The Day Of Reckoning – Google Web Spam Update (24th April 2012)

The 24th of April 2012 is a day that will be remembered by many search engine optimisation specialists as a day of destruction, panic and chaos. This day brought the infamous Google Web Spam update that has seen not only black hat link builders suffer, but their white-hat brothers have seen substantial drops as well.

The announcement was made on the official Google Webmaster Central blog and posted by none other than Matt Cutts – – and the fallout from this update has been widespread with forums and blogs regularly being updated with rumours, and people desperately trying to get to the bottom of this latest update.

Although the post was entitled another step to reward high-quality sites, the majority of Webmasters that are complaining, a test to their ethical approach to on and off page optimisation and screaming for answers.

I personally have seen a number of my own white hat sites take a substantial hit, and some of my less than white sites stay on top of the SERPS. So I’m currently unable to draw a conclusion on what factors of this latest algorithm update is targeting.

Potential Causes

A number of forums are reporting that exact and partial match domains have been hit, others are suggesting that older linking techniques including Web 2.0’s populated with spun content and article marketing are the cause of their drop, and some are pointing to the fallout of the blog networks that were taken down last month.

However I have seen a number of blogspot / blogger / blog / Web 2.0 sites ranking well above sites that provide high-quality content and engage the user.

There is a very popular example currently doing the rounds whereby a search for “make money online” returned the following URL –  which subsequently redirected to version. However this result no longer seems to be occurring in the page seems to be populated with content that was supposedly written in October of 2011 however a quick query to Google cache returns a 404 not found.

Poor Quality Results

As shown in the example above, a number of search terms are returning results that are simply not the good quality and provide no benefit to the user for example the search “make money online” returns a forum that has 81 members, the site should have been slapped with the page layout update and numerous sites that look like they were made in 1999. I’ve also seen an number of examples where .WS and other redundant extensions are appearing in the SERPS.

If one searches for “cheap purses” a number of hacked sites appear in the results, as well as Chinese knockoffs and sites that seem to be spamming their meta description and keywords tag which is resulting organic visibility in prime real estate.

The current results being returned by Google are quite frankly abysmal and this is one of the worst updates I’ve seen in the past five years. Spam is rampant and it seems that sites that haven’t been touched in years are benefiting from this update. The ranks are being filled with zombie sites that quite simply don’t deserve to rank.

Negative SEO / Google Bowling

The onslaught of updates seems to be never-ending and there has been a substantial rise in the practice of negative SEO and complaints of websites being targeted by competitors have risen considerably, so much so that there are an increasing number of services provided on forums that are less than reputable.

What Do Others Have To Say?

Webmaster World – There are a large number of disgruntled Webmasters describing their individual issues on this large forum post. It’s worth a read to see how others are suffering, and if nothing else make you feel better about any organic drop that you may have experienced.

Search Engine Land (Danny Sullivan) – This is a very insightful post that explores the difference between this update and the potential over-optimisation penalty that a lot of Webmasters have been speculating upon.

Koozai (Mike Essex) – This informational video from Mike Essex goes into specific detail on what this latest update was targeting.

  • Broken Guidelines
  • Link Schemes
  • Unrelated Links
  • Keyword Stuffing
  • Article Spinning
  • Duplicate Content

Although it covers the usual suspects that we’ve been told to keep away from since the inception of Google Webmaster Guidelines, it’s always good to cover the basics and make sure you’re not infringing on any of the above.


It’s still early days and the update is still rolling out across the globe, however from the uproar and current State of the blogosphere it’s quite apparent that many Webmasters from all backgrounds and hat-colours are unappreciative of this latest algorithm update.

Have any of your sites been hit, and if so have you been following the Google guidelines as the Bible? I’d love to hear stories from Webmasters who have adhered to all of the white hat practices and have still been penalised.

4 Replies to “The Day Of Reckoning – Google Web Spam Update (24th April 2012)”

  1. Hello Sebastian,

    This post is exactly what I was looking for. My math site had 6 keywords in page 1 for almost a year then on April 24th, the google webspam update came.

    All 6 of my keywords disappeared from page 1 and they aren’t even on the top 10 pages now. It’s been 3 weeks since then and I still don’t even see one of my keywords on top 10 pages still.

    The reason for this is because I used a blog network, however I stopped using it ever since the update.

    What do you suggest I do in order to get google to place me back in it’s rankings. Btw, I’m not de-indexed, I just have an insanely low rank now.


    1. Hi Brian,

      Sorry to hear you’ve been hit. If possible, try and remove all the links that you’ve built via this blog network and clean up your backlink profile.

      Then I’d submit a reconsideration request and go from there. Try and build some good quality authority links in the interim.

      Alternatively you could 301 your domain to a new one and see what happens (I’ve done this to one of my sites that took a tumble and it’s now back on page 1 for all the terms – this is however only a temporary measure and I’m sure come the next Penguin/Panda i’ll get slapped again).

      1. Hey Sebastian,

        These seem like a good idea. But I hired a service to do the blog networking for me and I don’t think they will spend the time to remove all my links especially since I don’t pay them anymore.

        I might try the 301 method. I will try to build some good quality links for now and submit a reconsideration.

        Have any of your sites that have been affected by the penguin/panda update of April 24th reach page 1 again? (Except the one that got back by 301ing)


        1. Hi Brian,

          It’s worth asking, usually it’s something they can pull without too much hassle.
          Alternatively it may be worth sending a reconsideration request in to Google telling them exactly what happened. If it’s your first offense you may get away with it.

          I have had sites return to page 1 since the Penguin update, it involved a lot of hard work, removal of links that weren’t kosher and building high quality links instead but it is possible!

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