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A Video Guide To The Google (Penguin) Webspam Update

SEO | 25th Apr 2012

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Video Transcript

Today is a bad day to be a spammer but a really good day to be a nice, ethical, white hat SEO. Today Google dropped their webspam update, which affects 3% of queries, and it targets those websites that are do seen to especially bad content and linking practices.

Now Google has always fought against webspam, but this is the first time they’ve really done a really specific update against it, and, as I said a moment ago, it will affect 3% of queries, but it’s unlikely to affect 3% of websites. A lot of spammers appear for hundreds of thousands of queries. So they’re likely to see a massive dip in their performance, whereas the vast majority of the Web will probably see fairly similar results to what they had before unless they are engaging in any of these practices. If you’re not engaging in them but you appear for terms against competitors who do do this, you’re likely to get a ranking boost or at least appear above those who have been knocked down by doing this.

Let’s take a look at the things Google is now going to punish even more than they did before. The main issue is any website that breaks Google’s guidelines will be punished heavily. That’s always been the case but the main recommendation that Google are making today is that you re-read those guidelines on their website just to be sure because there’s a lot of things in there.

Next, any link schemes are going to be penalised so that things like reciprocal link farms and three-way link networks, that kind of thing that’s always been penalised. So it’s really worth looking at your link profile to determine this. It’s also worth looking to see if someone else has put you in one of these networks, because there are occurrences where websites have been penalised because they’ve been added to bad link networks without their knowledge. So always check Webmaster Tools to see where you’re getting those links from, and if you’re getting a lot of links from a single site you’ve never heard of, try and block it from accessing your site.

Next we’ve got unrelated links. This is one of the examples that Google gives on their blog post about this. Essentially, if you’ve got a page of content and then it’s got links in it that have nothing to do with that content at all, just random anchor text keywords stuffed in there that link out, that’s going to get penalised. And we’ve seen over the years that Google can determine the nature of a page and what that page is supposed to be about. So if your links are completely unrelated to the content, they are going to get penalised.

Next we’ve got keyword stuffing. I’m surprised if people still do this kind of thing, but they have said that it will be penalised, so people clearly are. That’s when you add a keyword too often on a page, and it’s really obvious when that’s occurring. If you read and every fifth word is one specific keyword, then it’s going to get knocked down.

Next we’ve got article spinning. This is actually seen as quite a good tactic a few years ago, but now it is seen as very black hat, especially when people stick content into software. It spins it out and spits out a new version of it. That stuff is not good for the Web. It’s not going to help anyone. Now if you take a piece of content and then rewrite it from scratch yourself and then put that on, that’s less likely to get penalised. But really obvious spun content is going to be targeted by this update.

Last we’ve got duplicate content. Again, this is a very common thing that we see. It has been stated that it’s going to be deliberate duplicate content. I find it hard to see how Google can tell what’s deliberate and what’s accidental. So you should always check Webmaster Tools for things like the duplicate Meta report. I always find that’s a really good way to see what content is appearing twice or at two separate URLs.

So, if you only do one thing after watching this video, I’d reread Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Yes, a lot of it is fluffy and hard to see how any site could succeed if it didn’t do anything in there, but this isn’t an update designed to punish SEO. Google have said that flat out. This is designed to fight against webspam. People that are doing good SEO or they’ve got good content will not be penalised by this update, and that’s really good to see from an SEO industry perspective. If anything, this is going to help our industry by punishing those websites that outrank us by using malicious, dirty tactics. It’s not going to get everything. There’s always going to be some spammers out there, but if you are a spammer right now, you should be sweating and you should really be looking at all of this.

About the author

Mike Essex

Mike Essex specialises in digital marketing and everything search. A recent project of Mike’s was featured on BBC News, Radio 5Live and the Times here in the UK, whilst also featuring on USA Today and ABC News in the US. He will be writing throughout the month about digital marketing and much more...

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