Sticks and Stones Won’t Hurt Your SEO Campaign

I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be telling you this, but after everyone leaves the office at night, Susan hangs me over my desk by my toes so that all the knowledge I learned during my time at SEOToolSet training seeps back into my brain. She even makes me sleep with my training manual under my pillow (when I’m allowed a pillow) in hopes I’ll remember more through osmosis. She quizzes me the next day on little bits of knowledge. If I don’t answer her search engine optimization questions fast enough, she beats me with the training manual. Then, she tells me it’s my fault. And that I’m ugly. [Way to show your gratitude. So very fired. –Susan] – Again?

This is why I was super psyched to read Eric Enge’s post over at Search Engine Watch last week regarding comments made by Google Adam Lasnik earlier this year. Adam’s clarification about the impact of spam complaints on your search engine optimization campaign perfectly matched what Bruce had told us during SEOToolSet training. Hearing it played back for me meant there was a smaller chance Susan would fire a nectarine at my head for getting a question wrong that day! Thanks, Eric.

In short, Adam assured some Google Group readers that Google does not "bury" or punish sites simply because a spam complaint has been filed against them. Spam complaints don’t add to votes that can get you kicked out of Google’s index. Adam summed things up stating:

"Having someone (or even 42 MILLION people) report a site as spam will not change how we view a site. Our spam report, rather, helps us to become aware of pages violating our guidelines that we might not yet have crawled… enabling us to have another datapoint in our search quality efforts."

File spam complaints are used to complement and improve Google’s existing algorithm. Google does NOT use spam complaints to create a blacklist of sites. There’s no "three strikes and you’re out" rule that says if Google hears you’re doing something bad you’re automatically in trouble. This isn’t like the way your parents dealt with you and your siblings. Google uses the complaints to better their own spam algorithms.

Of course, if they get a spam complaint regarding your site and you have other "red flag" factors, then, yes, Google will likely do a manual review. If you’re caught using spammy or deceptive strategies you’ll be penalized. If you’re not, you’ll never even know Google reviewed your site.

If Bruce were here he’d tell me to put on shoes (something about OSHA) and then he would say that the reason 42 million spam complaints won’t hurt your search engine optimization campaign is because Google will never penalize you for the actions of others.

Site owners don’t have to worry about negative affects to their rankings because of tactics employed by your competitors. They can mobilize an effort to spam complaint your site to death, they can click on your PPC ads, they can point spammy links in your direction, but your search engine optimization campaign will stay solid. You can only be penalized if you are the one engaging in nefarious behavior. So stop worrying about what your competition is doing, and focused on your own optimization campaign. In the end, that’s all that matter. And of course, if your competition is spamming, go ahead and let Google know. :)

Lisa Barone is a writer, content marketer & VP of strategy at Overit Media. She's also a very active Twitterer, much to the dismay of the rest of the world.

See Lisa's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (3)
Filed under: SEO
Still on the hunt for actionable tips and insights? Each of these recent SEO posts is better than the last!

3 Replies to “Sticks and Stones Won’t Hurt Your SEO Campaign”

Mary James

Hi It seems as if you can get penalized for optimzing a site and that the only way to steer clear of a penalty is to not try to optimize your site at all. Do not get inbound links with text otherwise it may be considered Google Bombing. How do You know When your site is penalized and for what. Then again if you only build good content to your site and do not try to optimize at all you won’t get very far either?

Andy Hagans

Great article!
The only thing I take issue with is:
>If Bruce were here he’d tell me to put on shoes (something about OSHA) and then he would say that the reason 42 million spam complaints won’t hurt your search engine optimization campaign is because Google will never penalize you for the actions of others.
Google has said ‘ALMOST nothing’ a competitor can do can hurt you… though, a competitor can build (bad) links, which can definitely get you hit with a filter. Rare, unlikely… yes, but not impossible.


You started this article out very well, the middle was good, but the end I have my doubts about…

Agreed, I guess Google does not kick websites out of their rankings (or 30 places down) just because someone tells them to do it. At least not unless they are trying to skank up their own engine, it just doesn’t make sense.

But, if someone points spammy links in your direction, posts stuff in your name on other websites or orders 10 pizzas to be delivered to your house, you’re paying the price (well, not the last one of course, then it’s the pizza guy unless you have a kind heart).
I don’t believe Google checks who points links where, nor if the associated IP-address with a post is yours. That kind of stuff can definitely hurt…

The point of your story is that somebody filling out a form on Google does not get you blacklisted. True, agreed and fair.

Ps: can I get this Susan’s number? She sounds hot! ;)


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Serving North America based in the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area
Bruce Clay, Inc. | PO Box 1338 | Moorpark CA, 93020
Voice: 1-805-517-1900 | Toll Free: 1-866-517-1900 | Fax: 1-805-517-1919