Google takes action against site reputation abuse

Time to complete: 10 mins

Following on from our previous article about Google removing and delisting low quality/spam content, 2024 carries on being a bad year for spam content creators

Continuing their trend of heavily targeting spam content, Google have hit with another round of ‘manual actions’ (manually applying a penalty to a website for breaking certain rules), this time targeting users looking to take advantage of ‘site reputation abuse’.

What is site reputation abuse?

Site reputation abuse is where a spam content creator looks to post content on the website of a much larger and more reputable website, with the aim of getting an SEO boost from the higher domain authority and reputation of the larger website. This can come in the form of posting reviews, vouchers or sponsored advertisements that are unrelated to the topic of the main website. 

Google’s official definition of site reputation abuseis when third-party pages are published with little or no first-party oversight or involvement, where the purpose is to manipulate Search rankings by taking advantage of the first-party site’s ranking signals.

These third-party websites look to gain an SEO boost by piggybacking from the reputation and domain authority of the of the main website. This can often lead to a negative impact on the SEO of the first-parties website. Leading to this being known as ‘parasite SEO’.

How does this affect me? 

Even if you don’t host any content from third party websites, you can still be caught out by parasite SEO, in the comments section of your blog. 

Yep, that blog that we are always banging on about as being the holy grail for your SEO, could actually be hurting your website. Spam comments usually contain dodgy links back to dodgy websites, this not only could be damaging your overall SEO, it can lead to a pretty bad user experience. Nobody wants to be happily reading your blog and then accidentally be hit by a link for penis enlargement pills! (or maybe they do? Who am I to judge?) 

Right now, Google is applying penalties for site reputation abuse manually, targeting the big offenders individually, by hand. However, this is an indication that this will become part of Google’s main algorithm, meaning it could be applied automatically on a large scale.

In fact, employees of Google have stated that this change will become part of their algorithm at some point in the future. It feels like (to me at least) Google is taking big steps in 2024 to reduce the amount of spam that is out there by handing out heavy penalties to the websites that host it. 

So while these penalties are currently only being handed out to the big players, like major news networks, once it becomes part of the main algorithm there is a chance that it could be applied automatically, to everyone. 

What should I do next? 

There are two main things that you can do to get your website ready for these updates, the good news is that they aren’t just beneficial for Google. They will be good for your overall user experience as well. 

1. Be wary of hosting third party content 

Whenever you are hosting third-party content on your website, be sure to check it thoroughly to ensure that it is free from spam and unhelpful/unrelated content.

Hosting guest blogs and the like can be a great way to increase the visibility of your website and increase your audience but just make sure that everything is above board before you post anything to your site. 

 2. Clean up that spam

Keep the spam links at bay by getting rid of any dodgy comments on your blog posts. As a general rule, we set all of our blog comments to post by approval only. This means that blog comments aren’t automatically added to the page and have to be checked and approved by you (or the website’s admin) first!

I find that the vast majority of comments that come through to the blogs I manage are spam – I mean like 99% of them. I get caught off guard and am genuinely surprised when there is an authentic comment on a blog post these days. I have to check everything because I’m convinced that they must be spam somehow. 

You could turn off commenting on your blogs all together, it certainly would make your life easier. However I wouldn’t recommend doing this as it removes a layer of interaction from your website. Comment sections allow your genuine reader to interact with your page, leave feedback and feel like they are getting involved – even if there aren’t that many genuine comments…

Just remember to check the comment approvals once a week to approve any new comments that have come in! (and delete the spam 🙄)

Time for a clean-up

So not only are spam comments annoying and bad for your users, Google could be knocking some SEO points off for leaving them hanging around as well. It shouldn’t take long to go through and tidy up some of those pesky comments, you might find a few genuine ones as well while you are sorting through them. Who doesn’t love a bit of feedback, ey?

This is just another one of those small changes that you can make to your website to improve your overall SEO. It’s a long-term investment when you start taking time to get your SEO on track, but if you keep doing the right things, you will begin to see the benefits.

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