Jun 18 2014

Google Looks At Apparent IE Sponsored Post Spam

Tech blogger/investor Michael Arrington revealed that someone who claimed to be a “social strategist on behalf of Microsoft” tried to get him to write about Internet Explorer for payment. The message he got says: Hi Michael, I work as a social strategist on behalf of Microsoft, and I wanted to invite you to collaborate on a sponsored post opportunity for Internet Explorer. We love your aesthetic and blogging style, and think you’d be the perfect partner to spread the word on the new Internet Explorer browsing experience! The new Internet Explorer is a brand new experience with many different features. This reworked Internet Explorer lets you search smarter and do more with its cool new features, such as multitasking, pinnable sites, and full-screen browsing. In this program, we are looking to spread the word about the new Internet Explorer web experience in a cool, visual way, which is where you come in! Internet Explorer has teamed up with many partners in gaming, entertainment, and more, and we’d love to see you talk about your opinions on these collaborations. If you accept our invitation to work on this program, we would like for you to write a blog post by July 10th, in addtion to sharing links to the new Internet Explorer across your social channels. Compesnsation for this post is available, and there will also be ample opportunities for fun prizes and rewards throughout the duration of the program. To learn all about the details of this program, please visit this page (http://unbouncepages.com/7975010c-edb3-11e3-b3e0-12314000cce6/). I look forward to working together. As Arrington notes, “This is just layers of stupid.” This is, after all, the founder of TechCrunch, who has referred to people being paid to shill products on their blogs as “pollution” in the past. When Arrington responded, asking if this was real, they replied that they weren’t sure how Arrington wound up on the list, and “Go TechCrunch!” The URL in the message has since been taken offline, and Google is even investigating what could be webpspam from its biggest competitor. Google’s Matt Cutts tweeted: @SocialChorus I'd like to talk about your sponsored post offer at http://t.co/zDGCNeGiPV as well as http://t.co/WKcCAp7f6u — Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) June 18, 2014 He was then in contact with SocialChorus program strategist Gregg Hanano. @mattcutts Thank you for reaching out Matt. I just sent an email back and cc'd some more employees to better answer your questions. — Gregg Hanano (@gregghanano) June 18, 2014 @dannysullivan I've emailed the point of contact from http://t.co/zDGCNeGiPV asking for more info while the webspam team investigates. — Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) June 18, 2014 As you may recall, Google actually had to penalize its own Chrome browser a while back for pretty much the same thing. The story there was that an outside agency was soliciting such posts on the company’s behalf. It doesn’t look like Internet Explorer has suffered such a penalty so far. Of course, Google’s competition with Microsoft adds a whole other layer to this. Microsoft is a big part of the FairSearch lobbying group that constantly tries to see antitrust regulation brought against Google. To be continued…

Jan 4 2012

Google Demotes Chrome PageRank Following Paid Link Fiasco

Following the previously reported upon controversy surrounding a marketing campaign for Google’s Chrome browser, Google has apparently decided to devalue its Chrome landing page (in terms of PageRank). At least temporarily. Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land acquired a statement …

Aug 24 2011

Google: Not Having Robots.txt is “A Little Bit Risky”

Robots.txt as you may know, lets Googlebot know whether you want it to crawl your site or not. Google’s Matt Cutts spoke about a few options for these files in the latest Webmaster Help video, in response to a user-submitted …

Aug 23 2011

Google Gives an Update on How it Thinks About DMOZ

Google posted a new Webmaster Help video featuring Matt Cutts. This time around, he discusses the Open Directory Project, otherwise known as DMOZ. The video is Matt’s response to a user-submitted question, which said: “What role does being in DMOZ …

