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Four ex-Googlers answer common SEO myths

30 December 2013 BY

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During the holiday weeks we will be showing you the 15 best read posts of 2013. Except for on Christmas and New Years day, each day you can read the best articles again, going from number 15 back to number 1.

Now it’s time for number 5, originally posted on August 21 2013, a guest post post by Fili Wiese and Kaspar Szymanski.

20 years of Google Search Quality experience. That’s right! Collectively, we bring about 20 years of work experience at the Google Search Quality Team to the table.

That’s a lot of webspam analysis, link scheme investigating, clickspam analysis, tool developing, policy enforcement, foosball playing, and talking to website owners, webmasters and online marketeers. That is what we love to do; to brainstorm and exchange ideas with passionate people, develop web strategies, be bold – some call it crazy – and help each other to provide even better solutions to the users.

Over the last two weeks we (Fili Wiese, Kaspar Szymanski, Jonas Weber and Ariel Lambrecht) have been hosting a series of SEO workshops in Germany, both in English and German. We’ve covered a ton of topics, like search engine compliant link enhancing strategies, technical on-page optimization, penalty recovery, and building online services focused on addressing real problems of users, that users find irresistible.

We addressed a lot of questions and debunked a good few industry myths. The following myths are just a few of the ones we heard during our workshops, along with our point of view as former Search Quality Googlers:

Myth: Google, as an organisation, dislikes SEO people?
Answer: Not at all. In fact good SEO work can help Google improve crawling, indexing and serving your content, which is great for the search engine’s users.

Myth: High authority sites are free to try more shady optimization techniques; right or wrong?
Answer: Wrong. Based on our experience in Google Search Quality every site gets the same treatment.

Myth: Are there any differences in approach to fighting webspam across languages?
Answer: Google Search Quality Guidelines apply in the same way across all language markets. Having said that, there are different nuances in the spamming techniques applied across different geographic regions and the Webspam Fighting Team is capable of addressing these.

Myth: Google likes sites that constantly add fresh content?
Answer: Potentially, yet only if it’s high quality content. Quantity of fresh content is not as important as serving quality content.

Myth: Creating quality content takes too much time and is too expensive. Why should I invest in this?
Answer: Creating quality content may take some effort indeed. However, you need to think of your long term strategy rather than short term revenue. High quality content is an investment in the future. Great quality sources address the issues your users have. Often you may find that sharing expertise on specific problems can be enough to create quality content. Often the primary cost is to sit down and create a solution for a problem that users have been looking for.

Myth: Internal links anchor text; important or not?
Answer: Yes, internal linking is important. Particularly, it enhances the ability to navigate around a site for your users. This is what you should optimise for.

Kaspar Szymanski, Ariel Lambrecht, Jonas Weber and Fili Wiese.

Pictured from left to right: Kaspar Szymanski, Ariel Lambrecht, Jonas Weber, and Fili Wiese.

Myth: Can AdSense ads ever hurt your rankings?
Answer: Overloading a site with commercial content like ads can have an impact on a site’s visibility in natural search engine results. This is not limited to any particular advertising system.

Myth: I see other websites using weird characters like ♥ ♫ ♣ in their meta descriptions, which in turn show in the search results snippets. Should I do the same to increase CTR?
Answer: This is a known technique to try to attract attention in the SERP’s. That said, ask yourself, would these characters help users to understand what your site is about? We tend to believe they would not.

Myth: Big sites get preferential treatment when it comes to reconsideration requests.
Answer: No. The reality is that big websites often have well documented what they did and have often much more manpower to tackle the problem. Therefore, a bigger organisation can be quicker in resolving an issue and can apply for reconsideration sooner than a smaller one. If you need help with a reconsideration issue, you can go to the Google Webmaster Forums for free advice or hire a professional SEO expert.

Myth: Not linking to other websites (passing PageRank or not); is that a good practice or not?
Answer: Ask yourself, would you trust a scientific report without any citations to other scientific sources? Most likely not. We recommend to link out to sources you trust and are relevant to the content of your site. When you are unsure of the trustworthiness of the source, or someone paid for the link or it’s user generated content including outgoing links, go ahead and apply the nofollow attribute, just to be on the safe side.

