Google Policies on Spam

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Understanding Google’s Spam Policies

Google has increased its focus on targeting spam more effectively in recent years. While it had already taken significant steps in this direction in 2022, with its March 2024 core update, Google will be able to filter out spam even efficiently. The latest core update has affected a large number of websites including several that lost a lot of traffic and saw their links being silently deindexed. Many websites that depended on a lot of AI content generators mainly to generate content at scale have also been severely affected, losing a lot of their ad revenue.

The webmasters whose websites have been affected need to review Google’s latest guidelines regarding AI generated content and spam. However, bloggers and website owners need to be aware of what constitutes spam according to Google so that they can avoid being penalized. Penalty does not always come as a manual penalty and now it is possible that links could be deindexed even without any warning.

Any disregard of these policies will prove damaging for websites as well as website reputation and can have a solid long term negative impact on traffic. So, if you believe you are erring anywhere, it is time to review the policy and make changes fast. In some cases, you might not be doing it intentionally, but you might still become a target. Suppose, you have files hosted on your website you do not know may count as spam or you have been using automated tools to generate backlinks without knowing it is against Google’s spam policies. EVen if you are taking content from other websites without providing proper citations, your content might be considered spam. So, it is good to be aware rather than end up being penalized because of negligence.

Here are the practices Google has highlighted which count as spam:

  • Keyword stuffing

  • Hidden Text and Links

  • Link Spam

  • Content generated by Automation tools

  • Scaled Content Abuse

  • Scraped content

  • Sneaky Redirects

  • Site reputation abuse

  • Cloaking:

  • Doorways:

  • Hacked Content:

  • Expired domain abuse:

  • Malware and malicious behaviors

  • Misleading functionality

  • Sneaky redirects

  • User generated Spam

  • Thin affiliate pages

These are the main types categorized as spam by Google. However, the list is not limited to just these and anytype of fraudulent practices count as spam.

Keyword Stuffing:

This is one of the most abused practices in the history of SEO where rather than writing quality content that aims to serve user needs, intend to manipulate search engines by stuffing target keywords into the content. It is against Google’s policies and if caught can lead to removal or drop in search rankings. For example, someone may create mediocre content for publication and then stuff the paragraphs and heading with the target keyword to mislead the search engines.

Such people would stuff keywords even if they appear out of context or are not factually correct. Such content may even appear unnatural because the main phrase is repeated so often that looks and sounds almost absurd. The main target of keyword stuffing is to fool search engines and users. While it may have worked in the past, Google has continued to improve its automated ranking mechanisms that such content gets caught and penalized easily.

You must avoid keyword stuffing at any cost. Rather than trying to rank for a single keyword, you can rank your websites for multiple, including long tail keywords, if you do not depend on keyword stuffing and instead generate quality content that helps users.

Link Spam means generating backlinks using unnatural methods, or manipulating links to rank higher. For example, exchanging links or buying links to rank higher since Google counts backlinks as one of the most important ranking signals. It includes everything that can be considered as unnatural linking practice. For example, if you paste a link for Pizza delivery service in a forum for SEO where you are talking about SEO factors will count as link spam. In another scenario, a widget that is distributed across websites and contains hidden, keyword rich and low quality links will count as link spam. Google suggests to use rel=nofollow or rel=sponsored for links that are purchased or sold.

AI generated traffic:

AI generated traffic that sends automatic queries to Google search also counts as spam. You also know it as automated querying and which Google expressly prohibits in its terms of service:

You may not send automated queries of any sort to Google’s system without express permission in advance >from Google. Note that “sending automated queries” includes, among other things: 1 using any software which sends queries to Google to determine how a website or webpage “ranks” on Google for various queries;

2 “meta-searching” Google; and

3 performing “offline” searches on Google.

Please do not write to Google to request permission to “meta-search” Google for a research project, as such >requests will not be granted. Source: Google Terms of Use

Malware or malicious Behavior:

Malware or similar unwanted software hosted on a website can harm users and the machine they are using to browse. For example, a malware can install unwanted software without user consent on the visitor’s computer. Malware or deceptive software or similar practices are considered spam and will be penalized by Google. The search giant checks that a website does not host any such malware or malicious software. Sometimes, websites may host files without knowing that they are considered malware. They must familiarize themselves with Google’s unwanted software policy to avoid a penalty.

Misleading functionality:

Sites must be made with a clear aim to serve users with high quality content and functionality that visitors find useful. For example, a site may deceive users that it provides something valuable like a specific service but does not really provide it. A webpage might claim that it includes valuable information or service to find some important information but real visitors find nothing of the kind on the website. Such misleading websites are considered as spam and removed by Google from search results.

