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Stephen Logan

Google Put the Boot in on Webspam

25th Apr 2012 News, Industry News 3 minutes to read

Here we are again. Google have once more announced that they are taking action against those who persist with spammy SEO techniques as part of “an important algorithm update”.

Of course you’d be forgiven for believing that we’ve been here before. Panda came along to get rid of poor quality content and the sites that host it. Even recently, Matt Cutts announced that they would be targeting sites that are ‘over-optimised’. So what’s the difference this time?

Well, webspam is certainly nothing new. All search engines have policies that effectively outlaw the practice of creating doorway pages, publishing duplicate content and getting involved in link/blog networks. However, for all the hot air, they’ve always struggled to actually do anything about it. This meant that for years, people could happily break the rules and still be at number 1 in Google.

However, for some, these days may finally be numbered.

Whilst this is being heralded as a major algorithm change, the seeds have been sewn for some time now. After all, it was barely a month ago that Google starting applying some significant pressure to a variety of high profile blog networks. They were effectively dismantled overnight, with links being rendered useless. Not great news for those who had paid a sizeable amount for those links and subsequently slumped in the rankings.

For most people in the industry, this announcement shouldn’t come as a major surprise. When Google start to play around with things manually, as was the case with blog networks, an algorithm tweak is rarely far behind. However, we still don’t know what it is that this update will affect, beyond the rather generic ‘violations to Google’s quality guidelines’ message coming from the search engine. However, it appears that the more aggressive side of spamming is likely to bear the brunt.

So what does this mean for Joe Public? Well, theoretically, it should mean that certain search queries should now deliver a better quality of results. But with only 3% of terms being affected, it’s reasonable to assume that this won’t get rid of all spammy practices or sites. That said, it could be a step in the right direction.

What about SEOs, how will they be impacted by these changes? Well, that’s a little more complicated.

As with any algorithm change, some good sites will invariably suffer. However, in the most part, it’s safe to assume that those who have indulged in the darker arts should be sweating more over this change. Any site that includes optimisation that is beyond the accepted guidelines could potentially take a hit. Even if you survive the current round of algorithm updates, there’s a pretty good chance that the follow-ups (as with Panda) will come back to bite you.

The argument that webspam works and those who spout off about ‘ethical SEO’ are flogging a dead horse is likely to become slightly muted in the coming weeks. That said, Google has been attempting to tackle this problem for decades and, despite the vast improvements they’ve made, spam still appears to be winning the battle of wills. At least now the search engine is fighting back and making good ground on its promises.

Generally, this should be received as good news by all though. Anybody who is breaking the rules will generally view a search engine penalty as an acceptable risk. That’s not to say that they will be delighted that today might be the day that it finally happens, but it’s the risk you take when you break the rules.

With spammy sites suffering, those that have been optimised for users whilst working within the parameters set out by Google ought to prosper. Again, there’s no guarantee about this, but at least it’s a step in the right direction. So if you’re worried, don’t be. Only a fraction of sites are likely to be impacted and if you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to worry about (barring external attacks, but that’s another story entirely).

Essentially, Google are finally putting their policies into action. They have talked about the need for site owners to stop keyword stuffing, buying links and creating doorway pages, but have struggled to always follow through with the threat of penalties. With this algorithm update, they may finally be able to back up this rhetoric with something more concrete. We shall see though.

You can also watch a video guide to this update at Koozai TV.

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