Blogs from David Harry Sat, 25 Mar 2017 03:47:05 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Google RankBrain SEO doesn't exist: here's why Given the amount of apparent confusion around how it will affect your marketing efforts, we felt it was time to dive into what it means to you.


Connecting the dots

What I do think is important is that we're seeing a definitive moment in where search is probably going in the future. Give we have a Google Hangout on this topic today, I felt one more post was in order.

Again, I get the sense that these are early days for the associated elements that seem to be part of this current chain in the evolution of how Google works. We know that they are using the machine learning parts in other areas such as spam detection already. So that part of this puzzle, isn't limited to just RankBrain.

Read more]]> (David Harry) General SEO Thu, 14 Apr 2016 12:07:46 +0000
If Google was a guy – the series Ok, because we all need a laugh.. right?

I was updating the SEO Dojo YouTube account today and realized I hadn't put the most recent “If Google was a guy” videos from CollegeHumor, into the “Humour” playlist we have...

After watching them all again.. I decided it wouldn't hurt to share here, for those that haven't seen them. They're a blast and should keep any self respecting search geek in stitches, for at least an hour or so... it did for me.

Anyway, enjoy these if you haven't before.

Part 1

Read more]]> (David Harry) Rants and Ramblings Tue, 12 Apr 2016 17:04:40 +0000
Does Google use click data to rank pages? Yesterday week I was watching a Hangout with (among others) Andrey Lipattsev, Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google. At one point Rand, Eric and Ammon were talking to him about some experiences they'd tested with click data, and asked if indeed Google was using it in some form.


Long story short, Andrey couldn't really confirm nor deny the specific instances the boys mentioned, without more information. He did however imply that in some instances (shorter temporal ones) there could indeed be some ranking benefits from said signals.

That of course is interesting as Googlers have generally distanced themselves from that as being too noisy and spam-able. I myself have had that reply in the past when talking with former web spam team head, Matt Cutts.

Read more]]> (David Harry) Industry News Thu, 24 Mar 2016 13:43:10 +0000
Technical SEO - What is it? So, what exactly is “technical” SEO? That's something we discussed in the first part of our Friday SEO Chat last week and methinks it's a great topic to get into. While the value of it, to those of us in the know, is obvious, we also noted that there are still a lot of SEOs out there that still don't really seem to “get it”.



Some other related reading that might help you get into the swing;

Read more]]> (David Harry) Technical SEO Tue, 11 Aug 2015 15:52:17 +0000
Search Geeks Speak; content production and promotion In the 2nd part of a two part series on content programs and strategy, we're going to be looking at content development and promotion (on-site and off-site). 

Search Geeks Speak

Obviously we're all long heard the mantra of "content is King" over the years, but very little on how to best approach that. In the first part of the journey we looked at content audits and content strategy, (you can find that here). Now we're going to be looking at strategies geared towards the development and promotion elements.

Our guests will include;

It should be a great session... be sure to join us by going to the event page HERE or watching it live here on the site.
Read more]]> (David Harry) Industry News Mon, 26 Jan 2015 12:38:51 +0000
The Great Google Disavow Debate of 2015 For those of you that have been living under the proverbial rock, (or don't care) a recent Moz Whiteboard Friday by Josh Bachynski stirred up a whole bunch of controversy. It surrounded not only the efficacy of using the disavow (as a stand-alone for Penguin issues) as well as how one should conduct themselves in public forums.


Me? I have always maintained that there's probably some form of trust scoring that is associated with them and they are indeed, worth doing (with Penguin or a manual penalty for "unnatural links").

Here's the session, and a few reactions to it;

I tend to think of it as such;

  • Google identifies 1000 bad links (and dampens scoring 1.0)
  • You disavow 500
  • Google gives you a 0.5 reduction in scoring dampener.

Join The SEO Training Dojo

Anyway, we got the gang together last Friday and hased out various opinions from the experts. Below is a set of clips from that session so that you can make up your own mind.

Participants Included;

Josh Bachynski Speaks

Along the way Josh also dropped in on the session to further state and clarify his case since it hit the fan. Again, you have to think for yourself and make up your own mind. This second video are some highlights from that part of the session.

At the end of the day, I wouldn't be too quick to disregard the Google disavow file for manual or Penguin actions.

  • If you'd like to watch the entire session (2hrs long) the video is here.
  • If you'd like to join us for this week's chat (on authority and influence), go here.


Read more]]> (David Harry) Forensic SEO Sun, 18 Jan 2015 15:17:51 +0000
Third Party Search Data; not all is as it seems These days we see a lot of folks in the SEO industry trying to analyze websites after penalties or as part of a competitor analysis process. Which is cool. The problem lies in the fact that these tools are actually reporting on what they call “visibility” not actual traffic.

Let's consider one of the more cited resources, SearchMetrics. They're visibility metrics are certainly much different than actual search referrer traffic. I would know, I wrote an article for them about it.

Don't jump to conclusions.

Does SEM Rush and SearchMetrics data tell the story?

The reason this came to mind is that one of the members and I were talking about a site I am working on at the moment. He pulled up some of this kinda data and surmised that things weren't going so well. To which I answered, “Oh, so you have access to their analytics too?”... (of course, he didn't).

Here's what SEM Rush showed for the site in question;


And here's what SearchMetrics had;


Wow... these guys must be getting stomped right? That's some crazy looking graphs fer sure. Funny thing with that though. I have access to the data that matters. The analytics. So let's take a peek.

This is all search traffic;


And this one is for the Google referrer data


Duh. Sure, there is some decline... but it's actually a seasonal market. When spring hits and the weather gets better, people don't use it as much. This is steady in YOY data as well. But that's not really the point I am trying to make.

There's a better tool out there

It's the one between yer bloody ears. It's great to have these tools for insight. I use them from time to time myself (heck, they're both Dojo sponsors in fact). But never trust anything. If anything this further highlights the risks in doing so-called “deep dives” of penalty analysis like SOME people seem to do in this industry. You know who you are.

Those of us that do a lot of forensic SEO work know that it is completely irresponsible to start making assumptions about any site, without having all the relative information required to do so. At least without some form of qualifier for the reader. If you're using these kinds of tools for client work, again.. please read my article on SearchMetrics, to understand the differences.

As you were....

Read more]]> (David Harry) General SEO Fri, 06 Jun 2014 13:59:41 +0000
Google Ranking Factor #201 Around here at the SEO Training Dojo we have what we like to call a 'fight club' mentality. Essentially, what's said behind closed doors, stays there. All to often SEOs like to write about their latest tactics. For which, I am sure Google is appreciative.

But on this occasion, we just can't keep our silence. Good friend of mine (and the Dojo) Bill Slawski shared some incredible ranking factor advice that just had to be shared. And as you all know, when Bill talks, people listen.

Domain registration timing ranking factor

Did you know that the time of year that you register a domain is indeed a ranking factor? Check this thread on Google Plus out.


Ok calm down... we were just messing with ya. But it was one of the funniest threads I've seen in a while. On a more serious note, when a post such as the one we were talking about in that thread gets as much attention (tweets, likes, plusses and over on Inbound) as this one did... it's a sad fckn statement of our industry.

Anyway, Bill and I also did a Google Hangout with the Stone Temple boys this week. There's FAR more interesting tibits in there... I suggest you watch that instead.


Read more]]> (David Harry) Industry News Thu, 05 Jun 2014 10:51:24 +0000
SEO Training Dojo - A new chapter When it comes to tools, there's lots of great ones already out there, like our friends at Majestic, Raven and of course, the Moz community. And when it comes to learning the craft through structured formats, our friends at SEO Book have it covered. So, we really didn't want to go down that road. So what's left for a search community to do?

Easy; foster community engagement and the evolution of the SEO industry.


Over the years we came to realize a few things;

  • That members interacting was the core of our website.
  • There is an ever-growing need for a private setting for people to engage and network.
  • That members interact on different platforms, not just here on the site.


So, we've listened and we've learned.



What's New At The SEO Training Dojo?

The Approach. That's what.

More than a website – some of our members like to drop by the site. Some prefer to hangout on Facebook, others on Google Plus, LinkedIn or on Skype. Some folks, a combination of those. When you join the SEO Training Dojo community you now also have access to our private groups on all of the above social networks. We are where you are.


