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Spammers and scammers—why you gotta ruin everything for the rest of us?
When Google first introduced rich snippets and structured markup, I saw this as a great opportunity to advance my client’s SEO results and get them to stand out in Google organic listings.
It didn’t take too long for people to create fake rich snippets to spam the search engine. And apparently this happens frequently enough that Google felt the need to create a “report rich snippet spam” tool.
And just recently, we’ve seen reports of webmasters getting issued warnings from Google itself about spammy structured markup. Search Engine Round Table posted the following manual action:
“Markup on some pages on this site appears to use techniques such as marking up content that is invisible to users, marking up irrelevant or misleading content, and/or other manipulative behavior that violates Google’s Rich Snippet Quality guidelines.”
Examples of Spammy Structured Markup
So what are people doing that’s got Google sending out manual actions? According to Search Engine Round Table, faking rich snippets is pretty simple:
“All you need to do is add any of the available markup to the page and if Google accepts it, it shows up in the Google search results. You can fake things such as reviews, people, products, businesses and organizations, recipes, events, music and much more.”
I’m not really sure what fake music is, but I can totally see companies faking reviews in their rich snippets in order to drive more clicks to their listing.
Here are some examples of spammy structured markup from Google’s Webmaster Central Blog:
- If your page is about a band, make sure you mark up concerts being performed by that band, not by related bands or bands in the same town.
- If you sell products through your site, make sure reviews on each page are about that page’s product and not the store itself.
- If your site provides song lyrics, make sure reviews are about the quality of the lyrics, not the quality of the song itself.
Google’s Quality Guidelines for Rich Snippets
Google chooses whether or not it wants to show your rich snippet in its search results. According to Google, the search engine is likely to display your rich snippet if:
- It offers an accurate description of the page’s content
- Is up-to-date
- Is easily discoverable on your page and by users
Alternatively, Google is unlikely to display your rich snippet and might even hit you with a manual action if the markup on a page is spammy, misleading, or abusive. In particular, Google urges you to avoid:
- Marking up content that is in no way visible to users
- Marking up irrelevant or misleading content, such as fake reviews or content unrelated to the focus of a page
Fake rich snippets make for poor search engine user experience. I mean, imagine clicking on a listing with a recipe rich snippet markup, only to be taken to a gutter cleaning website that has nothing to do with recipes whatsoever.
It is in Google’s best interest to provide the best user experience possible for searchers, so I imagine they are only going to be cracking down more and more on these fake rich snippets.
You can fake your hair color. You can fake your age. You can fake your orgasms. But to avoid getting a manual action from Google, I would definitely avoid faking your rich snippets
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