Myth: Being a customer of Google AdWords helps you with rankings in organic search.
Answer: The only answer to this is: No, No, No! This is one of the oldest myths. Google Search and other Google products, like for example Google AdWords, are completely separated from each other. It is crucial for all of them to remain completely independent. Changing your AdWords budget will not have any effect on getting your site out of a penalty or change the algorithmic evaluation of your website.

Myth: There is cap of incoming natural search traffic per site, per day, right?
Answer: No. Google will display your site in the search results as often as it is relevant to search queries their users type in.

Doing these workshops have been a great experience for us and we thank all our guests for attending. If you missed out on the events this time, we’re working on organizing more in London and Köln and other places across Europe. If you have another industry myths you would like to discuss, be sure to come to one of our sessions or better yet describe it below in the comments.

In the meantime, always put your users needs first. Always!

This is a guest post written by Kaspar Szymanski and Fili Wiese. Photo by Gerald Steffens.

 

AUTHORED BY:
h

This post was written by an author who is not a regular contributor to State of Digital. See all the other regular State of Digital authors here. Opinions expressed in the article are those of the contributor and not necessarily those of State of Digital.
  • http://www.summitweb.net/seo-inverness-scotland.html Martin Oxby

    Good reminder of some common SEO questions, which *still* abound, especially with people not in SEO. The new one for me was ‘the weird characters’ question – never seen those in UK SERPs – think people need to consider the appropriateness of the technique before the effectiveness of the technique in any tactic – and maybe some of these questions show that’s not always the case.

    • Kaspar Szymanski

      Hello Remi,

      Thanks for addressing this very common myth. From all we have seen working at Google, large and small sites do get the same treatment. And we have seen a lot :-)

      It is important to keep in mind that where a bigger site, compared to a smaller site, may indeed have an advantage is the manpower they can put into cleaning up any Google Webmaster Guideline violations or technical issues which can help them to recover quicker. But that does not reflect on how Google treats each reconsideration request equally.

      Regarding your other point, I’m not sure what you mean by saying “Only paid two days of traffic in return.” However I want to emphasize that no one is stealing traffic from anyone because no particular site is entitled to any amounts of incoming traffic from search engines or rankings in the first place.

    • Chris Gedge

      They didn’t actually say you can get penalised for using characters that stand out in your description tags. It works.

      • http://www.summitweb.net/seo-inverness-scotland.html Martin Oxby

        I don’t think I said anything about being ‘penalised’ at all in my comment. I just wasn’t aware it was a tactic as I’ve not seen it in our, or our clients’ competitors SERPs snippets. I also wouldn’t be surprised if ‘it works’ – as it’s something different, so attracts the eye, therefore my increase CTR. Never mentioned a penalty, just wasn’t aware of the tactic.

        Hope that’s clearer.

        • http://www.thefrontenddeveloper.com/ Alan Chavez

          Back in the days of hi5 and myspace, title tags with special characters were ultra common… and they still are very common in SERPs including pages managed by teenagers… I seriously doubt that a serious company would put hearts in their title description, unless it’s very strategic and seasonal (valentine’s day)

          • http://www.summitweb.net/seo-inverness-scotland.html Martin Oxby

            Well there you go, I learned something new :)

  • http://www.summitweb.net/seo-inverness-scotland.html Martin Oxby

    Good reminder of some common SEO questions, which *still* abound, especially with people not in SEO. The new one for me was ‘the weird characters’ question – never seen those in UK SERPs – think people need to consider the appropriateness of the technique before the effectiveness of the technique in any tactic – and maybe some of these questions show that’s not always the case.

    • http://www.cotswoldco.com/ Chris Gedge

      They didn’t actually say you can get penalised for using characters that stand out in your description tags. It works.

      • http://www.summitweb.net/seo-inverness-scotland.html Martin Oxby

        I don’t think I said anything about being ‘penalised’ at all in my comment. I just wasn’t aware it was a tactic as I’ve not seen it in our, or our clients’ competitors SERPs snippets. I also wouldn’t be surprised if ‘it works’ – as it’s something different, so attracts the eye, therefore my increase CTR. Never mentioned a penalty, just wasn’t aware of the tactic.

        Hope that’s clearer.

