This September Bing announced great news for those who are engaged in optimizing their search results – this popular search engine launched a spam filtering mechanism to curb URL keyword stuffing (KWS) a few months ago and the update impacted 3% of Bing queries. A black hat SEO technique, URL KWS refers to the use of many keywords in URLs to prompt search engines to confer higher rankings than what a site truly deserves. Microsoft’s search engine Bing considers it important to address this type of spam owing to two major reasons such as: the technique is widely used; and URLs seem to be good matches to the queries and prompt users to click them. Let’s take a detailed look at this spam before seeing how the new update detects it.
According to the official Bing blog post, URL KWS relies on two main assumptions regarding ranking algorithms such as keyword matching is used, and matching against the URL is valuable in particular. Spammers take advantage of these perceived vulnerabilities and tend to go after creating keyword-rich domain names with high value, monetizable keywords (for example, loan, payday) to maximize their impressions. This will give their sites a sudden boost in SERP ranking. There are various approaches to implement this technique such as:
- Adding multiple hosts to URL with keyword-rich hostnames (for example, http://account.payday.loan.free.savingsusa.com)
- Repeating keywords for host/domain names
(for example, http://savings.loan.paydayloan.savingspaydaysavingspaydayusa.com)
- URL cluster with same domain, but different hostnames comprising keyword permutations. The example given in the blog post is as follows.
- URL squatting or misspelling keywords so as to drive the traffic off existing sites, especially high profile sites by taking advantage of the human tendency to misspell words (for example, misspelling http://www.nytimes.com/ as http://www.nytime.com/).
How New Update Detects this Spam
It is not necessary that all URLs containing multiple keywords are keyword stuffing. Most of the URLs are perfectly legitimate ones. In order to ensure high detection precision, the detection technique in the new update is typically used in combination with other signals. The filtering mechanism looks at many signals that hint possible use of keyword stuffing such as:
- Size of the site
- Number of hosts
- Total number of words in host/domain names and path
- Host/domain/path keyword co-occurrence
- Percentage of the site cluster consist of of top frequency host/domain name keywords
- Host/domain names including certain lexicons/pattern combinations
(for example, year, http://www.techconference2014.com)
- Content quality and popularity signals of site/page
The blog post says that the Bing team tried to cluster sites by domain, owner and other pivots and look for the pattern of the above listed signals in the same cluster to amplify the detection precision as spammers often create hundreds of sites that look alike. They also claim that it worked as about 5 million sites comprising more than 130 million URLs have been impacted by this update and cause 75% reduction in traffic to these sites.
In summary, it is time to say ‘No’ to keyword stuffing in URL if you want to maintain and improve your SERP rankings on Bing. Keep your URL as descriptive and brief as possible. Instead of stuffing keywords, make them relevant, compelling, and accurate to reflect several levels of files and navigation (folders and subfolders) within a site’s structure. You can take the help of professionals engaged in URL optimization for generating appropriate URLs related to your business, if you are running short of time and resources.