Mar 5 2011

Suite101 CEO Writes Open Letter to Google’s Matt Cutts

Google basically called out Suite101 as the poster child site of what its “Panda” algorithm update was aimed at. Reports have found the site to be one of the hardest hit, and while the site has often been mentioned in the same breath as sites like eHow in the past, eHow has apparently gained from the update. When asked about it in a recent Wired interview , Google’s Matt Cutts said, “I feel pretty confident about the algorithm on Suite 101.” We had reached out to Suite101 prior to the publication of that article, but only since it was published, have we heard back. A representative for Suite101 pointed us to an open letter to Matt Cutt from CEO Peter Berger, in response to the comments from the Wired piece. Here is a sample of the letter ( read the whole thing in its entirety here ): We have certainly noticed that within the last week Google has stopped sending our content as many readers as it had in the past, resulting in a decline of 30% in overall traffic. We have been working to understand what separates successful content on our site from negatively impacted content, and have also tried to compare how other sites on the web rank for given Google queries. We do not get the sense that this “Panda” algorithm update is about filtering out “low quality” content. We do appreciate that Google is constantly trying to improve immediate user relevance for given search queries. That means that Google has to experiment with evaluating measurable properties of content in alternative ways. Engineers might refer to these properties or signals as “quality” (within the context of a given search query), but please do understand that when a representative of Google describes entire sites as “low quality” outside of engineering circles, this can be perceived as insulting by people who associate “quality” rather with an individual piece’s execution, angle and craft, and who have taken great pride in creating it. We take it that concise, high quality writing is a signal that Google de-emphasized with its algorithm update. That is a legitimate business decision, even if some of the content we currently publish does not benefit from it. Other factors have become more important, and we will try to understand them, and work to help those of our writers who feel that Google is the best distribution channel for their thoughts to improve their articles. For the sake of the web as the rich ecosystem it is, we hope that Google stays committed to: * a page-by-page evaluation of the web’s content, emphasizing its actual “content” over its display and polish * respect of copyright, diligently ensuring original content is not outranked by scraped content * impartiality in terms of content’s ownership, including treating publicly listed corporations’ as well as Google’s own content not differently from the rest of the web Another level of depth may be added to this discussion if the word “quality” were more fully defined. “Quality” without much more precisely defining it, especially when the quality mentioned does only seem to be a quality signal relating to a given search query, leaves a lot still misunderstood… We spoke with Berger last year , long before this update was realized, but during a time when search quality was really starting to come into question as content farm sites were really on the rise. Berger told us, “Every week, several thousand people apply to become Suite101 writers. While we only accept a portion of applicants based on our non-negotiable quality standards, we do have many successful writers on our site who do not consider themselves ‘writers.” “We see it as Suite101′s mission to enable people – anyone who can write well and with deep understanding of a subject – to achieve their goals,” he said. “These might be earning money, addressing large audiences, building up a personal professional brand, or simply enjoying creative freedom in a nurturing, peer-oriented environment.” Cutts has yet to respond to the letter, at least in the comments section, but it hasn’t been live very long, and Cutts is keeping pretty busy from the sound of things.

Feb 17 2011

How Google Uses Twitter, SafeSearch – Matt Cutts Changes Advice

Matt Cutts posted a new Webmaster Help video in which he answers his own question rather than a user-submitted one (like usual). Specifically, he asks if there’s any advice that he’d like to change from what he’s said in the past.  "I did a video back in May of 2010, that said we don’t use, for example, Twitter at all in our rankings other than as a normal web page, and the links are treated completely like normal web pages," he says. He then references a recent Danny Sullivan article which breaks down how both Google and Bing use Twitter . He notes that Google worked with him to ensure its accuracy. "It says that in some cases we do look at, for example, how reputable a particular person on Twitter might be, and we can use that in our rankings in some ways." And another thing that Cutts wanted to update… "SafeSearch, when I wrote the very first version, years and years and years ago – whenever you’re not able to crawl something – so for example, if it’s blocked by robots.txt, since people have deliberately said, ‘I would like a safe version – a family-safe version of Google, we would say, ‘oh, if we haven’t been able to crawl it, then we don’t know whether it’s porn or not, so we’re not going to be able to return it to users," says Cutts. "So, the Library of Congress or WhiteHouse.gov or Metallica at one point…Nissan, had blocked various pages from being crawled in the search engines, and so to be safe, we said, ‘you know what? We don’t know whether that’s family-safe or not, so we won’t return it’,"  he adds. "Luckily, the SafeSearch team has gotten much more sophisticated, and better, and more robust since I wrote the original version, so now that’s something that we might change. If something is forbidden from being crawled, but for whatever reason we think that it might be safe, now we’ll start to return it in our search results." It’s always good to set the record straight.

