Google begins enforcement of site reputation abuse policy with portions of sites being delisted

Sites like CNN, USA Today, LA Times and others are seeing their rented subdomains and subfolders dropping in rankings after they were hit by manual actions.

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Google has started its enforcement of the new site reputation abuse policy by deranking or deindexing portions of websites from the Google Search index. This seems to have launched in the past hour or so, where sites as large as CNN, USA Today, Fortune, and LA Times are seeing their coupon directories no longer ranking for coupon-related keyword phrases.

We were expecting the enforcement to begin this week, we posted a reminder last week. Google told us this change was coming in March, when Google announced multiple search enhancements, which also included the March 2024 core update.

Google said today. Google’s Search Liaison said on X today, “It’ll be starting later today. While the policy began yesterday, the enforcement is really kicking off today.”

Google informed us after this story that these are manual actions, not algorithmic actions. Meaning sites impacted by this site reputation abuse policy should have received notifications of these penalties in their Search Console profiles.

Danny Sullivan from Google told me, “we’re only doing manual actions right now. The algorithmic component will indeed come, as we’ve said, but that’s not live yet.”

Examples of enforcement. Laura Chiocciora and Glenn Gabe posted screenshots of some sites that were impacted by this update. They include CNN, USA Today, and LA Times. These sites all did not block these directories from being indexed or ranked by Google and tonight found those sections removed from Google Search.

Some other sites, like Forbes, Wall Street Journal and others manually blocked these directories from Google’s spiders before enforcement of this new policy began.

This is just a sampling of some of the enforcement.

What is site reputation abuse? When third-party sites host low-quality content provided by third parties to piggyback on the ranking power of those third-party websites. As Google told us in March:

  • “A third party might publish payday loan reviews on a trusted educational website to gain ranking benefit from the site.”
  • “Such content ranking highly in Search can confuse or mislead visitors who may have vastly different expectations for the content on a given website.”

Under Google’s new policy, site reputation abuse is defined as “third-party content produced primarily for ranking purposes and without close oversight of a website owner” and “intended to manipulate Search rankings” will be considered spam.

The new Google Search spam policies about reputation abuse was announced by Google over here and and the updated policies are over here.

But. Not all third-party content will be considered spam, as Google explained:

  • “Many publications host advertising content that is intended for their regular readers, rather than to primarily manipulate Search rankings. Sometimes called ‘native advertising’ or ‘advertorial,’ this kind of content typically wouldn’t confuse regular readers of the publication when they find it on the publisher’s site directly or when arriving at it from Google’s search results.”

Why we care. Many SEO have been complaining about the harm and unfairness that comes from parasite SEO. With so many complaints about the quality of Search results lately, this may help with some of those complaints.

About the author

Barry Schwartz
Barry Schwartz is a Contributing Editor to Search Engine Land and a member of the programming team for SMX events. He owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry can be followed on Twitter here.

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