Apr 27 2012

Here’s What Matt Cutts Says to Sites That Have Been Hacked

Google’s head of Webspam, Matt Cutts, has been in the news a lot this week, thanks to Google’s big webspam update, which has become officially known as the Penguin update . As Cutts says, Google has to deal with more types of spam than just the black hat SEO tactics, which the update targets. They also have to deal with sites who have been hacked. It’s not uncommon to stumble across compromised sites in Google’s search results. In fact, we saw a few with the “This site may be compromised” tag on the SERP for “viagra” this week, when we were analyzing the effects of the Penguin update. While Google addressed some issues with that SERP (viagra.com is ranking at the top again), there are still some compromised results on the page, even today. On his personal blog, Cutts posted an example email of what he tells site owners who have sites that Google has identified as hacked. The email (minus identifying details) says: Hi xxxxxxx, I’m the head of Google’s webspam team. Unfortunately, example.com really has been hacked by people trying to sell pills. I’m attaching an image to show the page that we’re seeing. We don’t have the resources to give full 1:1 help to every hacked website (thousands of websites get hacked every day–we’d spend all day trying to help websites clean up instead of doing our regular work), so you’ll have to consult with the tech person for your website. However, we do provide advice and resources to help clean up hacked websites, for example http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=163634 https://sites.google.com/site/webmasterhelpforum/en/faq-malware-and-hacked-sites http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2008/04/my-sites-been-hacked-now-what.html http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2007/09/quick-security-checklist-for-webmasters.html http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2009/02/best-practices-against-hacking.html We also provide additional assistance for hacked sites in our webmaster support forum at https://groups.google.com/a/googleproductforums.com/forum/#!forum/webmasters  . I hope that helps. Regards, Matt Cutts P.S. If you visit a page like http://www.example.com/deep-url-path/ and don’t see the pill links, that means the hackers are being extra-sneaky and only showing the spammy pill links to Google. We provide a free tool for that situation as well. It’s called “Fetch as Googlebot” and it lets you send Google to your website and will show you exactly what we see. I would recommend this blog post http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2009/11/generic-cialis-on-my-website-i-think-my.html  describing how to use that tool, because your situation looks quite similar. Cutts says the best advice he can give to site owners is to keep their web server softare up to date and fully patched. If you want Google’s advice on the other kind of spam, read this .

Apr 27 2012

Google Penguin Update Gets Fresh Losers List From Searchmetrics

Earlier this week, Searchmetrics put out lists of winners and losers from Google’s Penguin update (when it was still called the Webspam update ). After the lists were released, Google’s Matt Cutts spoke out about them , saying that they were inaccurate, because there had also been a Panda update, and that the lists were likely more indicative of that. Searchmetrics has now updated the lists, acknowledging what Cutts had to say. “I took nearly a huge set of keywords from short-head to medium and low search volume and looked at the current rankings from position 1 to 100 and compared the rankings to April 20th,” Searchmetrics Founder Marcus Tober writes. “In the data were also some glitches from the Panda 3.5 update which was going live from April 19th to 20th, Matt Cutts mentioned. But overall you see a trend of those domains which really lost visibility within the Google Penguin update.” “A lot of these losers are database-driven websites – they mainly aggregate information and use large database systems to create as many pages as possible. Sites such as songlyrics.com, cubestat.com, lotsofjokes.com or merchandtcircle.com fall into this pattern. It makes sense that these sites will lose visibility,” says Tober. “Press portals and feed aggregators such as pressabout.us, newsalloy.com and bloglines.com were also affected, which makes sense from a Google point of view since these are the website types that are very often created by very aggressive (possibly overly aggressive) SEOs and often contain similar content.” He notes that ticketnetwork.com and ticketcity.com fit the bill of Google’s efforts with automatic, and possibly spun content. If you need to know exactly how to avoid getting caught by Google’s Penguin update, I’d start with the tips they give you . If you think you were unfairly hit by it, you can let Google know with a new form they’re providing. Image: Batman Returns From Warner Bros.

