SEOs fear malicious submissions following new Google Search Quality User Reports

humans vs google spam

Google has revealed an updated Search Quality User Report that allows anyone to tell the tech giant that a webpage is in violation of their Search Quality Guidelines. 

The change was shared on Twitter by the Google Search Central profile. They said: ‘We’re happy to introduce you to our new report for spammy, deceptive or low quality webpages!’


The SEO community has criticised the new form for many reasons. We’ll dig into them here, but first – let’s explore what exactly Google has changed. 

What does the new Search Quality User Report include?

In the Google Search Central Blog, the tech giant explains that their aim is to ‘expand the scope of user feedback we want to collect’.  

The new form allows for users to select a specific issue they have found with a web page: 

  • Spammy content 
  • Spammy behaviour 
  • Deceptive 
  • Low quality 
  • Paid links 
  • Other 

It goes on to describe each issue in more depth, saying that a web page can be reported if it has one of the following features: 

  • Irrelevant or useless content that exploits search engine algorithms to appear in relevant results 
  • Engagement in abusive behaviour to manipulate search engines’ ranking 
  • No delivery of promised services with intent to mislead or defraud the user 
  • Poorly written or designed pages often created in bulk to attract clicks from users rather than to generally inform or entertain 
  • Unnatural, artificial, deceptive or manipulative inbound or outbound links 
  • Other search abuse or exploitative SEO strategies 

Is this User Report a new concept?

In short, no. 

In May of this year, people mistook Google’s clarification on topic authority for the announcement of a completely new ranking factor, but the truth was, they were sharing information on a system that had been in place for years. 

Similarly, some are now believing this updated form is an entirely new concept, but the reality is, people have been able to submit user feedback to Google for years.  

That being said, this new feedback form can easily be interpreted as Google’s way of stepping up its efforts to firefight the deceptive strategies people implement to manipulate SERPs.  

Why is it asking the public to help, though? Let’s take a closer look. 

Has ChatGPT played a part?

While Google is working to combine its own generative AI with its SERPs via the new Search Generative Experience, it is now also calling on the general public to help it fire-fight the onslaught of AI-generated content.  

Several of the report issues – spammy content, low quality page, deceptive page – have quite obviously been influenced by the impact of generative AI tools such as ChatGPT. 

But why is Google asking people to flag deceptive sites themselves in this new form after it rolled out a content update just a few months ago?  

The update was designed to detect sites with content that was designed to tick SEO boxes, but wasn’t providing much value to readers. The fact this update was rolled out just weeks after the release of ChatGPT is seen by many to be no coincidence. 

If Google is now asking people to start filing error reports themselves, is it because even post-update, the tech giant simply can’t process the influx of AI content by itself? 

Or is Google effectively asking for volunteers to give it human data which can be used to train its systems on detecting AI-generated content? 

Either way, Google is embracing AI by working on its SGE – but also asking people to help tackle the ways it can be abused to manipulate SERPs. 

The end result is clear – Google wants a SERP comprising its own generative AI answers for certain queries in the top slot, while other generative AI content used to generate organic traffic will not be given priority in the results. 

Google wants to take back control of the SERPs, which have become a playground for those using AI to generate reams of content en masse. But it’s not just about content – link spam is also mentioned in the new report… 

Is the link spam update related, too?

Google appears to be acknowledging a second force it’s either struggling to contend with, or wants help being trained on – sites which are generating irrelevant and spammy links via various dubious means.  

Any SEO will know about the high value placed on backlinks as a major ranking factor, but low-level link building which generates irrelevant or suspicious backlinks is going to hinder, not help, a site. 

Google already recognised this deceptive practice in its link spam update, but now the tech giant has decided it wants the general public to help log manipulative link building issues.  

Is Google putting too much faith in the public and making a rod for its own back by suggesting people across the globe can send in reports – some of which may be valid, many of which likely won’t be – to sift through? The SEO community certainly seems to think so…

Why are SEOs unhappy about the update? 

When Google Search Central posted about the update on Twitter, many SEOs responded with their criticism. 

Austin C said: ‘This is going to be abused so badly’, and it does seem inevitable that people will use the new form in an effort to dethrone their competitors and steal the top spot.


David K pointed out there were a lot of unanswered questions, saying: ‘What happens to a site when a report is filed? How do you protect against people abusing this reporting function against competitors? Will people who are reported know?’


Indeed, there does appear to be an imbalance whereby Google is asking for the general public to help them out – while not providing full transparency on their own process once reports are filed. 

It would be understandable if this update led to a general anxiety about whether someone could report their site for malicious purposes, and whether Google’s process behind the scenes could negatively impact their search rankings while a final decision is made about whether to take any action. 

That being said, it’s unlikely that Google would respond to a malicious report by taking down any site which is creating useful, helpful content that adheres to E-E-A-T sites and doesn’t have backlinks in dubious places.  

So if you’re doing an honest, authentic job with your SEO strategy, you should have nothing to worry about…



Imogen Groome

Content Lead

Imogen is the SEO Content Lead at Skittle Digital. Imogen has worked in SEO since 2016. She helped to define SEO strategy at Metro.co.uk before guiding the newsroom at The Sun Online as SEO Editor. She has more than 5 years’ experience in scaling content strategies that drive revenue for brands through organic search channels. In her spare time, Imogen writes books, watches poor-quality reality TV and hangs out with her cats.

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