According to Brendan O'Connor of The Awl, Google's latest change in their search algorithm -- lovingly called Penguin -- has been causing problems to all those SEO spammers shoving links in other people's website comments: the sites they are advertising drop from Google's first page to fifth -- or even tenth. And when was the last time you looked that far in your search results?
Given how ubiquitous the act of Googling something has become, it is easy to forget how much goes into returning search results. "Google's algorithm takes into account dozens of criteria," wrote the New York Times in 2011, after J.C. Penney was penalized for having paid a search-engine optimization firm to place incoming links around the web. "But it has described one crucial factor in detail: links from one site to another."
Essentially, the more your site is linked to across the web, the higher Google will rank you, and links from sites that are similar to your own are better than links from sites that have nothing to do with anything. Over time, the quality of those links has become more and more important. (This 43-page PDF from Google is more specific, if you're really interested.)
Those links, in part, have an effect on one's placement in search results. Many of the J.C. Penney spam links were published on web sites that seemed to exist solely for that purpose: as a space for spam links to live. Out of the way, they never intruded directly on the experience of the average internet user (who may or may not be a robot anyway).
But: what's the easiest way to place a link on a site you don't own? Why, it's blog comments.
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