        • http://www.thefrontenddeveloper.com/ Alan Chavez

          Back in the days of hi5 and myspace, title tags with special characters were ultra common… and they still are very common in SERPs including pages managed by teenagers… I seriously doubt that a serious company would put hearts in their title description, unless it’s very strategic and seasonal (valentine’s day)

          • http://www.summitweb.net/seo-inverness-scotland.html Martin Oxby

            Well there you go, I learned something new :)

  • Remi van Beekum

    I stopped reading at the second myth, because that’s just bullshit. I’ve seen big sites get away with heavy spam way too often. Sometimes they had been spamming for two years, got a penalty for two days, and had a big laugh at their smaller competitors because they had been stealing their traffic for 728 days. And only paid two days of traffic in return.

    So if these ex-googlers lie about that, why should I read the rest of the myths?

    What these guys are doing is linkbuilding and sales. They are marketeers themselves now. And they know that they get a lot of exposure by telling “we are ex-googlers so we know how SEO works, please buy our services”.

    And they are right to do so. But we, as readers, should be careful because not everything they say is true.

    • Kaspar Szymanski

      Hello Remi,

      Thanks for addressing this very common myth. From all we have seen working at Google, large and small sites do get the same treatment. And we have seen a lot :-)

      It is important to keep in mind that where a bigger site, compared to a smaller site, may indeed have an advantage is the manpower they can put into cleaning up any Google Webmaster Guideline violations or technical issues which can help them to recover quicker. But that does not reflect on how Google treats each reconsideration request equally.

      Regarding your other point, I’m not sure what you mean by saying “Only paid two days of traffic in return.” However I want to emphasize that no one is stealing traffic from anyone because no particular site is entitled to any amounts of incoming traffic from search engines or rankings in the first place.

  • Remi van Beekum

    I stopped reading at the second myth, because that’s just bullshit. I’ve seen big sites get away with heavy spam way too often. Sometimes they had been spamming for two years, got a penalty for two days, and had a big laugh at their smaller competitors because they had been stealing their traffic for 728 days. And only paid two days of traffic in return.

    So if these ex-googlers lie about that, why should I read the rest of the myths?

    What these guys are doing is linkbuilding and sales. They are marketeers themselves now. And they know that they get a lot of exposure by telling “we are ex-googlers so we know how SEO works, please buy our services”.

    And they are right to do so. But we, as readers, should be careful because not everything they say is true.

    • Kaspar Szymanski

      Hello Remi,

      Thanks for addressing this very common myth. From all we have seen working at Google, large and small sites do get the same treatment. And we have seen a lot :-)

      It is important to keep in mind that where a bigger site, compared to a smaller site, may indeed have an advantage is the manpower they can put into cleaning up any Google Webmaster Guideline violations or technical issues which can help them to recover quicker. But that does not reflect on how Google treats each reconsideration request equally.

      Regarding your other point, I’m not sure what you mean by saying “Only paid two days of traffic in return.” However I want to emphasize that no one is stealing traffic from anyone because no particular site is entitled to any amounts of incoming traffic from search engines or rankings in the first place.

      • Remi van Beekum

        Hi Kaspar,

        An example from my experience. I was responsible for SEO for a website that was maybe one or two years old, but that was backed up by a large publisher in The Netherlands so they did grow very fast and build a good site, with good content and only “white-hat” SEO. Links grew naturally because they were newsworthy and did a good job.

        The market-leader at the time, had in fact no competition, (we were the first serious one) and didn’t do any SEO. They were very lazy, because they didn’t have any competition for years, so their design was old, they still used frames when every other big site got rid of them years ago and so on.

        But since we did a good job on the website I worked for. We started winning good positions in Google.

        Then they woke up. But they didn’t know what to do so they started spamming. They stuffed the noframes (ok, this example is a few years back) with auto generated list linking to lists, linking to lists, linking to autoganereted pages with searches people had been doing on their site. This structure was literally millions of pages big. They just logged every internal search, runimated their content and vomit out as much pages of rubbish as they could.

        And Google loved it!

        They were the number 1 result on millions of keywords, only to redirect people back to the homepage (they didn’t get the noframes-breakout-script working the poor beggars).

        That way they stole traffic from their competitors. You said no one is “entitled to any traffic”. That seems true from Google’s point of view. But it is rubbish when you do clean SEO for a client and some other websites spams it’s way to the top. I call that stealing. Not only traffic, but in the end also sales.

