Obituary Spam On Google Too Fast & Out Of Control

Oct 5, 2023 - 7:21 am 1 by

Google Funeral

For years and years now, spammers have been creating fake obituaries using automated methods. In fact, Danny Goodwin covered the issue Google Search has with obituary spam a couple of years ago when Bill Slawski passed. But it is still an issue and it is getting worse.

Earlier this week, respected industry vet Chris Silver Smith's brother-in-law died in a tragic car accident late Friday. He said within a couple of days he watched "multiple spammer websites generating false obituaries for my brother-in-law," he wrote on X. He added, "I haven't seen this level of predatory since spammers machine-posted links to comments on memorial webpages."

He shared some screenshots on X of the search results that contained these fake obituaries and how some led to totally inappropriate websites. Here is that post:

He tagged Google's Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan, who responded on X, "I'm very sorry to hear about your brother-in-law, Chris. I'll raise this with the team."

The sad part is Chris knows how Google works and he can explain why there is so much spam in this space. "Google abhors a void and I recognize that new and emerging search phrases do not have content - the spammers exploit this by rapidly launching content targeting such phrases," he explained. Good thing Chris knows how to outrank them, he wrote, "You can bet I'll be optimizing obituaries for him!" More on data voids here, not Danny deletes historical tweets for some reason, but the content is there (kinda).

"But he only died midnight of Friday and we only heard about it by the next night when they identified him and contacted us - families can't get official obits out that quickly! Perhaps needs to be brakes on abrupt rankings for low quality websites for sensitive phrases," he added.

Maybe Chris is right, with obituaries, maybe needs to step up the quality signals a bit more or just slow things down?

Forum discussion at X.


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