Google Link Spam Algorithm Update December 2022

Google took to Twitter on the 14th of December 2022 to announce that they are rolling out a new link spam algorithm update.

The latest algorithm update leverages Google’s AI-based spam-prevention system known as SpamBrain to neutralise the impact of unnatural links on the search results.

December 2022 Link Spam Update Critical Stats

Release Date: 14th December 2022 (Greenwich Mean Time, GMT)

Roll-out time: Two weeks (14th December – 28th December 2022)

Confirmed or Speculation: Confirmed – the update was announced through the Google Search Console Twitter account with supporting documentation posted on Google’s search central blog.

Target: Link spam

First of Its Kind?: No, Google released a previous link spam update in July 2021.

What Google Says: Websites that are buying links or participating in link schemes will be impacted by the update. This is not a manual penalty and sites are not being directly ‘penalised’ for low quality, purchased links. Google will use its AI technology RankBrain to “neutralize” the impacts of links that have been purchased to improve SEO efforts. Google states that they will be able to detect websites that are buying and selling links and the effects of those links will not longer contribute towards site authority, search visibility, and rankings.

Regions & Languages Impacted: All languages and regions – this is a global update.

Worthy Mention: Websites are not being actively punished. Websites that see a drop in rankings are experiencing a ‘neutralisation’ of links that were previously benefiting their website and enhancing search appearance.

At a time when many SEOs thought that they were just about done with updates for 2022, Google has released two fairly significant algorithm updates over the last two weeks after announcing a new helpful content algorithm update just over a week earlier on the 5th of December.

As is tradition, Google announced the news through the Google Search Liaison Twitter account:

“Today, with our December 2022 link spam update, we’re leveraging the power of SpamBrain to neutralize the impact of unnatural links on search results. The update launches today & will take about two weeks to rollout.”

Google’s guidance on the December 2022 link spam update

The Google Search Central Blog has been updated with documentation outlining what the latest algorithm update means in Google’s ongoing battle to combat link spam. Here are the main points that we can take away:

  • The update will take about two weeks to fully roll out
  • As we have come to expect with Google algorithm updates, the biggest impact is likely to be experienced in the first 2-3 days following the announcement.
  • The update can detect sites purchasing links and selling links
  • Any links that are obtained explicitly for the purpose of improving search rankings are deemed to be “unnatural”.
  • The update aims to nullify the impact of unnatural links – not to penalise them.
  • The update is a new iteration of Google’s ongoing efforts to fight artificial manipulation of search rankings through link spam.
  • Google is always using its algorithm and manual actions to combat offenders; however, this update goes a step further and aims to detect offenders before they ever receive visibility in SERPs.

Previously, Google released a link spam update back in July 2021 and followed it up with a general spam algorithm update in November 2021. This is the first confirmed spam update for 2022.

Nullifying the impact of spam links vs. penalising them

It’s important to note that Google states that the purpose of this algorithm update is to nullify the impacts of spammy links:

Ranking may change as spammy links are neutralized and any credit passed by these unnatural links are lost.

In our reckoning, this means that Google’s AI-based spam-prevention system SpamBrain will be neutralising the effects of links, rather than penalising websites that use them. For instance, if a website has been ranking well in the search results and experiences a sudden drop in rankings and organic traffic, then this does not indicate that a penalty has been passed onto the website. Instead, webmasters should look at this as a nullification of the benefits that they were previously receiving through spam links.

What to do if you’ve been affected

If you have been impacted by Google’s December 2022 link spam algorithm update, then there are a few important things that you can do now:

  • Check your backlinks in Google Search Console. Look through your backlink profile to understand if there are any links in there that may be affecting you. Many people prefer to monitor their backlinks through third party SEO tools such as Ahrefs or Semrush, however, you should also be monitoring directly through Search Console. Many of the negative and spammy links that a site receives may have excluded third party tools from crawling their websites, which means that you may not be aware of your complete backlink profile.
  • Benchmark your traffic and rankings. Understanding what “normal” looks like is the best way to review the impacts of the latest algorithm update over the next few weeks.
  • Review your competitors. If you notice that any competitors have done particularly well (improved rankings or overall search visibility) or performed poorly through this update, then it’s a good idea to review their backlink profile to get a better understanding of what they are doing.
  • Don’t make any major changes. As we mentioned at the top, this update will take around two-weeks to fully roll out. Do not make any drastic changes to your website content or backlink profile in this time. The fewer changes that you make, the better chance you have of understanding the impact of the latest algorithm update.
  • Consult a professional. SEO is complicated at the best of times, if your website rankings and traffic have been negatively impacted by this update, then it might be time to speak to an SEO firm or specialist.
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