Jan 28 2011

Is This Google Algorithm Change About Content Farms or Not?

Google has launched a change in its algorithm, following a post a week ago from Matt Cutts talking about the search engine’s approach to spam and content farms. However, it is still unclear whether this new update is the related to the "content farm" side of things. Matt Cutts wrote a post on his personal blog about the update, which he says pertains to "one thing" he mentioned in the original post. Cutts writes: My post mentioned that "we’re evaluating multiple changes that should help drive spam levels even lower, including one change that primarily affects sites that copy others’ content and sites with low levels of original content." That change was approved at our weekly quality launch meeting last Thursday and launched earlier this week. This was a pretty targeted launch: slightly over 2% of queries change in some way, but less than half a percent of search results change enough that someone might really notice. The net effect is that searchers are more likely to see the sites that wrote the original content rather than a site that scraped or copied the original site’s content. (emphasis added) As far as I can tell, it would appear that the "one thing" Cutts is referring to with this new update, is when he said in the previous post, "We’re evaluating multiple changes that should help drive spam levels even lower, including one change that primarily affects sites that copy others’ content and sites with low levels of original content." In that first post, Cutts acknowledged that "pure webspam" has decreased over time, which to me sounds like a good reason that this new update would only impact "slightly over 2%" of queries.  Though comments from Demand Media CEO Richard Rosenblatt seem to lump "content farms" into this area, the original post from Cutts appears to reference content farms as a separate issue, and one which the company intends to put more focus on. Content farms, as defined by Cutts, are "sites with shallow or low-quality content."   Read more on this here , where I pointed out that everyone thinks of Demand Media when they think of content farm, so it would make little sense to use this terminology if it didn’t include this kind of content – see below: Cutts says that with the new update, " less than half a percent of search results change enough that someone might really notice. " That doesn’t sound like something that will affect the content farms described in the original post, where he said, "We hear the feedback from the web loud and clear: people are asking for even stronger action on content farms and sites that consist primarily of spammy or low-quality content." Reports out there seem to be rolling this all into one thing, but that’s not how I’m reading it. As there seems to be confusion, as indicated by Rosenblatt’s comments, I’ve asked Cutts to clarify, and will update when he responds. The words "content farm" do not appear in the new post.

Jan 20 2011

If You’re Not Local, How Can You Compete in an Increasingly Local Google?