Apr 26 2012

Google Penguin Update: The New Name For The WebSpam Update

Here we go. Get ready for a barrage of Penguin articles to complement the Panda articles, just as the Penguin update complements the Panda update in bringing quality to Google’s search results (or at least trying to). Yes, the Webspam Update has now been named the Penguin Update, reportedly. According to Danny Sullivan, whose word is pretty credible within the search industry, Google has officially named the Webspam Update the Penguin update. Sullivan had previously reported that Google’s Matt Cutts specifically called it the Webspam algorithm update, but has now altered his article , saying Google is officially calling it the Penguin update. Matt Cutts tweeted this Instagram photo (why no Google+?) which would seem to confirm the name: At least it will be easier to find stock images of penguins (as opposed to webspam) for future articles. And it’s better than the “ viagra update ” (arguably). More coverage on the algorithm (and not the silly name) here: Webspam And Panda Updates: Does SEO Still Matter? Google Webspam Algorithm Update Draws Mixed Reviews From Users Google Webspam Update: Where’s The Viagra? [Updated] Google Webspam Update: “Make Money Online” Query Yields Less Than Quality Result Google Webspam Update: Losers & Winners, According To Searchmetrics [Updated] How Much Of Google’s Webspam Efforts Come From These Patents? Google Panda Update: Data Refresh Hit Last Week

Apr 25 2012

Matt Cutts Talks About How Google Handles Ajax

Google’s Matt Cutts put up a new Webmaster Help video, discussing how Google deals with Ajax. He takes on the following user-submitted question: How effective is Google now at handling content supplied via Ajax, is this likely to improve in the future? “Well, let me take Ajax, which is Asynchronous Javascript, and make it just Javascript for the time being,” says Cutts. “Google is getting more effective over time, so we actually have the ability not just to scan in strings of Javascript to look for URLs, but to actually process some of the Javascript. And so that can help us improve our crawl coverage quite a bit, especially if people use Javascript to help with navigation or drop-downs or those kinds of things. So Asynchronous Javascript is a little bit more complicated, and that’s maybe further down the road, but the common case is Javascript.” “And we’re getting better, and we’re continuing to improve how well we’re able to process Javascript,” he continues. “In fact, let me just take a little bit of time and mention, if you block Javascript or CSS in your robots.txt, where Googlebot can’t crawl it, I would change that. I would recommend making it so that Googlebot can crawl the Javascript and can crawl the CSS, because that makes it a lot easier for us to figure out what’s going on if we’re processing the Javascript or if we’re seeing and able to process and get a better idea of what the page is like.” As a matter of fact, Cutts actually put out a separate video about this last month, in which he said, “If you block Googlebot from crawling javascript or CSS, please take a few minutes and take that out of the robots.txt and let us crawl the javascript. Let us crawl the CSS, and get a better idea of what’s going on on the page.” “So I absolutely would recommend trying to check through your robots.txt, and if you have disallow slash Javascript, or star JS, or star CS, go ahead and remove that, because that helps Googlebot get a better idea of what’s going on on the page,” he reiterates in the new video. In another new video , Cutts talks about why Google won’t remove pages from its index at your request.

