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Google Spam Update November 2021: How To Avoid a Drop in Rankings

Google are stepping up their fight against unwelcome web spam and are planning to update their spam algorithm for the fourth time this year. After three spam updates were released in quick succession in summer 2021, the rollout of the November 2021 Spam Update has been underway since November 3rd and is expected to take around a week. This blogpost outlines what types of spam Google has their sights on and talks about the latest AI development in the fight against spam, as well as best practices Google recommend for links or sponsored posts.

Google rolls out fourth Spam Update in 2021

As well as improving search results by better understanding website content and user intentions, Google Updates have always focused on combatting web spam.

This update is about filtering out harmful or dubious websites. It also aims to recognize and filter out sites with no added value and those that use Black Hat SEO techniques. To this end, Google has spent the last few years developing AI techniques that are now being incorporated into the algorithm via the Google Update, preventing harmful websites or pages with no added value from being listed in the Google index.

So far in 2021, Google has already released four Spam Updates. After two related Updates in June, a link Spam Update was rolled out between the end of July and the end of August. The November 2021 Spam Update has been part of the Google algorithm since November 3, 2021.

Google: New Google anti-spam AI included in Updates

According to  Google’s Webspam Report 2020, crawlers and AI routines identify around 40 billion spammy pages every single day. Google says the AI they have been using since 2020 is especially configured to combat spam – but the number of Spam Updates has also increased since then!

Since its launch, Google’s anti-spam AI has reduced the number of websites with automatically generated and copied content in the Google index by over 80%. The number of websites with security flaws is still high, which is why hacked spam content is still a challenge – although Google claim to have improved their ability to detect spam by more than 50% and have removed most of the hacked spam content from search results.

Thanks to these automated systems, Google figures that more than 99% of visits via Google Search are spam-free. This short video shows you how Google goes about spam-fighting:

Impact of the November 2021 Spam Update

What specific areas of “spam” is Google’s latest November Update targeting? Google has not said precisely what types of spam this Update is designed to tackle. However, there are quite a few theories bouncing around the web:

Danny Sullivan’s comments on the differences between a Spam Update and a Core Update are very interesting.

Google’s Updates always impact plenty of sites and this Spam Update is no exception:

Danny Sullivan also has a few tips for webmasters whose sites have been affected by this Update:

Google Spam Updates 2021

To date, there have “only” been two  Core Updates in 2021 – one in June and another in July. But there have already been four Spam Updates this year. So it would appear that Google is upping their game when it comes to fighting spam. And advances in anti-spam AI have certainly helped. Google have released the following anti-spam updates so far in 2021:

June 23, 2021: The first Spam Update in 2021 was announced on June 23, 2021. They completed the rollout on the same day. To accompany the Update, Danny Sullivan also published a short video via his Google Search Liaison Twitter account about how Google intends to keep the web spam-free.

June 28, 2021: Shortly after the first Spam Update, Google published the second part of the Update just 5 days later. Having announced that this would be a two-part Update, this was not unexpected. Both parts of the Update focused on combating spam. The entire rollout was completed in just one day.

July 26, 2021: Rollout of the Link Spam Update begins. In a longer blog post, Google announce that the Link Spam Update would begin at the end of July, saying “This algorithm Update, which will rollout across the next two weeks, is even more effective at identifying and nullifying link spam more broadly, across multiple languages. Sites taking part in link spam will see changes in Search as those links are re-assessed by our algorithms.” There are also best practices for webmasters on the correct use and labelling of links and sponsored content. According to Google, the rollout was completed on August 24th.

3 November 2021: Rollout of the November 2021 Spam Update. Announcement of the fourth Spam Update in 2021, Google shows that they’re serious about spam.

Google’s best practices for preventing spam

Google published two guides in 2021 with more precise how-to instructions and best practices for  preventing spam  and dealing with links correctly . The most important points are listed below:

  • Labelling affiliate links: Every kind of affiliate link, whether created manually or dynamically, should be marked as rel=”sponsored”. At the same time, Google assure us that “In general, using affiliate links to monetize a website is fine.”
  • Labelling sponsored posts: When accepting sponsored posts and guest posts from other websites, Google “strongly” recommends applying the  appropriate rel values to these links. Google notes that they have observed campaigns of low quality sponsored and guest posts intended primarily to gain links.
  • Google threatens to take action against sites with too many paid links or improper labelling: If Google’s algorithms “detect sites engaging in either publishing or acquiring links with excessive sponsored and guest posting without proper link tags, algorithmic and manual actions may be applied, similar to affiliate links”.
  • Nofollow still permitted: According to Google’s guidelines, they still permit the use of the nofollow attribute for affiliate links or sponsored posts. In their best practices, Google says, “The nofollow attribute was previously recommended for these types of links and is still an acceptable way to flag them, though sponsored is preferred”.
  • Protecting websites against spam abuse: Google recommends webmasters apply and consider various measures to increase website security:
    • Block automatic account creation using Google’s reCAPTCHA or comparable verification tool.
    • Use moderation functions to create comments and profiles so that users are only allowed to post links after they have proven to be trustworthy.
    • Check the website for spam in the Google Search Console and fix any problems.
    • Detect spam accounts by checking and removing spammy user registrations.
    • Use noindex  to prevent untrustworthy content from being displayed in Google search.
    • Summarize the content of an open web platform in a file path or directory.
    • Keep website software up-to-date and use automated anti-spam systems, such as Akismet.