        And to sum up: They did this for about two years. I (and some others) did a lot of spam reports. I saw Matt Cutts preach “generally as a rule we don’t like search results in our search results”. I did more spam reports. I e-mailed Matt. I e-mailed some Google guys in The Netherlands and so on. But they just didn’t get a penalty.

        That way they stole traffic from all of their competitors for two years. That probably earned them tens of thousands of Euro’s, maybe even hundreds of thousands. And in the progress, their upcoming competitors didn’t have a fair chance to gain marketshare.

        In the end, they got a penalty/ban for 2 days. So they were not in Google for 2 days and that probably cost them a few hundred euro’s (that’s why I said they “paid two days of traffic”).

        Now anyone can do the math. Spamming just pays out for the big sites. A big brand can steal traffic (and sales) from smaller competitors for a long time. The only risk is a small penalty for a few days. Then some marketer doing a lot of adwords spend calls their Google accountmanagers and says “some nerd in the It department f#cked up, we’re sorry, can you put is back in Google?”. And one or two days later they are back in.

        I even heard some Google explain why they do so. He said “Normal people don’t know and care about SEO. And they just expect the big brand on top. So if we give the big brand a penalty, people think Google is broken and go to another search engine. Therefore, we put the big brand back in fast.”

        And I even think he had a fair point. People expect the big brand there and don’t care about spam. But it still is unfair and it still proves the myth to be a fact.

        • Kaspar Szymanski

          Hi Remi,

          thanks for sharing the example. I’m not familiar with the case you’re referring to. That said, there are two important things to remember:

          1. Google has a nuanced spam policy. There’s a number of manual spam actions that can be taken but they may not be necessarily all as visible to the user as a removal would be. Bottom line, as a user or competitor you have a very hard time verifying if a site has been penalized or not.

          2. Have Googlers from other departments like AdWords tried to reach out to Search Quality folks because their clients got themselves into trouble? Of course they tried. Did that have any impact on reconsideration requests submitted or manual penalties resolved? Absolutely not. This is another common myth we also address in our post. The Search Quality team is completely separated from other departments within Google. I’m afraid anyone who tells you different mistakes coincidence with correlation.

          I hope this helps to bust this myth :)

          • Remi van Beekum

            Kaspar,

            Do you think it is fair that any site can spam their way to the top, get away with is for a looong time, get a lot of traffic that shouldn’t go to them, and then only get a penalty or ban that accounts for a few percentages of the unfairly gained traffic?

  • Julian Hearn

    I lost faith in their answers after they said this “Myth: High authority sites are free to try more shady optimization techniques; right or wrong? Answer: Wrong. Based on our experience in Google Search Quality every site gets the same treatment.” There has been numerous cases of big sites getting lenient treatment from google, e.g. BMW and Interflora – who did massive link spamming, got banned, but we ranking again within 2 weeks. Also look at the link profile of moneysupermarket.com – all their top links are paid for and use keyword rich anchor text e.g. “credit card” “loans” etc. But they rank incredibly well an have done for years. Too big not to be in google’s index?

    • Fili Wiese

      Hello Julian,

      Thank you for reading. Just to asnwer a few of your points raised:

      1) Yes, each site gets the same treatment in our experience. Just because a larger site has more resources to tackle a potential penalty, and therefor gets it resolved quicker than maybe a smaller site, does not mean that they get special treatment from the Google Search Quality team.

      2) Regarding the example you mentioned, as an ex-Googler I don’t have access to the internal tools anymore. But just because your example has some optimized rich anchor text does not mean that those links with optimized anchor texts actually count towards the visibility. It could even work against them through the algoritms (think Penguin) where low quality and optimized anchor text actually can gets you lower visibility. In short: if you have good examples of spam, be sure to report it to the Search Quality team through Google Webmaster Tools and they will have a look at how big the impact really is and tackle it if needed (no matter how big the site is).

      Hope this clarifies our answer :)

      Fili

      • Julian Hearn

        HI Fili, thanks for taking the time to respond. In the interflora case which is well publicised. They were know to have link spammed on a massive scale, up to 70% of their links were classed a toxic by Chris Cemper. Do you think that within 2 weeks, they contacted all those site owners, got them to take their links down, submitted a reconsideration request, and google read it and removed the penalty. It takes 2 to 6 weeks just for google to read a reconsideration request! All that work is simply not possible. Interflora is massive brand and clearly got preferential treatment. They are ranking just fine now, e.g. 1st for “buy flowers” etc. That is one heck of a recovery.