Apr 25 2012

Google: We Don’t Have The Resources To Investigate Page Removal Requests

Google’s Matt Cutts put out a new Webmaster Help video. It’s one of those where he answers his own question (as opposed to a user-submitted one), so you know it’s something Google deals with all the time. The question: There’s a page about me on the web that I don’t like. Will Google remove the page from its search results? Why or why not? In short, Google will not remove a page just because it says something about you that you don’t like. This isn’t really news. In fact, Cutts even references a blog post he wrote about it back in 2009 . However, such requests are clearly still something Google has to deal with on a regular basis, hence this video. “In general, when you come to Google, and you say I don’t like this page, if it’s under your control, we’re happy to have you remove it,” says Cutts. “But if it’s under somebody else’s control, that can be a little bit more of a delicate situation. Because if there’s a he said, she said situation, and we don’t know who’s right, it can be a little bit risky for us to try to just pick sides arbitrarily. We don’t really have the resources to investigate all the different people who come to us and say I’m right. This person’s wrong, and this page should go away.” I’m not sure Google doesn’t have the resources. According to its most recent earnings report , the company employed 33,077 full-time employees as of March 31, 2012 (up from 32,467 at the end of last year). But clearly, Google would rather have these resources focused on other things. That said, I can’t say I disagree with their approach. “And if you think about it, in cyberspace, there’s many of the same laws that apply,” Cutts says. “So if somebody has libeled you, if they’re saying something that is factually, completely wrong, or if there’s some fraud going on, you can take that person to court. And there’s even ways that are shy of taking them to court, like sending a cease-and-desist letter. So there are other avenues available to you than coming to Google. And if you just come to Google, and you get something removed from Google, that doesn’t take it off of the web. It only removes it from our index. So people could still find it on Twitter. They could still find it on Facebook. They could navigate directly to it. They can find it in other search engines. So just removing a piece of content from Google’s index doesn’t remove it from the web. It doesn’t keep people from finding it. ” Yes, the web does still exist without Google, which is kind of Google’s point with all of the antitrust stuff . “Competition is always a click away,” as the company likes to say. “So think about some of the situations,” Cutts continues. “If there’s something that’s just egregiously wrong, hopefully the webmaster will listen to reason or listen to a threat of legal action and take it down. And then everybody’s happy. Now, if it’s something like a newspaper, where it’s factually accurate, and you don’t like it, there may not be that much that you can do about that. In that sense, Google is trying to reflect the web. We’re trying to show the web as it is, almost like a mirror. And so if something’s true, if you were convicted of a crime or something like that, and it ranks for your name naturally, that’s not the sort of thing that we would typically take action on.” Cutts goes onto talk about how you should be managing your online reputation. “If something happened 10 years ago, and you’ve got a lot of fresh new content, that can often outrank the stuff that’s a lot older,” he says. He’s certainly right about that. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had trouble finding specific older content in Google, as it’s buried under more recent content, particularly since Google launched its freshness update last year. And freshness continues to be a theme in Google’s monthly lists of algorithm updates.

