Google Redefines Penalty in Webmaster Guidelines

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Google made a subtle but telling change to its Webmaster Quality Guidelines yesterday:

Following these guidelines will help Google find, index, and rank your site. Even if you choose not to implement any of these suggestions we strongly encourage you to pay very close attention to the “Quality Guidelines ” which outline some of the illicit practices that may lead to a site being removed entirely from the Google index or otherwise penalized impacted by an algorithmic or manual spam action. If a site has been penalized affected by a spam action it may no longer show up in results on Google.com or on any of Google’s partner sites.”

Why would Google change “penalized” to “impacted by an algorithmic or manual spam action”?

  • They’re trying to make it clear that they have BOTH manual and algorithmic  methods for penalizing sites that violate their guidelines.  Perhaps “penalized” was a big too vague, so they’re going with stronger more direct language to ensure everyone knows a penalty can happen without a manual review.
  • Or perhaps by calling out that their algorithms apply penalties, they’re trying to cover how Panda works, which in that case means Panda is really a penalty for violating the Quality Guidelines.
  • Given this is the lead paragraph of the Webmaster Guidelines (a highly visible place to make a change), one has to wonder if Google is putting SEO’s on notice to  anticipate another round of major spam penalties coming.

My guess is it’s a bit of cleanup from Panda, and possibly a sign spam enforcement is about to increase.

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