There has been a TON of buzz going around about the what I would like to call the “Valentine’s Shake Down” and even though some people are reporting that their ranking are starting to come back, others are still down a couple spots or so, and others still, blown to the wood shed!

So, what happened?

On about Feb 7th rankings starting to rumble and it has sent SEO professionals (including me) into a frenzy trying to figure out what the heck was causing the decrease in rankings of seo’ed sites.  (And, we still don’t know for sure were the devalue is, but most will agree, there is a devaluing happening somewhere.)

So let’s start late last year…

Last November, there are numerous reports from bloggers letting us know that they heard Matt Cutts speak and Pubcon and he said that “some of the webspam engineers had been loaned out on other projects but since the completion of most, he is getting them back and there were two big projects they were working on.”

He was also reported to say that they will be taking a look at “Exact Match Domain” names and that he thinks right now having an exact match domain is giving a site too much power in the ranks and that this will be revealed in the coming months.

So it should be no surprise that…

On January 21st Google released a “State of Search” type of blog post that dove into webspam. In short, they said even though they have already made great progress, they “have new efforts underway to continue to improve our search quality.” And.. “we’re evaluating multiple changes that should help drive spam levels even lower, including one change that primarily affects sites that copy others’ content and sites with low levels of original content.

And then on January 28 Matt Cutt’s further told us on his blog in reference to the above quote, “That change was approved at our weekly quality launch meeting last Thursday and launched earlier this week.” And he went on to say… “The net effect is that searchers are more likely to see the sites that wrote the original content rather than a site that scraped or copied the original site’s content.

Well, I thought, that is great news!

Nobody likes the webspam sites anyway (Google defines webspam as junk you see in search results)

And, most of us who are doing any type of linking don’t want the site we are linking “from” showing up in the rankings and heaven forbid they land on top of the site we are linking “too.” (which sometimes happens if you are linking from an nice authority sites to a long tail keyword) I mean, we are NOT trying to rank THOSE sites so.. check, we’re good!

So then on Feb 7th, the shake down became obvious that it may not just be sites with low quality content being targeted, it may also be low quality linking was next on the list.

Back in the original January 21 Google blog posts said, “The new classifier is better at detecting spam on individual web pages, e.g., repeated spammy words—the sort of phrases you tend to see in junky, automated, self-promoting blog comments.” (see original site citation above)

Ok, check on that one too as I was glad I didn’t do any of THAT! lol

But was buzzing with so much conflicting evidence that a direct pin point on exactly is causing a link devaluation is unclear at best. I just know none of my moneys sites that have been linked to exclusively from my private blog networks were NOT affected, AND, what surprised me most is that I had one of my assistants doing some testing with profile links and xrumer and THOSE money sites were not affected either as they all held their rankings. Hmmm.

One of my sites did however drop from  #4 to #17 on a major keyword, but I had also used someone else’s link network on it AND the links were not contextual) Hmm.

Then on Feb 12, the  JC Penny debacle was released to the world in the New York Times.  WOW!

Bottom lining it, JC Penny was in so many #1 spots that it drew attention to the New York Times and as they investigated their story, it drew the Google’s attention! Weather or not Google did a manual review and de-indexed sites that were contributing to the inflation of their rankings we won’t know for sure, but JC Penny’s rankings have suffered the same sort of ranking drops as many other seo’d sites. Not to the woodshed, but just a couple of spots or more.

And, since it has affected the entire SEO community, my bet is on the algorithm change that lowered JC Penny’s rankings not a manual review. Or maybe both, but one thing is for sure, the rest of us got caught in the back wash. lol ;-)

Oh and for the most part “Exact Match Domains” are history. There are some exceptions of course, but unless they are a .com and have age and size, they have been pushed back into the nowheresville just for being an EMD.

So, the take away is?

Google’s WebSpam engineers are baaaaaaack… making our lives interesting again! ;-)