Quality over quantity – we've also culled the membership here as well as in our various private groups around the web. You can no longer just sign-up to the SEO Dojo by giving us money. You need to be sponsored or pass a short interview process. We're not being elitist, we just want to encourage a higher level of information flow. Learn More here.


Connected community – regardless of how you use the network, we'll keep you connected. Each week members will receive an update with all the top industry news as well as the hot topics being discussed across our private channels. We know how important it is to stay on top of things and that time is precious. We'll keep you informed.


High powered networking – another thing that we've seen over the years are the members working together and outsourcing to each other. We've enable more ways to do this and combined with the member quality control, you'll be able to find the right person for the job or contracting opportunity.


We want to be your power networking platform that's intelligent, private and affordable. After nearly 5 years of community building we've learned what you want, what is needed out there, and how we can best help evolve the SEO industry.




New Look. New Approach. New Technology

Existing and past members have probably noticed by now that things have changed here lately. Believe me it's been a ton of work. From updating the systems to the design and usability, to trying to create an offering that is needed and effective. It's been a long haul. But we made it.

Yes, much of the website will still be familiar, so that's not a problem. We've simply tweaked some interfaces, updated software, added a few new features and tried to make the experience more comfortable than ever.

You can learn more about what makes up the SEO Dojo over here on this page.




Why The Changes?

I'll be honest. I do a LOT of forensic and recovery work as a consultant over the last few years. One thing that has been a bond of contention for me us the sheer amount of crap-hat SEO still going on out there. Just when it was looking like it was time for me to pack it in, the second wind kicked in.

Instead of complaining about the business owners that keep getting caught in the cross fire between Google and the less reputable providers. Sometimes you just have to strap on your warrior wear and go out and try and make a difference. So I shall try it again.

Another lesson learned as a community builder the last few years was that one has to be a bit more careful setting the bar to entry and dealing with internal drama. To be effective in change, as strong group is going to be paramount.

I will be writing a bit more about what we're doing over the next week, so do drop by again. If you're a past member, or thinking about joining us, I look forward to seeing you soon.

Interested in becoming an SEO Dojo warrior? Start your journey here.

Read more]]> (David Harry) Industry News Thu, 15 May 2014 04:10:31 +0000
Penguin 3.0 is coming; place your bets So, the gang here at the Dojo have been taking shots at when the next Google Penguin update is going to be. They tend to roll every 6 months or so... which means we'due.

When do you think it will be? Let me know in the comments... oh and here's a little movie poster we came up with just for fun...

Penguin  3.0

Read more]]> (David Harry) Forensic SEO Mon, 28 Apr 2014 12:52:06 +0000
The SEO Training Dojo turns 4! Well folks... it's that time of year once more. The humble land that is the SEO Training Dojo community is celebrating it's 4th birthday, and we couldn't be more excited.

It's been a long road for the SEO world and we've dealt with a seemingly never-ending slew of changes with the search world and an ongoing evolution that's made it more complicated than ever to work in this thing of ours. SEO is far from dead, it's become more tactical than ever. Which is great news for us I guess, since it takes a strong community of professionals to stay on top of things.


As past of our birthday celebrations we're offering a whopping 25% discount on all of our membership packages. That means it's a great time to join up and see what you've been missing. Just use the code; DOJObday

Live and Interactive

Of the many changes and additions over the last year, one of the core elements of the community remains our live and interactive elements. From the SEO Dojo chat room on Skype to our more recent habit of holding Friday Chats via Google hangouts, crowdsourcing is the name of the game.

To get an idea of the awesomeness that is our interactive world, just check out a few of the sessions we've had over the last while;

Google Hummingbird and the land of semantic search

SEO Tools and Actionable Data

We keep a full repository of these within the community and the list of guests we've had is impressive, including;

  • Bill Slawski
  • Ammon Johns
  • John Henshaw
  • Dr Pete Myers
  • Eric Wu
  • Dom Hodgson
  • Alan Bleiweiss
  • Loren Baker
  • ... and many more

Tool Discounts on the grow

Another exiting part of this year's celebrations is the addition of our newest sponsor; Cognitive SEO. Many of the members had told us they really loved the tool set, so we decided to bring them in as part of the growing list of discounts we give to our members.



If you haven't tried out the SEO Training Dojo before, now is the time to get in and see what all the excitement is about!! Sign up using the code DOJObday and get 25% off!

See you there!

Read more]]> (David Harry) Industry News Tue, 29 Oct 2013 15:40:08 +0000
Google Knowlege Graph Expands to Suggest Can't say that I've seen this before, nor can I seem to reproduce it with any kind of consistency. But it is something 'new', no? Friend of the Dojo, Mike Wilton, shared the discovery today after noticing it while searching for the term [tarantula]. Here's a screen to explain..


The two listings there in the Google suggest drop down seem to be entity expansions based on the knowledge graph updates and leads to query refinements like so;

[tarantula spider]



And [tarantula 1955]



And richer-snippet suggest too!

The other one I managed to find, was for the query [them] which for me, produced this;



Which leads to;



Mike's looked like;


We do know that (along with the Hummingbrid update) that Google also mentioned at the 15th birthday affair that they have made some expansions to the Knowledge graph elements of the engine. I don't recall really ever seeing these before, so do forgive me if it's not actually new. I really haven't been able to reproduce it on other queries, so if you have further examples, please do let me know.


More we found after the fact;

Here's a few more screens, as they roll in from folks we know mucking about...

[players club]





You get the idea. Anyway, it seems this is a new feature related to the expanded knowledge graph elements from last week. Have you seen any interesting ones out in the wild?


ADDED - more you can try;

  • [Young Guns] - 1988 film and band
  • [misfits] delivers one as well, band vs tv show
  • [turkey] - country and critter
  • [Kansas] - state and band
  • [Oklahoma] - state and musical

Read more]]> (David Harry) Industry News Tue, 01 Oct 2013 16:58:57 +0000
A Search Geek's Thoughts on Google Hummingbird

Yea, I'm going there. Normally I don't jump on the bang wagon that is the flailing of the SEO industry each time Google rolls over in the night. The reasoning lies in that we generally don't know much early on and it takes time to digest things. Today, I am breaking that rule.

While I don't really have any hard insights into Google's new Hummingbird algorithm change, we have been talking amongst ourselves about some things over the last month, that are now making some more sense.



Changing how they deal with queries

A while back Terry and I were looking at some query spaces we were intimate with and noticed that something was indeed changing in how Google was doing their query classification. Of note, there seemed to be a different mix of transactional and informational results in spaces that had previously been transactional heavy. Something was afoot...

From what we do know so far, one of the elements of the Hummingbird is trying to deal with the myriad of ways that a user might go about a search task, (chain of queries to accomplish a goal).

Over the last 10 years we've seen how shorter queries have given way to longer ones. I have on occasion take my laptop to the local pub and asked people to find something (on Google). Everyone goes about it in different ways as far as the queries they use to get there. We also see that people have evolved with search and tend to use more words and be far more specific in how they query Google.

This can be a problem for a search engine that relies on keywords. Some of the elements we are seeing with the latest update do indeed seem to be dealing with query analysis. I have been talking about it in terms of 'synonymous queries'. Meaning; that while the words used in a query might differ, the goal is the same. Google might be looking at treating different queries as being the same as far as the goal of the task.

Consider queries like;

  • [where to get blue widgets]
  • [where can I find blue widgets]
  • [where to buy blue widgets]
  • [where can I buy blue widgets]

You get the idea. In the past, the subtle differences in the wording might actually produce different results. From what I am seeing so far, treating these kinds of queries the same, or as being more closely related, could be part of what has changed with Hummingbird.


The Conversational Search Connection

This I think is one of the more important elements as far as where Google seems to be headed. Obviously the foray into Android and eventual purchase of Motorola was the writing on the wall as far as Google's interest in the world of mobile.

The obvious evolution there of course is voice search. Who wants to sit there typing queries into Google on that small screen? I know I don't. So it makes sense. Now, let's also consider the recent work they did with conversational search, including voice abilities. With this they really highlight how connecting natural language and search tasks are being taken to a new level.

