Google’s Danny Sullivan, the company’s official liaison for webmasters, has recently confirmed a major spam update by Google. Google’s November spam update marks the fourth such update in 2021, with major updates happening over the summer. The search engine is in a constant push and pull with webmasters who try to game the search engine results page by promoting spam websites instead of useful content.
Updates such as these are the methods Google usually uses to combat spam in the search results. Uncommonly, Google will take manual action against offenders, which can be more difficult for search engine optimization professionals to solve for. 2021 has seen Google become more sophisticated in the fight against spam. Back in April 2021, Google publicly revealed their creation of a spam fighting artificial intelligence, which the company boasted provided an “unprecedented potential to revolutionize” spam fighting.
“By combining our deep knowledge of spam with AI, last year we were able to build our very own spam-fighting AI that is incredibly effective at catching both known and new spam trends. For example, we have reduced sites with auto-generated and scraped content by more than 80% compared to a couple of years ago.”Google
The format of spam can vary. Spam can be thin or copied content (called “scraped” in the industry).
It may also be content that’s “spun”. In other words, a computer program can copy someone else’s content, then put the words through a sort of thesaurus program to change the actual words while retaining the grammatical structure. Spun content reads like nonsense to a human being, but to some computer systems it can appear relevant to the original topic while seeming like it’s also brand new content.
Spam may also consist of auto-generated websites that piece together content from a variety of places to try to game the algorithm. More insidiously, spam may also consist of hacking into a legitimate website and either changing the content of the site, adding spam pages in other areas of the website unbeknownst to the site owner, or redirecting the site’s domain name to a target selected by the hacker.
While it’s still very early, we can tender a guess at what types of search queries the webspam team is paying attention to with Google’s November spam update. Throughout 2021, Google has paid particular attention to sensitive searches, such as those relating to conspiracy theories or medical information. It’s safe to assume that attention to those types of searches will continue.