09/01/2023 • Alex Gower
The link spam update started rolling out back in December, Google initially said it would take around two weeks to roll out, this was paused over Christmas and continued to roll out over the new year.
Links are an essential part of SEO and the one thing that separated Google from its competitors when it first launched, making them the dominant force they are today.
Having other sites link to yours can be a sign of trustworthiness, authenticity and authority, all good signs when trying to increase rankings. However, because of this over the years, there have been many who have tried to game the algorithm with link farms and spammy links. I know the team often have multiple LinkedIn messaging from people offering the sell them links.
Google realised this and as such penalises spammy links, this update is just another in a long line of updates to make sure the playing field is fair and good websites are rewarded.
The update is targeting sites that are both buying links and sites that are used to pass outgoing links. Ultimately anything that may look like an unnatural link. This is similar to previous updates rolled out in 2022 and is an evolution of the algorithm rather than a new approach.
Unlike other updates there is no manual penalty attached to this one, instead, any links identified as spam in this way will be de-prioritised or not recognised. Because it's not a manual penalty you will not be notified within Search Console. So you are going to have to be on it. The first sign of you being affected could be when rankings and visibility start to decline.
Google has highlighted that this is a change to how Spam Brain uses AI to detect Spam. Google said…
"SpamBrain is our AI-based spam-prevention system. Besides using it to detect spam directly, it can now detect both sites buying links, and sites used for the purpose of passing outgoing links."
They added, "As we have always emphasized, links obtained primarily for artificial manipulation of Search rankings are link spam. Our algorithms and manual actions aim to nullify these unnatural links at scale, and we will continue to improve our coverage."
Google later clarified that this is the first time Google is using SpamBrain for link spam detection:
We saw some movement in the first few days, with many marketers complaining about the time of it dropping just before Christmas. However, the rollout was delayed and completed only recently in the new year.
It will likely be a while before we see the full impact of this and we expect we will have many SEO’ers discovering it on their return to the office in 2023.
“There have been multiple link spam updates throughout the year. These kinds of updates seek to eliminate sites that are manipulating the rankings by building as many links from low-quality sites as possible
However many businesses may be impacted if they have not managed their disavow file in the past. All site owners and marketers should focus on building links that are in a relevant niche and beneficial for the user rather than manipulating rankings.
We haven't seen any major fluctuations in clients, however, we do submit a disavow file for each client and regularly review and update this so we don't expect to be impacted.”
A monthly round up of our expert insights, tips and careers - straight to your inbox.