James Parsons is the founder and CEO of Content Powered, a content creation company. He’s been a content marketer for over 10 years and writes for Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc, and many other publications on blogging and website strategy.
Why You Have a High Moz Spam Score (And Does It Matter?)
We all want our websites to perform well, and as such, we strive to find and use as many valid metrics as we can. Among the best metrics to use – at least since Google made the decision to hide PageRank from the public – are the Moz ranks for Domain Authority and Page Authority. Moz is, of course, a widely respected authority in the world of online marketing.
Moz offers other scores and ranks as well, and one of those is the Spam Score. The “Spam Score” is the Moz metric that estimates the likelyhood that a website is a low quality spam website. A 1% means it is unlikely that the site is spammy, and a 82% means that the site is almost certainly a spam site, for example.
So what does spam score actually mean? Is it dangerous to have a high spam score? Is there anything you can do about it? And does it really matter?
Let’s dig in.
What is Moz Spam Score?
Moz’s spam score is a comparative metric that measures how similar a site is to other sites that are considered in some way spammy by the Google algorithm. Moz originally created the spam score in 2015, and it has evolved over the years since then. Back then, it was a number between 1 and 17, basically a checklist of spam flags. It’s significantly more granular now.
Specifically, Moz maintains a large index of sites, and they monitor when sites in their index are penalized by Google. When those sites are penalized, attributes about those sites are broken down and analyzed.
Through this process, Moz has determined 27 similarities that these sites tend to share. I’ll give you a rundown of these in a moment.
When Moz analyzes your site, they look for a wide range of attributes, including those 27 spam signals. The more of these attributes your site has, the higher your spam score will be.
You can access your spam score in Moz’s Link Explorer, where it will show a percentage from 1 to 100. 1-30% is a low spam score. 31-60% is a medium spam score. And, of course, 61% to 100% is a high spam score. The higher your percentage, the more likely your site is to come across as spam to various analytics tools and the ever-present Google authority.
Here’s the thing about spam score: it’s based on correlation, not causation. They haven’t build a replica of Google’s algorithm that says “when a site does X it gets penalizes” with causation. They’ve simply identified attributes that a site tends to have when it is penalized. Those attributes might contribute to a penalty (and some are confirmed, like exploitative links), while others might not actually have anything to do with it, but are simply shared attributes.
How to Use Spam Score
We as marketers don’t like anything that implies our site is spammy, whether that’s a link from another site saying our site is bad, a penalty from Google, or a publicly available metric like Moz’s spam score. We naturally want to address the issue as it comes up and minimize that spam score number as much as we can.
The first thing to recognize is that a spam score even as high as 50-60% isn’t a huge cause for concern. Moz’s ranking isn’t factored into anything but the opinions of yourself and other people who look at the score for your page. Google certainly doesn’t look at it. It might be irritating to see, but a spam score of 60% only means you have some potential issues on your site to address, not that you’re about to be penalized or that your site is spam.
Basically, as long as your site hasn’t been penalized, your spam score isn’t that important. You can use it to compare your site to your competition if you like, but the main use of spam score is to look for potential problems that might crop up.
Moz does, after all, understand a lot about how SEO works. If they’ve flagged certain attributes of certain sites as negative, those attributes are probably negative. Changing or fixing those issues is likely to result in a boost to your search ranking, traffic, and value, even if you hadn’t been suffering under a penalty in the first place. Basically, you can use it as a checklist of potential issues to review across your site.
You can also use spam score to look into any site you’re thinking of writing for, getting a link from, or otherwise using as a resource for your own growth. Links are the backbone of SEO, and they’re the backbone of the spam score. A domain with a high spam score linking to your site will generally increase your own spam score, even if it doesn’t hurt (or even helps) your SEO.
It’s worth looking into, but it’s not meant to be an absolute measure of “disavow this link or suffer a penalty”. In fact, Moz can’t even tell if you’ve disavowed links, and your spam score will still take disavowed links into account.
The 27 Factors of Moz Spam Score
As I mentioned earlier, Moz came up with 27 different attributes that were shared amongst most of the sites they’ve found that were penalized for being spam. Some of these are simple things, while others are a little less obvious.
Here’s the full rundown.
- The site doesn’t have many pages. To fix this on your own site, just publish more content. This will gradually get better over time as your site grows.
- The site’s TLD is frequently used for spam. I generally recommend using .coms only whenever possible and avoiding the spammier TLDs.
- The site’s domain name is similar in length to other spam sites. Moz doesn’t say what this length is, though.
- The site’s domain name contains numbers. There are, of course, plenty of great sites with numbers in their domain names, so this isn’t really that important.
- The site doesn’t use Google Fonts API. Use it if you can.
- The site doesn’t use the Google Tag Manager. Use it if you can.
- The site doesn’t use DoubleClick ads. I’m not recommending that you add ads just to avoid a spam score, though.
- The site doesn’t have a phone number. Legitimate businesses have business numbers, and NAP is a real SEO signal, so this one’s legit.
- The site doesn’t have links to LinkedIn. Spam sites are unlikely to have a business social media presence, so LinkedIn is oddly enough a decent spam signal.
- The site doesn’t have a business email address. Spam sites more often than not hide any method of contacting them, so just make your contact information available.
- The site doesn’t use HTTPS. Few spam sites want to pay for SSL certificates, so this makes sense.
