In its quest to keep spam off the web, Google is now targeting sites posting people’s mugshots online. Domains like BustedMugshots, JustMugshots and Mugshots have been publishing individuals’ arrest photos sans permission and charging a fee to have them taken down – but Google updated its algorithms to keep these sites out of SERPs.
This may not have any immediate implications for marketers (unless they were subject to this kind of online blackmail), but it serves as a reminder that Google perpetually has its feelers out for sites, such as the mugshot domains, over-optimizing to climb results pages. The sites in question managed to rank at the top of SERPs for subjects’ names despite the fact that they did not provide the most relevant or valuable information about these subjects.
Ultimately, Google was serving up the mugshot results over other credible web content, such as an individual’s social media profiles, when a professional or personal connection entered their names in a Google search. Following an algorithm refresh first detailed in a New York Times article, the majority of these results were no longer ranking.
Google’s immediate action shows the search engine does not take spam lightly and marketers should steer clear of any ‘SEO-friendly’ tactics to promise to push their brand content to the top of SERPs. White hat practices, such as creating useful content and optimizing it in a way that helps Google understand it, are the only proven and sustainable methods for increasing online exposure and web traffic.