December Link Spam Update: Generally Quiet, Clear Candidates

A link spam update was rolled-out in July 2021 and now the second has been announced. The update overlaps with the current helpful content update which makes it difficult to attribute to domains that are falling. However, there are already some candidates that can be seen.

Google announced the latest Link Spam Update on the 14th December 2022, with a strongly-worded reference to SpamBrain:

The new update targets domains that have unnatural link profiles in both directions. “…both sites buying links, and sites used for the purpose of passing outgoing links.”

As with the Helpful Content Update, the update is aimed at reducing visibility of the affected domains, which means any resulting gains could be spread widely.

As of today, 19th Dec, there’s little change in the overall amount of SERP movements but some larger, losing domains are relatively easy to find.

Domains losing since the update was announced appear to have been hit one day after the announcement.

Some of the following ‘red flags’ were noted when checking domains:

  • 75% of incoming links from .net domains
  • 96% follow links
  • Over 80% of links coming from extremely small sites (as measured by Visibility Index)
  • 16% of links coming from domains

When viewed in a table, the linking sources can often raise questions without even looking at the source website:

Points to remember when assessing domains:

  • The Helpful Content Update is still active.
  • The owners of these domains might not be responsible for the links.
  • Domain owners may have paid for ‘SEO services’ they didn’t know much about.
  • We have not looked at the domain content in any case here, just the link profile and a check for domain moves.

It’s a difficult balancing act for Google.

Given the data seen on the link profiles for affected domains and assuming that these new recent falls are because of the Link Spam Update, it looks like the update is well-targeted and having a larger impact than the December Helpful Content Update.

Update: 20th Dec

It is becoming clear that the effects of the Link Spam update are showing, at least for the US and UK domains we’ve checked, in data from the 16th December.

The following domains are selected from a list of falling domains from the 16th Dec to the 20th.

DomainVI 16th DecVI 20th DecChange %Country

One example in the list has 100% of its back-links coming from sites almost non-existent in Google search. With 94% of links being Follow-Links and 91% going to pages other than the home page, this can serve well as an example of red-flags.

As of today, there are no major changes seen in the SERPs overall.

UK Google Search Radar – a measurement of overall changes in SERPs.
Related posts