There has been three important bits of news to come out of Google regarding penalties this month. The first is that Google can still pass penalties to new sites. This means that sites that have had a penalty and then rather than try and clean it up then closed down the site and migrated it to a new domain name. John Mueller at Google stated that even if there are no redirects from the old domain to the new one Google can see that the site is the same and will pass that same penalty across from the old to the new. The only way to make sure this doesn’t happen is to re-design and re-write your site to ensure that it meets Googles guidelines on quality.
Google also confirmed that they updated their “Top Heavy” algorithm on the 6th of February 2014. This penalty is designed to hit sites that use far too much advertising at the top of their site and takes away from the user experience. So far it doesn’t appear to have impacted many sites but it also seems that if you are hit the only way to get out of the penalty is to wait for the algorithm to update, which could be at least one year. The third piece of news on Google penalties this month is that Google have started sending out a new manual action penalty notice that focuses on “Spammy Structured Mark-up”, also known as rich snippet spam. The new message reads, “Markup on some pages on this site appears to use techniques such as marking up content that is invisible to users, marking up irrelevant or misleading content, and/or other manipulative behavior that violates Google’s Rich Snippet Quality guidelines.”This is brand new and so far there has been very little talk about this, expect further developments over the coming months.
It’s not all bad news this month. Google have also given us a new tool to help fight sites that steal your content and then rank better that your site with that stolen content. It’s called the Google Scraper Tool and can be used to report sites that scrape your content.
As local search become more and more important Google have updated their Google Places Guidelines. While there is nothing ground breaking in there it is a reminder to not to try and use dodgy techniques.
General Google Business
Although this blog series focuses on the parts of Google and other search engines that relate to SEO it’s always worth keeping an eye on the bigger picture. With this in mind two big stories happen to Google this month; firstly it has finally settled its antitrust case in Europe and secondly Google has become the second most valuable company in the US, second only to Apple. It is now valued at $393.5 billion.
Matt Cutts has been a busy boy again this month. At the start of this month and only a week after hitting a French link network Cutts tweeted a reminder to German webmasters that paid links violate the Google guidelines. Three days later he announced, again via twitter, that they have taken action against an agency and its link/client network. He then threw in the comment …. “More to come in Germany”. On the 26th Cutts then tweeted that they had taken action on two Polish networks but that they are “not done with Germany yet”.
All of this shows that Google are still working hard to reduce spammy sites across the internet and that anyone still using these techniques should be worried.
That’s everything for this month; sorry it was another long one but a month is a long time in SEO. If you have any comments or questions head over to our Google+ page and let us know!