Google’s Surgical Strike on Reputation Abuse

These aren’t easy questions. On the one hand, many of these sites do clearly fit Google’s warning and were using their authority and reputation to rank content that is low-relevance to the main site and its visitors. With any punitive action, though, the problem is that the sites ranking below the penalized sites may not be of any higher quality. Is USA Today’s coupon section less useful than the dedicated coupon sites that will take its place from the perspective of searchers? Probably not, especially since the data comes from similar sources.

There is a legitimate question of trust here — searchers are more likely to trust this content if it’s attached to a major brand. If a site is hosting third-party content, such as a coupon marketplace, then they’re essentially lending their brand and credibility to content that they haven’t vetted. This could be seen as an abuse of trust.

In Google’s eyes, I suspect the problem is that this tactic has just spread too far, and they couldn’t continue to ignore it. Unfortunately for the sites that were hit, the penalties were severe and wiped out impacted content. Regardless of how we feel about the outcome, this was not an empty threat, and SEOs need to take Google’s new guidelines seriously.

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