There’s no question that Google has been putting a lot of focus on local results lately – from the release of products like Google Places and Hotpot (the company’s personalized and social recommendation engine) to an increasing amount of queries simply retrieving local results – often above other organic listings.  We had an extensive conversation about this with industry veteran Bruce Clay at PubCon a couple months ago, and webmasters and SEOs have been stressing about it all over the web. In fact, just today, one consulting firm ran a press release talking about the competitive advantages local business owners have as a result of recent changes with Google.  Do local businesses have the upper hand in Google? Tell us what you think .  Consultant (and founder of the firm, LocalMarketingProfitFaucet  says there’s a new type of Google Gold Rush. He’s referring to getting the prime listings from Google Places, which Google will often place at the top of the SERPs.  "This change is having an immediate and positive impact on the local businesses shown in these Page 1 listings," says Adams. "The Internet-savvy business owners who understand how to take advantage of this are generating new customers for next-to-nothing. Meanwhile, a surprising number are still oblivious to the significance of this change. In fact, Google has revealed that only a tiny percentage of local businesses have even claimed their Google Places listing, let alone optimize it." "From our experience," Adams continues, "Google has always given preferential treatment to unique, multimedia content that is kept fresh and up to date. And of course, stay away from any black hat tactics that try to game the system. Google always catches up to these shenanigans. When they do, your listing could be banned with no warning and no second chances." If local businesses have the competitive advantage now, then some non-local businesses are wondering how they’re supposed to compete with that. After all, the far reach of the web has historically been an attractive reason to start a business in the first place.  In a new video uploaded to Google’s Webmaster YouTube channel, Matt Cutts (head of the company’s webspam team) addressed a user-submitted question: "In a search environment where local is becoming increasingly important (and more full on the SERP), how can an out of town company compete with the local based (and locally housed) competition without lying to show up in these results?" Cutts responded by saying, "The entire page of web rankings is there that out of town people can compete on, so the idea of the local universal results is to show local businesses, so in some sense, there’s not really a way where if you’re out of town, you can sort of show up (within our guidelines), and show up as a local business." "Now, if you are a mobile business – so for example, maybe you’re a plumber, and you get into your pickup truck, and you drive around in a particular area – so if you’re a mobile business, then in Google Places you can specify a service area, which is roughly 50 miles around where you’re based, but that’s only if you actually have some base of operations there," he continues. "You can’t be based in Topeka and claim that you have a service area in Wyoming if you have no physical presence there." "I think that that’s a good idea. You do want to have local businesses show up, and I know that the team has really been paying a lot of attention to try and improve Maps quality, make it more robust, check on the authenticity of businesses, and that will only continue," adds Cutts.   In other words, if you’re not a local business, there’s nothing much you can do about getting the kind of visibility the local businesses are getting, should Google deem the user’s query worthy of the local results. I might suggest finding queries related to your business that aren’t returning local results and giving these some more attention, and of course there’s always AdWords.  If there’s a particular geographic market that you’re after, but you’re not based there, you may want to consider setting up shop. In the end, Google is just going to do what it thinks will help users. Whether or not you buy that is up to you, but they’re not going to deviate from that stance, and if it encourages more people to buy AdWords ads, then so be it.    You can expect there to be a great amount of focus continued to be placed on local. The company even moved former VP of Search products, Marissa Mayer, to this area of focus, and with mobile becoming such a big part of the way people search, local is by default going to be a bigger part of what people are actually looking for.  Has Google’s increased focus on local hurt your search rankings and visibility? Let us know in the comments .

Oct 5 2010

Why Google Won’t Reveal Secret Ranking Factors, But Gives Plenty of SEO Advice

Google’s goal as a search engine is to provide users with the most relevant results for their queries and the best user experience. For this reason, Google keeps its 200+ ranking factors a secret. While some of them are well-known, others are not, and how much weight each is given is perhaps the biggest mystery.  Google doesn’t want people to be able to game its system because this will have a negative impact on search results, and make the user experience poor. This is nothing new. Danny Sullivan recently asked Google CEO Eric Schmidt why they couldn’t at least list the factors, while keeping their weights secret. Schimidt basically said that this would be revealing business secrets. Fair enough.  While one may understand why Google goes out of its way to keep this information under wraps, some may wonder why they go to the trouble of providing webmasters with SEO advice, tools, and resources. After all, Google is going to deliver the results as it sees fit right? This is the topic of a question someone sent into Google’s Matt Cutts who has provided a video with his response.  The question is really coming from the angle that Google should rather not have people optimizing their sites, so they have to buy ads to gain visibility (more money for Google). Of course while Google may want you to buy ads,  this is not the company’s approach.  "Whenever the web does well, Google does well," says Cutts.  "I don’t think that it has to be something like, ‘Oh, we help websites rank better and they don’t need to advertise,’" he says. "That’s sort of a short-sighted view. We say, ‘Look, we try to help people make the web a better experience, more people will be on the web, they’ll stay on the web longer, they’ll be happier, and…just the halo effect – the reflected effect of all of that is that people will search more, and then a few of the times they’ll click on the ads’".  One YouTube commenter on the video says, "Or simply Google wants to ‘teach us’ SEO so people who search with Google find what they want. If a user search[es] for something and Google return[s] non-related results they wont use it. So Google needs US and WE need Google." Another commenter makes a pretty good point. In the video, Cutts mentions that Google could choose to show pop-up ads, and it could made them some money up front, but that this would annoy users, and they might not want to come back. The commenter says, "I consider YouTube ads embedded in videos just as annoying as pop up ads." I don’t think that person is alone. It’s not the greatest thing for user experience. 

Jul 1 2010

Budwesier’s World Cup Sponsorship Drives U.K. Searches

U.K. searches for the beer brand grew 25 percent week-over-week for the seven days ending June 19.