Google begins enforcement of site reputation abuse policy

Posted by Edith MacLeod on 6 May, 2024
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Enforcement of the Search spam policy started on 6 May. Big sites such as USA Today, CNN and LA Times have been hit.

Google reputation abuse policy.

Image: Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Google's Search Liaison confirmed on 6th May that the new site reputation abuse policy was now being enforced.

"It'll be starting later today. While the policy began yesterday, the enforcement is really kicking off today."

Also known as parasite seo, reputation abuse is when established websites host low-quality content on their site provided by third parties, who then leverage the authority and ranking power of the hosting site to elevate their own search rankings.

Enforcement seems to have started in a big way with some major sites being hit. SEO consultant Glenn Gabe tweeted that USA Today, CNN and LA Times had disappeared for "subway coupons" and other queries.

Subway coupons directories deindexed.

Source: @glenngabe on X

The site reputation policy will be enforced through both automated and manual actions.  For the moment, Google confirmed that it is only manual actions, but automated actions will follow.

"...we're only doing manual actions right now. The algorithmic component will indeed come, as we've said, but that's not live yet."

Pre-emptive actions

The lag between the announcement of the policy on 5th March and it taking effect was to give site owners time to prepare. Google posted a reminder on 20 April that enforcement was due to start after 5 May and some sites did take action.

Forbes completely removed its coupon directory, blocking the coupon section of its website using a noindex tag. @LauraChiocciora posted this graph on X showing the drop in traffic.

Forbes coupon directory removed.

Source: @LauraChiocciora on X

Another example is Sports Illustrated who took down their entire showcase directory.

Sports Illustrated Showcase section.

Source: @vladrpt on X

Site reputation abuse

Google announced the new policy when the March core and spam updates were released.

It gave the following as an example of reputation abuse.

“For example, a third party might publish payday loan reviews on a trusted educational website to gain ranking benefits from the site. Such content ranking highly on Search can confuse or mislead visitors who may have vastly different expectations for the content on a given website.”

Not all third-party content is considered a violation, only that which is intended to manipulate rankings.  Google says native advertising or advertorials, for example, where advertising content is directed towards a site’s regular readers typically wouldn’t be confusing, so won't be affected.

Amid much complaint about the deteriorating quality of Google Search results this policy is designed to tackle one aspect of low quality, spammy results.

After the wild ride of the March 2024 updates it looks like another big shake-up is coming.

Read Google’s spam policies in full.

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