As an example, you can try (via Chrome);

  • [how old is Barack Obama?] - which returns a knowledge card with age and birthday
  • [who is his wife?] - returns knowledge card for Michelle Obama
  • [where was she born?] - returns a knowledge card for Chicago




Originally this was just pulling from the knowledge graph bits, but is now apparently available for the entire search core.

With this we can see how the previous search was extended into the new queries in the search task chain. And the obvious implications of natural language processing in the voice elements. People simply don't speak in keywords. Which will be key in dealing with voice/mobile search in the years to come.

As noted in this Forbes article;

“After the event, Scott Huffman, a key engineering director at Google currently working on natural language, told me that part of the impetus for the change was that as more people speak searches into phones, they’re doing so in a more natural way than they type in queries–which is to say more complicated. So Google’s search formulas needed to be able to respond to them. “


The Nuts and Bolts; Things not strings

If there's one thing we've been talking about here in the Dojo for the last while.... it's about keywords. Or, more succinctly, the end of them.

Over the years search has become less and less about keywords and more about concepts. The days of keyword stuffing are long gone. Using synonyms, is not what 'semantic search' is all about. Modern search engines seek to try and understand the concepts and relations of the content on a page. This post from 2010, shows how long I've been rambling about it...sigh...

Anyway, don't wanna pull a muscle trying to pat myself on the back, so let's move along shall we?

It's not a huge leap for us to start to see this manifesting more with Hummingbird. Through a combination of natural language processing, query data and semantic analysis, there is a far more implicit behavioural element that is becoming part of the natural evolution.

Bill had a great post the other day about one patent that might be part of this evolution. It deals with some elements (via query analysis) that can surface content that satisfies the user, although they maybe used different approaches (queries and query reformatting) to reach the same end result. The old Google would, for the most part, see the words in the query, not really trying to establish the implicit elements of the search task being performed. This does seem to be changing.

Again, this all plays back to the concepts, not keywords, approach to how they're understanding pages as well as the queries users are implementing. To extend this, we need look no further than the knowledge graph


The Knowledge Graph Connection

While I am not entirely sold that Hummingbird is really about the ol' KG, (which was also apparently updated recently as well) it is probably is worth looking at. One thing we do know is that this is another more recent commitment from Google in the evolution of the results. And indeed we can see the knowledge base 'cards' showing up in conversational search, a stated goal for the Hummingbird implementation.

Google has become a destination, not just a search engine. One such example we've seen recently include queries such as;

[madonna albums]


[madonna songs]


As you click around these results they produce further refinements and plenty of knowledge graph elements. Next let's look at a bunch of examples Stephen Watts shared, using Google conversational search;




Again, while I don't believe there's a direct connection with Hummingbird, it does further highlight the concepts and named entity aspects of the evolution. Not to mention the madness happening in the display changes.


What does it mean for SEO?

That's the the big question right? That one's hard to answer. We really don't know enough at this point to really make any assumptions. For those that have already been evolving, getting past keywords, then I doubt a whole lot would need to be changed. On the other hand, if the loss of keyword data recently was a crushing blow, you might have already been behind the times.

Start thinking of things in the form of concepts and semantic baskets, not keywords. In the past you may have created multiple pages to target multiple terms... you know, the ol eHow approach;

  • [how to fix a vacuum cleaner]
  • [how to repair a vacuum cleaner]
  • [how do I fix my vacuum cleaner]

In the past, we might actually target a page to each of those terms. Due to the fact Google was so keyword centric, this type of approach was often quite successful. Given that we could start seeing more implicit predictive results towards potentially synonymous queries, that might not be the case in the near future.


When we're creating content for pages we need to get beyond simplified keyword centric approaches. Google sure is. My instinct is that there will be less meat on the bone for overly targeted pages focused on a given term. Changes in query analysis means that your content should be strong on the concepts and related concepts (as well as citations etc) contained on them.

I would also venture to say that those involved in markets that are heavy in mobile, that you will have to also consider how the queries will be formatted, compared to reg desktop style searching. If you read this post (for mobile) that looks at geo-location and behavioural elements, you can start to see where something like Google's Hummingbird, could play a prominent role.

Beyond that, I am not entirely sure how it will affect things beyond targeting and page mapping. It's far too early for that. Many of the same signals used in rankings are still in play. In fact, probably most of them. It is more about the query analysis and by extension, the results returned as far as I can tell so far. I would imagine that semantic mark-up will be more prominent, but I am not convinced that has anything to do with Hummingbird itself.

Early days. As I get more time to think and play with things, I shall post some more. Feel free to drop your own theories in the comments, all are welcomed.


And as you go, it bears reading this post from Google on it, there's a TON of mobile phone pics... Coincidence? He he...

Read more]]> (David Harry) Industry News Sat, 28 Sep 2013 15:33:33 +0000
Google takes personalization and behavioural to a new level When you read a lot of patents and papers there is a lot of new layers on the search onion. But every now and then... you come across something that makes you really stop and think. Today is one of those days. We never know when they'll happen, but they inevitably will. Pathetic as it is, I sort of pine for 'em.

We all know that mobile search continues to grow, including geo-localization. Most of us also have seen the rise of personalization over the years. The relationship of temporal elements, if it is adapting older content or preying upon the QDF (query deserves freshness) is also fairly common knowledge. That's what makes today's journey fun, it covers all three!



First off, the patent;

Providing Digital Content Based On Expected User Behavior

Filed; September 14 2012 - Awarded; January 10 2013

(This application is a continuation application of, and claims priority to, pending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/277,432, filed on Nov. 25, 2008. )


“In a computing system, information regarding a plurality of events that use a computing device is obtained, and a time-dependant increase in activity for each of at least some of the events is identified. An observed interest by a user in an event is correlated with an identified increase in activity for the event. Information about the activity at a time related to the event is provided for review by the user.”


How Google might look for predictive behaviour

The core concept of the patent looks at “providing digital content based on predictive determinations that are made in response to observations of user behavior”. Digital content can be many things, including search results, but the obvious connection for Google is of course; ad serving. Some of the examples they gave include;

  • advertisements,
  • promotion information,
  • news,
  • event information,
  • recommendations,
  • reviews, directions, and the like.

What they're looking at here are various behavioural signals that might show a time-dependant increase in activity for certain events. When there is an increase in activity for an event they could analyze the search requests related to the event. They can also look at a location as well as a transaction (potentially made via smart phone).

From there they might look at the increase of activity as an explicit action combined with observed interest surrounding activities related to the event, the obvious one being search queries etc.

“The method may further include identifying a lack of correlation between the observed interest of the user and second non-user-specific events, and identifying the information based on a combination of the correlation and the lack of correlation.

  • identifying a time-dependant increase in activity for each of at least some of the events.
  • Identifying the time-dependant increase in activity for each of the events may include analyzing search requests related to the event. Identifying the one or more time-dependant increases in activity for each of the events may include identifying a location associated with each of the events.
  • the information may include promotional information for the non-user-specific activity, or promotional information for an entity in a geographic vicinity of the non-user-specific activity. “

Human beings are habitual. We live fairly structured lives. We often perform recurring or semi-recurring actions. The temporal elements of these traits that Google talks about looking at include;

  • within a minute,
  • within an hour,
  • over several hours,
  • during the course of a day,
  • over a few days,
  • a week,
  • a month,
  • a year, or over multiple years, etc.

If we consider this as well as the proliferation of mobile devices, you can see how this might come in handy for a search engine. So let's have a look how...


How geographic and behavioural data could influence search results

This is where it starts to get pretty interesting... here's a few snippets from the offering that best explain the thinking... (bold is my emphasis)

“For example, a user may generally drive from home to work each weekday and may return home from work in the afternoon. Though occasionally the user may depart from this routine, such as by carpooling, taking a vacation or sick day, riding the bus, etc., in general, the user may typically follow the daily routine of driving to and from work.

In other examples, a user may tend to golf, cycle, or go boating each weekend, attend a club meeting the first Tuesday of each month, or wash the car almost every Saturday morning.

Some activities may recur at particular intervals, such as each weekend or on one or more particular days of the week or month, but may additionally be correlated to another time interval, such as a season. “


Are you starting to see where this is headed? Ok, let's make sure....

“For example, a golfer may tend to play golf at a local golf course (or one of several local courses, e.g.) each weekend (or many or most weekends) during the spring, summer, and fall seasons, but may tend to practice instead at an indoor driving range on weekends during the winter.