Scaled Content abuse:

Scaled content abuse refers to the generation of content at large scale to manipulate search rankings mainly. It mainly involves generating unoriginal and unhelpful content that is full of keywords and not aimed at helping users.

As the use of Generative AI for content creation has increased, such content has proliferated online and Google is targeting such scaled spam to help users. However, it is not just AI generated content but other types of content like scraped content or content taken from two to three websites and then stitched together that also counts as spam since it is unoriginal and targeted mainly at manipulating search rankings.

Scraped content:

There are several such sites that depend mainly on scraped content and rather than providing their own discussion or adding their own perspective use only the scraped content to manipulate search rankings, This is just like benefiting from others’ hard work without even giving proper references. Such work is also considered unoriginal and spam since it does not provide any real value to users.Moreover, this type of content may constitute copyright infringement and if there are many requests filed for removal such content will be penalized.

So, depending totally on content published by others is against Google’s policies. You should provide some original discussion and perspective around the content rather than just republish content even if it has been taken from high quality resources. Sometimes a spammer may copy some else’s content and republish it after using generative AI to rewrite it. This makes the content unoriginal and useless and bloggers and publishers must refrain from adopting such techniques. You must not try to collect others’ content and just tailor it expecting it to rank since Google’s algorithms are advanced enough to identify such spam easily.

Sneaky Redirects:

Redirects can be used for multiple purposes. Sometimes, a person who has updated his domain name may want to redirect his old domain to the new one. Such redirects are not spam. However, the redirects that are intended to deceive are spam. Spammers create meticulous redirects whose purpose is to show the search engines different content and then serve users with content other than what they expected. It is also like cloaking. Sometimes spammers may show a different version on the desktop and redirect the mobile version to a spam page or website. Such sneaky redirects hurt user experience and may try to download malware to your machine.

Site Reputation Abuse:

Site reputation abuse means the abuse of a site’s reputation to publish low quality mediocre content by a third party whose aim is to gain rankings. Suppose a reputed site publishes mediocre quality content without much involvement or proper checks and the content provided by the third party is low quality. For example, an educational website publishes content by a casino website whose main aim is to increase rankings. Such content generally provides no value to the users.

A person visiting an educational website does not expect promotional content related to a gambling site or medical supplements site. Especially, when the involvement of the editors of the reputed site is little to none, and the content lacks quality, such content’s only main target is to gain rankings. Therefore, such content is considered spam by Google and penalized. A reputed website must not host such low quality content to avoid being penalized by Google.

Suppose you have a blog with a high domain rating and someone approaches you to publish content for a gambling site. Your site is about SEO and other technical stuff where gambling has no relevance. However, you are using your site’s reputation to attract backlink hunters and letting them publish low quality content without proper oversight on your website. This is site reputation abuse and may lead to a penalty and loss of traffic.

Thin Affiliate Pages:

Affiliate sites can be of two types basically. One of the provides original work and content of value to visitors that helps. However this is not the case with all the affiliate sites since some of them may provide thin content and include affiliate links in them. For example, one website owner just publishes the content provided by the affiliate brand without adding any own content or real value to it. The same content or similar content is published by many more sites. What happens in such cases is that multiple results return the same content which leads to a poor user experience since users are frustrated to not find important information or anything of value that they are searching for.

Good affiliate websites provide detailed information regarding product attributes in the form of detailed reviews as well as information on pricing, comparison with other products and ratings. They rigorously test the product and then provide original reviews that help visitors understand and make their own decisions. Thin affiliate pages are just the opposite of it, providing content lacking useful information and any detailed review. Such thin affiliate pages are considered spam by Google and can be penalized.

User Generated Spam:

Another important source of spam is user generated spam and if you are not cautious, your site may become filled with such spam from user channels like comments and forum responses. Spammers may fill your comment box with fake responses to your posts and include spammy links with them. If you are running a blog or forum, ensure that commenters provide original comments that have real value rather than fake and spam comments. If you are using Wordpress, you can easily manage spam comments using its built-in commenting and moderation system or using a plugin. Other platforms also provide mechanisms to keep your website free from spam comments.

Hidden text and links are not always bad but the hidden links that are placed there to manipulate search rankins and in a way that they can remain hidden from human eyes are considered spam. For example, somebody places a link to a casino website to create a backlink and the link is then hidden either by changing its color to the same as the background or other mechanisms. One can also hide text and links behind images or by using css to hide the link or making link size so small that it is not easily identifiable. If someone uses only a hyphen or a dot as an anchor, you would not be able to identify the anchor link easily. If the link was not spam, it would stand out and would include at least a few words.

