Google warns against misusing links in syndication & large-scale article campaigns

Google’s out today with a warning for anyone who is distributing or publishing content through syndication or other large-scale means: Watch your links.
Google’s post reminds those who produce content published in multiple places that, without care, they could be violating Google’s rules against link schemes.
No content marketing primarily for links, warns Google
Google says that it is not against article distribution in general. But if such distribution is done primarily to gain links, then there’s a problem. From the post:
Google does not discourage these types of articles in the cases when they inform users, educate another site’s audience or bring awareness to your cause or company. However, what does violate Google’s guidelines on link schemes is when the main intent is to build links in a large-scale way back to the author’s site …
For websites creating articles made for links, Google takes action on this behavior because it’s bad for the Web as a whole. When link building comes first,

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Why Google shutting down Map Maker should terrify SMBs

Google’s Map Maker has often received bad press due to the amount of spam that originates from users of the product. In May of 2015, Map Maker was actually shut down to help prevent disasters like this one. So Google’s announcement that they’re shutting down Map Maker entirely in March of 2017 made a lot of people really happy.
It’s the end of spam, right? We should all be celebrating, right?
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Allowing spammers to hide rather than vanquishing them
The truth is that users — some with less-than-virtuous motives — will still be able to make edits to business listings, just like before. Instead of doing it on Map Maker, however, they will do it through Google Maps by pressing “suggest an edit” on the listing.
Spammers know this, of course, and have already shifted the majority of their edits to Google Maps because it hides their activity from the general public.
Currently, when a user makes an

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How to avoid an outbound link penalty from Google

Most of us are aware of link penalties that occur if you have low-quality or spam links pointing to your site. But did you know you can also be penalized by Google for how you link to other websites from your site? Yup, you sure can. It’s called an “unnatural outbound links” penalty, and similar to the inbound link penalty, it can be applied partially or sitewide.
Recently, we conducted an audit for a new client, and we flagged the spammy linking that was being done in a particular section of their site. The content manager was unknowingly allowing guest bloggers to submit content to be published with links pointing back to their sites. This content contained a high volume of links and overoptimized anchor text.
Our recommendations to remove these links were ignored and not seen as high-priority, despite our efforts to convey the severity of this issue.
Then Google released the Penguin 4 real-time update. Soon after, our client’s site was flagged for a

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Updated: Google penalizes mobile sites using sneaky redirects

In October 2015, Google warned webmasters not to trick mobile users by redirecting them to an unsuspecting web site. Well, today, Google announced on Google+ and Twitter that they have been “taking action on sites that sneakily redirect mobile users to spammy domains.” Google issued a correction with Search Engine Land that they did not issue any new manual actions recently, that this post on Twitter was just to remind webmasters not to use sneaky redirects.
Google wrote, “As mentioned in Webspam Report 2015, spam reports from users are an important part of our spam-fighting efforts. They often help us surface issues that frustrate users – like the trend of websites redirecting mobile users to other, often spammy domains.” Google added, “to combat this trend, we have been taking action on sites that sneakily redirect users in this way.”
Sneaky redirects are never a good thing and Google has penalized web sites for directing the user to a

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Google sent 4 million messages about search spam last year, saw 33% increase in clean-up requests

Google announced today the latest in their efforts to clean up the search results through webspam techniques. Google explained that in 2015 they saw a 180-percent increase in websites being hacked compared to 2014 and also saw “an increase in the number of sites with thin, low-quality content.”
To combat that, Google released their hacked spam algorithm in October 2015, which resulted in removing “the vast majority” of those issues. They also sent out more than 4.3 million messages to webmasters to notify them of manual actions on their sites; that is a ton of manual notices. With that, they saw a 33-percent increase in the number of sites that went through the reconsideration process. So it is clearly important to make sure to verify your website in the Google Search Console so that you can be alerted of any issues Google finds on your site.
Google also said that users submitted more than 400,000 spam reports. Google acted

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Why real-time search algorithm updates may be bad news

Every update of Panda and Penguin in recent years has brought joy to some SEOs and sorrow to others. As the algorithms become real-time, the job of an SEO will become harder, and I wonder if Google has really thought of the consequences of these updates.
So, what potential issues may arise as a result of faster algorithm updates?
Troubleshooting algorithmic penalties
Algorithmic penalties are a lot more difficult to troubleshoot than manual actions.
With a manual action, Google informs you of the penalty via the Google Search Console, giving webmasters the ability to address the issues that are negatively impacting their sites. With an algorithmic penalty, they may not even be aware that a problem exists.
The easiest way to determine if your website has suffered from an algorithmic penalty is to match a drop in your traffic with the dates of known algorithm updates (using a tool like Panguin).
In the screenshot below, you can clearly see the two hits for Penguin back in May and

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Google: New Algorithm Changes “Aggressively Targeting Hacked Spam,” May Impact 5% Of Queries

Google says it’s rolling out a series of search algorithm changes that “aggressively” target the presence of hacked spam in its search results.
Ning Song, the engineer who wrote today’s blog post, says Google is turning up the dial in its algorithms to remove hacked sites from Google’s search results:
We are aggressively targeting hacked spam in order to protect users and webmasters.
The algorithmic changes will eventually impact roughly 5% of queries, depending on the language. As we roll out the new algorithms, users might notice that for certain queries, only the most relevant results are shown, reducing the number of results shown.
This is due to the large amount of hacked spam being removed, and should improve in the near future. We are continuing tuning our systems to weed out the bad content while retaining the organic, legitimate results.
Hacked sites are a long-running and common problem on the Web, which makes them a problem for Google, too. Earlier this

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IT Security Company Uncovers Google Link Spamming Technique Through Cloaking PDF Documents

Sophos, an IT security company, uncovered a case of Google search spam by means of cloaking PDF documents that contained links within the body copy of those PDF documents. The technique may not be necessarily new but the company found cases where the content ranked for keywords in Google that didn’t lead to the actual PDFs but rather through cloaking techniques, redirected innocent users to various scheme and spam web sites.
They even informed Google about this technique but after not hearing back from Google, they decided to publish their findings. We also reached out to Google early this morning and have not heard back.
The company said they think this technique works because “Google implicitly trusts PDFs more than HTML.” Honestly, we are not so sure how true that statement is. Nevertheless, the process the hackers/spammers used was to hack into web sites, plant these PDFs or modify the PDFs with links, while also cloaking the documents so

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Spammy Structured Markup Penalty & Recovery – Use Schema Markup With Caution!

Schema markup (also known as structured data markup) can be great way to improve search engine content discovery, indexation and organic search visibility. Some structured data markups feed into Google’s Knowledge Graph, appear in local results, and generate Rich Snippets — all of which is great for improving organic search visibility and click-through rate.
But now, structured data can potentially hurt your site if not used correctly, due to recent “spammy structured markup” penalties from Google. In March 2015, Google updated its rating and reviews Rich Snippet policies, stating that these types of snippets must be placed only on specific items, not on “category” or “list of items” landing pages.
In Google’s recent Quality Update, it seems quite a few sites were hit with Structured Data penalties. Here is an example of a manual Structured Data penalty message sent by Google in the Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools).

The penalty message reads as follows:
Spammy structured markup
Markup on some pages on this site appears to use techniques

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