figures_laying_with_laptop_9036Every website owner and webmaster needs to keep abreast of the latest modifications in Google’s algorithm for the purposes of SEO. In a recent announcement, Google confirmed that it has launched yet another algorithm change targeting webspam strategies such as keyword stuffing and “unusual linking patterns”.

How Google ranks a website

Google constantly sends out crawlers known as “Googlebots” which are automated programs designed to view web pages for weeks before indexing the content that has been found in the process. It takes about another week for the indexed data to appear in search results whenever a Google user types in certain keywords in Google. The order in which web pages appear in search results is determined by Google’s algorithm which uses over 200 factors designed to deliver the best results to Google searchers. Google tweaks its algorithm hundreds of times every year and maintains a veil of secrecy over its algorithm to prevent anyone from gaming their system. One such change that is creating a buzz in forums and blogs is the webspam algorithm change.

Webspam or unusual linking patterns

Many websites have engaged in the practice of buying links and other link schemes with the intention of boosting their search rankings. Many of these links come from blog networks and directories which often do not contain any useful content. In its continuing effort to provide the best search results to its users, Google updated its algorithm and maintains that the modification provides a better mechanism for identifying websites with unusual linking patterns. “Unusual linking patterns” include the existence of links from spun content with anchor text that is completely unrelated to the actual on-page content. Thus, websites with links coming from pages that are spun beyond recognition so that they no longer provide any value to Google’s users can expect some changes in their rankings or receive notices from Google regarding “unusual linking patterns.”

Link building as SEO strategy

Obtaining inbound links is part of SEO strategy because Google considers the number of web pages linking to a website as one of hundreds of signals about a website’s importance. Marketers who practise non white hat SEO techniques, however, have resorted to buying links and exchanging links with numerous sites without regard for their relevance or content quality. Some have managed to rank well compared to websites with unique and more relevant content but if the webspam algorithm is indeed effective, then that’s about to change. Following the rationale for the algorithm change, link building may still be an effective SEO strategy only when they involve natural links or those with high quality and relevant content.

Impact of webspam algorithm

Initial reports at SEO forums indicate that aggregators, blog networks and directories have been affected by the recent update while branded websites which have maintained good link profiles seem to have survived. Webmasters have also received notices from Google regarding their websites’ respective “unusual linking patterns”. In the same notice, Google recommends that changes be made regarding the unnatural links before sending a reconsideration request.

Negative SEO

Internet marketers are concerned about the impact that negative SEO may have on search rankings now that Google has officially launched the webspam algorithm. Negative SEO refers to the practice of a competitor who buys bad links and aims them at competitors’ websites in order to harm their rankings. It is feared that more negative SEO activity may arise out of the webspam algorithm.

SEO recommendation

Ideally, one should not wait for Google to send a notice regarding unnatural links and immediately undertake a search and expunge mission to rid a website of offending links. A website that has been penalized for unusual linking patterns may not readily recover from a drop in search rankings even after the removal of webspam. Here are other ways to avoid Google’s webspam penalty:

* If you’re using paid links, then stop paying for links and request that they are removed immediately.

* Perform a thorough review of the website and identify all possible offending links.

* Contact any external company or entity which created the offending backlinks and see what may be done to remove them.

* Use only white hat SEO techniques such as developing high quality content to attract quality and relevant inbound links.

* Websites that have been penalized and effected a cleanup of the spammy links must submit a request for Google to reconsider their pages, specifying which links have been removed.

* If the unusual links come from negative SEO tactics, then it’s best to identify them in the request for reconsideration submitted to Google.

Google’s recent algorithm modification highlights the basic SEO principle of constantly working at improving site experience and to provide high value to Internet users. The key to surviving Google’s algorithm changes such as Panda (content farm) update and the webspam algorithm is regular development of quality content.

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