Apr 25 2012

Google Webspam Algorithm Update Draws Mixed Reviews From Users

Google’s Matt Cutts has been talking about leveling the playing field for sites that don’t participate in “over-optimization”. Last month at SXSW, Cutts made something of a pre-announcement about such changes, and it looks like a major part of these efforts is now launching. According to Danny Sullivan , who spoke directly with Cutts, this is indeed the change Cutts was referring to at SXSW, but that Cutts admits “over-optimization” wasn’t he best way of putting it, because it’s really about webspam, and not white hat SEO techniques. Cutts himself announced a new algorithm change targeted at webpspam , which he describes as black hat techniques. “We see all sorts of webspam techniques every day, from keyword stuffing to link schemes that attempt to propel sites higher in rankings,” he says. Link schemes are actually something webmasters have been getting messages from Google about already. The company recently de-indexed paid blog/link networks , and notified webmasters about such links. “The change will decrease rankings for sites that we believe are violating Google’s existing quality guidelines,” says Cutts. “We’ve always targeted webspam in our rankings, and this algorithm represents another improvement in our efforts to reduce webspam and promote high quality content. While we can’t divulge specific signals because we don’t want to give people a way to game our search results and worsen the experience for users, our advice for webmasters is to focus on creating high quality sites that create a good user experience and employ white hat SEO methods instead of engaging in aggressive webspam tactics.” Google has kind of sent webmasters mixed signals about search engine optimization. They recently shared some SEO DOs and DON’Ts , specifically talking about some white hat things webmasters can do to help Google rank their content better. And Cutts’ point about not divulging specific signals so people can’t game search results is one the company has stood by for ages. But at the same time, Google does divulge algorithm changes it makes via monthly lists, which seem to dare webmasters to play to certain signals. That’s not to say they’re encouraging the kind of black hat stuff Cutts is talking about here, but doesn’t it kind of say, “Hey, these are some things we’re focusing on; perhaps you should be thinking about these things with your SEO strategy?” Isn’t that encouraging “gaming” to some extent, rather than just telling webmasters not to worry about it? Of course Google always says not to focus on any one signal, and just focus on making good, quality content. In fact, this new change (as in line with Cutts’ comments at SXSW) indicates that sites shouldn’t have to worry about SEO at all. “We want people doing white hat search engine optimization ( or even no search engine optimization at all ) to be free to focus on creating amazing, compelling web sites,” Cutts says. Emphasis added. As far as black hat SEO, it’s not as if this is some big change out of the blue. Algorithmically, it’s a change, but Google has always targeted this stuff. There’s a reason Cutts has been the head of webspam. Google has never been shy about penalizing sites violating its quality guidelines . Google even penalized its own Chrome site when some paid linking by the hands of a marketing agency was unearthed. If you’re engaging in SEO, and Google gets you on black hat tactics, you probably knew what you were doing. You probably knew it was in violation of Google’s guidelines. Of course, that’s assuming Google’s algorithm change does not make any errors. And what are the chances of that happening? Google will be the first to admit that “no algorithm is perfect.” As we saw with the Panda update , there were some sites hit hard, that possibly shouldn’t have been. So is that happening this time? It’s still early. As far as I can tell, the change hasn’t even finished rolling out. But there are plenty of people already commenting about it. Others are critical of Google’s search quality in general: From the comments on Cutts’ announcement: So far today’s search results are worse than they’ve been for the past month. On one search for a keyword phrase there’s a completely unrelated Wikipedia page, a random Twitter account for some company, and a page from an independent search engine from 1997 showing in the top 10 results. Yeah, that’s the kind of quality user experience we want to see. Way to knock it out of the park. well now more rubbish results appearing in search than before. more exact domain name match results and unrelated websites . Google failed once again. so many .info, .co unrelated domains ranked for respected queries. are you sure no mistake in this update? Surely, whatever these updates are doing, they are not right. Here’s just one example. A search for “ereader comparison chart” brings up “ereadercomparisonchart dot com” on 2nd page of results and it goes “Welcome! This domain was recently registered at namecheap.com. The domain owner may currently be creating a great site for..” While my site which provided true value to its readers is nowhere to be found. Please fix this. there is something wrong with this update . search “viagra” on Google.com 3 edu sites are showing in the first page . is it relevant? matt you failed . Search Google for a competitive term such as “new shoes” — look who’s #1: Interpretive Simulations – NewShoes – (Intro to Marketing, Marketing Principles). All competitive terms have some youtube videos on the top which aren’t of any good quality even. This is not what is expected of google. Please revert. These are results have to be a complete joke, so much unrelated content is now surfaced to the top it’s sickening. That’s just a sampling. There’s more in other forums, of course, such as WebmasterWorld . There is some more talk about exact match domains being hit. User Whitey says: News just in to me that a large network of destination related exact match domains [ probably 1000+], including many premium ones [ probably 50+], ultra optimized with unique content and only average quality backlinks with perhaps overkill on exact match anchor text, has been hit. A few of the premium one’s have escaped. Not sure if the deeper long tail network which were exact match have been effected, but they would have had little traffic. The sites were built for pure ranking purposes, and although largely white hat, didn’t do much beyond what other sites in the category do. User Haseebnajam says: Ranking Increase = squidoo, blogspot, forums, subdomains Ranking Decrease = exact match domains, sites with lots of backlink from spun content sources User driller41 says: I am seeing changes in the UK today, most of my affiliate sites are down which is annoying – all are exact match domains btw. Most of the backlinks are from web2.0 sites with spun content in the downed sites. One interesting point is that one of the sites which I had built most links to is unafected – the only differnce between this and my downed sites is that I never got around to adding the affiliate outlinks to this website – so google does not know that this site is an affiliate and thus no punishment has been dished out. We’ll keep digging for more on the Google’s webmspam update. Update: More on that viagra thing . The new algorithm change is launching over the next few days, Cutts says, and it will impact 3.1% of queries in English, “to a degree that a regular user might notice.” It affects about 3% of queries in German, Chinese and Arabic, but in “more heavily-spammed languages,” he says. “For example, 5% of Polish queries change to a degree that a regular user might notice.”