In another example, a user may engage in activities that recur on an annual basis, bi-annual basis, or some other long-term recurring schedule. For example, the user may travel to visit family during Thanksgiving each year. In another example, a group of six couples may enjoy a tradition of getting together once every six months for dinner, drinks, and fellowship, and may alternate hosting the event such that each couple hosts an event once every three years. “

Catching on? This approach would use the user tendencies to anticipate future actions and provide content tailored to suit over the mobile device. It could be search results, ads or both. This could be provided at the time of an anticipated event, or even a relative period prior to it. Let's imagine that it predicatively knew you'd be in Chicago this weekend. Not only might it add content related to the city, but even tailor it to a degree for a given region of the city.

Further examples of events could include;

  • the dates and times that the television program "Law & Order" is broadcast,
  • a basketball team's published schedule,
  • the schedule of nights that a local dance bar will feature line dancing

Are you curious about that first one? Let's say you use you Android to control your TV or tend to search topics related to that show around the time of broadcast each week. Again, even being at home can have a behavioural geo-location predictive model.


Adapting to the patterns

One thing I found interesting are the elements that look for increased or decreased interest in a given activity, (or inquiries or communications regarding the activities or events). In a few instances they classified these as patterns of “ regular, semi-regular, or occasional user behaviour”. By looking at the day-to-day interactions with your mobile phone, or computing device. Presumably a tablet.

Part of the reasoning for the intuitive nature of the predictive nature of it is that it avoids the more explicit indicators such as listing preferences such as, “ activities, events, causes, associations, characteristics, habits, tendencies, settings and the like”. They also talk of using those types of explicit actions that could be offered in refinement interface elements.

What it means to me

And yes, for those that like to just scan and then roll on to the end of these posts, there is a lesson to be learned. The world keeps evolving, marketing must too. HA! Take that. No, seriously, read the entire post and then try to envision such concepts against how you're doing things now.

For me, I can see an interesting approach as far as combining not only traditional behavioural activities, but adding another layer via geographic tracking via mobile computing devices. As a marketer, imaging a combination of Google Local, street view, indoor maps with ad serving is an interesting twist and could offer far more tailored campaigns. As an SEO, I start to think about how well I not only target a client geographically, but also understanding the demographic better.

As always, a patent is just a patent. One of many. It's more about a cumulative instinct toward the mindset of a search engineer. Google ones in this instance. Future proof SEO is about seeing into the future. It helps one better understand the search world around them. For me, this was a damned interesting ride.

Until next time, play safe.


More Snippets;

The Coffee Drinker

“Using observed or determined patterns, the system can determine appropriate information for presentation to the user at a relevant time. For example, the system may use the observed information that the user enjoys a morning coffee before work, and may present a coupon from Coffee Shop 1, or from another coffee shop (e.g., "Coffee Shop 2") located along the route 103a usually travelled by the user to work on a weekday morning. In an example, the system may present the information to the user shortly before the user typically departs from home for work, for example. The user may appreciate this information, because it may be tailored to a preference of the user (e.g., the user's enjoyment of coffee on weekday mornings), and because it may be delivered or presented in a time-opportunistic fashion (i.e., near the time when the user often purchases coffee). As such, the user may save money or time with little or no additional effort expended in obtaining the promotion information.

In some implementations, the system can use information indicative of a first user pattern and information from an external signal to present the user with information at a time outside of a time associated with the pattern. For example, suppose the user in the example above is driving about town on a Saturday morning at 9:00 A.M. The system may use the observed information pertaining to the user's weekday coffee purchases (that is, associated with a pattern of activity occurring on weekday mornings), and may use the external signal that the user is presently driving in the morning (albeit on a Saturday) to present content associated with a coffee shop, such as a coupon for a free bagel with the purchase of a medium or large mocha. One or more additional external signals, such as the user's present location, calendar information, mobile device communications or requests, etc., may further be used to tailor content for presentation to the user, including for example presenting a coupon for a nearby coffee shop. “


The Sports Fan

“In certain implementations, the information-providing system can also present time-related user information based on a combination of global information and an observed pattern. As an illustrative example, the system can observe that the user traveled to the stadium the evenings of Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday based on events 108a-c. In one example, the system can determine that baseball games are held in the stadium at a time near the occurrence of the events 108a-c by accessing global information, such as the baseball team's schedule, which may be stored in a server and available on a web page, for example. For example, the system may determine that the team plays home games at the stadium and may access the team's schedule from a team or league web site. In various implementations, the system can request that the user upload a game schedule for the baseball team, or send a query to a search engine to search for results relating to the team and its schedule, or access the baseball team's website to obtain the schedule. The system can use the user-related information (traveling to the stadium on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday), combined with the global information or external signal (that a baseball game was played at the stadium each of those nights), to determine that the user likely attended baseball games at the stadium each of Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights.

Such a determination might indicate any of several meanings. For example, it may indicate that the user is a full or partial season ticket holder for the baseball team, and that the user may be likely to attend many future games at the stadium. Such an indication may be bolstered if the user continues to attend baseball games at the stadium on a regular or semi-regular basis, or if external signals are observed that indicate an interest in the local baseball team (e.g., using one's mobile device to check league standings or read articles on the team). Alternatively, if each of the games that the user attended were against a common opponent, it may instead indicate that the user is a fan of the opponent, rather than the local team, and may portend that the user is likely to attend future games at the stadium when the opponent visits, but may be less indicative that the user will attend games when other opponents come to town. Such an indication may be bolstered if the user never or rarely attends baseball games involving other opponents, attends future games involving the same opponent, or exhibits observable behavior indicating an interest in the opponent baseball team. “


The Movie Watcher

“For example, the system may observe that the event 110, visiting a movie theater on Friday evening, occurred even though a baseball game was concurrently being played in the stadium. This may indicate, for example, that the user prefers seeing a movie on Friday nights to attending a baseball game, even if the user may have previously purchased tickets for the baseball game (e.g., if the user is a season ticket holder). In certain implementations, the system can determine that the user prefers to go to the movie theater rather than watch baseball on Friday nights. This may distinguish Friday evenings, for example, because the user selected baseball over movies during the other days (e.g., Mon., Tues., Wed., as described above) where both choices were available. Based on the user preference, the system may provide movie-related information instead of baseball-related information on Friday evenings when both activities are scheduled, even though another user-observed pattern (associated with events 108) may have indicated that the user attends many or most baseball games played at the stadium.

For example, the system can present movie schedule information, movie trailers, advance-ticket-purchase information, 2-for-1 buttered popcorn promotions, and the like, at 6:00 P.M. on Friday evening, in anticipation that the user will again choose to attend a movie on Friday evening over a baseball game. Similarly, the system may present information on events similar to movies (e.g., a musical play) that may be occurring in a nearby venue (e.g., in a student-run theatre near the movie theater) for user review on Friday evening. In some cases, the system may present information related to the baseball game and information related to movies on Friday evening, given the user tendencies described above.”

Day to Day Life

“the system can observe that a significant portion of users tend to shop for groceries and refill their vehicles with gas during weekends. In some implementations, the system may present the user with information related to grocery stores or gas stations (e.g., advertisements, coupons, promotions, locations or directions) near the user's home, as shown in the map 102d, during weekend periods. Such global information can be combined with observed user tendencies in various implementations, or may be used independently to predict user behavior and provide appropriate content accordingly. “


There's a ton of other examples in this patent, if you read only one patent this week (lol), make it this one. Even my post here doesn't fully do it justice.




Read more]]> (David Harry) Patents and Papers Sun, 22 Sep 2013 21:39:09 +0000
Google Reconsideration Request Replies; a history Originally I had wrote a post that covered both the history of the messages and a collection of replies to various reconsideration requests. It became quite evident that it was going to be a bit much for a single post, so this is part II of the series.

You can find Part I here;

Again, the goal here is really about keeping a running record of the various messages and replies from Google. Over time we can learn from them and hopefully help some folks when they get the urge to freak out.


Unnatural Links Reconsideration Replies

This is the big daddy (pun intended) of all the known manual actions, so let's start there. One of the earlier one's I have in the collection is pre-2012 and reads;

Dear site owner or webmaster of [XXXXX],

We received a request from a site owner to reconsider [prospect's site] for compliance with Google's Webmaster Guidelines. We've reviewed your site and we still see links to your site that violate our quality guidelines.

