In the last few hours, Google’s latest search algorithm updates have been going live. The purpose of this update is to combat webspam, but the actual result is rather questionable in terms of improving the quality of their search engine.
Out of context links
One theoretically welcomed change is Google’s analysis of whether or not a link makes sense in context. This should probably help combat the recycled and spun articles that have a bunch of unrelated links stuffed in to the text at random points. What is left to be seen, however, is how effective this is in sorting out the good links from the bad.
Link exchanges and reciprocal schemes
Reciprocal linking is something that Google hasn’t liked for a long time, but now it seems to be more of a liability than ever before. I’m starting to think this might be related to the losses I’ve seen on some of my sites, but I also see sites that rely even more heavily on this tactic that are higher in the rankings than they were. In general, it would probably be a good idea to avoid this kind of scheming altogether.
And bad links in general
Also emphasized is “aggressive” link building and “link schemes.” While they won’t go in to too much detail here, the growing consensus among search watchers is that bad links are actually becoming a negative signal rather than something Google just ignores. Again, the idea is to punish websites that intentionally build links for the purpose of increasing their ranks, but I have to wonder just how accurate their analysis is. At the least, it is a big jump in the trend toward shrinking the part of the internet that gets a vote.
The era of negative SEO
As Google has become more aggressive and forceful in dealing with webspammers, SEOs have been wondering how long it would be until negative SEO became the most important niche in the search industry. Well, it seems increasingly clear that this future is here.
There’s at least one case study out there claiming a direct effect of negative SEO tactics, and I’ve had some personal experience seeing how “bad comments” and excessive social linking could work as a negative SEO strategy. Combined with the latest anti-spam algorithm update, it is starting to look like Negative SEO is about to become a big problem.
So who wins?
Well, right now Google search results are still being dominated by Youtube, Wikipedia, and domains with exact keyword matches. In that respect, things haven’t changed too much – except that whatever smaller and medium sites might have squeaked their way in to the top ten have been replaced by even more domains matching keywords. Some of the examples are just pathetic.
One commenter has noted that the domains hurt today are among the same ones tripped up by what Google called a “classification error.” According to Cutts, this classification update incorrectly identified domains as being parked, and they quickly reversed direction on it. However, was that actually a trial-run for the anti-spam update – or has Google incorporated another classification error?
I haven’t heard any positive reviews of this particular update, so I’m going to be watching for more updates.