Apr 23 2012

How Google Ranks Content, According To Matt Cutts

Google’s Matt Cutts has put out a new Webmaster Help video. This one is particularly interesting and nearly 8 minutes long – much longer than the norm. It goes fairly in depth about how Google crawls content and attempts to rank it based on relevancy. PageRank, you’ll find is still the key ingredient. He starts off by talking about how far Google has come in terms of crawling. When Cutts started at Google, they were only crawling every three or four months. “We basically take page rank as the primary determinant,” says Cutts. “And the more page rank you have– that is, the more people who link to you and the more reputable those people are– the more likely it is we’re going to discover your page relatively early in the crawl. In fact, you could imagine crawling in strict page rank order, and you’d get the CNNs of the world and The New York Times of the world and really very high page rank sites. And if you think about how things used to be, we used to crawl for 30 days. So we’d crawl for several weeks. And then we would index for about a week. And then we would push that data out. And that would take about a week.” He continues on with the history lesson, talking about the Google Dance, Update Fritz and things, and eventually gets to the present. “So at this point, we can get very, very fresh,” he says. “Any time we see updates, we can usually find them very quickly. And in the old days, you would have not just a main or a base index, but you could have what were called supplemental results, or the supplemental index. And that was something that we wouldn’t crawl and refresh quite as often. But it was a lot more documents. And so you could almost imagine having really fresh content, a layer of our main index, and then more documents that are not refreshed quite as often, but there’s a lot more of them.” Google continues to emphasize freshness , as we’ve seen in the company’s monthly lists of algorithm changes the last several months. “What you do then is you pass things around,” Cutts continues. “And you basically say, OK, I have crawled a large fraction of the web. And within that web you have, for example, one document. And indexing is basically taking things in word order. Well, let’s just work through an example. Suppose you say Katy Perry. In a document, Katy Perry appears right next to each other. But what you want in an index is which documents does the word Katy appear in, and which documents does the word Perry appear in? So you might say Katy appears in documents 1, and 2, and 89, and 555, and 789. And Perry might appear in documents number 2, and 8, and 73, and 555, and 1,000. And so the whole process of doing the index is reversing, so that instead of having the documents in word order, you have the words, and they have it in document order. So it’s, OK, these are all the documents that a word appears in.” “Now when someone comes to Google and they type in Katy Perry, you want to say, OK, what documents might match Katy Perry?” he continues. “Well, document one has Katy, but it doesn’t have Perry. So it’s out. Document number two has both Katy and Perry, so that’s a possibility. Document eight has Perry but not Katy. 89 and 73 are out because they don’t have the right combination of words. 555 has both Katy and Perry. And then these two are also out. And so when someone comes to Google and they type in Chicken Little, Britney Spears, Matt Cutts, Katy Perry, whatever it is, we find the documents that we believe have those words, either on the page or maybe in back links, in anchor text pointing to that document.” “Once you’ve done what’s called document selection, you try to figure out, how should you rank those?” he explains. “And that’s really tricky.We use page rank as well as over 200 other factors in our rankings to try to say, OK, maybe this document is really authoritative. It has a lot of reputation because it has a lot of page rank. But it only has the word Perry once. And it just happens to have the word Katy somewhere else on the page. Whereas here is a document that has the word Katy and Perry right next to each other, so there’s proximity. And it’s got a lot of reputation. It’s got a lot of links pointing to it.” He doesn’t really talk about Search Plus Your World , which is clearly influencing how users see content a great deal these days. And while he does talk about freshness he doesn’t really talk about how that seems to drive rankings either. Freshness is great, as far as Google’s ability to quickly crawl, but sometimes, it feels like how fresh something is, is getting a little too much weight in Google. Sometimes the more relevant content is older, and I’ve seen plenty of SERPs that lean towards freshness, making it particularly hard to find specific things I’m looking for. What do you think? “You want to find reputable documents that are also about what the user typed in,” continues Cutts in the video. “And that’s kind of the secret sauce, trying to figure out a way to combine those 200 different ranking signals in order to find the most relevant document. So at any given time, hundreds of millions of times a day, someone comes to Google. We try to find the closest data center to them.” “They type in something like Katy Perry,” he says . “We send that query out to hundreds of different machines all at once, which look through their little tiny fraction of the web that we’ve indexed. And we find, OK, these are the documents that we think best match. All those machines return their matches. And we say, OK, what’s the creme de la creme? What’s the needle in the haystack? What’s the best page that matches this query across our entire index? And then we take that page and we try to show it with a useful snippet. So you show the key words in the context of the document. And you get it all back in under half a second.” As Cutts notes in the intro to the video, he could talk for hours about all of this stuff. I’m sure you didn’t expect him to reveal Google’s 200 signals in the video, but it does provide an some interesting commentary from the inside on how Google is approaching ranking, even if it omits these signals as a whole. Google, as Cutts also recently explained, runs 20,000 search experiments a year .

