What to do when spammy SEO outranks your quality content

Greetings! This week’s SEO copywriting tip is in response to an email S.O.S.:  “Help! My competitor’s spammy Web copy outranks my site. What should I do?”

Even in the wake of Panda, spammy copy remains a problem: Google’s Panda algorithm didn’t catch all spam and probably never will – it’s an ongoing process.  There are still sites and landing pages out there with thin copy that are ranking well, and yes, better than your high-quality content.

This seems to be especially true of local site copy:  you’ll see very similar, keyword-crammed content for geo-targeted cities, whether it be New York, Boston, or Portland:  such as “[City] Web Design Services” with “web design services” repeated over and over in the content.  Worse yet, the thin, keyphrase-stuffed content doesn’t give the reader a good experience or offer the reader WIIFM (what’s in it for me?) benefits.

Feeling the pain, Heather answers this question with first, why this shouldn’t distress you overmuch, and second, how to better focus your energy with three strategies to combat the spammy competition:

While it  can be really, really irritating when a competitor outranks your quality SEO content with spammy Web copy, here’s why you shouldn’t waste your time stressing about it:

  • The key to success? Don’t freak out. Remember, just because your spammy competitor is out-ranking you doesn’t mean they’re making any money.

Page rank success does not equal conversions success. While it may be tempting to immediately try to figure out a new SEO content strategy to beat out your competitor, stop! Consider instead just backing off with the knowledge that ranking doesn’t mean income.  And know that when people are clicking into your competitor’s spammy copy, that copy is reflecting the competing company and their brand in the worst way.

So comfort yourself in the knowledge that when a reader is trying to make a buy decision, spammy copy may well drive them off that landing page in favor of a more credible, quality site (like yours) that is geared towards what matters to them: substantive content with specific benefits.

  • Don’t copy your spammy competition because you think “It’s what Google wants”…Google doesn’t want spam. Google wants good, quality content.

A second temptation is to throw up your hands and cop the attitude that you might as well join your competition in their junk copy ways because Google seems to be favoring spam with Page Rank.

You don’t want to go this route. Eventually, spammy sites will be penalized, Panda or no.  The short-term success of crummy content belies the fact that it’s doomed for long-term failure, whether by Google or by dissatisfied readers and poor conversions.  Stick with Google best practices.

3 Ways to Focus Your Energy: Analytics, Content, Social Media Leveraging Opportunities

1. Check your data:  Will an improved position help drive more traffic? Or is it an “ego thing”?

Drill down in your analytics and determine objectively if the particular keyphrase you’re getting outranked for is truly important to your business model:  Is it going to make your company more money if you position better for that keyphrase?  Often the answer is “not really, no.”  It may be that the boss just wants to see a better ranking for that keyphrase.

Here, you need to ask yourself if an improved ranking for the competitive keyphrase will actually drive more traffic, or if  it’s more of a vanity/ego thing.

2.  Take a good, hard look at your own content:  Is there anything you can do with your own content to improve your ranking? Are you sure?

“Are you sure” is emphasized because if you’ve been working on a website for awhile – be it your own or in-house – it’s very easy to have “blind spots” about your own marketing and optimization copy.  There may be a lot of opportunities for leveraging or otherwise improving your site content, but if you’re too close to it you may well not see them.

So if you’re finding yourself “stuck” for ideas and feel that you’ve already done everything you can do, this may be the time to look outside of your company and bring in an independent consultant.  A consultant can evaluate your site with fresh eyes and offer you a different perspective.

About 95-percent of the time, that consultant can help you find new content and marketing opportunities, both in the way of long-term strategies and more immediate, “low-hanging fruit” strategies.  It pays to spend the money for fresh ideas.

3.  Are you leveraging everything you can around social media (e.g,.Twitter, local Google Places page, Facebook, guest blogging)?

Granted, not all social media venues may work for you, but it is well worthwhile to have a discussion internally, or with your outside consultant, on how to leverage social buzz around your site.

While it’s great to have search engine rankings, it’s also great to have your brand represented across a number of social networking sites, and have that many more channels open for prospects to find your site.

Thanks for tuning in to this week’s SEO copywriting tip!  Do you have a question for Heather?  Please zip it on over to her at askheather@seocopywriting.com, and you’ll likely receive her response via next Monday’s video.  See you then!