Spam in Google search results for “Bill Slawski’s obituary” shows the dark side of SEO

Yesterday we reported the sad news of Bill Slawsky’s passing.

Less than 24 hours later and no actual obituary has been published (whether by a news site or a funeral home). However, Google search results are full of unwanted results.

See what’s ranking on Google search now [bill slawski obituary]:

This is intimidating, especially for anyone looking for trustworthy information on Slawski.

To me, this SERP looks like Google, prior to updating Panda, for certain queries where content farms prevailed. This is the easiest way to describe it.

Many low-quality sites have created thin content with the sole purpose of improving it for ranking whenever someone searches for Bill Slawski’s obituary. And they make a profit from any traffic they get through display ads.

What’s worse – there are many of these types of sites. And these sites have one thing in common: content that reads as if it was automatically generated or written (poorly) by people whose first language is not English.

Let’s take a look at some sites so you can understand just how daunting all this is:

1. AReal News

The content is pure rubbish. Look at this paragraph:

“He was healthy and heart until he broke his leg that killed him. Before his death, Brian had a stroke, which led to him being taken to the hospital. This information was shared on Twitter. It did not affect his ability to think and write. He was only having problems waking up. Right. He was very active on Twitter before his death.”

Aside from the obvious content issue, this site appears to be clearly violating the Google Page Layout algorithm (also known as Top Heavy). Before you get to the content, you will get nothing but ads, ads, ads.

And they are looking for [obituary site:arealnews.com] He reveals that this is not a one-time event. It is a strategy:

2. OnTrend

Some trash contents:

“No doubt he was surrounded by his wife and children when he took his last breath in peace. Additional thoughts for Bill’s partner cannot be reached at the moment. We are monitoring this matter.”

3. Cody Cactus

If this isn’t a search spam, it’s almost certainly about low-quality content as far as you can post before this threshold is reached:

Twitter regrets the lack of a website that puts bumblebee Bill Slawsky at 61. However, his explanation of the lack of life has been kept a secret. What happened?

In fact, when I turned off my ad blocker to take a screenshot, it was so full of ads and redirects to spam I could no longer see the site. I hope my computer is not infected with a virus.

4. CmaTrends

Before we take a look at this example, be sure to check out this site’s homepage title tag: “CmaTrends” We are selling entertaining period! “

And the opening of their article:

Bill Slawski, author of Search Engine Land, has passed away at the age of 61, #Bill #Slawski #author #Search #Engine #Land #died #age OLASMEDIA TV NEWSHere’s what we offer you today:

I could cite more examples, but you get the point.

Google’s new information problem. The quality of this search result is poor. But it goes beyond just Slawski.

This is a known problem. For some new search queries, there is often not enough content on the web for Google to rank for. So you get a bunch of content that, other than that, has no reason to show up.

Sometimes you also see this after an extensive update of the underlying algorithm. Suddenly, Google started showing questionable content from suspicious sources – as if it had hit some kind of reset button. Google usually determines it at the end and the most relevant content goes back to where it should be (although not always).

death earnings. Aside from the obviously fake “news” sites, there are a number of unsolicited obituary sites out there – deathobits.com and death-obituary.com. Both are also loaded with display ads. Including Google ads.

However, this is not a new problem. And it goes far beyond Slawski. In fact, some brands help fund such low-quality content.

Marketing Brew published a report in November detailing how spam sites shred obituaries and actually end up monetizing with ads from big brands (for example, Nike, Nordstrom, Zola, Burt’s Bees). Google told Marketing Brew that it has:

“Strict policies that expressly prohibit ads served by Google from displaying on sites that use annoying ad formats, including pages with more ads than publisher content. We also prohibit displaying ads along with content copied from other sites. When we find On pages or sites that violate these policies, we take appropriate enforcement action.”

I have reached out to Google for comment on this story. I will update if/when I receive a response.


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About the author

Danny Goodwin is Senior Editor at Search Engine Land. In addition to daily writing on SEO, PPC, and more about Search Engine Land, Goodwin also operates a roster of Search Engine Land experts in search. It also helps with programming for our SMX Conference Series – Search Marketing Expo. Prior to joining Search Engine Land, Goodwin served as Executive Editor at Search Engine Journal, where he led editorial initiatives for the brand. He was also an editor at Search Engine Watch. He has spoken at many major research conferences and virtual events, and his expertise is drawn from a wide range of publications and podcasts.

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