Apr 20 2012

Google’s Matt Cutts Talks Phone Number Spam

If you have pages on your site where you cram a whole bunch of phone numbers onto a page, you may want to think twice, because Google will basically get you for keyword stuffing (which is of course, against Google’s quality guidelines ). Google’s head of webspam, Matt Cutts, brought up the subject in a post on Google+ . “I wanted to clarify a quick point: when people search for a phone number and land on a page like the one below, it’s not really useful and a bad user experience. Also, we do consider it to be keyword stuffing to put so many phone numbers on a page,” he said. “There are a few websites that provide value-add for some phone numbers, e.g. sites that let people discuss a specific phone number that keeps calling them over and over. But if a site stuffs a large number of numbers on its pages without substantial value-add, that can violate our guidelines, not to mention annoy users. Here’s the image he refers to: Cutts added in the comments section, that “these pages have always been considered violations of our guidelines as keywords stuffing – I just wanted to be especially clear so that we could point to explicit guidance we’ve given.” “Excellent. Now, if you can get Tom with Home Protection to stop robo-pitching us all 3 times a day, that would be superb!” Rob Beschizza said in the comments. To this, Cutts replied, “You might consider Google Voice to block robocallers. Newer Panasonic cordless phones also let you save a number as blocked.” In case you’re unfamiliar with Keyword Stuffing or Google’s exact wording, there is a page here that explains it , where it’s described as the practice of loading a page with keywords in an attempt to manipulate a site’s ranking.

Apr 17 2012

The Backlash on Sergey Brin’s Comments Begins

You didn’t really think that Sergey Brin was going to get away scot-free for those Guardian comments about how Apple and Facebook were guilty of obstructing open development of technology while Google was the true bastion of creativity and liberty on the internet, did you? Nope. In this corner of the ring, you will find accusations directed at Google that, while Sergey Brin is talking about how Google is the only genuine proponent of net freedom and invention, Matt Cutts is on the other side of the coin talking about how Google reserves the right to remove or demote a website based on terms that the company itself it defines. In other words, the argument is that this contrast smacks of hypocrisy . Truly, Google is a business who really needs to not suffer the whims and concerns of anybody and it’s really just free to do what it wants in terms of its search engine. Sometimes that has consequences . However, it need not try to create a level playing field for its direct competitors when it was Google who paved that very playing field in the first place. It’s not really in Google’s best interest to provide the means for rival companies like Apple and Facebook to move ahead so, sure, Google should reserve the right to demote sites as it sees fit within a reasonable basis. Besides, it’s not as if Google’s just demoting sites on whims. The company claims that the course of action is only a response for whenever companies try to game the system in order to get their site promoted higher within search results. Even when it was found that Google was artificially elevating search results for its own browser, Chrome, it responded by demoting itself in search results . Brin sees Google as a noble company, and that’s not surprising since he helped found it. Nobody wants to believe their brainchild grew up to be Lex Luthor when we’re all hoping for Superman. But he does seem to be having a pollyanna moment here in how he really does seem to believe what he told the Guardian , that Google is the hero of this tale. Honestly, if I got to run around showing off my new Project Glass specs , I’d probably think the company I created and work for had hung the moon, too. Objectively, as things go, Google and its competitors have done more good things than bad things. It’s easy to focus on the negative things because that’s what resonates within us and affects us most immediately. Google could do better, though, just as Facebook and Apple could, as well. And yes, if you’re going to cast the proverbial stones in the glass house as Brin has been accused of, there will assuredly be some blowback as a result. Google’s in-house mantra has been said to be “Don’t be evil” but sometimes the company, whether deserved or not, is often projected as “Does no good.”

