Google December 2022 Link Spam Update Unleashed Using SpamBrain AI
Google began rolling out a revised link spam update on December 14, 2022, named the December 2022 link spam update. This update is new in that it uses SpamBrain AI to “detect both sites buying links, and sites used for the purpose of passing outgoing links,” and not just “detect spam directly,” Google said.
The update will take up to two weeks to roll out and started rolling out a week after Google started the December 2022 helpful content update, which is not yet done rolling out. The previous link spam update was in July 2021, as an FYI.
December 2022 Google Link Spam Update Quick Facts
Here are the most important things that we know right now in short form:
- Name: Google December 2022 Link Spam Update
- Launch Date: It began to roll out on December 14th
- Rollout: It will take up to two weeks to fully roll out
- Targets: It targets both sites buying links, and sites used for the purpose of passing outgoing links.
- Penalty: This will “neutralize” links that it detects as being spam and thus links that are detected won’t be counted and may show a decline in rankings.
- Not a manual action: This is not a manual action, so you won’t be notified in Search Console if you are hit.
- Global and all languages: This is a global launch and affects all languages.
- SpamBrain: This is the first time Google is using its AI-based spam detection, i.e., SpamBrain, for link spam purposes.
SpamBrain Link Spam Detection Upgrade
So what is new here is that this is not just a spam update but how SpamBrain uses AI to detect link spam. Google wrote, like I said above, “SpamBrain is our AI-based spam-prevention system. Besides using it to detect spam directly, it can now detect both sites buying links, and sites used for the purpose of passing outgoing links.”
Google added, “As we have always emphasized, links obtained primarily for artificial manipulation of Search rankings are link spam. Our algorithms and manual actions aim to nullify these unnatural links at scale, and we will continue to improve our coverage.”
Google later clarified that this is the first time Google is using SpamBrain for link spam detection:
“it can now detect both sites buying links” fro m our post covers this. It’s possible we’ve used it in some edge / minor situations, but this is the first real implementation of it for link spam (hence why we did a post about it) https://t.co/LLngrATiLV
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) December 14, 2022
Google also added to the Spam updated help page a section on links that reads:
In the case of a link spam update (an update that specifically deals with link spam), making changes might not generate an improvement. This is because when our systems nullify spammy links, the link credit that was previously generated is lost. If this credit was helping to generate rankings, it cannot be regained.
No Notice – No Manual Action
Like with any algorithmic update, there is no way to be notified that this update hit you. This is not a manual action where you would be notified. Of course, if you see big drops in your Google visibility and traffic in the next couple of days – and you do any sort of link tactics – then you probably were hit by this.
Here is John Mueller of Google saying this is not a manual action, if you don’t believe me:
No, it’s not a manual action.
— John Mueller is mostly not here 🐀 (@JohnMu) December 14, 2022
Spammy Links & Negative SEO
Google has been saying you don’t have to worry about negative SEO or spammy links pointing to your site as long as you did not build them yourself. Many SEOs miss the point that Google is “neutralizing” the link, which means they are not counting the link. So the link won’t hurt you; more importantly, it won’t help you. If the link was helping you prior to this or other updates, and now it no longer is helping you rank, then that might feel like a penalty. Got it?
You don’t need to disavow random spammy links like that.
— John Mueller is mostly not here 🐀 (@JohnMu) December 15, 2022
Timing Not Great?
Being that it is right before the holiday season, some SEOs are not happy with the timing of this release. Plus, with the December 2022 helpful content update also rolling out a week earlier and it not being done, you have two different but overlapping updates happening at the same time.
Both updates are a couple of weeks before the holidays (Chanukah is Sunday night), and Christmas is the week after. So timing is not great, and if your customers are hit, you might be super busy over the holidays.
— Brian Harnish (@BrianHarnish) December 14, 2022
They couldn’t wait until January?! 😭
— Shaun 😎 (@ShaunEls) December 14, 2022
Just go through the responses on the Google tweet; some are pretty funny.
SEO Chatter On Ranking Impact
Although this started to roll out less than 24 hours ago, I am seeing some chatter about ranking changes as well on WebmasterWorld and Black Hat World. The chatter so far is pretty limited, which is a bit surprising to me for a spam update but the previous link spam update was not massive either.
Here are some quotes from those threads:
My search traffic is up 31% so far today, it would be great to see that continue, but the first day of these updates tends to be an anomaly. I’m not sure, but I don’t think purchasing links from link farms, etc., is a huge problem in my niche. I do suspect one major competitor site may be doing this. It will be interesting to see how they fare now….
Already dropped a LOT OF rankings in the past 24 hours. Not sure if an update could roll out that quickly but yea… getting hit hard, and I bought a lot of links…
and today we are -50% again. Not buying any links or exchanging any links.
Just a little swing. pic.twitter.com/hbW3Zl1uma
— Arielle Phoenix (@ArielleCPX) December 15, 2022
Yes, in Google Israel, a ton of movement.
— Shay Ohayon (@SchemaMarkups) December 15, 2022
Looks like it:
But we cannot be sure if it’s results from Link Spam Update, or Helpful Content Update, as they are running in parallel now till the 19th. pic.twitter.com/OGMvfaJUfT
— Max Peters (@maxjpeters) December 15, 2022
Absolutely yes with 90% of the websites I’ve managed. 😑
— Carchesio Luca (@SearchWebCoach) December 15, 2022
Yes, one of my client was in 0th position (Featured snippet) for around 10 targeted countries for our targeted primary keyword. But, today he is at 2nd / 3rd position
— SEO Enthusiast & Digital Marketer (@MentallyThai) December 15, 2022
@rustybrick I have noticed in Semrush is showing me it seems like one small swing. pic.twitter.com/U9KKXBSBBJ
— Anuj thaker (@Anuj_Thaker03) December 15, 2022
Google Tracking Tools
Here is what the automated tracking tools are showing and many are not showing big changes – but I think RankRanger is showing early signs of something big.
So what are you all seeing so far?
Forum discussion at Twitter, WebmasterWorld and Black Hat World.