So last week we saw around the world reports of significant SERP changes in Google and chatter of a big algo update.
For us we saw very little change in our own sites and clients sites except for 2.
We did notice a lot of the verticles changing for brand searches and product searches but in the main localised searches, very little movement.
Reports of a big Google Algo update September 2016
Anyway looking in to two specific industry searches for 2 clients of ours we noticed one big difference and it smelled like spam right away.
The first was for ‘IT Support London’ this search term has been plagued by link spam for years and even to this day after numerous Google Penguin and Panda updates a lot of the main offenders still maintain strong page 1 results.
We immediately noticed that the worst link spammer in this niche htl.london whom have acquired a large number of back links in a very short time. See the screen shot from Ahrefs.com below
Since January 2016 this website has managed to acquire over 18,000 referring domains and 247,000 back links giving them a very healthy Ahrefs Rank score of 220,848 and domain rank of 55/100.
Take a look at their suspicious anchor text ratio
Noticed how their anchor text ratio is very varied and nothing to do with their business, searches or brand. We’re seeing more and more of this in the black hat SEO world where using lots of spammy links but keeping the anchor text ratio diverse seems to be avoiding any manual or algorithmic penalties from Google. Their anchor text ratio for any given keyword/phrase never rises above 1% keeping it diverse and organic looking if you were a Google Bot looking for patterns in aggressive anchor text ratio abuse.
From 8th to 2nd on Page 1
So going back to the recent Google Algorithm update that caused all the chatter this serial link spammer who built a lot of links very un-naturally from comment spam, forum profile links, web 2.0 links, footer links amongst others has seen a bit boost in their rankings and organic traffic. ‘IT Support London’ costs over £15 per click so this is a very profitable search term if you’re a link spammer.
I’ve also checked other sites on the SERP and virtually all on page 1 are link spamming and getting away with it, but the worst offenders are prevailing above those who choose to play by the books and not spam.
The playing field just isn’t level in this current version of Google
My point is until Google Penguin refreshes the way of the black hat SEO if adheres to certain fail safes can prevail and will out rank those who play it straight and don’t bend or break the rules.
Forget Google Penguin for now
I’ve stopped looking for announcements on Google Penguin Updates in the news search simply because we have been told time and time again a few weeks, this quarter, before the end of the year. Clearly Google isn’t quite ready to push this update and roll it out (although i do think we’ve seen it being tested as mentioned in my other blog posts) but I do think when the time does come there is going to be a big shift in the search results for spammers. The first version of Penguin hit hard and was very aggressive in taking spammers down, lets hope this only improves.
Other sites/industries positively affected by link spamming
We have also seen the same for ‘kitchens edinburgh’
Look at this site, not exactly well built or very well optimised, even the URL structure is a mess but they’ve jumped in the top 3 positions and i’ll show you how.
I don’t this the person responsible for their SEO has anything to do with their ranking improvements but in fact is from a hack.
We’ve all seen those nasty code injections to wordpress sites etc where a hacker gets in to a website and uploads a load of crap content. They then inject a bunch of other sites and link back to site A and before you know it theres a huge link network which redirects users to another site usually for calis. viagra or UGG boots.
Well this site has a huge amount of links coming from this attack which throws up a lot of strange anchor text links (see below)
Again no links with relevant brand or product search anchor text for this business, just spam.
Great for their website for now but I think this boost will be short lived as the links drop off.
So that’s example #2 of link spamming but this time not intentional by the website owner
Why is the latest Google Update loving link spam?
We can only speculate why this latest Google Algo update yearns for link spam but my guess is that it’s recently been through a major world war and for years on rations now has access to some form of tinned meat and has developed a taste for it.
Is Google Just Testing?
Or more seriously it’s testing something for certain verticals to see what the results are?
This would be my guess as Google says we don’t like link spamming and we will punish those who continue to persist with this method of bringing traffic to their website.
Recent Google Places Listing Update
I also read on Twitter that something was happening with Google Places listings and people all over the globe where seeing massive changes.
I’m going to put my neck out and suggest what this recent update really is.
I don’t think its an update in the traditional sense i think its a data set merge/error.
We’ve seen it time and time again over the last 9 years and it has all the hallmarks of a simple dataset error.
The signs the recent Google Places update is just a dataset error
[‘Keyword’ + ‘Location’] and [‘Location’ + ‘Keyword’] don’t deliver similar results
See above this search results in different businesses being showed, in fact they’re almost completely different.
2.) Not all locations seem to be affected
Surely if this was a major update we’d see this across every single search and location, but we are not.
Unless Google say we’ve updated Google Places algorithm i’m just not buying it.
Usually what happens is that when Google are making changes to it’s places layout or features we see dataset merges or errors. And this is all i think it is. Pinging the listings with an update isn’t doing anything to correct and this is the same error we saw a few years back and eventually it just corrected itself.
Don’t worry people I’m sure this will correct itself.
3.) Local Pack + Organic results are not always related
We know that the organic result of the website and places listing position are correlated but with this glitch we’re seeing some places listings ranking very well with no organic positioning at all.
That’s all from us today just thought we’d give you our 2p (I’m not saying cents I’m sorry) but if you have anything you’d like to share with us you can reach my on twitter @seotwentyone or leave a comment below.
Tom Peary is the director of SEO21 Ltd. Offering SEO, Website Design, Digital Marketing, Google Places Optimisation, Guest Blogging, Copywriting and Link Building Services.