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What is Google SpamBrain and How Does It Prevent Spam in Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs)?

Spam is a significant problem in our digital world, ranging from spam emails to spam websites and more. Spam can be malicious, extremely misleading, or simply distracting. When it comes to spam websites in search results, Google has been steadily combating spam to keep users as safe as possible. In this post, you will learn about the impressive Google's SpamBrain system and how it attempts to minimize spam within the search engine result pages (SERPs).

SpamBrain - Google's AI-Based Spam Prevention Algorithm

SpamBrain is Google's extremely effective algorithm credited for catching, improving, and minimizing spam websites and spam search results. SpamBrain is Google's AI-Based Spam Prevention Algorithm and protection system which was originally launched in 2018. However, Google only shared the name of their spam system in April of 2022.

SpamBrain has grown since it was first used through constant updates and is now arguably more effective than ever at detecting spam which is backed up by Google’s shared spam detection and removal statistics, despite overall spam sophistication and spam creation being on the perpetual rise. According to Google, SpamBrain’s AI powered platform is designed to continually identify and improve its own performance in detecting spam.

Search Engine Spam Detection and Removal Improvements

Google releases data via their annual webspam reports which illustrate improvements of how Google continues combat spam and improve overall spam detection systems.

In February 2024, Google released an announcement of their achievements in 2023 regarding spam. The following are the highlights from this report showing Google's spam efforts in 2023:

  • Google Blocked or removed over 170 million policy-violating Google Business Profile reviews in (45% increase in comparison to 2022)
  • Google Removed/blocked more than 12 million fake business profiles
  • Google blocked 14 million policy-violating videos 
  • Google protected business owners from over 2 million attempts by bad actors to maliciously claim their Google Business Profiles
  • Google's legal team took legal action against multiple individuals and companies performing malicious behaviors and tactics that violate multiple spam protections and policies

Additionally, you can read Google's formal response to the FTC regarding Google's actions for fighting spam and fake reviews in search engines.

Google continues with its efforts to fight spam and keep search results useful with improved quality. Some sites will certainly still get away with spam tactics, but Google's constant efforts will help detect and block those sites from ranking highly on Google searches.

Recent Spam Related Search Engine Algorithm Updates

graphic of search result page (serp)

Google continues to release updates that improve SpamBrain's spam detection systems, accuracy, and scope. The following are a list of algorithm updates (confirmed by Google) that directly impact the Spam Brain system. Keep in mind that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of other updates through the year that likely either directly or indirectly also impact Google's spam detection systems. The following updates though are likely the most impactful and blatant updates to the spam detection system.

March 2024 Core Update and Updated Spam Policies

Note that the March 2024 Core Update is currently rolling out (starting March 5th, 2024) and could take up to one month to finish.

The March 2024 core update continues to improve upon Google's ability to detect truly helpful content vs. content that is created for search engine manipulation only. Google updated their spam policies including three new protections:

1) Expired Domain Abuse

Google will penalize websites where one buys an expired domain name (which had a decent previous reputation within a specific industry) and repurposes it primarily to manipulate search engine rankings by hosting content that does not offer relevance or value to its visitors. 

2) Scaled Content Abuse

This protection focuses on websites that mass produce generic/unoriginal content primarily for the purposes of manipulating search rankings instead of produce content that is helpful and provides unique insights. Some experts within the SEO and digital marketing industry think that this update is meant to target the rise of mass-produced AI generated content that shows little to no originality and is only created for SEO purposes.

3) Site Reputation Abuse (Parasite SEO)

This protection focuses on penalizing sites that sell or rent their reputation by offering hosted pages for third-party companies that have no relevance to the rest of their content or users. This practice is also known as "Parasite SEO." Keep in mind that affiliate marketing and advertising is still acceptable as long as it is transparent and properly disclosed to users. However, Google stated that the site reputation abuse protection will not go into effect until May 5th, 2024 to give site owners time to adjust accordingly.

How to Know If Your Site Is Abusing the New Spam Policies

Thoroughly check the spam definitions that Google gives for each of the policies and audit your company and contracted third-party's strategies.

According to Google, any of above three abuse scenarios can yield automated demotion (or complete removal) of the website's appearance within search engine results and even a manual penalty. If a manual penalty occurs, users should get a notification via their configured Google Search Console account. However, if your traffic drops significantly around the timing of this update and you have practices that are borderline, you may also be affected without a manual penalty being issued.

If you are not already doing so, you should be using a keyword monitoring tool like Semrush or BrightLocal to monitor your sites' rankings for fluctuations and trends. 

October 2023 Spam Update

On October 4th, 2023, Google released their October 2023 Spam Update which improved their spam detection system. The October 2023 spam update finished rolling out on October 19th, 2023. This update focused on improving their system's effectiveness on detecting spam in several key languages including Turkish, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Hindi, Chinese, and other languages. Google's goal was to reduce the volume of spam within search results, especially as it relates to websites using cloaking, hacked, auto-generated, and scraping tactics.

Google cited multiple times that this update was in part thanks to the communities feedback and continuous efforts filing spam reports which helped improve their spam detection systems. 

December 2022 Link Spam Update Leveraging Google SpamBrain

On December 14, 2022, Google began rolling out an update to Google Search called the December 2022 Link Spam Update. According to Google, this update leverages "...the power of SpamBrain to neutralize the impact of unnatural links on search results." In other words, SpamBrain will now be used to better combat link spam, including improved detection of both websites that buy backlinks and websites that are built solely for the purpose of creating outgoing links.

The December 2022 Link Spam Update took 29 days to fully roll out.

Google Creates a Formal Spam Reporting Form - June 2023

In June 2023, Google created a Search Quality User Report form which the general public can use to report spam within search engine results. This awesome tool allows the web users to aid Google's automated systems when it comes to reporting malicious or spammy tactics on the web.

Check out our guide on how and when to use Google's new spam reporting form for more details.

Other Spam Related Algorithm Updates

In 2021, we reported on other major updates that Google rolled out regarding setting a higher standard for product reviews (April 2021 and December 2021) and the two-part Link Spam updates (June 2021 and August 2021).  You can also check out Google’s previous spam reports which showcase how their fight against spam has continued to evolve over the past five years: 2022, 20212020, 2019, 2018, 2017.  

At Igniting Business, we constantly monitor the evolution of search results to advise our clients on best search engine optimization tacticsContact us today to learn more about our SEO services for your small business.

Tools for Monitoring and Improving Your Web Presence

If you are looking for tools to help keep tabs on your online presence and search engine optimization (SEO), we’d recommend you check out Semrush and BrightLocal:

Semrush – You can use Semrush to audit your website’s SEO health, conduct keyword research, develop your content marketing strategy, and aid in the implementation of key onsite SEO elements for website. Get a free trial of Semrush today.

BrightLocal – BrightLocal is a great tool focused on Local SEO. You can use BrightLocal to check your local rankings, monitor your Google Business Profile listing, submit information to key listings, keep an eye on competitors’ rankings and be on the lookout for spam listings. Try BrightLocal’s tools for free.

At no additional cost to you, we may receive a commission if you click on some of the links on this website and make a purchase.

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