so tight nit are

  • US advertising laws and gaming laws prohibit some of the common spam related revenue streams
  • leading online gaming sites have heavily embraced both offline advertising and SEO
  • people who gamble tend to be quite passionate about gambling

That passion means gamers are more active to participate in community sites in that niche, which further consolidates traffic streams due to network effects and creates a lot of free on topic content for some of the major community driven sites.

Effective Search Spamming Business Models

Given this research, if you were to create a business model revolving around spamming, it makes sense to focus on the long tail of search. Get enough PageRank to get your pages indexed, but do not worry about accumulating enough PageRank to try to rank for core keywords in the spammy niches. Plus, staying away from the core keywords makes your sites less likely to get booted from a manual review and/or a competitor snitching on you.

Spam & Ranking Low Trust New Sites

The exact same trend that is seen between real sites vs spam sites is paralleled when considering new websites vs older websites.

  • Older websites that are heavily linked at and heavily trusted dominate the core category related keywords.
  • Longer search queries have less matches in the search database, and are thus more reliant on the on the page aspects of SEO.
  • Older sites can not possibly adequately cover all the related longtail search phrases, so newer sites with less authority rank for many of the more accessible long tail keywords.

If you create a new site you can set your goals on ranking for core category keywords, but realize that longtail traffic will come first. If Google lets entire categories get dominated by spam pages then there has to be an associated opportunity to rank real pages.

Published: November 1, 2007 by Aaron Wall in seo tools


November 2, 2007 - 2:07am

I'm a bit surprised nobody has commented on this, yet. A few days ago the topic of "getting the word out" arose on searchguild (as in: you create that great unique quality content everybody is talking about, but how do you get the linkerati to know you have that linkworthy content...).

One of the moderators mentioned that he liked splitting his goals to rank for keywords into three categories: easy keywords to rank for, not easy but not too competitive ones, competitive order to "get the word out".

That made me think of what you wrote in seobook about your rule of thumb for page titles and using at least one competitive and one easy-to-rank-for keyword in the page title, etc..

After this advice on ranking new sites it seems as if you used the same strategy to get the word out for a new site: ranking it for long-tail phrases first (when it has basically no visibility, yet) and trying to go for the more competitive ones later?

I assume how well this works (to get the word out) depends a lot on the industry you're in. In industries where there are lots of forums and thus lots of conversation ranking for long-tail queries will help you get people to talk about your site on forums, etc. (if the content is "remarkable")? - sort of what you said about the gaming industry and people talking a lot there.

But in niches that don't really have particular forums that relate to it (certain products for example), this will not work as well, I assume? (though of course you should still try to target long-tail phrases first)

November 2, 2007 - 2:17am

Well you have to look at the forums as a double edged sword. If lots of people are creating content on forums that is content that may link at you but it also competes with your content for longtail queries.

Perhaps participating in forums and turning a blog into a more forum-like existence gets benefits both ways.

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