Nefarious search engine optimizers be warned. Google is coming for you—again.
Following previous changes to Google’s ranking and page layout algorithms, the search giant is pushing yet another update to its algorithm this week with the hopes of curbing “black hat webspam” from creeping into search results.
The change will go live for all languages at the same time within the next few days, said engineer Matt Cutts in a blog post yesterday, and will affect roughly 3.1 percent of queries in English “to a degree that a regular user might notice.”
Cutts said the changes are targeted at sites engaged in tactics such as keyword stuffing, or “unusual linking patterns” where unrelated links are sprinkled throughout a fake or manufactured article. These sites might be harder to recognize than more blatant SEO offenses, but Google engineers believe that targeted sites “are engaging in webspam tactics to manipulate search engine rankings.”
As previously reported, there have been at least nine major updates to Google’s “Panda” algorithms since they were introduced last February, with numerous other tweaks along the way. In some cases, otherwise innocent sites were harmed, though this change is promised to affect a much smaller subset of visible search results.
Google’s quality guidelines outline just some of the discouraged tactics, which include hidden text or links, pages with irrelevant keywords, cloaking, and, of course, the presence of malicious software. That’s not to say all SEO is bad, however. Cutts points out that so-called white hat techniques are still fair game, and can often improve the usability of a site, “which is good for both users and search engines.”
As for packing every known pharmaceutical synonym into your site’s footer? That’s probably not as wise.