  • http://bloggersideas.com/ jitendra vaswani

    Google sometimes shows spam results on top

    • Fili Wiese

      Hello Jitendra,

      Unfortunately that happens sometimes and I hate it too. Whenever I see it I use the spam report Chrome extension to report it :)

      Thanks for reading,

      Fili

      • http://bloggersideas.com/ jitendra vaswani

        Hi Fili Thnx for replying, Add me on g+ please

        • Fili Wiese

          Would love too, but please first circle me so I can see your profile in the notifications :)

          • http://bloggersideas.com/ jitendra vaswani

            I have done Please add me too

  • http://bloggersideas.com/ jitendra vaswani

    Google sometimes shows spam results on top

    • Fili Wiese

      Hello Jitendra,

      Unfortunately that happens sometimes and I hate it too. Whenever I see it I use the spam report Chrome extension to report it :)

      Thanks for reading,

      Fili

      • http://bloggersideas.com/ jitendra vaswani

        Hi Fili Thnx for replying, Add me on g+ please

        • Fili Wiese

          Would love too, but please first circle me so I can see your profile in the notifications :)

          • http://bloggersideas.com/ jitendra vaswani

            I have done Please add me too

  • http://www.cotswoldco.com/ Chris Gedge

    This just looks like Google propaganda to me. Are you sure they are EX employees?! Sounds exactly like something that would come out of a corporate manual (or Matt Cutts face)

    • Kaspar Szymanski

      Thanks for reading Chris! Can you elaborate please? I’d love to hear more. To answer your question, yes, we are all former Google guys :) You can find my and Fili’s “I left Google”-notes online, just Google for them :)

      • Do No Evil

        I think what Chris means is that Goebbels himself would be proud of this ‘info’.

  • Chris Gedge

    This just looks like Google propaganda to me. Are you sure they are EX employees?!

    • Kaspar Szymanski

      Thanks for reading Chris! Can you elaborate please? I’d love to hear more. To answer your question, yes, we are all former Google guys :) You can find my and Fili’s “I left Google”-notes online, just Google for them :)

      • Do No Evil

        I think what Chris means is that Goebbels himself would be proud of this ‘info’.

  • igl00

    Kaspar Szymanski is a worker of Google – not EX one so that is why article is pure propaganda ;)

    • Kaspar Szymanski

      igl00, if you Google my name along with ‘leaving Google’ you’ll likely come across my farewell note :)

      • igl00

        okay then ;) whats o nthe plate now if its not a secret?

  • igl00

    Kaspar Szymanski is a worker of Google – not EX one so that is why article is pure propaganda ;)

    • Kaspar Szymanski

      igl00, if you Google my name along with ‘leaving Google’ you’ll likely come across my farewell note :)

      • igl00

        okay then ;) whats o nthe plate now if its not a secret?

  • http://salvatorecapolupo.it/ Salvatore Capolupo

    I agree that big websites get faster improvements (i.e. when they get penalties) because they usually have more resources to spend, and this proves – in my opinion – that the simplest explanation about many controversial SEO discussions is often the best.

    My further question would be: is every quality rater usually expert in every single topic, i.e. a guy about hosting and IT, some other person for evaluating SERPs about e-commerce and products and so on? My dubt here is that many low rankings could depend also on wrong evaluations of the results…

    • Fili Wiese

      Hi Salvatore,

      Regaridng your question: the quality raters are not a part of the team we’ve been working for. This might be an interesting question for one of Matt’s upcoming videos

  • http://salvatorecapolupo.it/ Salvatore Capolupo

    I agree that big websites get faster improvements (i.e. when they get penalties) because they usually have more resources to spend, and this proves – in my opinion – that the simplest explanation about many controversial SEO discussions is often the best.

    My further question would be: is every quality rater usually expert in every single topic, i.e. a guy about hosting and IT, some other person for evaluating SERPs about e-commerce and products and so on? My dubt here is that many low rankings could depend also on wrong evaluations of the results…

    • Fili Wiese

      Hi Salvatore,

      Regaridng your question: the quality raters are not a part of the team we’ve been working for. This might be an interesting question for one of Matt’s upcoming videos

  • TomSchmitz

    These are the same questions asked and answered at countless conferences and in numerous articles. Might as well put a big “Beginner Level” badge at the front of it.

