October 2023 Google Spam Update [Explained]

Table of Contents

Google Spam Update

Hello and welcome back to the Search Engine Optimization Podcast with Tim Jennings, your go-to source for all things SEO! As the Head of SEO at Soulheart for almost a decade, Tim has been the driving force behind countless businesses and nonprofits achieving their goals using organic traffic from search engines like Google. 

In the podcast episode “Google’s October 2023 Spam Update Explained” we review a brand new algorithm update, what it means, and what you can do if you get hit negatively by it. Let’s dive in!

Image of a red door and a sign on the mail slot that says "no junk mail" representing the new spam algorithm update.

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Episode Transcript

Google Spam Update

Hello and welcome back to another episode of the Search Engine Optimization Tips and Tricks Podcast with Tim Jennings. I am your host, Tim and I have been in charge of SEO at Soulheart for almost 10 years now. In my time in SEO, I have helped many nonprofits and business owners obtain their marketing goals through organic traffic by using SEO. My podcast is designed to help you get the results you want and need!

For the third time in as many months, Google has announced another major algorithm update. Almost immediately following the August 2023 core update, we saw Google announce the Helpful Content update in September and now in October we are in the middle of the Google Spam algorithm update. But what does that mean and how can you recover should your site get hit? Keep listening (or reading) because that is exactly what we are going to be covering on today’s episode of the podcast!

What Is an Algorithm and Why Are They Important?

A search engine Algorithm is a complex, mathematical formula or set of rules that search engines, particularly Google, use to determine the order in which web pages are displayed in search results. These algorithms are designed to provide users with the most relevant and high-quality results when they enter a search query.

Google’s algorithm takes numerous factors into account when deciding which web pages to rank higher in the search results. These factors include the content on a web page, its relevance to the search query, the authority and trustworthiness of the website, user engagement, and more. The algorithm assigns a score or ranking to each web page based on these factors, and pages with higher scores appear at the top of the search results.

Search engines, including Google, update their algorithms regularly for several reasons:

  • Evolving User Expectations: User behavior and expectations change over time. Search engines need to adapt to provide the best user experience, ensuring that search results remain relevant and helpful.
  • Combatting Spam and Manipulation: As the online landscape evolves, so do techniques for gaming the system. Regular algorithm updates help search engines combat spam, black hat SEO practices, and low-quality content, ensuring that the most deserving websites rank higher.
  • Advancements in Technology: Search engines incorporate new technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, to improve the quality of search results. Algorithm updates are necessary to leverage these technological advancements effectively.
  • Improving Relevance: The internet is constantly growing, and new content is added daily. Algorithm updates help search engines adapt to changes in web content and user interests, ensuring that search results remain relevant.
  • Enhancing User Experience: Search engines aim to provide the best possible user experience. Algorithm updates help them better understand user intent and deliver more precise results, making it easier for users to find what they’re looking for.
  • Mobile and Local Search: As mobile device usage and local search become increasingly important, algorithms need to adapt to provide more relevant results for these specific contexts.

In summary, search engine algorithms are the core systems that determine the rankings of web pages in search results. Regular updates are essential to keep these algorithms aligned with evolving user behavior, technological advancements, and the ever-expanding internet, ultimately providing users with the most useful and relevant search results.

What Do We Know About the October 2023 Google Spam Update?

Google periodically enhances its automated systems for detecting search spam, labeling these improvements as “spam updates” and providing information on them within the Google Search ranking updates list. For instance, SpamBrain, an AI-based spam-prevention system, undergoes occasional improvements to better identify and combat spam, including new spam types.

Google is introducing the October 2023 Spam Update, aiming to enhance spam detection across various languages and spam types, particularly in Turkish, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Hindi, Chinese, and more. The update targets issues like cloaking, hacked content, auto-generated content, and scraped material, with the goal of reducing visible spam in search results. The rollout will occur over several weeks.

After a spam update, websites that experience changes should review Google’s spam policies to ensure compliance. Violations may lead to lower search rankings or even removal from search results. Making necessary adjustments can potentially lead to improvements over time if the site aligns with Google’s spam policies.

In the case of a link spam update, modifications may not yield benefits since the impact of spammy links is nullified. Any ranking advantages previously attributed to these links cannot be restored.

How to Recover A Penalized Site

When the update is completed and the SERPs have had a few days to stabilize (sometimes it takes a few weeks), then you can evaluate whether or not your site was hit. Google’s spam policies play a crucial role in safeguarding users and enhancing the quality of search results. To appear in Google web search results, content must align with Google Search’s overall and spam policies. These policies apply universally, including Google’s own properties. Google utilizes automated systems and manual reviews to detect policy violations, and non-compliance can result in lower search rankings or removal from search results. Here are a few items that you can check/fix according to Google:

1. Cloaking: Cloaking involves displaying different content to search engines than to users, with the intention of manipulating search rankings. This deceptive practice is a violation of Google’s policies and can result in penalties. Examples include showing one page to search engines while displaying entirely different content to users.

2. Doorways: Doorway pages are designed to rank for specific search queries and lead users to intermediate pages that offer less value than the final destination. Google targets websites that create multiple pages with slight variations to maximize reach or use multiple domain names to funnel users to a single page.

3. Hacked Content: Hacked content is unauthorized material placed on a site due to vulnerabilities in its security. This content can harm user experiences and even install malicious content on users’ devices. Hacked content can include code injection, page injection, and content injection.

