Is Your Website’s Traffic Plummeting? Stop Making This Toxic SEO Mistake — And Do This Instead.

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Have you noticed your site’s organic traffic has plummeted over the past few years? This may have been caused by evidence of spammy link-building practices finding their way into your SEO work.

Google’s link spam update was rolled out in December 2022, supported by the AI algorithm SpamBrain. This update is intended to combat spam and improve the browsing experience for anyone using the search engine. Successful marketers need to be aware of its effects to maintain a squeaky-clean backlink profile that helps, rather than hurts, their site’s organic visibility.

In this post, I’ll take a closer look at what SpamBrain is, its effects on SEO and three of the most effective strategies for aligning your link-building strategy with this element of Google’s ranking algorithm.

Related: How to Shake Up a Stale Link-Building Strategy

What is SpamBrain?

SpamBrain is an AI-based algorithm made by Google to identify poor-quality spam content and make it less visible in Google search results. Though it was first launched in 2018, Google only acknowledged it publicly as part of the company’s 2021 Webspam Report, suggesting that it’s become a larger part of Google’s ranking system over time.

Google’s 2022 link spam update was rolled out to identify and neutralize backlinks that come from low-quality, spammy sources, preventing webmasters from artificially inflating their rankings.

What does SpamBrain mean for SEO and marketers?

The link spam roll-out caused a lot of websites’ rankings to plummet. These were websites with backlink profiles characterized by spammy link-building practices that Google has consistently warned against, including:

  • Buying links to artificially inflate a website’s rankings.
  • Excessive link exchanges between one website and another.
  • Using spammy, low-quality directories and “link farms” that provide no value to the end user.
  • Link building through forum comments with spammy, over-optimized anchor text.
  • Excessive distribution of links in widgets, footers, etc.
  • Using automation to generate links with no concern about relevance or context.

If you noticed a drop in rankings or organic traffic following the December update, it’s possible this was caused by evidence of spammy link-building practices that have made it into your backlink profile.

As Google’s algorithm updates become more focused on delivering the best possible user experience and more adept at identifying backlinks that go against its policies, it’s essential for SEOs and webmasters to consciously build links that avoid spammy practices and run a tight ship when reviewing the state of their link profiles.

Related: 19 Sure-Fire Subject Line Formulas for Link-Building Emails

Three link-building strategies to avoid being penalized by SpamBrain

Now that you have an understanding of what SpamBrain is and its function in Google’s algorithm, here are three crucial link-building strategies you can use to maintain a healthy backlink profile, maximize the value of your link-building campaigns, and avoid getting penalized by Google’s link spam policies.

1. Regularly audit your backlink profile

It can be easy to let backlink profile audits fall by the wayside as part of your routine SEO work, especially if you’ve been investing in organic marketing for some time and your backlink profile is already large and diverse. However, this is an essential step towards ensuring your campaigns operate within Google’s policies and not putting your rankings at risk of penalization.

Block off some regular time in your calendar to analyze your site’s backlinks, checking for any signs of poor-quality, spammy links that can be flagged for removal. This should include links with low-quality or irrelevant referring domains or those that use unnatural, over-optimized anchor texts. While using Google’s disavow tool will ensure that spammy referring domains won’t affect your rankings in the future, it’s important to exercise caution before entering a huge list of domains for disavowal.

Occasionally, you might come across a link with spammy or irrelevant anchor text resulting from poor-quality past SEO work but it exists on a quality domain that could be a major asset to your SEO. In these cases, it’s better to disavow specific referring pages or ask webmasters to remove the links manually.

2. Review link-building practices

To ensure that you’re not going to be affected by link spam in the future, it’s a good idea to set clear link-building policies that you or your staff can follow when executing a link-building campaign. This will ensure new backlinks meet a certain quality threshold and don’t run the risk of creating a spammy backlink profile.

Some of the things you might want to set policies about for a robust link-building SOP include:

  • Minimum domain authority.
  • Pointers for ensuring your content is relevant, high-quality, and authoritative in line with Google’s EEAT guidelines.
  • Approved anchor text.
  • Strategies and examples for framing backlinks in the content.

By going into each link-building campaign with a set of firm anti-spam policies, you’ll eliminate the risk of spammy practices being flagged by Google as you build your backlink profile.

Related: How To Maximize the Number of Linkable Assets on Your Website

3. Commit to high-quality content

Remember that the ultimate aim of SpamBrain and every Google algorithm update is to improve the experience for anyone who uses Google. They want to keep their users loyal, which means serving up the content that’s most relevant to their search queries.

One of the most effective things you can do to ensure your link-building stays on the right side of Google’s spam policies is to keep an ironclad commitment to high-quality content. This is important for your linkable assets and the content that will serve as referring URLs in your campaigns.

This means creating content that provides tangible value to its target audience, demonstrates a high level of expertise in the subject matter, and is written for a human audience rather than in a style that’s intended to artificially “game” a search algorithm.

Though it’s not always easy, maintaining a high content standard in all aspects of your link building will prevent spammy practices from seeping into your backlink profile and will set you up for future success with Google’s user-focused algorithms.

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