    • Fili Wiese

      Hi Tom,

      Thanks for reading! I totally agree with you! Which is why education and myth busting is an ongoing process

    • Arnie Kuenn

      Hey Tom – I agree with you when it comes to search conferences, but I speak at lots of other conferences and I am still shocked at how much education still needs to be done about search. I actually feel sorry for the average business – there is just so much to learn and they are generally clueless. So I think putting this info out there, even at the risk of being too basic for some, is still a worthwhile endeavor.

      – Arnie

  • TomSchmitz

    These are the same questions asked and answered at countless conferences and in numerous articles. Might as well put a big “Beginner Level” badge at the front of it.

    • Fili Wiese

      Hi Tom,

      Thanks for reading! I totally agree with you! Which is why education and myth busting is an ongoing process

    • Arnie Kuenn

      Hey Tom – I agree with you when it comes to search conferences, but I speak at lots of other conferences and I am still shocked at how much education still needs to be done about search. I actually feel sorry for the average business – there is just so much to learn and they are generally clueless. So I think putting this info out there, even at the risk of being too basic for some, is still a worthwhile endeavor.

      – Arnie

  • Wiep

    “Myth: Internal links anchor text; important or not?

    Answer: Yes, internal linking is important.”

    That one was dodged nicely :)

    • Jessica Rowe

      We’ve had internal discussions about anchor text and would appreciate knowing if is still relevant or not.

      • http://bloggersideas.com/ jitendra vaswani

        Exact match anchor text is not valuable, we have to use different combination of keywords.

    • http://kercommunications.com/ Nick Ker

      How is “Yes… this is what you should optimize for” a dodge? Were you expecting an exact number of internal links you should use or something?

      • Wiep

        The question was not about internal links, but about internal link anchor text.

        • http://kercommunications.com/ Nick Ker

          And anchor text would be part of optimizing those internal links, wouldn’t it?

  • Wiep

    “Myth: Internal links anchor text; important or not?

    Answer: Yes, internal linking is important.”

    That one was dodged nicely :)

    • Jessica Rowe

      We’ve had internal discussions about anchor text and would appreciate knowing if is still relevant or not.

      • http://bloggersideas.com/ jitendra vaswani

        Exact match anchor text is not valuable, we have to use different combination of keywords.

    • http://kercommunications.com/ Nick Ker

      How is “Yes… this is what you should optimize for” a dodge? Were you expecting an exact number of internal links you should use or something?

      • Wiep

        The question was not about internal links, but about internal link anchor text.

        • http://kercommunications.com/ Nick Ker

          And anchor text would be part of optimizing those internal links, wouldn’t it?

  • Evan Hall

    These are really safe questions and answers that use the same weasel language Cutts uses.

    >Myth: Big sites get preferential treatment when it comes to reconsideration requests.
    >Answer: No.

    What about JC Penny, Overstock, Search Engine Roundtable, etc? There are documented cases of Google giving preferential treatment and support to well-connected and important brands.

    The spirit of the question is “Do well-connected brands have an easier time getting their manual actions revoked?” The answer is yes. They have an insider they can call and get the critical information that should be in the GWT manual action tool, but isn’t available for the masses. Every domain is subject to the same criteria, but big sites get the straight dope on how to be compliant, and everyone else gets the useless canned response.

    • Kaspar Szymanski

      Hi Evan,

      I’ve been an official Google guide on the webmaster help forum for a long time. You can trust me when I say the advice shared there is anything but canned responses. I’ve personally investigated tons of escalations and together with an amazing group of top contributors shared countless solutions. I’d like to think they were all applied but in the end it’s up to the webmaster to solve the issue :)

      There’s also another escalation channel via Google Hangouts, you may like. It’s called Google Webmaster Office Hours. Highly recommended :)

  • Evan Hall

    These are really safe questions and answers that use the same weasel language Cutts uses.

    >Myth: Big sites get preferential treatment when it comes to reconsideration requests.
    >Answer: No.

    What about JC Penny, Overstock, Search Engine Roundtable, etc? There are documented cases of Google giving preferential treatment and support to well-connected and important brands.

    The spirit of the question is “Do well-connected brands have an easier time getting their manual actions revoked?” The answer is yes. They have an insider they can call and get the critical information that should be in the GWT manual action tool, but isn’t available for the masses. Every domain is subject to the same criteria, but big sites get the straight dope on how to be compliant, and everyone else gets the useless canned response.