4. Hidden Text and Links: This refers to placing content on a page solely for the purpose of manipulating search engines, making it hard to spot for human visitors. Techniques include hiding text behind images, using CSS to position text off-screen, and manipulating font size or opacity.

5. Keyword Stuffing: Keyword stuffing involves overloading a web page with keywords or numbers in an attempt to manipulate search rankings. This practice often results in unnatural-sounding content that provides little value to users.

6. Link Spam: Google uses links to determine the relevance of web pages. Any actions that manipulate links, such as buying or selling links for ranking purposes or engaging in excessive link exchanges, can be considered link spam. Google looks for unnatural linking practices.

7. Machine-Generated Traffic: Automated traffic, including sending automated queries to Google or scraping results for rank-checking purposes, interferes with user experiences and can violate Google’s policies.

8. Malware: Google checks for websites hosting malware or unwanted software that negatively affects users’ experiences. This includes software designed to harm users’ devices, such as viruses, as well as unwanted software that disrupts browsing experiences, like switching browser settings.

9. Misleading Functionality: Google expects websites to provide high-quality content and useful functionality to benefit users. Some site owners, however, manipulate search rankings by creating sites with misleading functionality and deceptive services.

10. Scraped Content: Some site owners build their websites around content taken from other sources without adding value. Scraped content without added value can constitute copyright infringement and may not provide significant value to users.

11. Sneaky Redirects: Redirecting users to different content than they initially requested with the intent to deceive is considered spam. Google distinguishes between legitimate redirects and those intended to deceive users or search engines.

12. Spammy Automatically-Generated Content: This involves generating content programmatically with little originality or added value, primarily to manipulate search rankings. Google penalizes content that exists solely for this purpose.

13. Thin Affiliate Pages: These pages contain affiliate links with product descriptions and reviews copied directly from the original merchant, offering minimal original content or added value. Google looks for pages that add value to users.

14. User-Generated Spam: Users sometimes add spammy content to sites through channels intended for user-generated content. Google combats spammy user-generated content to ensure a quality user experience.

15. Legal Removals: When Google receives a high volume of valid copyright removal requests or other removal requests involving a specific site, it may demote content from that site in search results to prevent users from encountering infringing or harmful content.

16. Personal Information Removals: In cases of high volumes of personal information removal requests, Google may demote content from sites with exploitative removal practices to maintain user privacy and trust.

17. Policy Circumvention: Google penalizes those who attempt to bypass spam and content policies, such as creating multiple sites for policy violations or using methods to continue distributing spammy content.

18. Scams and Fraudulent Activities: Google takes action against various online scams and fraudulent activities, such as impersonating legitimate businesses, displaying false information, or attracting users under false pretenses. The goal is to maintain the integrity of search results and protect users.

More Help

As you can see, Google’s algorithm updates play a crucial role in shaping the world of search engine optimization. These updates reflect the continuous evolution of user expectations, the fight against spam and manipulation, advancements in technology, the quest for relevance, and the pursuit of an enhanced user experience. They are the backbone of how web pages are ranked in search results and are pivotal in ensuring that users receive the most relevant and high-quality content in response to their search queries.

As we delve into the specifics of Google’s most recent spam update for October 2023, it becomes evident that Google’s mission is to uphold the integrity of search results across multiple languages and spam types. This update aims to combat various spamming techniques, including cloaking, doorways, hacked content, and more, to create a cleaner and more informative search experience. However, with these updates come the challenges of site evaluation and compliance, as sites that violate Google’s spam policies may face a decline in search rankings or even removal from search results. Webmasters should vigilantly assess their sites for potential violations and make the necessary adjustments to align with Google’s policies.

In the ever-evolving landscape of SEO, understanding these algorithm updates and adapting to them is essential for website owners, content creators, and SEO professionals. By staying informed and adhering to best practices, you can continue to provide valuable content and maintain a strong online presence, ultimately delivering a better experience to users. As the digital realm continues to evolve, SEO remains at the forefront of keeping the internet a reliable and informative resource for all.

For a deeper dive into SEO insights that aren’t available anywhere else, particularly guidance on how to navigate algorithm updates effectively, consider becoming a part of the Soulheart Circle. The Soulheart Circle is a community of individuals who share a common goal: to thrive in the ever-evolving landscape of digital marketing, even when budgets are tight. It’s crucial to secure those victories, and the Soulheart Circle is here to assist you in achieving just that. Within this exclusive community, we provide invaluable insights into a variety of digital marketing strategies and techniques. Additionally, we offer monthly LIVE Q&A webinars, allowing you to bring your specific questions and receive expert answers from seasoned professionals in their respective fields. As a member, you’ll also gain access to our training courses and more. Join us on this journey to enhance your digital marketing prowess and make your mark in the industry.

Until next time, have a great day!

Episode Resources

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Picture of Timothy Jennings

Timothy Jennings

Tim is Soulheart's resident SEO expert as well as our Chief Happiness Officer. He has been doing Search Engine Optimization for almost a decade. He loves the competition aspect of SEO and is always staying on top of the latest trends. He's passionate about helping organizations grow by improving their chances of being found by their target audience.
Picture of Timothy Jennings
Post by

Timothy Jennings

Tim is Soulheart's resident SEO expert as well as our Chief Happiness Officer. He has been doing Search Engine Optimization for almost a decade. He loves the competition aspect of SEO and is always staying on top of the latest trends. He's passionate about helping organizations grow by improving their chances of being found by their target audience.

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