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Google Warns of Manual Actions for UGC Spam

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Google Warns of Manual Actions for UGC Spam

Google published a blog post recommending that publishers prevent their sites from being used for user generated content (UGC) spam. They warned that pages that tolerated UGC spam risked receiving a manual action penalty.

A manual action can result in a loss of traffic.

Google’s article warned:

“Under the principles set out in Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, this may result in Google taking manual actions against the affected pages.”

User Generated Content Spam

Spammers and link builders tend to build profiles on forums for the purpose of leaving a link in the profile and sometimes in a post. Increasingly, forum spammers have begun hiding their links within forum posts by making their links black so that they don’t turn blue like links normally do.

Google cited the following problematic UGC areas:

  • Forums
  • Guestbooks
  • Social media platforms
  • File uploaders
  • Free hosting services
  • Internal search services

These are the kinds of spam Google is warning about:

“Spammy content like this can be harmful to your site and users in several ways:

Low-quality content on some parts of a website can impact the whole site’s ranking.

Spammy content can potentially lead users to unwanted or even harmful content, such as sites with malware or phishing, which may lower the reputation of your site.

Unintended traffic from unrelated content on your site can slow down your site and raise hosting costs.

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Google might remove or demote pages that are overrun with third-party generated spam to protect the quality of our search results.”

Are Manual Actions Coming Soon to Forums and other UGC Sites?

It’s possible that a crackdown on UGC spam is coming and this can be read as a warning to publishers to clean up their sites now before manual actions begin  happening.

Tips for Preventing and Finding UGC Spam

Google offered a number of tips for fighting spam, most of which anyone who operates a forum may aleady be familiar with.

Top Tips For Finding and Removing Spam:

  • Block automated Account Creation
    Use Captchas and require account validation through email
  • Turn on Moderation Features
    Disallowing guest posting and moderated posting privileges for new members
  • Monitor Your Site for Spammy Content and Clean Up Any Issues
    Register for the Google Search Console and check manual action and the security reports.
  • Identify and Terminate Spam Accounts
  • Prevent Google Search from Showing or Following Untrusted Content
    Google recommends using the noindex meta tag for untrusted areas of a website like user profiles as well as using nofollow on UGC links.
  • Consolidate UGC Content in a Concentrated File Path or Directory
    This is an interesting suggestion. They recommend creating a directory where UGC content can be consolidated in because it makes it easier to find spam created by hackers using automated scripts.
  • Keep Your Web Software Up to Date

Use Google Alerts to Fight Spam

Google suggests using Google Alerts to receive warnings when spammy content is being created on your site.

The way to do it is by conducting Site Colon searches (site:) using spammy keywords then set up a Google Alert for those searches. When a spammer creates spam using those keywords it will trigger a warning email from Google.

This is how Google explains it:

“…check your site for unexpected or spammy content by using the site: operator in Google Search, together with commercial or adult keywords that are unrelated to your site’s topic. For example, search for [site:your-domain-name viagra] or [site:your-domain-name watch online] to detect the irrelevant content on your site…”

Hunt Down UGC Spam

It may be prudent to treat this blog post article as an advance warning that manual penalties for UGC spam are on the way. The best course of action is to check your site for spammy content, spammy links and spammy user profiles and get rid of them as soon as possible.

Do not assume that your site has no spam. Check it today.

Citation

Prevent Portions of Your Site from Being Abused by Spam

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Google December Product Reviews Update Affects More Than English Language Sites? via @sejournal, @martinibuster

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Google’s Product Reviews update was announced to be rolling out to the English language. No mention was made as to if or when it would roll out to other languages. Mueller answered a question as to whether it is rolling out to other languages.

Google December 2021 Product Reviews Update

On December 1, 2021, Google announced on Twitter that a Product Review update would be rolling out that would focus on English language web pages.

The focus of the update was for improving the quality of reviews shown in Google search, specifically targeting review sites.

A Googler tweeted a description of the kinds of sites that would be targeted for demotion in the search rankings:

“Mainly relevant to sites that post articles reviewing products.

Think of sites like “best TVs under $200″.com.

Goal is to improve the quality and usefulness of reviews we show users.”

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Google also published a blog post with more guidance on the product review update that introduced two new best practices that Google’s algorithm would be looking for.

The first best practice was a requirement of evidence that a product was actually handled and reviewed.

The second best practice was to provide links to more than one place that a user could purchase the product.

The Twitter announcement stated that it was rolling out to English language websites. The blog post did not mention what languages it was rolling out to nor did the blog post specify that the product review update was limited to the English language.

Google’s Mueller Thinking About Product Reviews Update

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Product Review Update Targets More Languages?

The person asking the question was rightly under the impression that the product review update only affected English language search results.

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But he asserted that he was seeing search volatility in the German language that appears to be related to Google’s December 2021 Product Review Update.

This is his question:

“I was seeing some movements in German search as well.

So I was wondering if there could also be an effect on websites in other languages by this product reviews update… because we had lots of movement and volatility in the last weeks.

…My question is, is it possible that the product reviews update affects other sites as well?”

John Mueller answered:

“I don’t know… like other languages?

My assumption was this was global and and across all languages.

But I don’t know what we announced in the blog post specifically.

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But usually we try to push the engineering team to make a decision on that so that we can document it properly in the blog post.

I don’t know if that happened with the product reviews update. I don’t recall the complete blog post.

But it’s… from my point of view it seems like something that we could be doing in multiple languages and wouldn’t be tied to English.

And even if it were English initially, it feels like something that is relevant across the board, and we should try to find ways to roll that out to other languages over time as well.

So I’m not particularly surprised that you see changes in Germany.

But I also don’t know what we actually announced with regards to the locations and languages that are involved.”

Does Product Reviews Update Affect More Languages?

While the tweeted announcement specified that the product reviews update was limited to the English language the official blog post did not mention any such limitations.

Google’s John Mueller offered his opinion that the product reviews update is something that Google could do in multiple languages.

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One must wonder if the tweet was meant to communicate that the update was rolling out first in English and subsequently to other languages.

It’s unclear if the product reviews update was rolled out globally to more languages. Hopefully Google will clarify this soon.

Citations

Google Blog Post About Product Reviews Update

Product reviews update and your site

Google’s New Product Reviews Guidelines

Write high quality product reviews

John Mueller Discusses If Product Reviews Update Is Global

Watch Mueller answer the question at the 14:00 Minute Mark

[embedded content]

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