Specifically, look for possibly artificial or unnatural links pointing to your site that could be intended to manipulate PageRank. Examples of unnatural linking could include buying links to pass PageRank or participating in link schemes.

We encourage you to make changes to comply with our quality guidelines. Once you've made these changes, please submit your site for reconsideration in Google's search results.

If you find unnatural links to your site that you are unable to control or remove, please provide the details in your reconsideration request.

If you have additional questions about how to resolve this issue, please see our Webmaster Help Forum for support.

Sincerely, Google Search Quality Team

Them we started seeing some actual examples.... these generally would look like this;

Hello, thank you for your request.

We've reviewed your site and we believe that some or all of your pages still violate our quality guidelines, which can be found here: .

These guidelines outline illicit practices which may lead Google to take action on a site in order to keep webspam out of search results. In addition to this email, you may also receive a notification in Webmaster Tools regarding the outcome of your reconsideration request.

Specifically, look for possibly artificial or unnatural links pointing to your site that could be intended to manipulate PageRank. Examples of unnatural linking could include buying links to pass PageRank or participating in link schemes. Here are a couple of articles describing these techniques:

Buying links to pass PageRank;

Link schemes;

To illustrate how these articles could apply to you, here are examples of pages that contain inorganic links to your site:

(I have removed the LINKs, details on them below)

Link One

  • Directory site; Homepage TBPR5 – Indexation; 48k
  • Domain Backlinks; 12000
  • Actual page; indexed - TBPR0

Link Two

  • Directory site; Homepage TBPR8 – Indexation; 14k
  • Domain Backlinks; 3560
  • Actual page; indexed – TBPR0

To find more links to your site, you can download a list in Webmaster Tools by doing the following:

  1. Click on your site at
  2. Click on 'Your site on the web' and then 'Links to your site.'
  3. Under 'Who links the most,' click 'More.'
  4. At the top of the page, click on 'Download more sample links.'

Please correct or remove all content that is outside our quality guidelines. You might consider reaching out to the webmasters of the sites with the inorganic links on them. For advice on how to go about contacting them, read .

Once you have updated your site, reply to this email noting the specific changes you made. Only after there has been a significant decrease in unnatural linking will we consider reviewing your reconsideration request again. If there are still links that you could not remove, we will look for an explanation of why you were unable to do so.

If you'd like more specific advice for your site, consider posting in our Webmaster Help Forum, where a community of webmasters may be able to help you. You can post to the Forum by visiting the following link:

Sincerely, The Google Search Quality Team


This was a telling part of the evolution and really the first time we'd seen actual example links. It should be noted that most of the sites highlighted in these, are indeed indexed and do have toolbar PageRank. So, don't go by those when cleaning up.

Another interesting part was the advice on cleaning things up. They advise using the links in Google Webmaster Tools, but they might not even be in there, according to this recent post from Barry Schwartz. – So be careful there as well.

The next step in the evolution we started to see these;

Thank you for your request.

We have received your updates and completed our investigation into your site's backlinks. At this time we are still seeing a significant number of inorganic links to this site and have taken action to prevent them from artificially inflating your site's ranking. Please note that we try to be granular in our actions as we focus on the inorganic links to your site, preserving organic recommendations.

Below you can find examples of back links that still violate our guidelines,

(I have removed the LINKs, details on them below)

Link One

  • Directory site; Homepage TBPR0 – Indexation 2400
  • Backlinks; 560
  • Actual page; indexed - TBPR0

Link Two

  • Crap site (blog?); Homepage TBPR3 – Indexation 720k
  • Backlinks; 27300
  • Actual page; not indexed TBPR0

Link Three

  • Directory; Homepage TBPR2 – Indexation 1530
  • Backlinks; 2590
  • Actual page; indexed - TBPR0

Link Four

  • Directory; Homepage TBPR3 – Indexation 25k
  • Backlinks; 515
  • Actual page; not indexed - TBPR1

Link Five

  • Directory; Homepage TBPR0 – Indexation 361k
  • Backlinks; 172
  • Actual page; not indexed – TBPR0

At this time, we have determined that no further actions are required on our end. We will need to see more progress on the removal of the inorganic links before any actions on those links are revoked.

Regardless of who created the links, in order to protect the quality of our search results, we have taken action to reduce the trust of inorganic links to your site. Webspam techniques such as link schemes attempt to trick our systems into ranking sites higher than they should, which can affect our ability to provide high-quality search results to our users. We take these webspam violations seriously.

In the meantime, we recommend that you continue to work on cleaning up the inorganic links to your site. As a reminder, if you'd like more specific advice for your site, consider posting in our Webmaster Help Forum, where a community of webmasters may be able to help you. You can post to the Forum by visiting the following link:

Sincerely, The Google Search Quality Team

Again, we're seeing some examples and the addition of, “Regardless of who created the links” and “we have taken action to reduce the trust of inorganic links to your site”. Also notable, was the removal of the advice to go through the list of links in webmaster tools.

Anyone noticing that they don't seem to like directories? Lol. Anyway, be sure to see our post on the updated link schemes page, there's some more telling link types in there as well.

General follow up responses

We have also documented a few of the various follow-up replies that Google has sent. These can include;

"Thank you for your request and all of the follow up analysis. We've reviewed your case again, and unfortunately there are still many inorganic links pointing to the site. For example:..."


"Thank you for your follow up email and all of the information provided. The documentation you provided was very helpful in processing and understanding this case.

After re-evaluating your site's backlinks we are able to partially revoke a manual action. There are still inorganic links pointing to your site that we have taken action on. Once you've been able to make further progress in getting these links removed, feel free to reply to this email with the details of your clean-up effort" (source)

I have a working theory that the more times you have to try and get back in the good books, the more at risk you are of having some form of trust scoring go against the domain. Try and get it right the first time and avoid responses such as these.


On-site Web Spam

Ok sure, we're all used to seeing the unnatural links stuff, but there's more to it right? You read the first post in the series yea? Of course ya did. So let's take a look at some of the responses not related to the dreaded UL messages.

Dear site owner or webmaster of XXXXX,

We received a request from a site owner to reconsider XXXX for compliance with Google's Webmaster Guidelines.

We've reviewed your site and we believe that some or all of your pages still violate our quality guidelines.

In order to preserve the quality of our search engine, pages from XXXX may not appear or may not rank as highly in Google's search results, or may otherwise be considered to be less trustworthy than sites which follow the quality guidelines.

If you wish to be reconsidered again, please correct or remove all pages that are outside our quality guidelines. When such changes have been made, please visit and resubmit your site for reconsideration.

If you have additional questions about how to resolve this issue, please see our Webmaster Help Forum for support.

Sincerely, Google Search Quality Team

My favourite part is the 'less trustworthy' bits as I am somewhat convinced there is a trust score element that plays into the dampening of a site under a manual spam action. The problem we used to have is that we really wouldn't have known if this was a 'thin content' or a 'pure spam' action. Fortunately with Google's new tool, this should be more apparent and the replies become more meaningful.

I really haven't seen a lot of other on-site responses, so if you know of any, please do track me down and share. I'll add them to the post.

Manual Action Revoked

And of course, the reply EVERYONE wants to see; you've been released from hell!! I would love to get a few more of these. If you have one, let me know.

Dear site ownder or webmaster of XXXXXXX

We recieved a request from a site owner to reconsider XXXX. for compliance with Google's Webmaster Guidelines.

Previously the web spam team had taken manual action on your site because we believed it violated our quality guidelines. After reviewing your reconsideration request, we have revoked this manual action. It may take some time before our indexing and ranking systems are updated to reflect the new status of your site.

Of course, there may be other issues with your site that could affect it's ranking without a manual action by the web spam team. Google's computers determine the order of our search results using a series of formulas known as algorithms. We make hundreds of changes to our algorithms each year, and we employ more than 200 different signals when ranking pages. As our algorithms change and as the web (including your site) changes, some fluctuation in ranking can happen as we make updates to present the best results to our users. If your site continues to have troubles in our search results, please see this article for help diagnosing the issue.

thank you for helping us to maintain the quality of our search results.

Sincerely, Google search quality team.

