Big Google changes

By | April 19, 2012

Lately, Google has been doing some pretty massive changes that may seem unprecedented in its history. At least I have never observed them on such a scale. I’m sure many of you who own websites or blogs would agree that Google is extremely unpredictable and volatile, these days.

In the last 6 months, we have had some massive Panda updates, and last month, Google deindexed a number of blog networks which provide backlinking services, most noticeably BuildMyRank (that was forced to close down). Google has also an ongoing “Over Optimization” penalty which will penalize sites for overdoing SEO without enough keyword diversity. To top it off, Google sent out almost a millions notices of “Unnatural Links Detected” in people’s Google Webmaster Tools accounts  in February alone (and continues to do so).

Well, let’s face it; all these changes were going to come sooner or later. There is really nothing a webmaster can do apart from continuing to pay heed to the main principals and abide by them, because these principals are timeless and are the only things you have going for you, no matter what Google does. So although everyone is tired of hearing it, I’m going to say it again – it’s still about quality, quality, and quality; create content that always caters to your visitor. This is one of the few things within your control, so make use of it.

But there is more…

There is a massive debate now about how Google views backlinks. Previously, it was widely believed that Google would simply discount or devalue backlinks that it thought were bad or “unnatural”. But now, Google is busy notifying webmasters of their “unnatural” links and then appearing to penalize them for it, and at the same time inviting them to submit a Reconsideration Request to fix the problem.

Thus, a debate has been opened up regarding whether sabotaging a competing website by literally spam-linking to it can cause it to be penalized Google, and the answer unfortunately, is yes – at least for now, and at least for anyone whose website is not Wikipedia or a Fortune 500 company. It is a running joke now that blog networks should instead re-purpose themselves to become spam link farms for those who want to get a competitor in trouble!

It very much appears that Google has opened up a Pandora’s Box and if it has any intention of closing it back, it needs to readjust its algorithm to not punish websites for their incoming links (like it has always done), and to publicly address the issue, or else things could soon likely get out of hand with websites waging “SERP wars” on each other. The result would be utter mayhem.

I personally don’t see any end to this problem, unless search engines decide to eliminate links altogether as a ranking factor, or at least severely reduce its importance. I do think that by the end of this year, significant changes will have occurred in the Internet world with regards to how search engines work and how people adapt to them. Interesting times we live in.

Should I change this blog back to NoFollow?

This is a question that I’ve been mulling for some time. The crux of the matter is that what was okay the last time around, may not be so okay now, since Google keeps on changing the goal posts.

Although I have always believed in the whole DoFollow movement thing, and kept this site DoFollow all these years (5 years) albeit with very strict moderation, it may not be enough to balance that desire with Google’s increasingly strict demands now.

The original purpose of having a DoFollow blog was always to encourage quality comments that linked to quality sites, but it’s also very obvious that this noble goal has been much abused all these years. Most comments these days are created using automated software like Scrapebox. It is also extremely easy for Google to start viewing a DoFollow blog as “spammy” – at any time. And they have done that many times before, penalizing some DoFollow blogs in association with link spam.

Therefore, it is with a heavy heart that I’m turning this blog back to NoFollow, at least for an indefinite period of time.

I know this is never going to be a popular decision, but think about it, if getting a lot of DoFollow comments merely lead to you increasing your risk of getting an “Unnatural Links Detected” notice (followed by a penalty), what is the point anyway in getting them? Let me know what you think in the comments.

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