In October 2022, Google rolled out an update to combat spam in worldwide search results across all languages. This was an excellent move on Google’s part because it makes it even more difficult for the most sophisticated and knowledgeable scammers to get their content recognized by the search engine
Reducing spammy results is always Google’s priority when releasing an update like this. Google confirms this on Search Central:
“While Google’s automated systems to detect search spam are constantly operating, we occasionally make notable improvements to how they work. When we do, we refer to this as a spam update and share when they happen on our list of Google Search ranking updates.
For example, SpamBrain is our AI-based spam-prevention system. From time to time, we improve that system to make it better at spotting spam and to help ensure it catches new types of spam.”
What is spam?
Google has a very strict list of features that determine whether a site is considered spam. These are characteristics the search engine is looking for when determining this type of poor content:
Low-quality websites that trick users into downloading and installing malware or providing personal information
Websites that disguise themselves as other reputable websites
Any website with a malicious intent
What surprises many people is that Google doesn’t consider websites with low-quality or thin content as spam. However, these websites are generally of little to no value to real people. Over time, Google recognizes that they aren’t helpful or useful to anyone and gradually lowers their search result rankings.
If a legitimate website isn’t secure, it’s at risk of being hacked and becoming a portal for distributing spam. Google doesn’t differentiate between intentional spam that you placed on your website yourself and hacked spam that someone else maliciously placed on your website. It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re to blame — if your site isn’t secure, Google could consider it to be spam and penalize it.
Who was affected?
As is always the case, Google has provided very few details about the latest update. But one person has been carefully following the results of the rollout. He’s been doing his own research into what’s going on and which sites have been affected.
Robert Paul Kersbergen, who is on a mission to help tech thrive through strategic SEO, has noted that sports and news sites have been the most affected by Google’s spam update. These are followed by websites related to community, tech, entertainment, and the arts.
Robert is an independent consultant who has helped startups and Fortune 500s double and even triple their traffic to significantly increase their ARR. Through research-based SEO, he develops highly-valuable content marketing strategies that continuously deliver incredible results.
“All website owners should look into their analytics and see if there’s a change in traffic following the latest Google spam update. If you don’t notice any difference, it’s unlikely you’ve been affected and you can carry on as normal. But if you have experienced a drop in traffic, you need to take action. Review Google’s spam policies to make sure your site isn’t in violation of them. If you don’t do anything, you could start losing customers overnight,” warns Robert.
Robert Paul Kersbergen recommends you check your analytics to see if you were affected by Google’s October spam update.
What to look for
The sites that Google penalized with its spam update had the following things in common:
Content-based instead of product-oriented
Full of content with little value
Feature duplicate meta tags
Have meta tags written exclusively for search engines instead of people
Are guilty of keyword stuffing
If your website meets any of the above criteria, you need to dive into your analytics right now. There’s a good chance you’ve been penalized by Google and things will only get worse if you ignore the latest spam update.
What to do
If you’ve noticed a drop in traffic beginning mid-October, you need to take action now. This is the advice Robert recommends you take to stop your traffic from dropping and get it going back up:
Protect your website from being penalized as a result of the current spam update and make it future-proof by:
Always focusing on quality, valuable content that encourages the reader to take action.
Be smart with your meta tags. Create them with search engines in mind, but make sure they also work for humans. Avoid duplicate meta tags at all costs.
Include your target keywords, but don’t go overboard
“Including the right keywords is essential for any research-based SEO strategy, but you should always include them in a way that sounds natural. Remember: you’ve got to write for the reader first and search engines second,” advises Robert.
Avoid writing clunky, usual-sounding text just because it allows you to insert additional keywords. Instead, put those keywords in another part of the text, drop them entirely, or use a synonym that’s as close as possible to the keyword you’re targeting.
Google is getting smarter every day and keyword stuffing, along with other old and tried SEO tricks, is a surefire way of getting left in the past. Keeping up with the latest spam updates and making sure your website and its content doesn’t violate Google’s policies is the best way on staying on the good side of the search engine giant and growing your traffic.
Robert Paul Kersbergen