YAY!!! That's the one we all would love to see right?


No Manual Actions on the site

And of course there's the response when there's no actions being taken against the site. Some of these we've seen include;

Dear site owner or webmaster of XXXX,

We received a request from a site owner to reconsider XXX for compliance with Google's Webmaster Guidelines.

We reviewed your site and found no manual actions by the webspam team that might affect your site's ranking in Google. There's no need to file a reconsideration request for your site, because any ranking issues you may be experiencing are not related to a manual action taken by the webspam team.

Of course, there may be other issues with your site that affect your site's ranking. Google's computers determine the order of our search results using a series of formulas known as algorithms. We make hundreds of changes to our search algorithms each year, and we employ more than 200 different signals when ranking pages. As our algorithms change and as the web (including your site) changes, some fluctuation in ranking can happen as we make updates to present the best results to our users.

If you've experienced a change in ranking which you suspect may be more than a simple algorithm change, there are other things you may want to investigate as possible causes, such as a major change to your site's content, content management system, or server architecture. For example, a site may not rank well if your server stops serving pages to Googlebot, or if you've changed the URLs for a large portion of your site's pages. This article has a list of other potential reasons your site may not be doing well in search.

If you're still unable to resolve your issue, please see our Webmaster Help Forum for support.

Sincerely, Google Search Quality Team"

Does this mean you're in the clear? Not entirely. You may have been hit by another algorithmic dampening such as the Google Penguin or Panda algorithms. Be sure to do a complete forensic work up to ensure that there aren't other issues in play.

So what's the point?

As I mentioned a few times along the way, I really just wanted to start documenting the various messages and responses we've seen from Google. I hope to eventually have a good repository that we can refer to to better understand what is needed to get the site in question out of the penalty box (eh).

I can't stress enough that one should never get mypoic over what is actually happening. We've seen many instances where the manual action wasn't the only thing affecting a site. Nothing takes the place of proper due-diligence.

If you have an example we've not noted, please do get in touch and let me know so I can add it. Thanks.

Until next time; play safe.

Added August 08 2014; I finally started to formally offer forensic SEO services. If you need help, feel free to get in touch.
Read more]]> (David Harry) Forensic SEO Tue, 13 Aug 2013 13:58:25 +0000
Google Manual Penalty Messages; a history Yes, it sucks. Yes... getting one is never fun. But it does happen and it happens a lot. Hell, it's been the cornerstone of a lot of my SEO consulting work over the last few years. When things go wrong, they seek out the fixer!

Anyway, I figured it was time that I had somewhere to keep my collection of various manual actions and reconsideration request replies for all time. Something to refer to for relevance and history. So here we go.....

Not sure if you have a manual penalty? Try out this new tool from Google.



Types of manual actions;

The first thing we need to look at are the types of messages folks are getting out there and what they mean.;

Unnatural Links Penalty

This is the most common one over the years and likely what most are familiar with. They're generally for shoddy and low quality link building activities. To get a better sense of what might be an issue, be sure to see the recent changes to the Google Link Schemes page.

Another interesting addition is the new manual spam tool from Google. All of the people we talked to with these, it was listed under 'partial' penalty, not 'site wide'.

The messages look like these;

We've detected that some of the links pointing to your site are using techniques outside Google's Webmaster Guidelines.

We don't want to put any trust in links that are unnatural or artificial, and we recommend removing any unnatural links to your site. However, we do realize that some links may be outside of your control. As a result, for this specific incident we are taking very targeted action to reduce trust in the unnatural links. If you are able to remove any of the links, you can submit a reconsideration request, including the actions that you took.

If you have any questions, please visit our Webmaster Help Forum.


Another earlier example looks like;

We’ve detected that some of your site’s pages may be using techniques that are outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

Specifically, look for possibly artificial or unnatural links pointing to your site that could be intended to manipulate PageRank. Examples of unnatural linking could include buying links to pass PageRank or participating in link schemes.

We encourage you to make changes to your site so that it meets our quality guidelines. Once you’ve made these changes, please submit your site for reconsideration in Google’s search results.

If you find unnatural links to your site that you are unable to control or remove, please provide the details in your reconsideration request.

If you have any questions about how to resolve this issue, please see our Webmaster Help Forum for support.


We've also seen;

We’ve detected that some of the links pointing to your site are using techniques outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

We don’t want to put any trust in links that are artificial or unnatural. We recommend removing any unnatural links to your site. However, we do realize that some links are outside of your control. As a result, for this specific incident we are taking very targeted action on the unnatural links instead of your site as a whole. If you are able to remove any of the links, please submit a reconsideration request, including the actions that you took.

If you have any questions, please visit our Webmaster Help Forum.

More recently we've seen those taken down some with messages such as;

Google has detected a pattern of artificial or unnatural links pointing to your site. Buying links or participating in link schemes in order to manipulate PageRank are violations of Google's Webmaster Guidelines.

As a result, Google has applied a manual spam action to <domain>. There may be other actions on your site or parts of your site

I don't really try to go overboard as far as analyzing the messages, it's not likely worth much. What we can say is that they often contain links to support pages. These are often updated, such as the recent updates to the link schemes page. This might have something to do with the changes in verbiage over the years.

On a separate note, I came across this quote from Matt Cutts (via Google Plus) on UL messages;

If you received a message yesterday about unnatural links to your site, don’t panic. In the past, these messages were sent when we took action on a site as a whole. Yesterday, we took another step towards more transparency and began sending messages when we distrust some individual links to a site. While it’s possible for this to indicate potential spammy activity by the site, it can also have innocent reasons. For example, we may take this kind of targeted action to distrust hacked links pointing to an innocent site. The innocent site will get the message as we move towards more transparency, but it’s not necessarily something that you automatically need to worry about.


So, even if you've been the target of negative SEO or some hacking scheme, you can indeed get an UL message.

Getting a manual action revoked

This post is really more about me keeping a record of the evolution, so we'll be writing a post in more detail in the future on getting things fixed. The short story on this one is;

  • Identify all bad links (manufactured, low quality, network, paid etc..)
  • Try to get as many removed as possible
  • Get the balance together and file a disavow file
  • Write the reconsideration request explaining how you screwed up and what you've done about it

Don't go light on this process. In most cases people try to keep as many as possible. Seemingly they seek to actually find the threshold Google is using. I'm not really a fan of that. Had a consulting client recently say something like, “we should keep most of them since they look natural”. Uh huh. The person that built the crap links shouldn't be evaluating them. They obviously didn't know a good link in the first place.

Thin Content

This one we're fairly certain that it's fairly recent. When I was writing about it over on SNC recently, the furthest back we could find one was around April or May 2013. These are also included in the new Google Spam checking tool.

From the way it reads, it seems to be an extension of the Panda algorithm. Just a more severe version of it. This makes sense because Google did state they were lightening up on the Panda. Anyway, it goes like this;

We've detected that some of your site's pages may be using techniques that are outside Google's Webmaster Guidelines.

Specifically, we've detected low-quality pages on your site which do not provide substantially unique content or added value. Examples could include thin affiliate pages, doorway pages, automatically generated content or copied content. For more information about unique and compelling content, visit

We encourage you to make changes to your site so that it meets our quality guidelines. Once you've made these changes, please submit your site for reconsideration


We've also seen one that reads;

Google has detected that some of your pages may be using techniques that are outside our Webmaster Guidelines.

As a result of your site having thin content with little or no added value, Google has applied a manual spam action to There may be other actions on your site or parts of your site.

Getting a manual action revoked

The issues here are often related to known Google Panda algorithm type dampening. While I am not certain, the most likely issues would be related to thin content (pages devoid of real value) and a large number of scraped pages etc.

Take stock in a content audit and start to fix the issues by beefing up or removing thin or copied pages. I personally doubt that canonical issue would play into this. For Panda? Sure. For an actual manual penalty? Doesn't seem likely.

Pure Spam

There's some confusion over this one, but one Googler I spoke with stated that they're;

Pure Spam = Blackhat = stuff that any reasonably tech-savvy person would consider spammy, essentially. It can be on-page or off-page, and it's typically just obvious spam. Since it's usually obvious, it's usually on-page. Imagine the kind of autogenerated junk that used to rank back in the early days of search engines.

