As the rest of the world started to wind down for the Christmas break Google’s web spam team got busy. While there were no major changes in the world of search to any of their main algorithms Google did take some manual actions to help fight spam across the internet.

Most of these were announced and lead by Matt Cutts and we will look at the actions taken and warnings given in “Cutts Watch”. However it’s not all about Matt, Google did introduce a couple of changes this month. The most obvious one was the reduction in authorship rich snippets in their search results page.

Simply put authorship rich snippets are when a picture of the author (taken from Google+) is placed next to the search result in Google. By doing this Google claimed that trust in the result was increased and the click through rate also increased. However Google have pulled back the number of authorship rich snippets by 15% claiming that they are only now showing “high authority” authors.

On the 17th of December keen watchers of ranking and traffic data saw a major blip in the data, however Google have remained tight lipped about this

In other news, contrary to earlier suggestions, Google updates their Toolbar PageRank tool for the first time in 10 months. Only last month they suggested that they were going to just let this tool die but it seems that they are not quite ready to let go of it yet.

Cutts Watch

Matt was quite the busy boy in December. He took time out to reinforce what Google has said for a while such as content “stitching”, link spamming and abuse of methods such as guest blogging.

Stitching Content

Content stitching is where a writer will take small parts of content form other websites, put them all together and then publish claiming that it is new content. Both Google and Bing have stated that this method does not add value to the internet and will therefore be treated as spam. Cutts added that that Yahoo already “hates” this type of content and is already treating it as spam.

This is nothing new and has always been a bad thing to do but the fact that Cutts is talking about it suggests that Google has found a way to take action against stitched content.

Link Spamming

If you have been using old linking methods, methods that Google have now called spam, you may need to start disavowing many of your links. Matt said that you should disavow the bad links with a vengeance and disavow all the links that might be paid to help avoid any future link penalties.

To underline this Cutts highlighted the case of the lyrics website Rap Genius. This site was found to be participating in linking schemes and has been penalised and as a result this site has suffered a 92% drop in traffic from search engines.

Finally Matt singled out two link networks that have had manual penalties levelled against them this month. This first was Anglo Rank and was followed 10 days later by Both of these sites have had the same treatment as link networks this year such as Ghost Rank 2.0, SAPE Links and

The impact of these penalties is that if you were using these link networks there is a good chance that your site will also have been penalised by Google.

Guest Blog Abuse

Earlier on this month Matt highlighted the growing problem of guest blogging abuse and spam. He reiterated that any content published on the web should have value and add something to the conversation. To avoid falling in to the trap of abusing and spamming guest blogging he gave four tips. Don’t make guest blogging you only link building strategy, don’t send out thousands of mass emails to random blogs, don’t reuse articles and don’t spin your articles. Your content has to have editorial value and merit.

In addition, later in the month Matt gave a little nod to a writer on the internet talking about the growing problem of paying writers for links. He didn’t say if Google were doing anything about it yet but they certainly know that it’s going on and has become a target for their webspam team. In short, don’t get involved with it!

Duplicate Content

With an algorithmic penalty dedicated to duplicate content (Panda) there is little wonder that this is an issue that concerns people. Matt Cutts has said with 25-40% of the internet being duplicate content it doesn’t treat duplicate content as spam, which means that your site will not get manually penalised, but he did confirm that Google is trying to reduce duplicate content in their search results which does mean that your site may not feature in the results (this is when Panda comes in). So although duplicate content is not treated as spam it can hinder your site from performing in the search engines so it’s best to avoid it.

In everything that Matt has said this month there is nothing really new. However the fact that he is repeating these guidelines is a strong indication that some website owners are not listening and will most likely be targeted in the future. The best way to avoid all of the issues he highlighted above is to produce really good, useful and relevant content… not to try and “game” Google… they will catch you at some point!