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Who wants a hand job? A Google one, that is.

Does this mean we finally have proof we (the SEOs) have won?

Every SEO this last week or so has been wetting their panties and tonking on about the Google Spam Quality Guidelines being leaked. Whoopie frickin’ do. What an amazing insight into Google we all have now. Or not.

Has anybody actually sat down and read though this crap? Was there anything there that anybody didn’t actually already know or at least, very safely assume? No, not really. However, I think a lot of people missed the one important thing about this document. It’s written for noobs!

Do you realise how serious this is?
I heard rumours over a year ago that Google employs over 5,000 people to “hand review” websites, this document would suggest to me that number has grown considerably. From reading the document, it would seem Google is employing monkeys en masse to trawl the web.

I can see it now….

Welcome to your first day at Google!

Step 1: Sit on this chair

Step 2: Go to the websites that this program tells you to go to.

Step 3: Without using brain, rate these websites based on what this PDF says

Step 4: Goto Step 2

I believe the “Web Quality” room in Google will look similar to this:

Rows upon rows of imprisoned Web Quality rating minds searching a never-ending Internets.

Am I being overly harsh? C’mon, wake up and smell the drool, this document gives you explicit instructions on how to “identify a parked domain”. If you can’t identify a parked domain yourself, you don’t deserve a modem, let alone being allowed to run amok rating websites.

The Big Truth
I’m always having discussions with people about pushing the boundaries of SEO and being told “oh, Google could spot that. They could rate this and look at this, etc.” The fact of the matter is, with newer web technologies (see “multi-variate” testing), more RSS and syndicated content than you could mash with potatoes, Google is having a damn hard time reliably identifying spam and crap content, so they’ve had recruit a manual review army. For just about any “you can’t do this because…” scenario, I can give an example of similar techniques being used for legitimate purposes, which is bad news for Google – they really don’t want to throwing out false positives and automatically booting good sites out their index.

Google’s algorithm is suffering, big time.

Want some proof?
This document only confirms what I have suspected for a while now. Over the last 6 months I’ve seen a large increase in the amount of manual reviews done on my own sites. Algorithmically, they would rank perfectly – even with 100% scraped content – then they’d hit the top 5 in Google for a key term, which obviously ups them in the hand review priority (why manual review a website that doesn’t rank?) and they get punished. Fair enough, they are just pawns in a larger game – and you learn a lot about what you can get away with sending websites to their death.

Even though Google denies it (they hate admitting their algorithm isn’t great), you see all of these Google Bombs being defused manually. I wrote ages ago about how to spot a Google Bomb from an algorithmic point of view, so people just adapted. Last month I saw the Scientology* homepage ranking for “dangerous cult”, pretty smart as they’d chosen words that were already present on page, therefore getting around one of the main Google Bomb filters. So it ranked #1 for quite a while, then magically, “poof!” it’s gone. If that doesn’t reek of a web quality monkey, I don’t know what does.

But Google can, detect, um, it can, uh…
What’s the main reason (most) people don’t go around committing crimes? Generally, it’s fear of punishment. One of the big reasons a lot of people don’t link spam/blackhat/cloak whatever your cup of tea might be, is, you guessed it, fear of punishment. The more Google can get you to believe it can magically detect certain trends, the less likely you are [the content creating mass] to produce spammy/poor content. Which is great for Google (and end user of course), because it makes their job a whole lot easier!

Think of an off-page technique that you’d think would get a site penalised or banned, we’ll say guestbook spamming for our example. That’s a nasty little old-school trick. So, like most people at DigitalPoint, you believe that Google automatically penalises sites for guestbook spamming. Let?s say this is true, Google has admitted it – they can algorithmically spot guestbook spamming no problem and they’ll penalise your site for it. I can guarantee you if Google openly admitted this, guestbook spamming would go up a billion and seven percent. SEOs would be spamming the hell out of their competitors to get them penalised and all Google has done is make its job a hell of a lot harder – they have encouraged people to make more noise to signal.

This holds true to most techniques, if it’s off-page, you can generally do it for a competitor, so Google punishing algorithmically for it would create more spam and a worse search experience. This my friends, is a prime example of “Catch 22″. Now, I’m not saying that you can’t damage other peoples’ rankings, it’s quite possible – especially on newer sites. However, it is a lot more likely that if Google identifies a guestbook that is heavily spammed, it will simply kill link juice going out from that page, not penalising, just reducing the effect of spam, this is how most “low level” spam is treated.

What about the bigger stuff? The algorithm will definitely raise flags. For instance, I [albeit accidently] built 15,000 links to a brand new domain (oops) and it actually started to rank very well. However, checking the logs after it was nuked, it was evident the site has been given a “hand job”, for being a “thin affiliate” page.

Search Disruption
I’ve seen a lot of people, like fellow Brit, Dave Naylor talking about SEOs considering “disruption budgets”. Meaning, dedicating some time and money to rocking your competitor’s boat, rather than fixing your own sails. With Dave’s write ups on buying links I see this as a viable option of late. Google is been swinging damn hard for link buyers and sellers, which is different to how I thought they’d handle it. I assumed they would continue with the “devalue the sold link” avenue, but they’ve been racking up the kills, giving out fatalities easier than Sub Zero’s finishing move (forward, down, forward, punch).



The final tip
Take one this away from all of this: Nowadays, I would be less careful about link building and more careful with presenting your site to look natural to a manual review. Maybe this is a topic we can cover later? How to make your site pass a manual review..

Also, put up to a vote. Should I buy Dave Naylor a VW Camper so his life is nearer to completion?

*For more information on Scientology, see Xenu.Net

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5 responses to “Who wants a hand job? A Google one, that is.”

  • Seocracy says:

    Brill post my friend.

    Very well written. It echoed alot of my own thoughts.

    Bravo.

    -Rob

    Comment by Seocracy
    March 27th, 2008 @ 5:06 am

  • DaveN says:

    Nice Post !

    For more information on Scientology btw seen the what anonymous are doing ..

    deathboy.livejournal.com/1082404.html

    Comment by DaveN
    March 27th, 2008 @ 10:23 am

  • DaveN says:

    btw my wife would kill you and me if you bought a me a campervan ..

    Comment by DaveN
    March 27th, 2008 @ 10:24 am

  • CCarter says:

    Actually there is no “Web Quality” Room, the people that do this actually can login remotely from anywhere. It’s a Google login, I had the url awhile back before the leak, but forgot to bookmark it. Stupid Me! They just login and go through like 500 websites a day or a week, for a set amount of hourly rate. I don’t remember the exact details though.

    Comment by CCarter
    June 27th, 2008 @ 9:16 pm

  • Mark says:

    @ CCarter,

    That’s exactly what I heard (or read). I know there’s no “web quality” room, but it amused me to think of one &_&

    Comment by Mark
    June 27th, 2008 @ 9:36 pm