This week Google updated the software it uses to reduce spammy links in its search engine results and the Salvation Army website was downgraded. Matt Cutts, Google's engineer in charge of fighting spam, describes this update as Penguin 2.0 in a YouTube video.
When Google launched its latest update, I quickly checked keywords like "Christian news" and typed in words from various news headlines to see how the articles and websites showed up in Google's search results.
Although I didn't see anything unusual in my searches, other web authors have noticed changes in how their websites appear in Google search results.
SearchMetrics analyzed search rankings before and after the update and compiled a list of the 25 websites most negatively impacted. Not surprisingly porn and gambling websites were downgraded. However, Dish Network's website and the Salvation Army saw significant drops in search rankings for various keywords.
What did the Salvation Army do that hurt its search listings?
I don't know but here are some guesses:
- The Salvation Army website could be using a template that has hidden links in it.
- A webmaster or SEO for the website may have used link spam to boost the website's rankings.
- The website could have been down temporarily or inaccessible to Googlebot, Google's spider that visits websites and downloads pages.
If you find yourself in a situation like this, there are things you can do to fix potential link spam such as using Google Webmaster Tools to check for potential problems and links to your website. Then you can disavow bad links.
Although the information is dated, Google does have a tutorial for Google Webmaster Tools.
In 2011 LinchpinSEO examined the Salvation Army website and identified problems with the website such poorly implemented title tags and faulty redirects for pages that were no longer online. Perhaps some of these problems are still not fixed.