    • Kaspar Szymanski

      Hi Evan,

      I’ve been an official Google guide on the webmaster help forum for a long time. You can trust me when I say the advice shared there is anything but canned responses. I’ve personally investigated tons of escalations and together with an amazing group of top contributors shared countless solutions. I’d like to think they were all applied but in the end it’s up to the webmaster to solve the issue :)

      There’s also another escalation channel via Google Hangouts, you may like. It’s called Google Webmaster Office Hours. Highly recommended :)

  • Slava Rybalka

    For any person not familiar with SEO this article can become a great starting point.

  • Slava Rybalka

    For any person not familiar with SEO this article can become a great starting point.

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  • Fili Wiese

    Hello Julian,

    Thank you for reading. Just to asnwer a few of your points raised:

    1) Yes, each site gets the same treatment in our experience. Just because a larger site has more resources to tackle a potential penalty, and therefor gets it resolved quicker than maybe a smaller site, does not mean that they get special treatment from the Google Search Quality team.

    2) Regarding the example you mentioned, as an ex-Googler I don’t have access to the internal tools anymore. But just because your example has some optimized rich anchor text does not mean that those links with optimized anchor texts actually count towards the visibility. It could even work against them through the algoritms (think Penguin) where low quality and optimized anchor text actually can gets you lower visibility. In short: if you have good examples of spam, be sure to report it to the Search Quality team through Google Webmaster Tools and they will have a look at how big the impact really is and tackle it if needed (no matter how big the site is).

    Hope this clarifies our answer :)

    Fili

    • Julian Hearn

      HI Fili, thanks for taking the time to respond. In the interflora case which is well publicised. They were know to have link spammed on a massive scale, up to 70% of their links were classed a toxic by Chris Cemper. Do you think that within 2 weeks, they contacted all those site owners, got them to take their links down, submitted a reconsideration request, and google read it and removed the penalty. It takes 2 to 6 weeks just for google to read a reconsideration request! All that work is simply not possible. Interflora is massive brand and clearly got preferential treatment. They are ranking just fine now, e.g. 1st for “buy flowers” etc. That is one heck of a recovery.

  • Kaspar Szymanski

    Hi Remi,

    thanks for sharing the example. I’m not familiar with the case you’re referring to. That said, there are two important things to remember:

    1. Google has a nuanced spam policy. There’s a number of manual spam actions that can be taken but they may not be necessarily all as visible to the user as a removal would be. Bottom line, as a user or competitor you have a very hard time verifying if a site has been penalized or not.

    2. Have Googlers from other departments like AdWords tried to reach out to Search Quality folks because their clients got themselves into trouble? Of course they tried. Did that have any impact on reconsideration requests submitted or manual penalties resolved? Absolutely not. This is another common myth we also address in our post. The Search Quality team is completely separated from other departments within Google. I’m afraid anyone who tells you different mistakes coincidence with correlation.

    I hope this helps to bust this myth :)

    • Remi van Beekum

      Kaspar,

      Do you think it is fair that any site can spam their way to the top, get away with is for a looong time, get a lot of traffic that shouldn’t go to them, and then only get a penalty or ban that accounts for a few percentages of the unfairly gained traffic?

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  • masshistory

    Can’t see how these fellows could’ve been more succinct and still made sense to anyone unfamiliar with SEO. This’d be a great little article to print out and have on hand with a collection of others to illuminate the edges of what you do for your hands-off clientele, since most likely, all they know on the subject are rumors and/or what they see on TV in those dreaded websites-for-a-hundred-bucks commercials and you’ll need some kind of language to meet up with them at. How would you recommend explaining, in an interview, a living and breathing thing and all of it’s variables? Then there’s the question of human efficiency – from a general awareness of sociological patterns, the resourcefulness of the individual to levels of intellectual capacity to consider. And there’s time and competition to consider also. There’s no one way to give IT all away in one idea or make it all perfect for universal understanding is there? If so, as an SEO beginner, I’d benefit a GREAT DEAL from THAT interview – where is it? Hahahahahaha! Thanks Google-guys – if any of you are ever looking for sites to serve as test-models for your SEO ideas ADD ME TO YOUR CIRCLES!!! I’ll take your free advice any day! (james@mindlitmedia.com)