- The site uses meta keywords. Most of us have known the keywords field is useless for years, so anyone who uses it is more than likely unaware of what they’re doing, at best.
- The site doesn’t get many visitors. Spam sites rarely make it big, after all. This is also why if your site is small and new, I recommend ignoring the spam score.
- The site uses rel=canonical tags to point somewhere else. Scraper sites and syndication sites do this, so it can be a spam signal. Use canonicalization properly.
- The site’s page titles are very long or very short. Most non-spam sites know to keep their titles a reasonable length.
- The site’s meta descriptions are very long or very short. Spam sites try to shoehorn in a lot of content and keywords there (or don’t list one at all).
- The site uses a lot of meta keywords. I’m not sure why “having a lot of meta keywords” is a separate signal from “having meta keywords at all” but Moz does, so there you go.
- The site doesn’t have a favicon. Specify one for the added branding in tabs.
- The site doesn’t use the Facebook Pixel. Like LinkedIn, spam sites rarely establish a business presence on social media.
- The site has abnormally high or low outbound links. Keep your linking organic and natural.
- The site links to an abnormally high or low number of domains. Again, you should try to link naturally. Too few domains might indicate that you’re part of a PBN, and too many might look shady, though it’s hard to estimate how many is too many.
- The site has too many different outbound links for the amount of content it supports. Again, Moz doesn’t say how many this is, so it’s hard to estimate what’s abnormal.
- The site’s domain name has a lot of sequential consonants. Spam domains tend to not be English words, so this makes some sense, though it’s not necessarily a great signal.
- The site uses multiple hyphens in the domain name. Using one hyphen is usually fine; two or more looks worse and is more likely a spam site.
- The site’s URL paths are either very long or very short. Human-readable URLs are the way to go, usually.
- The site uses “poison words”. Poison words are words that are most often only used by spam sites or websites in non-standard niches like adult content.
- The site uses CPC anchor text a lot. Basically, link anchor text spam.
What to Do with a High Spam Score
If your spam score is over, say, 20%, you can start looking for some potential problems on your site and fix them. I highly doubt Google is going to crack down on you when your spam score is anything under 50%, but it’s still worth looking for issues to fix since they can boost your SEO performance overall.
First of all, if your domain is under a year old, has relatively few links, and not very much content, you can probably ignore Moz’s spam score metric completely. There’s simply too little data for that score to be relevant. Conversely, if your site is larger and older, and if its performance is struggling, it may be time to perform an audit to see if any of those spam indicators are cause for concern.
The first thing to check is your Google Search Console reports. Look to see if you have any search penalties. Manual actions are a definite issue you want to solve. You can also use third-party tools to check if you have an algorithmic issue and try to solve those as well. If you don’t have any penalties, you can also check if you have any indexing issues, broken pages, or Core Web Vitals reports. Slow or missing pages will certainly affect your rankings and traffic.
Next, perform a thorough backlink audit. Pull your links, preferably from Google directly so you know what they’re indexing and what they aren’t. Look for anything that’s spammy. You can do this with auditing tools, manual processes, and even cross-referencing with Moz’s spam score if you like.
Keep in mind that some kinds of links are just going to be ignored by Google. I have a bunch of backlinks from Russian websites and none of them matter, positively or negatively. I could disavow them if I wanted, but there’s no reason to; they don’t matter. A lot of people are a lot more concerned about backlinks than they really need to be, in my opinion.
What you’re actually looking for are links from malicious sites, from unrelated and obviously spam sites like payday loans, drug sellers, and so on. You’re also looking for links that indicate your content was stolen by a scraper. Those are the kinds of links you want to address.
Other than that, just look at the list of factors I listed above, and see if any of them are issues you might be able to fix on your own site.
I’m putting this pretty far down here because I wanted to stick with the fact as much as possible – I usually cover what I’ve read and what is documented, but occasionally I will share what I’ve observed with my websites and my client’s websites.
Personally, I think the Moz spam score is not something you should really worry about.
If your site has a really high spam score, you might look into reasons why, but most of the time it’s just due to some bad links that Google is already ignoring, and it isn’t really a cause for concern.
There are a lot of oddities I’ve seen while browsing the Moz Link Explorer. I’ve seen brand new sites with basically no content and zero links that have very high spam scores. I’ve seen major brand sites with hundreds of thousands of visitors a day have high spam scores. Moz itself has a 3% spam score, and we know Moz isn’t 3% spam. There’s just a lot of inconsistency with the metric overall.
I’m not just saying this because I have a high spam score and want to discredit it. You can check for yourself; my spam score is lower than Moz’s, and that’s even with a handful of bad automated backlinks that are outside of my control. They just have more of those than I do as they have a larger website.
The Moz spam score is only worth worrying about if you’re seeing something above 25-50%, and even then it’s only worth worrying about in a “maybe it’s time to perform an audit” sense, not “Google deindexing imminent” sense.
Your Moz spam score is constantly updating, and their stats usually update every 30 days or so. If it’s really bothering you, you can go down the list and check off each item. You don’t have a favicon yet? Time to add one. Your site doesn’t have many pages? Time to add a blog and start creating quality content. After making your changes, give it a month and check back to see how your score has improved.
What do you think about the Moz spam score, and do you have a high score on your site? Let us know in the comments section down below!
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