What is it?
On the 24th April, Google launched an (algorithm) update to their live search engine. This changed the way that search results are filtered for ranking positions. Their intention for this update was to eliminate the presence of webspam in the top pages of their search results pages. Webspam in this case refers to websites that use questionable tactics to game search engine results and shortcut their way to successful rankings. In Google’s words, such sites “violate Google’s webmaster guidelines”.
What does this mean for ordinary businesses, entrepreneurs and webmasters?
This was a particularly significant and potent update, and reportedly impacted about 3% of search results.
In many cases, not only distinctly webspam sites were affected negatively, but also legitimate, good quality websites that do not engage in irresponsible promotional tactics, are neutral, or work hard for their positions as well.
This is because Google is still only a machine and is not perfect at deciding when someone is performing questionable tactics and when the aspects of the website or website promotion (such as links on other websites, to a website) occur naturally or simply by accident.
So the criteria that are considered for identifying “webspam” are still within a gray area, and as a net result, many small to large businesses have suffered losses in search traffic, without really having warranted it at all.
While this seems unfair, it will remain a reality until Google improve the accuracy of their search ranking filters, over time.
While some of the better sites may have been knocked down, it can be assumed that the actual spammers were likely hit even harder, and some may have slipped through the cracks. Time and the everyday users and quality raters of Google Search will tell.
So, how does a business move forward with search marketing?
It appears that while Google have made it more difficult for smaller, newer websites to compete for rankings on expensive, high-competition, high-traffic volume keywords, they have also rewarded sites that produce good quality, useful content, and gradually build up the authority of their website, via responsible promotional methods such as relevant link building and social media engagement.
So the way to move forward is to ensure that the marketing of a website is performed responsibly, and to expect that good results and success always require long term commitment.
Can spammers get to my site?
Since offsite factors may be looked at as signals for spam by Google, it is possible that an aggressive campaign could be employed by any given unscrupulous competitor to derail the performance of website in the search results.
This form released by the Google webspam team can be used to give feedback if you believe that your drop in performance is completely unwarranted, or due to an attack by black-hat search marketing saboteurs.