What Marketers Should Expect From Google’s Spam Patent

As marketers, it’s easy to feel as if search giants like Google are out to get you. As many are aware, Google uses complex algorithms to search the vast reaches of the Web to pull up the most relevant, original and useful content for the user. For these algorithms to work, Google needs to create rules to identify content of lesser quality and sink it toward the bottom of its search rankings so that the cream can rise to the top. Each time the Google algorithm is updated, marketers must scramble to learn the new rules so they can optimize their content for the changes and avoid dropping in Google rankings.


At times, these scrambles can feel more like the end of the world, as we saw with Google’s most recent algorithm update that was referred to as “Mobilegeddon.” In it, Google decided to give ranking preference to sites that were optimized for mobile devices, and begin to sink in the rankings those that weren’t. And, just as the smoke began to clear on Mobilegeddon, Google has decided to once again throw a wrench into the works—this time by taking on spam. That is, Google recently received approval for a patent that would allow the company to alter its algorithm to penalize brands that too often send spam or junk email. However, unlike Mobilegeddon, marketers shouldn’t allow the Google patent—which may influence a future algorithm—to curb their email marketing efforts that are relevant and interesting.

The patent would allow Google to take into account email marketing habits when ranking brand sites in Google search results. Titled “Email Spam and Junk Mail as a Vendor Reliability Signal,” the patent was filed back in 2012, and was approved on Aug. 10, 2015. While this patent hasn’t been rolled out into an algorithm yet, it could affect your search result rankings in the future

As Google has put forth in its proposal, the patent is meant to improve search results to better reflect “vendor reliability.” Google has made the distinction that a reliable vendor is one that would not send junk email to consumers or to prospective and loyal customers. By analyzing how often users filter emails into spam folders, the search giant can begin to determine which vendors are responsible for sending unwanted or unsolicited content.

Furthermore, Google may also be able to crawl the links of email marketing messages to determine if those links are useful, harmless and lead to the brand’s page. This, in theory, will help counterbalance emails for which recipients have subscribed but subsequently marked as spam upon arrival, rather than simply unsubscribing—so as not to reflect badly on the sender.

While this may be a worrisome patent in the eyes of some companies, it should be welcomed by those who use email marketing best practices and put time into providing smart, wanted and helpful content for their consumers. Just as this patent is designed to devalue those who are sending unwanted emails or sending any emails at an abusive rate, it will also help those who run best-in-class email marketing campaigns rise in SEO rankings.

Until the next Google algorithm is released, marketers are still in the dark about the exact parameters Google will use to determine how their email marketing messages will be assessed in search rankings. Keep an eye out for when the next algorithm is released; in the meantime, check out our tips on how to beef up your email marketing strategy by clicking on the links below: