Some interesting stuff posted on the updated Webmaster tools guidelines on Link Schemes   See below red highlight done by myself

Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.

So some key words in there, ANY LINKS not some or maybe, but any links, INTENDED now this is the issue, how does an algorithm  work out intent? For me this is where the whole system falls down, because lets be honest when your site gets scraped, or you are hit with a negative SEO campaign,  you are not even aware it has happened, let alone aware of the intent.  CONSIDERED, again how does an algorithm consider anything? it simply isn’t that clever!  ANY BEHAVIOUR so now we are back to the door being opened to negative SEO big Time.  Finally we have TO your site or OUTGOING LINKS from your site, which clearly is telling people if you have crap spammy ‘guest posts’ on your site, then your site is guilty of spoamming, and EQUALLY as guilty of it, so we slap you also.

In short here are the referenced breaches, and My personal take on them:-

Buying or selling links – this has always been the case, if you buy or sell links that pass Pr you are heading for a fall if caught

Excessive link exchanging – again this has been the case for a long time, but ‘excessive’ in my mind refers to link farming type activities, and NOT to trading links with sites that are relevant to your own, when the links are editorially justifiable. You shouldn’t be afraid to reach out to other sites and work to drive traffic to each other.

Large Scale Article Marketing OR GUEST POSTING CAMPAIGNS with keyword rich anchor text links – this is the change, in that ‘large scale’ article marketing and Guest Blogging are now classed as in breach of the acceptable practice guidelines, and as such I expect to see penalties applied retrospectively on this practice. I wrote many times that formulaic guest blogging where there is practically no benefit to the reader will eventually be pulled in, and that it needs to be considered gray at best. What would the reader want to see, write for the reader, that is the difference, editorial integrity.

Using automated programs to create links to your site – anyone who thinks that the spam team don’t have copies of SENukeX etc is on cloud cukoo land, because they do, and they gobble up copies of pretty much any software that raises its head above the parapet. So think on when using bog standard automated software to build links to your site.

The aricle goes on to cover other items, which I guess are somehow seen as crossovers or pre-existing in the guidelines. :-

Text ads that pass pagerank – we all know about that right?

Optimised anchor text links in press releases  distributed on other sites. – this is fairly new and they are now saying that you can get penalised for using a press release service. for ME this is completely unnacceptable because even if you nofollow your press releases, when they get picked up by spammers ascarapers etc, they often get posted without the nofollow. Google have dropped the ball here,. adn IMo need to balance this out with a far FAR better system of link reporting and disavowing, because the current system isn’t accpetable, and potentially under EU law this could be seen as an illegal practice.

Low quality directory or Bookmark links – Now oddly enough no mention of PageRank passing here, so are they saying that ANY link is bad?

Links embedded in widgets that are distributed across various sites – we all knew about that again
Widely distributed links in the footers of various sites -what about those poor web designers, the answer now is NOFOLLOW your footer links, but ALSO consider the statement above that the HOST site can get penalised, so if you are using a wordpress theme with an anchor text footer link, then you need to check out the volume of links the target site has from that theme, as if it has been used wholesale, and the target site gets hit then YOU may get hit also.

Forum comments with optimised links – again we all knew about comment spamming.

Finally the jewel in the crown of statements

The best way to get other sites to create high-quality, relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community. Creating good content pays off: Links are usually editorial votes given by choice, and the more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it.

Keep reading the above, and remember, if it waddles and quacks, it is probably a duck :)

According to Matt Cutts the long awaited and feared Penguin 2.0 update has been released by Google, how have you fared?

Penguin2.0 is full on update rather than a tweak, and Google have stated that 2.3% of english language sites will be affected, which is a huge number by anyones standards.

In recent times Cutts has stated that they are going upstream in this update, that they are targeting spam more heavily, and that this update will rock a few boats, the video below explains this

Time will tell.

Call them what you like, Doorway pages, Gateway Pages, even Zebra Pages, Google has never liked them. In the past Google has treated these as pages that are built, but have sneaky redirects in them, then they moved the goalposts of definition slightly, and now we have a clear statement from Google not to use them, and more importantly, exactly what Google themselves believe that definition to be.

Doorway pages are typically large sets of poor-quality pages where each page is optimized for a specific keyword or phrase.

So that is clear and simple,  Don’t put up LARGE SETS, of POOR QUALITY pages on your site, and optimise it for a single term. Does that mean you can’t have a page for your important terms? Absolutely not, the key there is large sets, poor quality. Google wants, desires and yearns for large amounts of HIGH QUALITY pages on a topic.

In many cases, doorway pages are written to rank for a particular phrase and then funnel users to a single destination.

Here they give us another indicator of an element within their algorithm, set out to detect these sites. This would be typical of lead generation sites, or sites that  have a single action page with many  of these doorway pages built in.  A clear example of this would be a site that sells a single product directly or affiliate CPA with many pages surrounding it but having a single action page.

Whether deployed across many domains or established within one domain, doorway pages tend to frustrate users.

This is actually debatable, as searching for something, landing on a page about that term, and finding what you want could be argued that it is delivering a GOOD user experience. Unfortunately while the argument may be debatable, Google are not up for debate.

Therefore, Google frowns on practices that are designed to manipulate search engines and deceive users by directing them to sites other than the one they selected, and that provide content solely for the benefit of search engines.

Interestingly Google have switched back to doorway pages with redirects to a main site, they appear here to be talking about satellite sites, or micro-sites optimised for a term and then pointing to a main site.  Is this a legitimate method for advertising however? IF the links are nofollowed then it could be argued yes, the site is an advert rather than a doorway site. Google appear here to be attempting to prevent businesses from advertising their wares legitimately.

I worked with a well known company a few years ago, and they had a website ‘quote me happy’ which supported their Offline advertising campaigns.  It would be wrong of any search engine to prevent a company from doing this. My advice would be that if you are using such sites, then nofollow the links to the main site, and ensure the capture site has relevant content.

Google may take action on doorway sites and other sites making use of these deceptive practices, including removing these sites from Google’s index.

This is a scary prospect, as they appear here to be saying that they will take action against a doorway site AND other sites making use of these deceptive practices. So what is to stop a competitor setting them up and reporting you?

Finally in the piece, they give some examples of use.

Having multiple domain names targeted at specific regions or cities that funnel users to one page
Templated pages made solely for affiliate linking
Multiple pages on your site with similar content designed to rank for specific queries like city or state names

It is fair to say that anyone who is using a strategy of having hundreds of pages (THIN pages), that are geographically based or topic based, should review their strategy, and, if you have suffered a loss of traffic or a change to the terms you have received traffic for, then this could be the answer.

An Interesting post on Search Engine Roundtable references the possibility that Google is using self page linking as a spam signal where Keyword rich anchor text is used. In case you are not sure what this means, let me explain.

Let’s say you have a site about blue widgets, and in your homepage content you have a link (or more than one link) pointing to the same page (homepage) with your main keyword set i.e. ‘blue widgets’.

So why use it as a signal, and what is this being based on? Well put simply, why would you link to the same page you are already on, if not to gain benefit that anchor text links bring. keep in mind that the  anchor page also gets given more weight to its anchor text as well as the target page.

This has been brought up as a result of a thread on Webmasterworld forum, where a member states that out of their 150 sites, 3 got hit, and the only common element was this home page self linking. Seems weak if you ask me, simple but an effective signal. it could be enough to drop the trust on the page which in turn could impact on other elements.

In the first time during the last 5 years, Google market share of search in the UK dropped below 90% .  We have to ask ourselves is the honeymoon over, or greater than that, has the marriage hit the rocks? With multiple anti trust investigations around the globe, massive fines for alleged illegality regarding things as far reached as assisting in dealing in prescription drugs into the US which it settled for $500m,  and the UK/EU privacy fiasco where Google grabbed personal details from home computers with their street view cars, firstly claiming it to be an accident, only to later have it claimed to have been pre-meditated, while it also transpired that Google had not deleted the very information it was originally investigated over. The UK government re-opened their investigation.
Ok so with that sort of concern, some have tried to see if it is possible to live a life outside of Google.

At long last, after months of promising, Google have finally released their ‘don’t count these links’ tool or to give it its proper terminology ‘Disavow tool’. So, is this what we all need?The answer is a resounding yes, but is it enough of a tool to help ease the pain of many webmasters hit by the Penguin algorithm?

Sadly I believe there is a fatal flaw in this, and that flaw is that Google simply don’t report (in webmaster tools) ALL the links it is using in the evaluation of your site within its algorithms

Matt cutts head of web-spam at Google introduced the tool in the above video.  This is quite a lonmg video, but tehre are a few key things he mentions and they are that you should look at RECENT links. Now this is a big thing, as only a few months ago, John Mu (another senior Google guy) stated that ALL links should be looked at as all links are evaluated. So looking at this statement by Matt it tells me that ‘maybe’ Google is using recent links as the trigger, and again, possibly to combat negative seo (something that thanks to the changes Google made, is now a real world practice. I have certainly managed to get some of my test sites blown out of the water. (sorry test sites but that is what you are there for, taking one for the team :D )

Next Matt says that Google are working on a system so that 2 or 3 link examples will be given in the warning message in WebMasterTools, again this is a real help, and I for one think that some ‘guest bloggers’ will be stunned to see that what they have  is a rose by any other name, and the name of that rose is un-natural links.  Understand that I am not for one second stating that all guest blogging is bad, but certainly it is likely to be the next thing on the spam radar for Google in my opinion , especially the stuff that isn’t really guest blogging, but is in fact blog link networking.

