Google targets rich snippet spam in latest round of manual penalties

More websites slammed in jail after latest round of penalties

Jail CellMost of us in the SEO world knew it wouldn’t be long until Google unleashed a new wave of penalties against websites not singing to their tune, as scores of sites taking advantage of rich snippets just got hit with manual actions penalties this past week.

Now the first thing you might be asking is what on earth is a rich snippet? Seeing the bulk of smaller sites most likely haven’t heard of them, let alone used them. But for certain types of ¬†websites competing for traffic and conversions, it has been a serious weapon in their SEO armoury. Not anymore it seems.

So what exactly are rich snippets?

Primarily, Rich snippets enable a website to summarise content in a way that helps a user determine which result they want to see. Many website developers and moderators markup their content to include in search results; typical content being about reviews, people, recipes, events or anything they feel needs attention.

A classic example might be a restaurant who might want to include a good review on Google alongside their search result.

Just this basic example alone gives a good indication as to why site owners and optimisers might want to take advantage of this feature to gain greater exposure.

Rich snippets are commonplace so what did Google target?

Google has recently discovered a trend where websites are taking advantage by marking up content that may be misleading or inaccurate, thus manipulating the rich snippet generated and make their site appear more attractive to searchers when the contrary is more likely to be the case.

Manipulative techniques include making content more attractive to individual users by hyping top reviews or even unrelated content, making the user experience poor for searchers.

So in Google’s view, this is of no benefit to their users because site owners are deliberately pushing content to drive business and traffic, rather than deliver relevant search results. A practice that Google looks very poorly upon.

What does this mean for your site?

If your website is not engaged in such activities then there’s no need to worry. It would be glaringly obvious if your site was as you would have had to set out to push certain content or results based information deliberately to attract a penalty. Rich snippet manipulation doesn’t happen by accident!

If however, you’ve set out to try to game the system by using these techniques then watch out. Chances are Google will catch up with you soon enough so it would be wise to remove any code or practices from your website as soon as possible to avoid getting your site sent to jail.

If you suspect you’ve marked-up content that’s irrelevant to the page or have included junk content like fake reviews, fix it now whilst you have the chance!

Google is catching the cheats and fast!

This again highlights Google’s ongoing efforts to clamp down on websites and SEO techniques that are simply about manipulation. I’ve previously stated that this year requires a huge attitude adjustment regarding SEO and link building.

Judging by recent events, things aren’t going to get any easier so to make the web a better place, we all need to clean up our acts and get within the rules or risk being left out in the cold for good.

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