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Google’s Payday Loan Update Explained and Recovery Strategies

Some of the queries entered on Google are more spam-prone than others. Gambling, pornographic, and cash advance sites have a reputation for being extra spammy. Realizing this, Google rolled out the Payday Loan algorithm update. Here we break down the sites it targets, how it works, and how you can recover rankings if you’ve been affected.

Launch Date: June 11, 2013

Initially, the update was launched to target spammy sites. The 2.0 upgrade in May 2014 did the same thing, while the 3.0 version which rolled out in June 2014, focused specifically on addressing spammy queries.

What Google’s Payday Loan Update Impacted

One of the main goals of the Payday Loan update is to reduce the attention given to spam sites or websites with a high spam rate. The Payday Loan update affected about 0.3 percent of search requests in the US-American market. However, in other markets, up to four percent of requests felt the effects.

There are two main hazards that signal the Payday Loan update:

Spammy Sites

Websites that are considered spammy or more controversial are the main targets for this algorithm update. Sites associated with unsavory industries, like pornography, gambling, debt consolidation, drug, and yes, payday loan sites, fall into the net here. Any websites that seem to be pushing this type of content will be targeted by the Payday Loan update.

Spammy Ranking Techniques

The 2.0 update that came out in 2014 was more focused on spammy SEO tactics. Many spam sites utilize high-volume keywords and CPC keywords as well as link schemes to get traffic to their site. If sites use illegal or unethical techniques to manipulate the SERPs, Google will find them and penalize them through this update.

How the Payday Loan Update Works

The Payday Loan update targets spammy sites using spammy or Black Hat SEO tactics to boost their ranking numbers. If a site has spam, thin content, or uses manipulative SEO, it will feel the hit on its rankings. Sites affected by the algorithm update can be set back five, six, or more pages on Google’s SERPs. And we know that if you’re on page five, you might as well not be indexed at all when it comes to organic search.

The goal of the Payday Loan update is to remove spam from Google’s SERPs and give users the quality results they’ve come to expect.

How to Adjust Your SEO Strategy For the Payday Loan Update

Most of the ways to recover from the Payday Loan update are to simply practice ethical, honest SEO and include quality content on your pages. Below we’ve listed a few absolute must-follow steps if you’ve been hit:

Remove Transactional Links

One of the popular triggers for this update is the presence of paid links on a site. If you’ve got them, get rid of them now. Google will find you and punish you, setting you back pages and pages in the rankings. Link building can be great for your SEO, but if it’s done in this manner, you’ll wish you hadn’t gone down this path at all.

An easy way to make sure your links are acceptable is by conducting a site audit. This will help weed out the bad links and see what’s actually helping you in the rankings.

Check the Comments

If you find that your rankings are inexplicably suffering, the Payday Loan update might have found something in your comments section. Quite often, spammers find their way to the comments section of a blog site and camp out there. And even though you aren’t the one posting spam links, you will still suffer the consequences.

If your site allows for guest posts or comments, peruse the posts to see what’s been posted or uploaded. If you find questionable posters/links, you can almost be certain it’s spam and that Google has found it. If you’ve got only a few spammy comments, delete them. But if the problem is more unwieldy, you might consider turning off the commenting feature while Google recrawls your pages.

Avoid Black Hat SEO

In the past, especially in the early days of Google, SEO was largely based on manipulation with the use of Black Hat SEO techniques. In order to protect yourself from Google’s penalties, you should avoid sketchy SEO manipulative methods. You’ll be safe if you follow the Webmaster Guidelines. To be certain that you’re not putting yourself at risk, always review the guidelines yourself.

If you want to get specific on the things to avoid, stay away from keyword stuffing, duplicated content, paid links—as mentioned above—, and article marketing, to name a few of the methods Google hates.


For the most part, you shouldn’t be concerned about a hit from the Payday Loan update, especially if you’re following the Webmaster Guidelines. But you also know by now, especially with online marketing and SEO, that you should never say never.

Recovering from a Payday Loan penalty isn’t impossible. With a few changes—and the smart site construction and SEO strategy implemented in the first place—you can see high rankings and organic site traffic that leads to real conversions.