A Guest Post by Gabriel Reynaga

Google has always given prominence to brands, therefore when performing a search for a brand name usually the first ten results to display are the website, followed by social media profiles, news articles and citations for local businesses. However, from time to time when there are negative results about the brand such as reviews, articles and even forums will be displayed in SERPs. As a rule of thumb, once content becomes stagnant those results will end up dropping out of the top ten, unless they are filled with SPAM H1 tags and stuffed with keywords.

Although quality and authoritative content is supposed to outrank SPAM, according to Google Webmaster Policies, this is not always the case. Take a forum post that was first published on January 9, 2012. Since the first post several other forum members have been encouraged to keep the thread alive by leaving comments attacking a debt management company. The last post to the thread was made June 28, 2013. It appears that any time the forum result begins to lose traction and starts to drop in the SERPs another forum user posts to the thread to keeps it going. Now I am not sure how legitimate their claims are on the forum, but that is not what my focus is for this post. My intent is solely to research on how Google continues to make this result so authoritative for another company’s brand despite the fact that the owner or Webmaster of this forum is in violation of Google’s policies.

Another observation that I noticed was that the forum thread took a hit with one of the Penguin updates as it dropped to page five on Google and as a way to recover the webmaster or owner restructured the permalink to include the company’s brand. Also with the Hummingbird update, Google is supposed to improve the quality search results, but how does a forum like this continue to rank what looks like SPAM and people opinions rather than legit content that comes from high authoritative destinations?

Backlink Profile

I went ahead and took the liberty of running the URL from the SERPs through the top three industry website explorer and backlink checker tools in the SEO industry: MOZ’s Opensiteexplorer, Majestic SEO and AHrefs. See the results of their backlink profile.

OSE Insights

Majestic SEO Insights

AHREFS Insights

As you can see, they have a whopping 69 internal and 0 external back links, so it can’t be their link profile that keeps them at their current #3 position in the SERPS.

Social Media Mentions

Okay, now let’s check their social media engagements. Currently social signals account for about 15% of Google’s search ranking. This includes; fans, likes, shares, ReTweets, RePins, etc. According to Moz.com, they have zero activity from social media. Therefore, it can’t be social media engagement that continues to help them rank for another company’s brand.

Post performing just a bit of research using a few tools, we have come to the conclusion that this forum does not provide very useful or relevant information about the brand other than a few forum users making personal attacks on the company. The thread does not have any external backlink and it has zero social media engagements. So what is keeping this forum so popular? History? Click-through? Below are just a few questions for Matt Cutts, Head of Search Spam, at Google.

  1. Why does this result continue to be so relevant for another company’s brand name?
  2. Why and how can this forum get away with having over 20 h1 tags per page and keyword stuffing?
  3. If I follow their lead will you rank my website for whatever keywords I stuff pages with?
  4. What is the secret to rank so high without an external back link profile?

Now that I presented my case, what is Google going to do? Continue to reward spammers or will they do the right thing and give the forum the ranking they actually deserve, bottom of page 10. Or will any of the recent algorithm updates catch up to them Panda, Penguin or Hummingbird? OK, Matt Cutts and Google the ball is in your court.