Search Engine Optimisation – Alphabet Soup and 7 ways to spot the SEO garbage in results

Anyone noticed how Google has been taken over by “content” supplied by SEO experts? Its become so blatant of late I am considering finding a search engine that applies some anti-SEO logic to find some good information, trouble is they don’t exist yet.  The articles seem quite well informed and contain good information in many cases, but they are loaded with product advertising. Sounds harmless enough, but it is, in fact, a serious threat because it stifles creativity and inhibits our ability to find the multitudes of truth and opinions that inevitability exists around any topic.  Alternative Search engines seem to be focusing on the easy things like privacy, but in reality, we need a different strategy and thought process on what search engines are and how they should be finding the true gems of information in the midst of a sea of words. It has been suggested that searching Social Media as a good alternative, but even there its often difficult to find the needle in the haystack. I hope some innovation in this space happens soon if it does Alphabet may be the next Yahoo. Even GM thought they were too big to fail.  Don’t get me wrong, I do love Alphabet and Google and all they have done for the Internet, but right now they are going down the wrong road.

Just try searching for “how to spot SEO optimized content”, you get exactly the opposite of what you want.

Google’s parent Alphabet better take note that their strategy of promoting content is backfiring. Sure a huge amount of content is being produced, but it is not good quality. Now yes they do say they want “Good Quality Content”, but I am sorry to say that Google does not yet know the difference.  Even for SEO content they certainly don’t know their ABC’s, and with an almost limitless number of topics how can Google be expected to recognise it?

Quite why Google has not hit Quora with a penalty of some sort I will never know, but they dominate search results for a lot of technical questions I have, and the answers there are inevitably supplied by someone trying to promote their business, with content most likely crafted by some SEO Copywriter.   Even asking Google “Who owns Quora” serves up a Quora page littered with clearly SEO optimised nonsense and even quite a bit of text Spun by an AI bot. Can Google not yet tell the difference?

So how to spot the Search Optimised Content? Here are 10 things to look out for:

  • Dominant Sites

Certain websites dominate search results, (and I’m not talking about Wikipedia here which still has an acceptable editorial standard by and large) I mentioned one above which although they often offer up answers, the blatant promotion of links and ads that are disguised to look more like content are annoying. Ad blockers saved us from one enemy only to deliver us to a new one. Which ones do you regularly find dominating your results?

  • AI Spun content

Artificial Intelligence bots are being used to take an article from one source and we-write so that Google or anyone else can not recognise the source. Sadly in some ways and fortunately in others it clear to spot, because you end up thinking the person that wrote them does not have English as a first language, and indeed they don’t because binary is their first language.  So when you start finding reading some content gets annoying because of some very out of place phrases and sentences that don’t flow properly, chances are its spun.  Now we need to find a way to find the original source so that we can get to the true rich repository of knowledge.

  • A vs B vs C

Looking to compare some products to see which is the best? So you go and search and end up on a well-designed site comparing exactly what you are looking at in a very neat way and then you start to notice that you are in fact on a site of one of these products that are being reviewed?  It’s somewhat of a good strategy to appear to be open an honest revealing who your main competitors are and having a nice table with lots of ticks. But are these really all their main competitors or have they only chosen the worst ones or better yet do they own all of them or have affiliate deals? You may never know, but these days any reviews that are top of the search results tend to be SEO optimised and most likely biased.  Do your research from multiple sources including forums and other sites.

  • Looking to fix something, you find a great answer …. but someone is selling you

Have a broken phone or another device, some software problem? So you Google for some ideas on how to fix the issue and you get some great ones. As you start to read, you start to realise that they are starting to offer you their product as the solution to your problem. You have landed on a site that is doing great Content Marketing.  It could be a good solution, but you best check social media and decent reviews to make sure.

  • Lack of contact details and business information

Another tell-tale sign you’re on a low-quality site is the lack of contact details. No phone number? No address? Only an email address or contact us form? Good quality sites will always have their full address, phone number, probably an about us page with some details of their history and should also have terms and conditions and a privacy policy. The presence of these are Google search ranking factors, but I think Google needs to score the lack of these as a negative rather than giving a positive to those who have them.

  • Popups

We all hate them, as does Google, but somehow, they keep serving up sites with Popups on the first page of search results. If you see popups, then you should most likely not trust that site as a good source of information.

  • Fake Reviews

One may think a good way to check out a company is to look at their Google My business page (Google Local) and see how many reviews they have and what the star ratings are like. Unfortunately, these are filled with fake reviews. No idea why Google has not cleaned it up as it should be easy to do with only location data in many cases. They are easy to spot. Generally, the reviews who only have 1 or 2 reviews may be fake, open them up and make sure the person lives in the same country as the business they are reviewing. (Obviously depends on the type of business). The best reviews to look out for are the ones tagged as “Local Guides”.


So there you have it, it’s not a new problem, and has been going on since Search started, Moz wrote about it in January 2011 How Organized Spam is Taking Control of Google’s Search Results

See my article last week on how I think the Chinese are going to dominate in this area.

I hope the above tips will give you some food for thought and a new way to think of what you find when searching online.


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