For years, Google has worked to provide users with relevant, interesting content through its search engine.

Its ranking algorithm inspects websites based on timeliness and quality, and not necessarily quantity, in an effort to prevent spam sites from reaching its audience. Google also encourages webmasters to use white hat search engine optimization practices.

The Web company recently released a report detailing the spam trends it's seen over the past year. Understanding these trends will help Internet retailers create better websites that rank higher in Google searches.

A high number of hacks and spam sites
In 2015, Google observed a 180 percent increase in the number of hacked websites over the previous year. The company also saw more websites with what it called, "thin, low-quality content." These sites have little, if any, relevant information.

Users worldwide submitted over 400,000 spam reports, 65 percent of which Google investigated after separating them by priority. The company determined 80 percent of the sites it acted on were full of spam content. Google sent over 4.3 million messages to webmasters to alert them that their websites were not in line with Google's quality standards, and detailed the manual actions they took as a result. These actions include demoting websites or removing them from Google's search results. Most of the spam Google encountered was automatically demoted by the search engine's algorithms.

With all these efforts to reduce spam, webmasters appear to be taking note. Google reported that 33 percent more websites took measures to clean up their spam than the previous year. Once completed, these companies asked Google to reconsider their site's position in its search results.

Preventing sites from getting hacked
An almost 200 percent increase in the number of websites being hacked should alert any e-commerce business owner, especially when one considers the number of data breaches that have cost consumers their personal or payment information. Taking basic measures established by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council is a good place for businesses to start protecting their websites and their customers. PCI guidelines include using and updating anti-virus programs, establishing a strong firewall, and switching from default to custom passwords.

The PCI Council has stronger protocols when it comes to handling card information. Store owners can use a Level 1 payment processing company to manage this data, reducing the steps necessary to maintain compliance. The payment processor transfers and stores any payment data, and, at Level 1, maintains stricter standards than organizations processing fewer card transactions annually.

What to do after suffering a Google penalty
On occasion, businesses find their websites have suffered a drop in rankings from a Google penalty. Whether through its algorithm or manual actions, Google sometimes targets sites that aren't intentionally attempting to trick users through misleading content.

According to Kissmetrics, Google initiates over 400,000 manual actions against spam-like websites every month. However, only 5 percent of these sites submit a reconsideration request asking Google to review their site after taking measures to fix any issues.

Penalized sites should check their outgoing links, making sure they aren't directing users to sites that violate Google guidelines or use black hat SEO tactics. Incoming links from other penalized sites can also reduce a page's rank. Google's Webmaster Tools can help e-commerce stores identify where these inbound links stem from.

It's also important that Internet retailers focus on creating their own content. Commenting on current industry news, forecasting trends and writing opinion pieces all portray a business as thought leaders in their fields and help improve Google rankings.

In light of Google's recent webspam report, businesses need to focus on providing relevant information and protecting themselves against hacks. Prioritizing security garners consumer trust, and offering interesting content holds their attention.