 

Next we have a negative. So you have loaded the tool up, you have spentlarge portions of your life tracking down these links, you have done all in your poser toget them removed,  you have loaded your url list and asked Google to disavow the links so all will be well in the world because Google wil disavow those links right? WRONG! HOW WRONG is the fact it is wrong. Well matt says “we treat it as a strong suggestion, but we don’t treat it as something we absolutely have to abide by!” Now this old SEO thinks it is disgusting that Google now not only allow the actions of others to affect your business, NOW they are also refusing to accept your instruction to remove from their algorithm process links that you have instructed them to do so, WHY?

This tells me that there is a secondary effect from pages reported, that not only do they disavow links to YOU, they disavow links to everyone from that site. OR they may be feeding disavowed sites into a reduced trust factor sub algo. who knows.

A bit about the process, it is going to take weeks, because they apply what is essentially a ‘nofollow’ equiv to that link, but only at the point of next crawl/index.

Then we have the bombshell, where he says that during a re-inclusion request , don’t think that they are going to look at only the links not disavowed, they are going to look at the links that existed before the disavow. he actually states that the disavow tool is not the answer to your ills.

SO! Is this tool a real useful tool or is it more public relations for Google or is it just going to not help you at all, but help GOOGLE to identify  spammy sites? The jury is out, but I will be working with some test sites and possibly some people who contacted me after being hit by penguin, to test, as we have already done all we can.

One last thing.  A quick story. A client launched a new site 10 weeks ago, the site was built superbly well, optimised with 100% unique content, it was spidered and google liked what they saw. A bit of press coverage was gained, and all looked well. Then it crashed? On investigation, one of his competitors had carried out negative SEO by buying a load of blogrolls from spam sites. New sites are very vulnerable to negative SEO, so the algorithm is still in a mess, and Google are making it VERY easy for unscrupulous business people to sabotage any new competitors that enter the marketplace.

I am seeing a large increase in cases where a business has been hit through no fault of their own, i.e. saboutage negative SEO, and for me that is heartbreaking.

What are your thoughts on this?

 

Does Google own a white cat, and do their employees take turns sitting in the big chair stroking it, while saying  “ah <insert name here> we’ve been expecting you?”

I can’t help but post about how things have changed at Google. I have been around since before google, and have witnessed it from birth as a brilliant new search interpretation engine, to its current form, of being a disgusting corporate piece of scum,made all the more worse by them attempting to hang on to their ‘don’t be evil’ motto. At a time when Larry Page and Sergey Brin issued  statement of

Google users trust our systems to help them with important decisions: medical, financial and many others. Our search results are the best we know how to produce. They are unbiased and objective, and we do not accept payment for them or for inclusion or more frequent updating. We also display advertising, which we work hard to make relevant, and we label it clearly. This is similar to a well-run newspaper, where the advertisements are clear and the articles are not influenced by the advertisers’ payments. We believe it is important for everyone to have access to the best information and research, not only to the information people pay for you to see.

How ridiculous that statement now appears, and how much more saddening that they STILL claim it to me a true mantra. After the recent court cases, of them consorting with pharmacy companies to illegally sell drugs in the US $500M ‘agreement to pay’ for that baby.

We had the LIES to the UK government aboutGoogle hacking UK private networks and stealing data where first they lied to everyone, THEN Google lied to the UK government, then they agreed to delete the data, but decided not to, only for us to discover that FAR from the data being an accident, they actually deliberately hacked users and grabbed the data. Now the UK government has re-opened the investigation, and lo and behold, the guy they are now dealing with at Google is the very same guy who PREVIOUSLY worked for the UK government information commissioners office who dealt with the problem in the first place. strange co-incidence that originally they were not even fined fro the breach ;)

The ICO are now looking nto this again, and are now working Europe wide with the Article 29 working party and the Gpen network. this is likely to see google fined heavily although if they are not open enough about the privacy issues that are now patently obvious to a man of the visual capabilities or Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder, they the EU will simply stop google operating inside its borders!  A bit harsh you may say, BUT.. this is in direct breach of the European Union Bill of Human Rights, and THIS piece of legislation is at the very core of EU belief. the rights of EU citizens are more important than ANYTHING, in the eyes of the EU.  Googles browser hacking case where again they were forced to shell out $20.5M sums up the fact that for Google, hacking in order to gain an advantage is par for the course, be it safari, internet explorer, or simply going into peoples home computer networks and stealing their personal data!

laughably the following system is what Google are now actively doing.  It is a real nasty system Google have running at the moment, and it goes like this

1. involve social signals especially google owned property, in the algorithm
2. leak this out
3. encourage people to get social signals using Google systems
4. force people to get google accounts to leave feedback etc.
5. mwha mwha mwha.. ‘all your search terms are belong to us’.

