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Photo of Matt Cutts - head of web spam prevention at GoogleGoogle’s Matt Cutts recently announced enhancements to its spam reduction methods that have already taken place and are impacting search engine results.

NOTE: First I will recount some of what he said but if you want to get to the meat of it all skip below to “So What Does this Mean for Your Website?”.

And now, without further adieu let us start with a snapshot on the gravy Matt Cutt’s dished:

… we recently launched a redesigned document-level classifier that makes it harder for spammy on-page content to rank highly. The new classifier is better at detecting spam on individual web pages, e.g., repeated spammy words—the sort of phrases you tend to see in junky, automated, self-promoting blog comments.

This is great news for many of us but there is a wide swath of decent businesses with legitimate products and services who have top rankings partly due to overly optimized content; in many cases they were forced to use the techniques competitors were winning with. It is these businesses that could feel the wrath of this update along with the additional updates to come in 2011 according to Matt Cutts:

… we hear the feedback from the web loud and clear: people are asking for even stronger action on content farms and sites that consist primarily of spammy or low-quality content.

And we’re evaluating multiple changes that should help drive spam levels even lower, including one change that primarily affects sites that copy others’ content and sites with low levels of original content. We’ll continue to explore ways to reduce spam, including new ways for users to give more explicit feedback about spammy and low-quality sites.

So What Does this Mean For Your Website?

Depending on the current status of your website this could have a variable impact:

  1. If your website does not have overly repetitious keyword use (pretty obvious - do specific keywords appear many times over?) you are not likely to be affected by the spammy keyword issue.
  2. If you own a site that has a lot of repetitious wording and high rankings you are likely weary of proactively messing with your content - I get that. That said, if you see rankings take a tumble at least you will have a good idea of why and what to do next; you need to tone down your word repetition and then wait for Google to index the revisions and see how it reacts. If you don’t see improvement in rankings within a couple of weeks you may need to request reconsideration using your Google Webmaster Tools account.
  3. If you have a new website and you are trying to compete in a competitive marketplace you may be tempted to copy competitors who are successfully using keyword repetition to attain top rankings; however, that would be a mistake. I suggest creating lots of excellent content (all original), optimizing it carefully, then using a blog to disseminate great articles which, in-turn, help to build your link base. Links drive a great deal of the credibility Google looks for when considering site rankings so this is the better long term solution for success. It is only the borderline spammy sites that have been online for a long time which may succeed in weathering these filters due to the credibility they have already achieved.
    Link Building TIPs: how to build high quality links.

Last but not least, if your website features a high percentage of reproduced content from other websites you MUST make changes immediately and create your own custom content. There is no question whatsoever Google is going to be taking a hard-line on websites with little original value.

Questions? Listen in to the next episode of SEO 101 on WebmasterRadio.FM where my co-host John Carcutt and I (Ross Dunn) will be discussing these developments. The show airs live every Monday at 2pm PST / 5pm EST and you can download past recordings (all 60+ episodes) of SEO 101 for free on iTunes here.

Still have a question? Okay, here are two options, one is for private inquiries and the other for public.

by Ross Dunn, CEO, StepForth Web Marketing Inc.
Increasing the bottom line online for businesses since 1997