Why Google Allows Target.com to Spam Results

Please Note – I did not want to expose Target’s flaws but I feel it is very unfair how they are being rewarded by Google at the expense of the mom & pop retailer stores.

If you have ever worked on improving a website’s ranking Google you know that there are rules you must follow.  If you break any of Google’s rules (either intentionally or accidentally) you run the risk of your website being penalized or possibly even banned from Google.  Since Google has a quasi monopoly over online search most people would never dream of doing anything that might attract the wrath of Google.  Target, one of the biggest retailers in the U.S. does not share that point of view.

Target.com is currently flooding the Google search results with millions of near identical error pages.


Why does this matter?  Because when you have a powerful site like Target.com and you start hanging millions of pages off of it you are bound to get some decent rankings regardless of how terrible your page is.  For example Target.com is currently ranking #1 for Exercise Bike Clearance.


Imagine if each page generates just one visitor each day.  We are talking millions of Google users being tricked into visiting Target.com.  Does this page really live up to Google’s rhetoric about delivering a good user experience?


Instead of Google removing these pages that are obviously error pages they instead are rewarding Target’s spam attempt with high rankings and online holiday traffic.  In case you think for one second that you should do this on your website – THINK TWICE.

Google’s algorithm gives preferential treatment to big brand websites.  Big brands have more links and more trustworthy websites referring to them.  That link popularity is quite powerful in the Google algorithm.  I am not even going to get into the quality signals that Google sees from the high level of toolbar usage coming from people visiting Target.com.  The Target.com domain has so much power in the Google algorithm they can bend the Google quality rules more than any small mom & pop website can.

Another thing to remember is that users searching on Google expect to see big brands in the search results.  If they don’t see them they think that Google is broken.  Google is in a difficult position.  They need to balance user expectation of seeing big brands in the serps while still controlling the big brands.

I just hope that something is done because Google users deserve higher quality serps &  smaller retailers deserve more equality when it comes to Google’s quality standards.

53 thoughts on “Why Google Allows Target.com to Spam Results

  1. Cor

    I can understand that larger retail organisations can receive a number of positions in the directory. It is all based on the turnover and interest surrounding the products.

  2. Dan

    about a yr later, and looking at the serp, target is still #1, but are doing a better job serving up some content, and a damn good job monetizing their no results pages now. hat tip to you if this post brought it to their attention ;)

  3. craig

    i think this is google’s fault, rather than target’s.

    google dont just take URLs from backlinks, they take them from the google toolbar, analytics and stuff like that. where else would these nonsense pages comes from? nobody is linking to them.

    if someone enters a nonsense phrase into target’s site search, then google’s toolbar will likely log the resulting URL and spider it.

    and if a site uses analytics and someone does the same, then google will get the URL from that.

    they are just grabbing pages from wherever we go, whether they have any use or not.

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