What I am saying is that Google want people to use Google systems (signed in accounts of ANY type) as that way they claim to be ‘protecting’ the privacy of that user as they will no longer provide search data to the servers, i.e they block you from knowing the search terms used to get to your site.

THIS is why Google are doing this, they want to completely block search term referral so that you the business owner are working blind. It is little short of criminal and ironic to the ABSOLUTE MAXIMUM, that they are claiming to be doing this to protect the privacy of google users. while at the same time hacking the known world INTENTIONALLY.

Google are becoming bottom feeders guys, they abandoned their ‘don’t be evil, do no evil’ mantra a long time ago. Now they are no different to any bond villain that want world domination at any priceand their behaviour of late shows this to be the case. It is easier to sign yourself out of Guantanamo bay than sign yourself out of a Google account, as no matter what you do, they will always find a way of tracking you.

They can say what they like, and do as much good work as they like, but as my old grandmother used to say “actions speak louder than words”

I would be interested to hear your thoughts on my rant :D

This topic came up on UKBusiness Forums, I started writing the post and realised it is a good blog post so here it is:-

 

Q: I have no idea what google means by too many, too much, too often etc. There is the problem!
A: <crouches down and whispers> Shall I let you into a secret?  Neither does Google ;)

Serious answer now.  The Algorithm is a base 5 sliding scale algo, that is applied on over 250 elements, plus sub algo’s such as paneguin etc.  The sliding scale thing is the key here and base 5 + or – that means that the value of any element can be increased or decreased by the power of 5 plus or minus.

E.G. the X factor started tonight, the xfactor website will get tens of of thousands of backlinks in the next week. Will it hurt it? Not at all! WHY? Because the site its anchor text, it keywords etc will ALL be trending on twitter, will ALL be mentioned, and as the site is so strong anyhow, the sudden rush will not hit it at all.

My forum went viral, I got bucket-fulls of links in a 72 hour period, it was not affected, I put it down to the sheer volume of social chatter that ‘justified’ the link rush.

NOW THEN… – Dai the Bike, puts up his website, 30 pages, 12 months later, hardly any traffic, same content as 12 months ago, nothing fresh, Dai goes out and employs Dai the Link (A well known Internet guy in abercwmouwsyourfather). Dai the link goes out and gets 5,000 links to the site. Google get excited as a website has become popular, so they, like everyone else, run along to the site to see WHY the site has become so popular.

NOTHING HAS CHANGED!

Same as it was 12 months previously, they scratch their heads and think.. It was all a scam to get us visiting his site. Bad BAD Dai the bike, they slap him and walk off.

Take 2

Dai the Shed, (A well known shed building guy in abercwmouwsyourfather) also launched a site at the same time. DaiTS is unhappy, not enough sales. So he reads up on tinternet about this bookface thing. He puts up a page on his site, and adds some images, and  runs a competition for some shed racking, and then he joins that there Bookface, and lets people know.

Lots of people are talkign about it and liking his page, pinning his images and his pages, and bookmarking him to their bookmark page or other social page.  Dai TS then employs Dai the link (A well known Internet guy in abercwmouwsyourfather). Dai the link goes out and gets 5,000 links to the site. Google get excited as a website has become popular, so they, like everyone else, run along to the site to see WHY the site has become so popular.

Google visit the site and notice he has a competition running, and that is why so many people have linked to this new page. They like the fact that so many real people like the fact Dai TS has this, so Google give it the big thumbs up, as well as the leg up, Dai TS goes to page 1 where he sells lots of sheds and is happy.

Dai the link is convinced his methodology works, and goes to work for a guy with a flow shop called Dai the stem, where he falls flat on his arse as the site gets banned from google.

Dait the link sits down and looks at the success he had with Dai the Shed, and asks himself.

What did I do wrong in my link building? I gave him the Platinum Dai the Link Package that worked for Dai the Shed?

