Google – The Stupidity of Even Thinking Of Backlink Penalties…

… for links that are so called “dodgy” or from “bad neighbourhoods.”

I have seen so many web masters now worrying about their backlink profile, and for good reason. Google has not been very clear about how a bunch of backlinks that they don’t trust, could affect your own site’s search engine rankings. In the past, Google has indicated that backlinks would not hurt you. The belief was that Google would simply discount links its bots would find while indexing the internet, that their algorithms placed little or no value on.

I think Google and its web spam team are a bit messed up if they think that they can penalize websites that have dodgy links linking back to it, as if the website owner or someone they may have hired, are the ones responsible. Let me explain why:

Years ago, I was pretty anal about going through my website statistics. It wasn’t just the top referrers I was interested in, but it often amused me to check out the large numbers of referrers I’d get that would only refer perhaps one visitor in the entire month. My curiosity was due to the fact I was always interested in any new links my site might have received. It was kind of neat, to me, to see that some site in my niche, with a Russian domain extension, and that had content similar to my niche, had discovered my site and thought it worthwhile to link to.

However, I also discovered that there were some pretty bizarre websites linking to me that had at least one click through to my site as well. At first, I could not understand why a website located in an Asian country that seemed to be all about popular Asian singers, would be linking to my fly fishing site.

There were also times when I would go to a web page that had supposedly referred some visitor to mine with a link, and there was no link there at all, although there would be links to dozens of other sites. Odd that a website would place a link to my page, someone clicked it, and then the link is removed.

But this does not always happen where the link is removed. So what could be the point of this? Most of these sites that seemed totally irrelevant to mine also appeared pretty junky with low or zero PageRank, while my site had a PR of 2 or 3 at the time (4 today).

Well, it struck me one day while I was doing a search for something, and Google returned some site’s Awstats in their results: Perhaps there are some website owners or some so called SEO people who set up systems to create links from their sites to better quality sites, then automate clicks on the links, thus generating a referral in the other sites’ statistical and website analytical packages. Knowing that many websites have their website statistics packages configured so that Google can easily discover and index them, this could provide hundreds and thousands of backlinks to their site from higher quality sites.

That was the only reason I could think of; otherwise what was the point of some ugly website about the hottest Indian Singer, or some corny adult porn site doing with a page of links that included one to a fly fishing site? I would see sometimes hundreds of these types of referrers in my analytics programs (back then, I was using a website analytics package called “http-analyze,” developed by the German company, Netstore.de. I don’t think they continue to do any development on website statistics), however, there are many many websites configured with Awstats and similar packages that are not password protected and that Google has indexed.

I have never hired outside SEO help for that website, so I absolutely know without any doubt, that any link to that site was not anything I did or ever asked for, from these “bad neighbourhood” or irrelevant websites.

And now I’m supposed to worry or be concerned about this? I’m supposed to be concerned that some other website has linked to me, clicked on the link, with possibly the sole purpose of Google indexing my Awstats installation, and finding a link back to their website? And hundreds of them doing this to my site?

That’s insane. I was speaking with a website owner of a very high quality site, aimed at a very professional niche, who advised me that they had recently received a “Unnatural Link Warning” letter in their Google Webmaster Tools. They said, “Ian, I did some checking and found a bunch of really gross pornsites linking to us, and I have no idea why. Even the pages that they have the links don’t make sense.”

This particular website that they own has a PR of 5. Is it possible, that a network of low quality adult sites, could be creating the links themselves to this site and other sites, just for the purposes of getting a link back to theirs from any analytics packages that Google might be able to crawl? It very well could be the case. And if Google is seeing this, and somehow it’s causing a flag, then Google really needs to rethink their whole idea of penalties for websites.

I have a concern that Matt Cutts and the Google Web Spam Team have got such a hardened attitude toward what they call “Web Spam,” that they have gone way overboard, in their attempts to solve what they see as a problem, hoping to give themselves a pat on the back, but in the end, there is that old George Doubleya Bush attitude of brushing off collateral damage they have caused.

I do care if my websites have links that are linking out to dodgey websites. It does come up at times; I might have written an article, referring to something on another site and linking to it, but over time, that domain has since changed hands and now is nothing like what it was when I first wrote the article. I have to keep my eye on that kind of thing. But does Google now expect me to also keep an eye on who is linking to me??

That is just insane. Just as the idea of a “disavow link” button in GWMT’s is insane – I don’t have time for that, do you? Who has time to go and look at every link, and manually “disavow” it? That’s just ridiculous, and many website owners are not even savvy enough to know what they might or should do.

What do you think?

