Recent research conducted by German researchers delves into the impact of SEO spam on the quality of search results across major search engines, with a primary focus on Google. The year-long analysis, encompassing over 7000 product queries, exposes a pervasive influence of affiliate link spam that highlights vulnerabilities in Google’s algorithms.
According to the the study, search results are increasingly overrun by low-quality SEO spam. Pages laden with affiliate links often feature subpar content, and the study identifies Amazon Associates as the leading affiliate network contributing to this surge in spam.
Take note, the study was particularly concerned with search results after a product query. Normally, high-ranking product reviews often rely on affiliate marketing, establishing strong correlations between search engine rankings and affiliate marketing practices. For instance, a user found that search for “golf simulators” on Google predominantly yields results from affiliate websites, indicating the extent of SEO spam infiltration.
Further, spam on Google search results page is predominant in regions where brands engage in consistent SEO campaigns and often use affiliate marketing to market products. In a region like Kenya where these is not prevalent, users encounter less spam when they make a product query.
Spam’s Ongoing Battle with Search Engines
The researchers note an ongoing war between spam sites and search engines. Indeed, other search engines like Bing and DuckDuckGo also grapple with spam. In Fact, in many cases, Google performed better than Bing and DuckDuckGo by the researchers’ measures.
Spam sites are exploiting vulnerabilities to secure higher rankings before being knocked down. This battle involves spam sites consistently devising new strategies to manipulate the system and rise to the top of Google’s rankings..
However, search engines are constantly tweaking their algorithms to try and stay ahead of the problem. Google’s Helpful Content Update last year is an example.
Threat of AI-Generated Spam
There is compelling evidence of AI’s involvement in the surge of low-quality SEO content. The study warns of an escalating war with the advent of AI-generated spam. AI poses a serious threat to the future utility of search engines. The researchers emphasize the growing difficulty in distinguishing between benign content and spam, especially in the realm of generative AI. They argue that dynamic adversarial spam, in the form of low-quality, mass-produced commercial content, demands increased attention. Many search results are inundated with trashy SEO content that appears potentially AI-assisted or AI-generated.