  • masshistory

    Can’t see how these fellows could’ve been more succinct and still made sense to anyone unfamiliar with SEO. This’d be a great little article to print out and have on hand with a collection of others to illuminate the edges of what you do for your hands-off clientele, since most likely, all they know on the subject are rumors and/or what they see on TV in those dreaded websites-for-a-hundred-bucks commercials and you’ll need some kind of language to meet up with them at. How would you recommend explaining, in an interview, a living and breathing thing and all of it’s variables? Then there’s the question of human efficiency – from a general awareness of sociological patterns, the resourcefulness of the individual to levels of intellectual capacity to consider. And there’s time and competition to consider also. There’s no one way to give IT all away in one idea or make it all perfect for universal understanding is there? If so, as an SEO beginner, I’d benefit a GREAT DEAL from THAT interview – where is it? Hahahahahaha! Thanks Google-guys – if any of you are ever looking for sites to serve as test-models for your SEO ideas ADD ME TO YOUR CIRCLES!!! I’ll take your free advice any day! (james@mindlitmedia.com)

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  • Spook SEO

    Wow! Kaspar looks kinda like Liam Neeson and Fili looks like Sal of impractical Jokers.

    Thank you guys for sharing your thoughts on the topic. Glad to hearing from Ex-Googlers. It adds more credibility to it.

  • Spook SEO

    Wow! Kaspar looks kinda like Liam Neeson and Fili looks like Sal of impractical Jokers.

    Thank you guys for sharing your thoughts on the topic. Glad to hearing from Ex-Googlers. It adds more credibility to it.

  • http://codeangry.com/ Claude “CodeAngry” Adrian

    Expecting shocking revelations from NAMED (not anonymous) ex-Google employees is childish. They probably have the NDAs in place to ensure they and their families will work for the rest of their natural lives just to payback Google if they did spilled the beans, even after an early (more/less natural) Google departure.
    So… nothing here just a fancy title and truisms for anyone that has been dealing with SEO for over 1 month. Looking forward to more ‘MTYH-BUSTING’ and big statements… but small in actual value.
    Fluff… 90% of the internet today is fluff and… quantity.

    • Corporação Ideias

      do something too

  • http://codeangry.com/ Claude “CodeAngry” Adrian

    Expecting shocking revelations from NAMED (not anonymous) ex-Google employees is childish. They probably have the NDAs in place to ensure they and their families will work for the rest of their natural lives just to payback Google if they did spilled the beans, even after an early (more/less natural) Google departure.
    So… nothing here just a fancy title and truisms for anyone that has been dealing with SEO for over 1 month. Looking forward to more ‘MTYH-BUSTING’ and big statements… but small in actual value.
    Fluff… 90% of the internet today is fluff and… quantity.

    • Corporação Ideias

      do something too

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  • http://www.szymonslowik.pl/ Szymon Slowik

    It “sounds” like these guys were still current Google employees :) nothing surprising.

    • Tomek

      Umowa o poufności na lata łosiu.

      • http://www.szymonslowik.pl/ Szymon Slowik

        Domyślam się – przecież napisałem “nothing surprising”, dodałem uśmiech. Whatever, sam jesteś łoś.

  • http://www.szymonslowik.pl/ Szymon Slowik

    It “sounds” like these guys were still current Google employees :) nothing surprising.

    • Tomek

      Umowa o poufności na lata łosiu.

      • http://www.szymonslowik.pl/ Szymon Slowik

        Domyślam się – przecież napisałem “nothing surprising”, dodałem uśmiech. Whatever, sam jesteś łoś.

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  • Nikolai Lacson

    Finally good to see an article from an insider from Google besides Matt Cutts. Great article, Kaspar. Definitely bookmarked this one. :)

  • Nikolai Lacson

    Finally good to see an article from an insider from Google besides Matt Cutts. Great article, Kaspar. Definitely bookmarked this one. :)

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  • Darren

    Very interesting to get an inside perspective! Now that Google has rolled out recent interface changes like (http://www.chatmeter.com/google-local-changes-requiring-greater-review-management/) and launched Hummingbird (http://www.chatmeter.com/is-hummingbird-flying-google-into-the-future-of-local-seo/), it will be exciting to see how the changes continue to affect local search.

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