That's not the official line, just a conversation. The more official line reads;

Site appears to use aggressive spam techniques such as automatically generated gibberish, cloaking, scraping content from other websites, and/or repeated or egregious violations of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

This obviously would include things such as;

  • Cloaking
  • Keyword stuffing (page and TITLE)
  • Selling text links
  • Scraped content
  • Auto-generated content

What I do get the sense with this one is that it's more about a pattern of multiple attempts to manipulate. If you get locked into a box with one of these? Good luck. This one likely carries some trust scoring loss over time.

Interestingly, there's not a lot of examples for this one. By and large I'd be looking for things that mention issues ON THE SITE.

One example is;

Dear site owner or webmaster of [domain],

While we were indexing your webpages, we detected that some of your pages were using techniques that are outside our quality guidelines, which can be found here:…er=35769&hl=en. This appears to be because your site has been modified by a third party. Typically, the offending party gains access to an insecure directory that has open permissions. Many times, they will upload files or modify existing ones, which then show up as spam in our index.

We detected cloaking on your site and suspect this is the cause. For example at [domain] we found:

<large list of keywords unrelated to the site>.

For more information about what cloaking is, visit…er=66355&hl=en.
In order to preserve the quality of our search engine, pages from [domain] are scheduled to be removed temporarily from our search results for at least 30 days.

We would prefer to keep your pages in Google’s index. If you wish to be reconsidered, please correct or remove all pages (may not be limited to the examples provided) that are outside our quality guidelines. One potential remedy is to contact your web host technical support for assistance. For more information about security for webmasters, see http://googlewebmastercentral.blogsp…-now-what.html. When such changes have been made, please visit…deration?hl=en to learn more and submit your site for reconsideration.

Sincerely, Google Search Quality Team

That one though, seems to be more about a hacked site than anything.

Getting a manual action revoked

Like I said off the top; good luck. These kinds of cases the website owners likely knows exactly what they've been up to unless there's a hacking situation as above. Google seemingly will take the harshest action on this kind of spam and even if you manage to get out of the manual action, there's going to be a trust scoring issue for some time to come (6-12 month minimum).

Avoid this penalty at all cost.

Paid Links – Onsite Unnatural Links

I really haven't seen a ton of these, but as I come across more, I shall post them. They might be rolled into the Pure Spam messages (above). Here's one I have though;

Google Webmaster Tools notice of detected unnatural links on [domain]!
We’ve detected that some or all of your pages are using techniques that are outside our quality guidelines, which are available here:

Specifically, look for possibly artificial or unnatural links on your site pointing to other sites that could be intended to manipulate PageRank. For more information about our linking guidelines, visit
We encourage you to make changes to your site so that it meets our quality guidelines. Once you’ve made these changes, please visit to submit your site for reconsideration in Google’s search results.

Fairly straight forward.

Getting a manual action revoked

Pretty simple, remove the paid links or nofollow them, then file the reconsideration request. Will you come out unscathed? It's possible, but much like the pure spam, there might be some inherent trust loss

We'll see where it leads

As mentioned off the top, this post is sort of a record keeping exercise for me. As I come across more of these I shall add them to the page. While I don't think there's a TON to be learned along the way, it is always important to keep track of things. We're also posting some historic examples of replies to reconsideration requests, you can find that here.

The goal for these two posts (also see; ) was keep a bit of a record of various messages and replies that we can add to over time. We shall certainly set about putting something together as far as more detailed posts on dealing with the various manual spam penalties.

While I was writing this post Google came out with a new tool for checking to see if a domain has been penalized. You can read up on that over in this post.And more on the specifics of each in a series of videos from Google here.

Until next time... stay tuned...

More reading;

Added August 08 2014; I finally started to formally offer forensic SEO services. If you need help, feel free to get in touch.
Read more]]> (David Harry) Forensic SEO Tue, 13 Aug 2013 13:37:42 +0000
New Tool; Finding Manual Spam Penalties from Google Interestingly enough I was sitting here writing about Google's manual actions. A two part series actually on the types of actions and a history of replies from Google. Then, because the SEO Dojo chat room is soooooo awesome, one of our uber geeks, Wissam Dandan, passed me this;

View manual webspam actions in Webmaster Tools

While they are still going to be sending out messages on manual actions, this tool can be used for a quick real time check on a domain. The tool breaks things down into;

  • Site Wide Matches – which is a manual action that is penalizing the entire site
  • Partial Matches – which is described as, “Some manual actions apply to specific pages sections or links”

Here's an example;


In this example they even state the 'reason'... which in this case was some 'User Generated Spam'. I have no idea how good the examples will be moving forward, but I'll be sure to post them as they come to light.

The Google post goes on to say,

Now, when you visit the reconsideration request page, you’ll be able to check your site for manual actions, and then request reconsideration only if there’s a manual action applied to your site. If you do have a webspam issue to address, you can do so directly from the Manual Actions page by clicking "Request a review."

Seemingly they are seeking to streamline the process as far as identification and reconsideration. Hopefully they give more details this way as far as what is actually affecting the site. I for one, would appreciate that when coming in to clean up another SEO's mess.

Anyway, back to my writing. Stay tuned over the next few days for more on Google manual actions and their history.




I have been asking folks to send me any examples they get from using the tool. Here's the first one that was sent to me;

"Partial matches Some manual actions apply to specific pages, sections, or links"

And the 'Reason' given was;

"Unnatural links to your site—impacts links Google has detected a pattern of unnatural artificial, deceptive, or manipulative links pointing to pages on this site. Some links may be outside of the webmaster’s control, so for this incident we are taking targeted action on the unnatural links instead of on the site’s ranking as a whole. Learn more."

I have seen a few of these, (6 so far) all 'Partial', which is interesting. I'd always kind of assumed they were site wide.

The next one someone shared was;

Applied to all pages of the site.


Thin content with little or no added value
This site appears to contain a significant percentage of low-quality or shallow pages which do not provide users with much added value (such as thin affiliate pages, cookie-cutter sites, doorway pages, automatically generated content, or copied content).

Then there's UGC,

"Partial matches Some manual actions apply to specific pages, sections, or links"


Pages from this site appear to contain spammy user-generated content. The problematic content may appear on forum pages, guestbook pages, or user profiles. 

I shall add more (unique) one's as I find 'em


Andrew Shotland also started a collection here. He found;

  • Unnatural Links - Partial
  • User-generated SPAM – Partial Match
  • Unnatural Links From Your Site - Site Wide
  • Thin Content With Little or No Added Value – Partial Match
Added August 08 2014; I finally started to formally offer forensic SEO services. If you need help, feel free to get in touch.
Read more]]> (David Harry) Industry News Thu, 08 Aug 2013 19:32:09 +0000
The Regulators Search News; LIVE! Yup it's true, we started a little experiment last week by doing the show LIVE over on Google Plus Hangouts. We enjoyed it so much, we're going to be doing it that way moving forward.

The Regulators

Yes, we'll still be doing it in podcast version as well... so if you listen to the show here on the site or via iTunes, no worries, we'll still be doing that as well. We've simply added to the format.

Anyway, be sure to come check out the show today here or watch it later on the official show page. You can find last week's episode here.

See ya on the trails!

Read more]]> (David Harry) Industry News Wed, 07 Aug 2013 12:28:32 +0000
Recent changes to Google's Link Schemes help page One of our members, Doc Sheldon of Top Shelf Copy, was noting on the boards that there's some changes (apparently?) to the Google Help docs on "Link Schemes". While I have no idea what's new or added, I did find a post from July, a thread on WMW from Oct. 2012. If anyone has a running tab on changes to this page, please do let me know.

As a guy that does a lot of forensic consulting, including Penguin and Unnatural Links issues, it seems this page is a bit of a blueprint as far as what might be causing you grief.


Anyway, I thought it was interesting since I hadn't really paid (pun intended) much attention to it's evolution.


Your site's ranking in Google search results is partly based on analysis of those sites that link to you. The quantity, quality, and relevance of links influences your ranking. The sites that link to you can provide context about the subject matter of your site, and can indicate its quality and popularity.

Any links intended to manipulate a site's ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site, or outgoing links from your site. Manipulating these links may affect the quality of our search results, and as such is a violation of Google's Webmaster Guidelines.

Was changed to this;

"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."

