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How to Protect Your Site From Google’s New Spam Policy Update


spam and computers

With March 5th 2024 Core Update Google has also announced a new Spam Update. It includes the following new changes:

  • Scaled Content Abuse

  • Site Reputation Abuse

  • Expired Domain Abuse.

If your site has been hit with the spam update - which outside of declining analytics reports you should see in your Google Search Console (GSC) dashboard - read on to see how you can address those spam changes that have been introduced on March 5th. One of them by the way - Site Reputation Abuse is yet to be rolled out on May 5th this year.

Let’s dive into each one of the spam changes with recommendations on how to adapt to the changes.


Scaled Content Abuse


artistic depiction of AI content


Here is how Google defines this update on its Google Search Central website:

Scaled content abuse is when many pages are generated for the primary purpose of manipulating Search rankings and not helping users.

It is key that this update focuses on content that does not bring value to the user: either too thin, irrelevant or sloppily written without any added value to the reader.


𝗛𝗼𝘄 𝘁𝗼 𝗽𝗿𝗼𝘁𝗲𝗰𝘁 your site:

  1. Do not load up your site with dozens/hundreds of articles in one day.

  2. Make posting frequency similar to an old-school blog/news site.

  3. Ensure each blog post has a real-life author with an author profile. Try to link to any other sites and accounts where that author is featured: X profile, LinkedIn profile, articles by that author on similar or even competitor sites. Ideally the author's background and expertise match the topic or area in which the articles are written on your site.

  4. Content on your site: Pretend you are the searcher. Would you like and appreciate the content of your site if you were to stumble on it in Google? If not, fix it. Some common areas of improvement include but are not limited to:

  • Break long content into smaller sections and paragraphs. Use subheadings and bullet points. Use quotes and featured key points.

  • Use images. If you have a technical, non-visual area of content you can screenshot what you are talking about and post your own screenshots. Take that Midjourney! Authentic as it gets. If your site is “visual”: makeup, decor, design etc. - use images. In our experience Midjourney or any AI generated images work great if they help visualize what the article is talking about. It will not hurt if it helps the reader.

  • Have articles that are not focused on your SEMRush or Surfer SEO keyword list: Include ~20% of content that is not strictly going after high-volume, low keyword difficulty and all-that-jazz keyword phrases. Have editorial content. What would your author/editor want to write about if they could do it freely? Oftentimes content that the user did not think about searching for is the highly appreciated and shared one. And don’t worry: Google will find a place to rank it.

  • You know that approximate character and content limit that the free version of ChatGPT has? Well, try to go above it. Thin content has not been appreciated by Google for a while.

Site reputation abuse


site reputation abuse art


This is the update that is not in effect yet and that will go into full effect on May 5th 2024. According to Google - to give websites time to adjust. Read on in the “Opinion” section which websites this update might impact.


Site reputation abuse is when third-party pages are published with little or no first-party oversight or involvement, where the purpose is to manipulate Search rankings by taking advantage of the first-party site's ranking signals. Such third-party pages include sponsored, advertising, partner, or other third-party pages that are typically independent of a host site's main purpose or produced without close oversight or involvement of the host site, and provide little to no value to users.

𝗛𝗼𝘄 𝘁𝗼 𝗽𝗿𝗼𝘁𝗲𝗰𝘁 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿𝘀𝗲𝗹𝗳:

  1. Audit your site to its farthest corners and remove/block pages that do not fit into your site's general topic. Have a technology news site? Maybe you should not host articles about how to set a table, hang a curtain or seal the brick in your house. Stick. To. The. Topic.

  2. If you found content that is unrelated to your site purpose and topic - block it from Google’s indexing. You can do so in robots.txt if those pages have a certain URL pattern or one-by-one or programmatically through a robots Noindex, Nofollow tag on each of those pages.

  3. If you have UGC content - make sure there is no clear spam. Google has a separate section of guidelines on how to manage spammy accounts and spammy UGC content. You can find it here. Also, wrap UGC links with the rel ugc tag.

Opinion:

If you have ever done SEO for coupon sites you know that the industry has been decimated to say the least by the news site whales who leverage their enormous site authority to conduct a whole new revenue stream for themselves: offering coupons and winning SEO rankings with those. Effectively decimating decades long businesses who do NOTHING else but coupon offerings. We don’t know yet if Google’s wrath will come after these large sites who are huge Google ad spenders. If it did, Google would get a few extra brownie points in my eyes.

The above is however is more of a wishful thinking, as Google explicitly talks about the absence of the first-party oversight as a punishable feature.


Expired domain abuse


a photo of a laundromat repurposed as a hair salon

Expired domain abuse is where an expired domain name is purchased and repurposed primarily to manipulate Search rankings by hosting content that provides little to no value to users. For example, someone might purchase a domain previously used by a medical site and repurpose that to host low quality casino-related content, hoping to be successful in Search based on the domain's reputation from a previous ownership.


𝗛𝗼𝘄 𝘁𝗼 𝗽𝗿𝗼𝘁𝗲𝗰𝘁 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿𝘀𝗲𝗹𝗳:

  • Do not buy expired domains for the purpose of gaming Google’s rankings. Buy a domain that best reflects your brand, business name and the area of business. Do not make it suspicious for Google by purchasing a domain that previously existed in your industry and was highly trusted by Google.

  • How to fix it if you have already done so? Focus on content quality as much as possible. Diversify your website traffic with non-SEO channels: email, referral, ad traffic, social media. Google needs to see that you bought that domain to do business and not game the organic rankings.

  • What about domains that were bought and redirected to your site? It is best to remove those 301 redirects from all of the topic-unrelated domains or even related ones that are too spammy from pointing to your site. It might hit your rankings, but a mild setback is better than a complete rank wipeout.


Have any additional questions? Reach out to us here or on on X: @SEOseagull.

SEO Seagull would be happy to troubleshoot declining rankings and Google core and/or spam update hits as well as provide any other SEO help.


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