Why is Google unable to police the Payday Loans keyword?

  • 1
  • June 11, 2012
Patrick Altoft

Patrick Altoft

Director of Strategy

Payday loans are the single most controversial financial product on the market today. High interest rates and various other issues have created a huge amount of bad press for the industry and there are a lot of vulnerable people using the services every month.

One might expect that a search on Google for “payday loans” would bring up some reputable lenders and comparison websites but this is certainly not the case. Last week I pointed out to Matt Cutts that there were two irrelevant hacked sites ranking first and second for this keyword. Hacked sites have been ranking since at least the middle of May.

Today there is even an SEO company who was hacked ranking 9th and Google is showing no sign of cleaning up the results.

Link Spam

Google has done more in the past few months to catch link spam than ever before but the algorithms they are using appear to be only good at penalising sites after the links have worked rather than before the site gets to the top. This is a great deterrent for legitimate businesses who probably want to get to the top and stay there but if you are a spam site (or somebody using a hacked site to rank) and just want to rank for a few weeks before moving onto another domain link spam is still a great way to get rankings.

I honestly don’t understand how Google is unable to algorithmically spot either hacked sites or spam sites that suddenly generate thousands of links and start ranking for a major keyword (the “payday loans” keyword probably sends several thousand visits per day to the top ranking sites).

Compare something like “payday loans” to the other financial search results such as insurance, loans and mortgages and there is a world of difference. Google is perfectly able to surface reputable lenders and insurers for those search results so why is payday loans such a tough keyword?


The chart below shows the Searchmetrics visibility for a legitimate lender who looks like they have suffered some kind of filter or penalty and 3 other sites (the red one is a hacked site) who have come from nowhere to start ranking for these keywords. Surely Google should be able to spot this sort of thing? Why penalise one site and then allow other sites with worse link profiles to rank?

Payday Loan Sites