Today, Google released their annual webspam report which details how the search giant fights webspam and manipulation.
In their 2017 report, Google highlighted the following areas:
- Google saw an increase in website hacking.
- Robust content management systems (CMSs) are important.
- Link spam continues to reduce year-over-year.
While those first two points are important and I appreciate Google addressing them, at Page One Power we like to focus on links — and I'd like to take a moment to explore what Google said about link spam.
Google's Battle with Link Spam
Here is exactly what Google said:
"Another abuse vector is the manipulation of links, which is one of the foundation ranking signals for Search. In 2017 we doubled down our effort in removing unnatural links via ranking improvements and scalable manual actions. We have observed a year-over-year reduction of spam links by almost half."
This is a short blurb, but there is a fair amount to unpack here.
Links are a foundational ranking signal for search
While this isn't the first time Google has said links are a top ranking factor, it's always nice to hear them explicitly state the importance of links for search.
We've seen links drive SEO results for clients time and time again, so this statement came as no surprise to us! Although Google is constantly adding and subtracting factors to their search algorithm, changing how they weight various factor, and introducing machine learning elements — links and content have remained pillars for search success throughout.
We doubled down our effort in removing unnatural links via ranking improvements and scalable manual actions
Google continues to invest in protecting their search results from link spam. Judging from this statement they continue to utilize a two-prong approach: algorithmic and manual actions.
The phrase "ranking improvements" likely refers to Google's Penguin algorithm and its recent evolution into a real-time, machine learning algorithm. Site owners no longer have to wait for major updates and announcements from Google regarding Penguin, and this reference to "ranking improvements" is another nudge towards the real-time, ongoing nature of Penguin's link analysis.
As for the "scalable manual actions" portion, that likely refers to Google's human-led Webspam Team which reviews websites and flags them if they deem the site is not in compliance with Google's guidelines.
It appears that Google might be searching for ways to possibly automate more of this manual process which is worth keeping an eye on.
We have observed a year-over-year reduction of spam links by almost half
It would appear the Google's investment in reducing link spam has paid off. Cutting spam in half year-over-year is an impressive feat, especially since so many websites try to manipulate search results.
As Google continues to devalue and punish link spam, it reduces the noise surrounding links as a ranking signal. This means real links become even more valuable and powerful for SEO, and we've seen the results with our clients.
Historically, link spam has been major issue for Google and searchers alike. But with their continued fight against manipulative links Google has drastically reduced the effectiveness of spam, leaving real, authentic links to drive organic search visibility.