Editor’s note: “Ask an SEO” is a weekly column by technical SEO expert Jenny Halasz. Come up with your hardest SEO question and fill out our form. You might see your answer in the next #AskanSEO post! So no, there is no penalty associated with submitting 300,000 – or any number of URLs – all at once. But yes, submitting that many URLs at one time can have unintended consequences. Everything I’m writing from this point forward is my educated opinion, based on things I’ve been told over many years by people who worked at Google and my own experiences with larger sites.
Patterns & Anomalies in Google’s Algorithms
Google’s algorithms note unusual patterns. Adding 50 percent more pages to a site in a day is unusual. But it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s something the site owner did. There are many reasons this could happen – the most common one being that a site has been hacked. Google has systems to identify this type of suspicious activity and apply other filters to it because it’s dangerous to present searchers with a potentially hacked site.
Manual Reviews & Judgment Calls
Sometimes it will trigger a manual review, which means a human will look at the situation and make a judgment call. Some of these might be to flag content that seems to have lots of spammy links in it or appears to be too similar to other content. I believe that in the machine learning world, there are likely fewer humans reviewing these anomalies than there used to be, but the machines apply the same constructs.
300,000 SKUs Indexed in 12 Days
In my own experience, I once had a retail client with about 300,000 product SKUs that acquired a competitor and added about 300,000 more product SKUs in a single day. We thought this might be a problem but did it anyway. The net result is that the new 300,000 SKUs took about 12 days to be indexed. And they didn’t happen a few at a time. The pages were “held” for those 12 days, and then all indexed at once. I assume that this delay was due to a manual review. The main site did not suffer any problems or losses during those 12 days, and once the new products were indexed, they performed similarly to the other products on the site. This was a couple of years ago, so don’t assume that your pages will be held for 12 days now. There’s really no telling for sure.
Why Are You Adding So Many Pages at Once?
The elephant in the room, though, is why are you adding so many pages at once? Presumably, it would take months and even years to rewrite all of those pages manually. So why would you hold your potential success until they are all done instead of rolling them out as they’re finished (one category at a time, perhaps)? If the answer is that really what you’re doing is spinning content or using one of the many commercially available products designed to automate content, tread carefully.
The Future of Automated Content
I’m definitely seeing a high volume of automated content these days. Some are clever, using database inputs like several products or including a list of the top x products in the category. Some of them even use two or three different templates across each category. Automated content is performing quite well in search right now, but you can be certain it’s got an egg-timer on it. If these pages don’t help visitors find things or complete tasks, they’re not helpful; they’re spam. And while it may not seem like it while you’re ranking well and fat and happy, Google’s got you in their crosshairs.
Penalty, Or Just Bad Choices?
Google doesn’t care how many pages you have on your website if they’re pages that offer value. But if you’re trying to get away with something, try not to make it obvious by launching all the spam at once. Google might suppress or filter these pages now or in the future. Or your rankings may get an algorithmic downgrade. But it doesn’t really matter what you call it – it’s a penalty. If you make bad choices about how you’re building your site, Google will get you in the end.