Google began rolling out a revised link spam update on December 14, 2022, named the December 2022 Link Spam Update. This update is new in that it uses SpamBrain AI to “detect both sites buying links and sites used for the purpose of passing outbound links”, not just “detect spam directly”, Google said.
The update will take up to two weeks to roll out and began rolling out a week after Google launched the December 2022 Useful Content Update, whose deployment is not yet complete. The previous link spam update was in July 2021for informational purposes.
Quick Facts About Google Link Spam December 2022 Update
Here are the most important things we know right now in abbreviated form:
- Last name: Google December 2022 Link Spam Update
- Release date: It began rolling out on December 14
- Go out: It will take up to two weeks to fully deploy
- Targets: It targets both link buying sites and sites used for the purpose of transmitting outbound links.
- Sadness: This will “neutralize” links that it detects as spam and therefore detected links will not be counted and may show a drop in ranking.
- Not a manual action: This is not a manual action, so you will not be notified in Search Console if you are hit.
- Global and all languages: This is a global launch and affects all languages.
- SpamBrain: This is the first time that Google has used its AI-based spam detection, i.e. SpamBrain, for link spam purposes.
SpamBrain Link spam detection upgrade
So what’s new here is that it’s not just a spammy update, but how SpamBrain uses AI to detect link spam. Google wrote, as I said above, “SpamBrain is our AI-based spam prevention system. In addition to using it to directly detect spam, it can now detect both sites that buy links and sites used for the purpose of transmitting outbound links.”
Google added: “As we have always emphasized, links obtained primarily for the artificial manipulation of search rankings are link spam. Our algorithms and manual actions aim to nullify these unnatural links on a large scale, and we We will continue to improve our coverage.”
Google later clarified that this was the first time that Google had used SpamBrain for link spam detection:
“it can now detect both sites buying links” from our article covers this. We may have used it in some fringe/minor situations, but this is the first real implementation of it for link spamming (hence why we posted about this topic) https://t.co/LLngrATiLV
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) December 14, 2022
Google has also added to the Spam updated help page a section on links that reads:
In the case of a link spam update (an update that specifically addresses link spam), making changes may not result in an improvement. This is because when our systems cancel spammed links, previously generated link credit is lost. If this credit helped generate rankings, it cannot be recovered.
No notice – No manual action
As with any algorithmic update, there is no way to be notified that this update has hit you. This is not a manual action for which you would be warned. Of course, if you see big drops in your visibility and traffic on Google over the next few days – and you’re using any linking tactic – then you’ve probably been hit by this.
Here’s John Mueller from Google saying it’s not a manual action, if you don’t believe me:
No, this is not a manual action.
– John Mueller is usually not around 🐀 (@JohnMu) December 14, 2022
Spammy links and negative SEO
Google said you don’t have to worry about negative SEO or spammy links pointing to your site until you create them yourself. Many SEOs miss the fact that Google “neutralizes” the link, meaning they don’t count the link. So the link won’t hurt you; more importantly, it won’t help you. If the link was helping you before this update or others, and it no longer helps you rank, it may feel like a penalty. I understood?
You don’t need to disavow random spammy links like that.
– John Mueller is usually not around 🐀 (@JohnMu) December 15, 2022
The timing isn’t great?
Since it’s just before the holiday season, some SEOs aren’t happy with the timing of this release. Moreover, with the December 2022 Useful Content Update also rolled out a week early and it doesn’t, you have two different but overlapping updates at the same time.
Both updates take place a few weeks before the holidays (Chanukah is Sunday night) and Christmas is the following week. The timing is therefore not ideal, and if your customers are affected, you could be very busy during the holidays.
— Brian Harnish (@BrianHarnish) December 14, 2022
They couldn’t wait for January?! 😭
— Shaun 😎 (@ShaunEls) December 14, 2022
Just skim through the replies on Google’s tweet; some are quite funny.
SEO Chatter on Ranking Impact
Although this started rolling out less than 24 days ago, I’m also seeing threads of rank changes on WebmasterWorld and black hat world. So far the chatter is pretty limited, which surprises me a bit for a spam update, but the previous link spam update wasn’t massive either.
Here are some quotes from those threads:
My search traffic is up 31% so far today, it would be great to see that continue, but day one of these updates tends to be an anomaly. I’m not sure, but I don’t think buying links from link farms etc. is a huge problem in my niche. I suspect a major competitor site could do this. It will be interesting to see how they fare now….
Already lost a LOT of rankings in the last 24 hours. I don’t know if an update could be rolled out that quickly, but yes…I was hit hard and bought a lot of links…
and today we are still at -50%. Do not buy links or exchange links.
Just a little swing. pic.twitter.com/hbW3Zl1uma
— Arielle Phoenix (@ArielleCPX) December 15, 2022
Yes, in Google Israel, a ton of movement.
— Shay Ohayon (@SchemaMarkups) December 15, 2022
It looks like this:
But we can’t be sure if this is a result of the Link Spam update or the Helpful Content update, as they are running in parallel now until the 19th. pic.twitter.com/OGMvfaJUfT
— Max Peters (@maxjpeters) December 15, 2022
Absolutely yes with 90% of the websites I have managed. 😑
— Carchesio Luca (@SearchWebCoach) December 15, 2022
Yes, one of my clients was in 0th position (featured snippet) for about 10 targeted countries for our main targeted keyword. But, today he is in 2nd/3rd position
– SEO enthusiast and digital marketer (@MentallyThai) December 15, 2022
— Anuj thaker (@Anuj_Thaker03) December 15, 2022
Google tracking tools
Here’s what the automated tracking tools show and many don’t show big changes – but I think RankRanger is showing the first signs of something big.
So what are you all seeing so far?