On December 14, 2022, Google began rolling out a revised link spam update, dubbed the December 2022 Link Spam Update. This update is new in that it uses SpamBrain AI to “detect spam directly” as well as “both sites that buy links and sites that are used for the purpose of passing outbound links”. said Google.
The rollout of the update can take up to two weeks, and started rolling out a week after Google began rolling out helpful content updates for December 2022, but it’s not finished rolling out yet. For reference, the last link spam update was July 2021.
Google Link Spam Update for December 2022
I will briefly describe the most important things we know so far.
- name: Google December 2022 Update on Link Spam
- release date: Started rolling out on December 14th
- roll out: Allow up to 2 weeks for full rollout
- target: It is intended both for sites that buy links and for sites that are used for the purpose of passing outbound links.
- penalty: This “neutralizes” links that are detected as spam, so they are not counted and may result in lower rankings.
- Not a manual action: Since this is not a manual action, a hit will not notify Search Console.
- Global and all languages: This is a global release and affects all languages.
- Spam Brain: This is the first time Google uses AI-based spam detection, or SpamBrain, for link spamming purposes.
Upgrade SpamBrain Link Spam Detection
What’s new here is that this isn’t just a spam update, it’s how SpamBrain uses AI to detect link spam. As I said above, Google says, “SpamBrain is an AI-based anti-spam system that is not only used to detect spam directly, but also used by sites that buy links and for the purpose of passing outbound links. We can now detect both sites that are being targeted.”
Google said, “As we have always emphasized, links that are obtained primarily for the artificial manipulation of search rankings are link spam. We are aiming to disable it until further notice, and will continue to improve our coverage,” he added.
Google later revealed that this was the first time SpamBrain was used to detect link spam.
Our post covers this, since we can now detect both sites buying links. I may have used it in some edge/minor situations, but this is the first real implementation against link spam (hence the reason I posted about it) https://t.co/LLngrATiLV
—Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) December 14, 2022
Google has also added a section on the following links to Spam’s updated help page:
For link spam updates (especially updates that address link spam), changes may not help. This is because once the system disables spammy links, previously generated link credits are lost. If this credit helped generate rankings, it cannot be reclaimed.
No notification – no manual action
As with any algorithm update, there is no way to notify you that this update has affected you. This is not an notified manual action. Of course, your Google visibility and traffic will drop significantly over the next few days, and if you’re running any kind of linking strategy, you’ve probably hit this.
Google’s John Mueller says this is not a manual action.
No, it’s not manual.
— John Mueller is hardly here 🐀 (@JohnMu) December 14, 2022
Spam links and negative SEO
Google says you don’t need to worry about negative SEO or spammy links unless you build your site yourself. Many SEOs overlook the fact that Google “deactivates” links. In other words, it doesn’t count links. So links won’t hurt you. More importantly, it doesn’t help you. If a link was useful before this or any other update, but no longer helps you rank, it might feel like a penalty.
There is no need to disavow such random spam links.
— John Mueller is hardly here 🐀 (@JohnMu) December 15, 2022
neutralize the link
As mentioned above, Google disables links. There are no levels of neutralization, it just completely neutralizes the links it finds and doesn’t count them at all.
Return to the post “Spam links have been neutralized” https://t.co/LLngrATiLV
—Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) December 19, 2022
Some SEOs aren’t happy with the timing of this release as it’s right before the holiday season. Additionally, the December 2022 informative content update also rolled out a week ago and has not been completed, resulting in two different and overlapping updates happening at the same time.
Both updates are a few weeks before the holidays (Hanukkah is Sunday night) and Christmas is the week after. So it can get very busy during the holidays if timing is bad and customers are hit.
— Brian Harnish (@BrianHarnish) December 14, 2022
Couldn’t wait until January!? 😭
— Shaun 😎 (@ShaunEls) December 14, 2022
Check the Google Tweet response. Some are pretty funny.
SEO chatter about ranking impact
It started rolling out in less than 24 hours, but we’ve also seen some talk about ranking changes at WebmasterWorld and Black Hat World. The chatter so far has been pretty limited, which is a bit surprising for a spam update, but the previous link his spam update wasn’t massive either.
Here are some quotes from those threads:
Search traffic today is up 31% so far. It’s great that this lasts, but the first days of these updates tend to be insane. I’m not sure, but I don’t think buying links from link farms or anything like that is a big deal in my niche. It will be interesting to see how they live now….
It has already dropped a lot of rankings in the last 24 hours. I don’t know if the update will roll out any time soon, but yes… it hit me hard and I bought a bunch of links…
And today is also -50%. We do not buy links or trade links.
Swing just a little. pic.twitter.com/hbW3Zl1uma
— Ariel Phoenix (@ArielleCPX) December 15, 2022
Yes, Google Israel has a lot of movement.
— Shay Ohayon (@SchemaMarkups) December 15, 2022
looks like that:
However, I’m not sure if it’s due to the link spam update or the help content update as it’s currently running in parallel until the 19th. pic.twitter.com/OGMvfaJUfT
— Max Peters (@maxjpeters) December 15, 2022
Absolutely on 90% of the websites I manage. 😑
— Carquecio Luca (@SearchWebCoach) December 15, 2022
Yes, one of my clients was #0 (featured snippet) in about 10 target countries for a targeted primary keyword.But today I’m in 2nd or 3rd place
— SEO Enthusiast and Digital Marketer (@MentallyThai) December 15, 2022
@rustybrick I noticed that Semrush shows what looks like one small swing. pic.twitter.com/U9KKXBSBBJ
— Anuj Thaker (@Anuj_Thaker03) December 15, 2022
Google tracking tool
This is what automated tracking tools are showing, and while many aren’t showing much change, I think RankRanger is showing early signs of something big.
Advanced web ranking:
So what have you all seen so far?
forum discussion at twitterWebmasterWorld and Black Hat World.