WHY did google ban him talking about unnatural linking patterns?

what do google mean by too many?

what do google mean by too much?

what do google mean by too often etc.

It worked for Dai the Shed…. STUPID GOOGLE

 

The moral of the story being…

In Link Building, not all sites are equal, as a result, not all outcomes to the same actions are equal.  SEO by numbers died a long time ago, it’s just that nobody told him he was dead :D

HALLELUJHA at last there has been some logic in the ways of Google.

Matt McGee recently covered an up close and personal session at SMX with Matt Cutts and blogged about it at search engine land. for me the biggest thing to come out of it is the following quote from Cutts.

The story of this year has been more transparency, but we’re also trying to be better about enforcing our quality guidelines. People have asked questions about negative SEO for a long time. Our guidelines used to say it’s nearly impossible to do that, but there have been cases where that’s happened, so we changed the wording on that part of our guidelines.

Some have suggested that Google could disavow links. Even though we put in a lot of protection against negative SEO, there’s been so much talk about that that we’re talking about being able to enable that, maybe in a month or two or three.

I have been shouting for this for a LONG time, many others have been saying the same thing.  The only issue we have to face now is that google are still not showing us all the links they know about. In some no scratch that, in MANY cases cases this could mean that the very links that are hurting a site, the very links Google is basing its negative views on, are simply not being shown to us, and as a result, we, (the site owner affected) will still be none the wiser.

It is a great move by google to bring this in, and truth be told, they have probably realised just how exposed they are to a law suit for damages.  BUT (and this is a big but) they totally must give access to every single link they know about to the webmaster that has verified his site. Otherwise once again we will have been given a brush with no head, and a shovel with no handle, with which to clean up the mess.

I would say this is a pretty much an admission of failing.

Look at this beauty from Matt Cutts.

People have asked questions about negative SEO for a long time. Our guidelines used to say it’s nearly impossible to do that, but there have been cases where that’s happened, so we changed the wording on that part of our guidelines.

Did you read that?  they now admit that there have been cases where negative SEO has happened.

So to all those who said it was rubbish.. dream on and admit you were wrong.

 

 

 

Google Sued for Invasion of Privacy

It seems like not a day goes by when the once clean as a whistle start-up Google is accused of breaching some law or other. The story broke a day or two ago, when it was announced that those bad boys at Google had allegedly written code that by-passed the privacy settings in the Safari browser , allowing the giant to track them physically, and it got worse as it was announced that one disgruntled IPhone user has actually filed a lawsuit against Google claiming

Google’s “willful and knowing actions” violated federal wiretapping laws, among other statutes.

Now THAT is some serious stuff right there, and if I were Google I would be drawing straws to see who will carry the can and do the jail time that this sort of thing can result in.

NOW HANG ON, I hear people saying. This is just lil old safari, like 10% of the market so not that big a deal huh? But THEN  we hear from Microsoft and their Internet Explorer browser, THE most important broswer on the planet, and they had the following to say about  Google breaching Internet Explorer Privacy Settings

When the IE team heard that Google had bypassed user privacy settings on Safari, we asked ourselves a simple question: is Google circumventing the privacy preferences of Internet Explorer users too? We’ve discovered the answer is yes: Google is employing similar methods to get around the default privacy protections in IE and track IE users with cookies. Below we spell out in more detail what we’ve discovered,

So where does that leave us?

In the European Union, this has HUGE potential consequences for Google as it breaches the 1998 Human Rights Act. you know, that tiny little piece of legislation that forces the UK etc to release paedophiles and convicted terrorists into the community, but prevents us from sending them home?  The LAW states that every EU citizen has the right to privacy in their home and family life. Google have breached what is a fundamental human right. and they have done so deliberately by by-passing a mechanism that was there for this very reason.

People have a legal right to privacy, and if a company can’t or won’t abide by that right, then they should not be allowed to trade within that community (in this case the EU) Google are currently being investigated on multiple fronts within the EU and anti trust case is as we speak being finalised and the outcome will be made sometime in March. This particular case is for illegally promoting Google owned properties, on the Google search results.

The above anti trust law pales into insignificance however compared to the alleged breach of human rights, legislation that is so powerful, it  has recently prevented the deportation of a convicted Al Qaeda terrorist, such is the might of legislation Google have breached.

I would hope that this is not swept under the carpet, like so many other instances of illegal behaviour before them. Google has ENORMOUS power, and there are two saying that are ringing in my ears right now.

1. With power comes responsibility

2. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

As someone who witnessed the birth of Google within search, it pains me to see what they have become, and are becoming, and that is just another power hungry run rough shod over anyone to get what they wat, type corporation.