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Google’s December 2022 Link Spam Update

December 20, 2022

weak link in chain visualizing Google's link spam update December 2022

On December 14th, 2022, Google announced an update to their spam detection system. According to Google, the update will take about two weeks to go into full effect.

Spam updates are changes made to Google’s AI spam prevention system, SpamBrain. These updates can improve the efficiency and accuracy of SpamBrain, or teach it to recognize entirely new kinds of spam. In this case, Google’s update deals specifically with link spam: a particular type of spam that occurs when links are used in ways that inorganically manipulate a site’s Google Search result rankings.

What Links Does the Update Affect?

The December link spam update is meant to identify two types of link spam:

  1. Sites that purchase outbound links from other websites to artificially inflate their rankings (also known as link building).
  2. Sites that exist to create link credibility for other pages by linking out to other sites with followable links (also known as link farms). 

Why would a website purchase or sell links? Organic backlinks are a consideration for Google when evaluating a page’s credibility. Search engines can interpret organically earned backlinks from high-quality websites as votes for the linked site’s content quality. 

However, some site owners attempt to take a shortcut to boost their ranking by paying other websites to link out to their page. Websites known as “link farms” monetize this practice by creating sites specifically built to drive traffic to other pages by linking out to them.

For years, Google has condemned these practices as spammy. Their primary purpose is to trick Google’s AI into boosting a website’s search ranking, defeating the purpose of linking as a source of credibility in Google’s ranking system. However, the SpamBrain AI wasn’t great at catching spammy practices. That’s where the December Link Spam Update comes in, and it strengthens Google’s ability to identify and nullify the effects of links generated by link farms and for link purchasers.

This update is part of Google’s continued 2022 push to prioritize web content made by and for humans (and will continue as an SEO trend in 2023). Published in August, Google’s helpful content update is designed to promote beneficial sites for users rather than sites explicitly built for search engines.

Will My Rankings Be Affected?

As long as your page isn’t gaining credibility through unearned outbound links, your rankings should be safe. Many forms of purchased links are entirely permissible on Google. For instance, Google doesn’t consider links purchased for advertising purposes spam as long as the links contain rel=”sponsored” or rel=”nofollow” tags. The “sponsored” value signifies that the link was paid for and acts as an advertisement, while the “nofollow” value signifies that Google shouldn’t pass on credibility from the linking site to the linked site.

Google does note in their explanation of spam updates that when they publish link spam updates, changing your site ahead of time might not lead to an improved ranking. Whether spammy links are removed by the site’s owner or by Google, the credibility created by the link is removed, and any leg up that the links gave to the site’s rankings will be lost. However, it’s still a good idea to understand where your site’s links are coming from, as well as ensure your page is coming by its credibility and rankings honestly. 

What Should I Do If My Site is Impacted? 

Following best practices in search engine optimization (SEO) can help maintain your site’s rankings throughout Google’s algorithm updates. It can also help build a trusting and positive relationship with your readers and customers for years to come. 

If your website was impacted during the most recent algorithm update or needs help boosting your organic search rankings, contact Noble Studios for help.

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