Case Study: October 2022 Spam Update hitting a global logistics company

Nov 5, 2014
My client got screwed over by the oct spam update. I found out I have this trait in the Briggs Myers personality system called extraverted thinking. I think out loud and that's how I think through things. People who are Te also tend to write a lot too. So, here, I'll describe the problem, a few solutions I've found, and maybe what to do so that you can learn how to diagnose an SEO problem yourself.

This client has many ccTLDs and many offices in different countries. If you want a non-realistic but accurate example, think of a business like FedEx. There'll be FedEx office in the US with a website. Then an office in the Ukraine with a website in Ukrainian. and a FedEx office in China with a domain in Chinese. Clients need to send their stuff to the Fedex office nearest them for processing. Most websites have English for international businessmen who want to use FedEx and the native language. The websites are basically the same content except for different phone numbers, addresses and checkout process. For the checkout process, let's say you're in the US, the steps and rules for sending packages in the US is different than in China, so the two checkout processes are different.

Here's a psudo-list of his domains and the languages they are in:







He was hit with the October 2022 spam update and I suspect it was due to duplicate content across the ccTLDs. He basically has only one set of content for English and he just copied and pasted it to the .com, .ca,, .nz, and .au domains. Same with French and German. Italian, Korean, and Japanese were not hit, since those languages have only one copy of the content online. I told him that assumption and he investigated it further and found that it was right. We have a theory and validated the narrative. So, it took Google 10 years to figure out that duplicate content on ccTLDs were duplicate content... wow.

So the thesis is that Google figured out that the instances of English were duplicate and now ranks only the .com and the .ca,, .nz, and .au domains are hindered from ranking. Same with German and French.

I've found some solutions to this problem:

1.) We write content in English, French, and German for each ccTLD to make them all unique. This is not cost effective content wise but the office managers in each region would like it as it allows them to keep their sites up and separate. It is also good for branding from the owner's POV, as he started his business in 2004 and has OLD AF clients who probably type in the domain name, still. This would also cause cannibalisation between the TLDs that are in the same language.

2.) We consolidate all English, French, and German instances. So there'll be only English content on the .com, the only place for German content is the .de, and the only place for French content is the .fr. No duplicate content issue here. However, the issue is the development required and dev resources are thing already. There's like a 3 month backlog for dev requests. This is also bad for branding as existing customers might get confused. The company is moving in this direction but it is too soon for this.

3.) We make canonical the other instances and promote only one instance of English, French, and German. If the client is in other countries, the checkout process forwards them to the local ccTLD. So the .com handles all English rankings, for example, and the .ca is for all Canadian orders and the .ca does not rank for keywords, since it is a canonical of the .com. This preserves the branding in existing customers minds. It is also the cheapest to implement. The down side is that the checkout process is burdensome as the checkout would say "you need to go to to finish this purchase" which is not good IMO.

4.) We do nothing since Google has preferred versions and we just act like nothing happened and continue doing marketing on the .com like we're doing. Country managers might not like this solution at all lol. Not out of analysis or something logical but more out of... like "... holy shit, we just lost 80% of sales and you guys don't even care at all???" Yeah, not the best human solution here. But it is an option. It also costs $0 to implement.

There you go! 4 solutions that are not overly appealing to a problem that took 10 years to develop. I would go for #2 myself but, knowing them, it'll take their tech team 6 month to do the fix as the websites were created back in 2004. I think the CEO would go with #3 himself and #4 is off the table.

What would you do? Did you get hit by the Oct 2022 spam update? How did you solve the problem?