Apr 16 2012

Google On What Will Get You Demoted Or Removed From Index

Google’s Matt Cutts, as you may or may not know, often appears in Webmaster Help videos addressing questions about what Google does (and what it doesn’t do) in certain situations. Usually, the questions are submitted buy users, though sometimes, Cutts will deem an issue important enough to ask the question himself. In the lastest video, which Cutts tweeted out on Monday, a user asks: “Just to confirm: does Google take manual action on webspam? Does manual action result in a removal or can it also be a demotion? Are there other situations where Google remove content from its search results?” Who better to address this question than Google’s head of webspam himself, Matt Cutts? Cutts responds, “I’m really glad to have a chance to clarify this, because some people might not know this, although we’ve written this quite a bit in various places online. Google is willing to take manual action to remove spam. So if you write an algorithm to detect spam, and then someone searches for their own name, and they find off-topic porn, they’re really unhappy about that. And they’ll write into Google and let us know that they’re unhappy.” “And if we write back and say, ‘Well, we hope in six to nine months to be able to have an algorithm that catches this off-topic porn,’ that’s not a really satisfactory answer for the guy who has off-topic porn showing up for his name,” he says. “So in some situations, we are willing to take manual action on our results. It’s when there are violations of our web spam quality guidelines.” You can find those here, by the way. “So, the answer to your question is, yes, we are willing to take manual action when we see violations of our quality guidelines,” he says. “Another follow-up question was whether it has to be removal or whether it can be a demotion. It can be a demotion. It tends to be removal, because the spam we see tends to be very clear-cut. But there are some cases where you might see cookie cutter content that’s maybe not truly, truly awful, but is duplicative, or you can find in tons of other places. And so it’s content that is really not a lot of value add – those sorts of things.” “And we say in our guidelines to avoid duplicate content, whether it’s a cross-domain, so having lots of different domains with very, very similar or even identical content,” he says. “So when we see truly malicious, really bad stuff, we’re often taking action to remove it. If we see things that are still a violation of our quality guidelines, but not quite as bad, then you might see a demotion.” A bad enough demotion might as well be a removal anyway. I’m sure a lot of Panda victims out there have a thing or two to say about that. “And then the last question was, ‘Are there other situations where Google will remove content from it search results?’,” continues Cutts. “So, we do reserve the right to remove content for spam. Content can be removed for legal reasons, like we might get a DMCA complaint or some valid court order that says we have to remove something within this particular country.” “We’re also willing to remove stuff for security reaons, so malware, Trojan horses, viruses, worms, those sorts of things,” he says. “Another example of security might be if you have your own credit card number on the web. So those are some of the areas that we are willing to take action, and we are willing to remove stuff from our search results. We don’t claim that that’s a comprehensive list. We think that it’s important to be able to exercise judgment. So if there is some safety issue, or of course, things like child porn, which would fall under legal. But those are the major areas that we’ve seen, would be spam, legal reasons, and security. And certainly, the vast majority of action that we take falls under those three broad areas.” “But just to be clear, we do reserve the right to take action, whether it could be demotion or removal,” he reiterates. “And we think we have to apply our best judgment. We want to return the best results that we can for users. And the action that we take is in service of that, trying to make sure that we get the best search results we can out to people when they’re doing searches.” Speaking of those security concerns, Cutts also tweeted on Monday that Google has sent messages to 20,000 sites , indicating that they may have been hacked. He attributes this to some “weird redirecting.”