Google Penguin Update

About an hour or so ago, I happened to check my twitter feed and noted that within the two minutes prior, he had tweeted the following message:

“Minor weather report: We pushed 1st Penguin algo data refresh an hour ago. Affects <0.1% of English searches. Context: http://goo.gl/4f7Pq

~ https://twitter.com/mattcutts/status/206232437427154944

Many of us in the SEO world were expecting that this would occur soon, and a monthly update seemed like a reasonable assumption. So far, on all the sites I’m looking after, there have been zero changes in rankings as a result of this particular update.

However, in other parts of the web, I’m reading that some were drastically affected with huge drops in rankings in Google search.

At this point, I have no comment to make as there is not enough information, especially with the fact that at my end, nothing has moved either way. I’ll have to wait to have some conversations with those that did experience major movement.

Did your site experience any major movements up or down since the evening of May 25? What sort of search results are you seeing now that is different than what you were seeing prior to this update?

And if your site did move, do you have any thoughts on the erasons for it?

Is The Penguin Scratching Under Its Feathers?

Google keeps putting out posts and guidelines and talk about “quality” (however that is defined – quality in this case is subjective and how one ever create a logarithm that can precisely define it is beyond me), but I know quality, at least to me, when I see it.

I also know junk when I see it. And from continuing to use Google for search, I can see that for me, and I’m sure for an awful lot of other humans, the machines at Google are producing low quality, junky search results in many instances.

The sad part right now is that there are so many so-called “experts” who are claiming they know the answer to getting your site ranked again if it tanked with Google’s latest update called “Penguin.” If you want, you can read a bunch of different opinions, and what is funny, you’ll often find the exact opposite opinions as to why or what caused your site to drop, or what you should be doing to help revive the rankings.

Almost everyone that has an interest in SEO knows that when Penguin hit, the search results for the term:

[viagra]

were totally bizarre, as were some other competitive search terms. The corporate website for Viagra, viagra.com, appeared to have been penalized! This has since been fixed, but this evening, I did a search on the term, and again see totally irrelevant results on Page 1. Page 1, #10 is a link to this page: http://pinto.scripts.mit.edu/Research/Monster16GPU

It’s a page about a 16-GPU Monster computer and there is no mention of viagra anywhere on it, including in the HTML source code.

This is junk. This is not quality. Mat Cutts might be a really nice guy, but he also comes across as this guy that is kind of like Forrest Gump, but with a side that he’s out “to get over SEO’d” sites – which is fine – and he’s also admitted that Google makes mistakes – which is great.

But come on! There is a huge mistake that is still going on with the Penguin! It’s getting close to offering up an apology and instead of smugly suggesting they’ve caught bad SEO practices, they need to fix their mistakes which are so glaringly obvious. They have ruined some great sites that I used to find in search results – sites that I never bookmarked, assuming I’d find them again when I searched on Google.  And they seem pretty smug about it, and confident – I wonder if any of the spam team search engineers have done a search on commonly searched on words and phrases?

Something, or some things, in this latest update has introduced some pretty big fleas under the Penguin’s feathers. Now the question is, are the engineers just scratching the Penguin’s feathers to relieve the itch, or are they going to get rid of the fleas that have been introduced?

With such crappy results for so many searches, one wonders why Google did not revert back to its algorithm pre Penguin. Most companies, upon seeing such a lousy result, would do so. But perhaps Google as a corporate entity has now grown so smug about itself, it has forgotten what made it a great search engine in the first place. While it tries to rule the world with all it’s “services” and get everyone hooked in, perhaps they think they are now “King” and so crappy doesn’t matter anymore.

In all seriousness, and I never thought I’d see the day when I would say this, but Bing provides far better and more relevant results for many searches than Google does. So does http://duckduckgo.com which also guarantees privacy.

Here’s another interesting thing I’m seeing – after the Penguin update, on those sites I have Analytics installed on, those who found those sites via Bing or Yahoo have a much lower bounce rate than those who arrived via a Google search.

What does that tell you? Bing and Yahoo are providing results that are actually more relevant to the searcher’s intent than Google is.

Quit scratching, Google. Penguins are cute, but I’m sure a penguin with fleas is not a sorry sight, and it’s time to take this Penguin to the veterinarian.

 

It’s A Penguin – Google’s Latest Update

Are “Panda” updates over this latest one Google has released being named “Penguin?” I mean, the next update, will it be a Panda 2.9, or a Penguin 1.1? A penguin it might be, and sometimes penguins can be cute, but they are slow, clumsy, and they can’t fly. Penguins can swim, but the Google Penguin update has sunk a lot of people and websites.

If it weren’t for that, and the fact that this is not 1998, and it’s not Altavista we’re using in 1998, some of the search engine results are kind of “cute” but clumsy in a Penguin sort of way. In that regard, it’s an appropriate name.

Websites that have zero content ranking #1 for some search queries. Websites that have absolutely zero relevance ranking for some search queries. It’s cute.. and clumsy. And it sure doesn’t fly with a lot of webmasters out there. I’ve even read reports along the lines of, “I abandoned a website two years ago after not ranking it after some effort, it looks terrible, and now suddenly it’s on the first page of Google.”

