Google Pushes Webspam Algorithm Update

Last month at SXSW our good friend Matt Cutts announced that the web spam team was working on an over optimization algorithm update that would target and penalize sites that are “over-optimized” or “overly SEO’ed.”

Yesterday afternoon, Matt announced on the Webmaster Central Blog that they are officially rolling the update out “in the next few days” (we saw shake up in the SERPs starting around 8pm last night) and that the update will be focusing on cleaning up webspam and taking action against sites that violate their quality guidelines.

If you are in the online marketing space, you’ve been hearing about this all day today. Although it’s normal for Google to make tweaks to the algorithm after a major update improve upon the initial results, this is one of the worst updates since the Florida update in regards to ridding the search engine of webspam.

Early this morning, one of our guys sent me a link to the search query “make money online”. Here you can clearly see an example of what Google believes to be a better result for users.

serps snapshot

As you can see from the screenshot above, Google is clearly favoring Blogspot (a Google property) for a very competitive term. Okay, maybe they earned that position, but wait a minute it gets worse… See the next screen shot.

spam site content

Where’s the content? Clearly Google can’t think this is an authoritative site that provides value to the end user. If this is what you call webspam cleanup, we are all in for it! Thanks Google! (as of 4:52 Google has pulled this from their results after mass circulation on forums and social networks)

If you think this is an isolated example, let’s turn to Search Engine Land’s winners and losers that was published this afternoon.

So here’s our take on this. Clearly the update sucks and has negatively affected quite a few legitimate business out there. We realize that we are about 24 hours into this thing and Google can do one of three things, first, roll back the update, two, quickly make tweaks to help improve current results, or three, leave it as is and risk billions of dollars in paid advertising. Obviously the third is probably not an option for them.

In the meantime, it would be very smart for everyone to check their on page optimizations as referenced by Rand Fishkin on Friday of last week, and also check their off page link building efforts as referenced by our own Kevin Phelps on Monday. There are countless posts about how to properly publish content, attract quality backlinks, and convert your visitors into paying customers… so get busy!

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  1. Dustin says


    Ponder this idea for a second… What if before the update the websites that dominated the top rankings for the search term of “make money online” were those that practiced webspam tactics. Google launches an update to drop those sites out of the top rankings and suddenly you have a blank website as the most relevant result. I think it is a pretty safe assumption that the search term of “make money online” was spammed pretty heavily. It is pretty extreme but also possible if an industry was being spammed pretty heavily.

    The other side to this update is that many industries are now seeing much better results. Being involved in the web hosting industry, one of my frustrations has been how many “hosting review” affiliate sites have been controlling the top ranking positions. Even the biggest brands like GoDaddy and Host Gator were not beating some of these crappy affiliate sites. Now most affiliate sites are gone from page one for many of the biggest industry related search terms. So for that industry this appears to be a good update. 

    • Greg Shuey says

      Dustin, I would have to disagree. Yes there was a lot of spam for make money online and pretty much every competitive search query out there, however, when Google ranks a garbage site like that instead of the site that is sitting position two right now (the Forbes article) or the mashable article at the top of page two, they have obviously screwed something up.

    • Garen says


      In regards to your comment about crappy affiliate sites outranking GoDaddy and Hostgator; does it make since for these two big companies to outrank “crappy affiliate” sites that give reviews on there service?  Where is the relevancy there and feedback from people that either use the services or have some say so on them. 

      This ago change is one of the worst screw ups I have seen in 3 years.  So the future of SEO is to not build good strong links and see how low value or a site you can create?  Wouldn’t be surprised if this algo update is rolled back as they have clearly mixed the boat in combating spam.

  2. Fionn says

    Greg, I was thinking that with the cull more people will turn to Adwords to regain some traffic or go out of business.  Wont this make more money for them.  When you say risk billions of dollars in ad revenue what do you mean by that.

    • Greg Shuey says

      They may, but if all they deliver are crap results, more people will start turning to Bing and Yahoo to gt their search results, which will cause them to lose a lot of money in advertising.

  3. Dirk says

    what can I do after penalty? my site was in top 10 in germany with key seo. no its over 34 place in ranking

  4. Charles says

    When breaking down rankings I’m always coming across Blogger sites that seem totally out of place among their peer sites.  They won’t have age or links on their side but they will still be sitting above other high pr pages with tons of anchor text links.  Go figure, huh?

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