However, there are some exceptions also. For example, the use of accordions, slideshows, tooltips and screenreader text does not count as spam. Spammers hide these links intentionally whereas legitimate links may be hidden from direct view for a valid reason. Expandable text containing a link can be viewed by expanding it so it cannot be considered spam.

Hacked content:

Hackers can also place spammy content on your website. Suppose your website gets hacked due to some security vulnerability. The hacker can employ such vulnerabilities to ingest js code or to add pages that are meant to manipulate search rankings. Theyc na also inject code which will install malware on the visitors’ machines or lead to wrong and poor search results. So, it is important to employ security techniques and mechanisms to keep your server and website out of the reach of hackers.

If a hacker adds new pages to your website, it can hurt your search rankings even if the other pages have remained unaffected. So, as soon as you discover, it is important to remove these pages so they become 404 or redirect 410 them.

Sometimes it can be very hard to identify the hack since the hacker may use css, html and js to add hidden texts and links to your website. You can use services like Sucuri and conduct a malware scan to find out instantly if your website has been hacked to avoid a severe penalty. Hacked content may be difficult to fix but it can be fixed. Google has also provided guidelines on dealing with hacked content.

Sometimes, hackers can implement malicious redirects to redirect visitors coming to your site through Google search to other spammy pages. While you may not come across the redirect when you open the url directly in your browser, visitors clicking on your links in Google searches might be redirected. So, make sure to do a complete scan if you believe your site has been hacked and follow the guidelines provided by Google.

Expired Domain Abuse:

Expired domain use is a commonly used black hat seo technique. There are several websites that sell expired domains which are used by spammers to rank their content faster and higher. These domains are expired does not mean that they are useless but they can be repurposed and used for ranking higher. For example, somebody found an expired domain for an educational site. He purchased it and since this domain had an attractive existing backlink portfolio, he used it to start a casino website or to redirect the domain to his casino site. These expired domains generally have excellent backlink profiles and domain ratings which makes them useful for SEO purposes.

However, it is against Google’s policies. While there are websites that sell expired domains, using them to generate and publish spam content will always lead to a penalty. Users must purchase new domains since if the expired domain has been penalized in the past which generally cannot be discovered easily, will cause your new and original content on that domain to be considered as spam by Google.


Cloaking is a deceptive practice meant to misguide both the search engines and users. For example, someone presents a page to the search engines as dedicated to vehicles but sells discounted watches to real visitors. The real intent here is to mislead search engines and manipulate rankings.

If there are a high number of searches coming for a particular keyword, the spammer manipulates the trend to cloak his real intent which is to sell something else. The spammer uses technologies to stuff different keywords when search engines crawl the site but not when real users visit it. As a result, the content that the search bot sees is different from what the real user sees. What happens is that when the visitor is identified as a search bot, a server side script delivers different content to it than what a real user would see on the page.

Hackers also use cloaking which makes it difficult for a site owner to detect the real hack. However, if someone operates a paywall or content gating, it is not called cloaking if Google can see the content behind the gate like any ordinary user with access to the gated material would do. Cloaking becomes span when the intent is to deceive search engines to manipulate search rankings and cheat users. A spammer may present a webpage as one dedicated to motorcycles and to a real user, it can turn out to be one about discounted drugs.


Doorways are pages that are created to deliberately manipulate search engines to gain rankings. No, we are not talking about domains and subdomains. Doorways instead are intermediate pages and use some form of redirection generally to direct to the final page. These intermediate pages are not as useful as the final one. For example, a company operates multiple websites with different domain names and only slight variation in url and homepage. The main aim of using this technique is to maximize the reach of a query.

We have often seen assignment/homework companies utilizing these methods to reach more users across various geographies and redirecting them to the core service using this technique. However, this technique is manipulative and deceptive. It is a black hat seo technique that you must avoid at all costs. Cloaking is also considered a form of Doorways technique.


Google is targeting spam more strictly than ever and while spammers would always try to find one way or the other to cheat search engines, tere task has now become more difficult due to Google’s advanced algorithms and human scrutiny. Sometimes, one may be penalized for someone else’s wrong doing also. For example, your website gets hacked and the hacker makes it difficult for you to fix it. Because of the hacked content on your website, Google categorizes your site as malicious.

You let someone publish a post on your website who hides a link to a spam website inside the content in a manner that it is not easily viewable to manipulate search rankings. It is why awareness and caution are essential. User generated spam can also hurt your website reputation and rankings. However, you can fix it if you have somehow been targeted. It is also essential to refrain from any wrong methods to obtain backlinks or publish unoriginal or unhelpful content.