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If I'm not mistaken, emails offering free stuff are more likely to be considered spam by spam removal software. Is there a similar problem with offering free stuff on a website? Of course, if someone will be searching for "free cake", he'll be shown those results. But what if he's searching for "cake"? Will a site offering "free cake" rank lower because it will be considered spam-like?

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    I'm guessing that Google doesn't have an algorithm that specifically deals with "free" from a spam perspective. Any rankings effect would be the result of how users react to it. I'd imagine that "free" would increase CTR (and raise rankings). If users don't ultimately like your free offer (just a trial, for example), they would click back to the results and choose a competitor. That click back would lower rankings. Interesting question. – Stephen Ostermiller May 18 '15 at 18:08
  • Short of actually being spammy, which by the way, also includes e-mail, there should be no negative effect what so ever. Free stuff is offered on the web all the time. Just the use of the term free should not be a show stopper. However, since the term is soooooooooo common, it really has no value in weighting as a term. This means that matches can be made, but other SEO factors can make this match moot and any site should easily overcome the value of the word free with just plain ole SEO. So I would not expect to compete with this term. But I would definitely use the term if it applies. – closetnoc May 18 '15 at 20:13
  • The term is important to use if people are searching for "free widgets". If that phrase gets lots of searchers, I'd consider a free offering to cater to users. – Stephen Ostermiller May 18 '15 at 21:47
  • No it not impact on SEO, until you add a lot of freestuff spam links on your website. – vintagedigitalwatches May 19 '15 at 15:28
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If your site is useful, relevant, and does not participate in spammy practices, there should be no adverse effects for using the word "free". I have worked on legitimate erectile dysfunction (big pharma) sites, which is normally a spam-heavy subject, and they rank just fine. Now, if you are buying links, link to "bad neighborhoods", and cloak keywords - yes, you'll be penalized. Stay legit and you will be fine.

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But what if he's searching for "cake"? Will a site offering "free cake" rank lower because it will be considered spam-like?

Google's objective is to serve the most relevant content as fast as possible to user queries.

So if user are querying for 'free cake', Google will serve 'free cake' content of high quality and skip 'free cake' content of low quality. In other words, the word 'free' has no positive of negative impact on rankings by default. Only the content determines whether stuff is spammy or not.

If users like your 'free cake' content and Google sees it, it may decide to show it in 'cake' search results too. And if 'cake' users like it too, it will rank there too on the long run.

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