It makes you wonder if the engineers at Google do any indepth studies themselves after such an update; why are they not seeing what others are seeing and can obviously see that there is a problem here?  But, Google has offered an olive branch – two of them in fact. The first one is to let them know if you were hit by this update in a negative way that you should not have been. The other thing you can also do is snitch on someone that Google didn’t apparently catch.

Obviously Google staff know that this algo update might not have really done it’s job in a graceful and completely meaningful way. But give them credit: for the first time ever, they have provided a form where you can let them know if you’ve been unfairly victimized by The Penguin.

And if you’re in a snitching mood, you can snitch to the Penguin here.

The majority of our web properties and our clients’ sites have sailed through this fine. There has been some slight movement – in some cases a couple of spots upward, in others a couple of spots downward (more due to Google giving more credit in their alogrithm to other sites than anything else, most likely), but one site in particular which I’ve discussed before just makes no sense at all. There are only two things I can think of, and if either of them are what has affected the site to this degree, something is definitely wrong and absolutely Negative SEO is now possible if Google does not fix it.

1. Two and half years ago, about 40 articles were submitted to EzineArticles. Those articles contained links to different pages as well as the front page of the site.  Shortly after, Google came out with an update that devalued Article Directories – and the site did drop a couple of spots at that time.

2. About six weeks ago, somehow Google discovered the server name and the IP address of the server the site resides on. It is shared hosting, and I have no clue how Google ever started to index http://xxx.xx.xxx.xxx/somedirectory/ and end up with a copy of my site – and then do the same with the server name – thereby not only triplicating content, but also showing in my GWMT account, an exponential increase in backlinks to the site in one week. But this confuses me as this site (and one of our properties did) did not receive any “unnatural back link building detection” messages.

The result? For a major search term for which the site used to rank on Page 1, about #7 on Google.COM and on Page 2 of Google.CA, you now have to go all the way to Page 55 (that’s Page – not the 55th result) of the Google SERP’s. That’s insane. This is a website that has existed for over 10 years, has always done well, has tons of great quality content, and I receive daily emails from visitors congratulating me on the quality of the website.

It has lots of links from other fly fishing, fishing, outdoor related, etc. types of websites that were put there by other webmasters who found the site and liked it, and linked to it.

For searches on individual fly patterns, that I published long before other people ever did, the site ranks nowhere. It makes no sense to me. And I’ll tell you what – this site is not well monetized, it’s not something I make a ton of cash off of, (yes, there is an E-bay store, yes, there are some other Amazon affiliate links to products, where appropriate, and yes, there is some Adsense but it’s certainly not a “money” site for me – none of these things are “in your face”).

It’s not about the money, it’s more of a “pride” thing. But not only that, it’s pretty obvious to me that genuine, quality sites can be taken out – whether it’s a Panda or a Penguin – and sometimes it doesn’t make sense.

So what do you think? Will you be filling out either of the forms Google has provided that I linked to above?

 

 

Google, Wake Up!!

So Matt Cutts tweeted about a new Google product today, Google Drive. I have no clue what Google Drive is, and right now, I don’t really care. As much as there have been some neat, cool, and awesome products out of Google.. someone has to tell them, “Wake up guys! You were the best at search… and in your attempts to be good at everything else, you’re now becoming average at everything.”

When you first arrived on the scene, you were a search engine. And it took a wee bit of time for people to switch from Altavista, Hotbot or whatever other search engine they were using, but through really good quality results, you managed to do that. It was great!

But in the past few years, in your attempts to be everything to everybody, your quality in everything has just gone way down hill.

Heck, earlier in the year when you did a Panda update, someone searching the term:

fly fishing

saw the “The Flying Fish Restaurant” as one of the search results. Ummmm.. can you say Altavista, 1999?

That kind of search result lasted for a good month, and then there was another update.  Now you get search results that you’d expect if you searched

fly fishing rods

– many of the general information sites about fly fishing in general have been relegated to Page 4. That does not make sense. If I search for ‘fly fishing’ on Google.ca, why am I getting some part time fly fishing instructor’s website, located in Shelburne, Ontario as one of my top five results? It makes no sense. You ask for “quality” yet you are providing results that are brand oriented, promotional and non-informational.

And that is just one example – I could go on with many other search queries, where Google has obviously dropped the ball.

Look, stop trying to compete with Facebook and all the other stuff. Get back to what you did really good at when you first began. Your “Google +1” thing, along with your Google attempts at providing “Social” are crappy. They slow down my browser, are just totally unintuitive to most people (including me, and I’m pretty good at figuring things out rapidly), and just a pain in the neck. Google, you were a search engine, and a damn good one at that.

Today, everything you put out is average at best in your attempts to be everything to everyone. You are no longer amazing at what you do.

Someone has to tell you.