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Next Google Search update: Is your website expendable?

A storm is coming, and it s about to take your site, and all your content for a ride. Where will it land? That s up to you.

Google is making very clear that it s not about what the Web can do for you, but what you can do for the Web. Websites that are not built in accordance to this principle are considered expendable, and consequently, penalized, or worse, barred from being indexed altogether.

According to the most recent Webmaster Guidelines, tens of thousands of websites are likely to be affected by the upcoming update. Is your website one of them? Let s find out.

Doorway pages

Doorway pages are often mistaken with landing pages , although the difference between the two is rather blurred.

The practice of creating doorway pages involves the creation of several web pages, often with no inbound links from the home page. These pages serve the only purpose of gaming Google Search, by containing randomly generated keywords, to get these pages to rank higher. The ultimate goal is to get visitors to the home page of a single website. They don t have any compelling content, and offer no value to the user. They are essentially equivalent to rusty signage on a freeway.

Doorway pages have greatly overstayed their welcome, but somehow, Google has let them slide... until now. With the next Google Search update, doorway pages will no longer be able to game the system. Websites to which doorway pages link, are also likely to take a considerable hit in SERP.

Dynamic content

If your website has pages that generate random text through a script, that text better start making sense from a human standpoint, or Google Search will effectively demote that page.

Dynamic text is easy to spot, due to its robotic nature, and random format. It s most common is auto-generated emails and other forms of active spam.

Do you have random content on your site? Get rid of it now.

Unnatural links

If your website contains links without a rel= nofollow tag, you better have a good reason for it. Unnatural links are described by Google as editorial votes given by choice . The basic principle is that if your site serves useful content, users will link to it.

Paid links, links hidden in deceitful advertising, and hidden hyperlinks masked as regular text, fall under the definition of Unnatural.


In the days of old, webmasters used to serve plain HTML to Google, while actual users would get a different experience, most frequently a Flash site. This practice is assumed as extinct, but its working principle is still being adopted in some form or another. For instance, serving large hidden blocks of text that blend into the background is definitely a quick way to get the proverbial boot.

Bad redirects

Google considers sneaky redirects , the practice of redirecting a user to a different page, while Google is still on the original page the user clicked. This is a big no-no, and an infamous tactic common to malware sites. Google has recently revamped its algorithm to spot websites that possess the characteristics of those containing malware. You may want to hold back on abusing the Refresh header tag, or your .htaccess file.

Scraping content

This is the equivalent of looking over your classmate s shoulder at test time. Webmasters work hard to get their content to rank higher than others, and copying and pasting that content onto your site in the hope of some sort of SERP benefit is not only tacky and disrespectful, but also highly frowned upon by Google Search.

Affiliate programs

Google is not saying that affiliate programs are bad, but we need to improve the way we offer content that is part of the affiliation. For instance, copying copying a product page and its content verbatim on your site, along with the reviews, and without any original content whatsoever is seem by Google as a form of content scraping.

Keyword stuffing

Keyword stuffing is the practice of stuffing keywords in a keyword stuffed content that is about keyword stuffing, for the purpose of keyword stuffing your page with keywords. If Google decides it s enough keyword stuffing, it s time to un-keyword stuff your keyword-stuffed pages.

Now, say that three times fast.

Pages containing malware

If your website appears in search results as dangerous to visit, it s time to Spring clean all your pages and ensure that no harmful code has been injected. Malware injection is most common in popular CMS like WordPress or Drupal, where third party plugins can be easily compromised to gain administrative privileges to a website, and ultimately do with it as the hackers please. Next thing you know, your site is turned into a link farm for cheap meds, Ugg boots and adult sites.

Abusing Rich Snippets

Everyone loves to be a winner, and thanks to Rich Snippets, webmasters were able, for a time, to make their ghost-town websites look like vibrant 4.5/5.0 star rated communities.

The gig lasted long enough for Google Search to catch up, and now, having rich snippet tags on your site requires genuine micro-data.

Finally: Performance

This topic in particular should ideally require a post of its own, and it will most likely get it, as there is quite a conversation to be had.

Performance matters. Google will soon begin to rank websites based on how fast they load, and how easy they are to navigate. Mobile-friendly browsing will also be an important factor indicating that your site is easy to navigate on smartphones and tablets, and should be pushed higher in search results, for those devices.




Google is making very clear that its not about what the Web can do for you, but what you can do for the Web. Websites that are not built in accordance to this principle are considered expendable, and consequently, penalized, or worse, barred from being indexed altogether.




19th March, 2015


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