I guess they wanted to completely nuke any mention that links are part of how pages are ranked. LOL. Some of the other changes include;

  • Added "partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking" to link exchanges
  • Removed, "Linking to web spammers or unrelated sites with the intent to manipulate PageRank"
  • Added, "Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links"
  • Added, "creating links that weren't editorially placed or vouched for by the site's owner on a page, otherwise known as unnatural links" bits...
  • Added, "Advertorials or native advertising where payment is received for articles"
  • Changed "Links that are inserted into articles with little coherence" to "Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites."

And they also removed the paragraph;

"It is not only the number of links you have pointing to your site that matters, but also the quality and relevance of those links. Creating good content pays off: Links are usually editorial votes given by choice, and the buzzing blogger community can be an excellent place to generate interest."

Again, likely that they've moving away from talking about links as a ranking factor. Next, let's get into some of the elements of the page shall we?


What is a link scheme to Google?

So, let's go through these and get a real sense of what's going on out there, without getting too crazy. I'll add some personal thoughts along the way. Let's roll....

"The following are examples of link schemes which can negatively impact a site's ranking in search results:

Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a "free" product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link "

Ok, sure, we know about buying/selling. I guess paying to drop a guest post has some issues as well, beyond mere SEO. There's a transparency issue. But the whole 'free product' bit, what if we don't ask for a link? I've seen a situation where someone sent out a product for review and at no point asked for a link. The bloggers, being what they are, indeed did link. End result? Person actually lost ranking on the term related to that product. Beware of WHO you send things too. Low quality outreach can backfire.


"Excessive link exchanges ("Link to me and I'll link to you") or partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking "

Sure, we've known about that one for a while. Although I have no idea what "excessive" means. And 'partner pages'? Isn't it good business to cross promote those you deal with, (suppliers, partners etc)? But that again tries to assess intent. Cross promoting is good business as far as I am concerned. Advice; don't have pages named "links" lol.


"Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links "

Yea, well... I touched on that one recently with; Google on Guest Blogging; be afraid, be very afraid . There is every reason to believe that this will become more of an issue. Be sure to choose your targets wisely and consider secondary benefits. What I mean by that is, forget the link. Consider traffic and visibility. The goal should be to create new followers that will one day themselves link to your website/brand. I guess the 'keyword rich' part might mean to also stick to brand terms in any links... hard to say.


"Using automated programs or services to create links to your site "

Yea well.. DUH. This one seems to actually cross over to the world of negative SEO. I kid you not. One of the recent clean up jobs I've been on was actually a ton (10k+) links to a site with anchors such as [viagra] and [porn xx] etc. These were trackbacks for the most part and most likely done with Xrumer or an equivalent. No SEO with half a brain would be using automated tools for link building.



The Nitty Gritty

So that's the general advice, but it doesn't stop there... here's a bunch of other AWESOME goodiness that have after that.

"Text advertisements that pass PageRank "

Ok, we got that. Paid text links are bad. I think the problem comes in when one starts to look at things like blogrolls etc. I have always helped cross promote my friends in the industry from my blog.... but no money changed hands. And no, it's not a recip link scheme either. It's called marketing. Should I be running around adding the nofollow attribute because Google might think I'm up to something? I personally don't believe so. So, how does Google know what's shady an not? Tis a bit frustrating.

"Advertorials or native advertising where payment is received for articles that include links that pass PageRank "

Hey wait, didn't we already cover this one? Yes we know... paid promotional articles are bad. But where does it end? If people are paying for article drops that don't have links, but have entity citations (likely another Google ranking factor), is that a bad thing? Why no mention of that? Right, because links are the big daddy of ranking signals. Gothcha.


"Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites. For example:

There are many wedding rings on the market. If you want to have a wedding, you will have to pick the best ring. You will also need to buy flowers and a wedding dress."

Jeez, on about the articles again. We get it already. Funny that they call it 'optimized' anchor text instead of something like "spammy" lol. There's been a lot of chatter about what exactly is 'natural' and that some penalties/algos are using anchor text ratio's as a signal. While I can appreciate that a natural profile doesn't have a high ratio of these, one has to wonder why Google bothers to give the anchors such a high value. Seems a bit counter productive.

"Low-quality directory or bookmark site links "

This one, much like the guest posting, is something I've talked about for a while. I guess the real issue here becomes that subjective "low quality" element. Should the home page show ToolBar PageRank? Should it be indexed? When I was writing about examples of various replies to reconsideration requests, we noted that Google was giving some directories as examples of crap links. The problem there of course is that these sites were actually still indexed and had home page TBPR. Seriously Google, if you think a site is crap, then please just nuke it.

"Links embedded in widgets that are distributed across various sites, for example:
Visitors to this page: 1,472
car insurance

Ok, sure. Anyone that remembers widget-gate, knows that this indeed can be an issue. I guess my real problem here is that widgets can actually be a useful promotional tool. From what we know at this point you should use a brand anchor or nofollow the links in widgets. We've also heard the same advice on infographics in fact. You've been warned.


"Widely distributed links in the footers of various sites "

I'm not even sure if this one is our fault, pretty sure folks in the web design world had a hand as well. For those not familiar with page segmentation, you might want to brush up. To that end, I'd venture that site wide links in footers and side bars can potentially be an issue as well. Even blogrolls. We've seen more than a few cases that sites which got spanked had a high percentage of site-wide type links in their profile. Me personally? I tend to always link up my own properties. It's good business no? I guess the core advice is that they should be relevant to each other.

This sort of highlights where the nofollow attribute went mental. Originally it was about sites you didn't trust when linking out (and then for paid links). I don't pay myself for the links and I sure as hell trust myself... sooooo... what's wrong with a clean endorsement?

"Forum comments with optimized links in the post or signature, for example:
Thanks, that's great info!
- Paul - paul's pizza san diego pizza best pizza san diego

This one we've actually recently heard more about as far as it being an issue. The instance in question was a friend in the ecommerce world that was smacked by the recent penguin. He doesn't actively do any SEO and hasn't for YEARS. When looking around his link profile I noticed a ton of links from forum profiles, but all in legit engagement. He was active, not spamming.

When I asked a Googler about it I was told it might be an issue and that he might want to remove them. Really? Sheesh. It's the forum owner's job to add the nofollow not the poster. We used to have our company in the sig' on forums as a promotional tool. To actually try and drive some business. Again, actual marketing can now be something that get's you in hot water. Nice.



A troubled web we weave

I know that the above list can be daunting. In many circles of late folks keep asking; what is actually safe when building links?

That could be part of the problem, you're 'building' links instead of 'attracting' them. The unfortunate part is that most smaller businesses/websites can't afford the cost of promoting content or the time it takes to build a following organically (years, in most cases). This means the large brands will more and more dominate the Google search results.

What more concerns me is the other issues as far as false positives (people breaking rules without knowing it) and even worse, negative SEO. This isn't as obscure a situation as one might think. We are seeing these kinds of issues more and more lately.

Another thing that bothers me, as someone that's been in marketing longer that Google has been around is that they created the link economy. A lot of things that are considered 'bad' would have just been 'good' marketing once upon a time. Yes, I know there's the nofollow attribute, but often we can't control that.

I also wonder what will happen to the link graph itself. We know that most UGC sites use the nofollow and that a lot of authority sites either refuse to link or hey, charge for access. Will we get to a point where all of this actually starts to affect how the link graph looks? Time will tell.

Anyway, I just figured I would share this as we were talking about it on the podcast yesterday and Doc brought it up on the forums. Feel free to add yer own thoughts in the comments.

Other posts I found on changes to the Google Link Scheme page;

Read more]]> (David Harry) Link Building Thu, 25 Jul 2013 15:14:20 +0000
SEO Friday Chat; Live & Interactive Hey gang, just a quick update to let you know about some things we've been changing with the Friday chat sessions.

For starters, about a month ago we started doing them live, via Google Hangouts. This seemed like a natural evolution from the previous text chat's on Skype. Sure, you can still drop in there and engage during the sessions, we've just stepped it up some.


While the sessions are live and accessible to the public during the broadcast, we do take them down afterwards and add them to an archive for the members only. You can now find these on the site here (need to be logged in).

The first two included, (again, need to be logged in);

On those pages you will find the video from the session as well as any notes of interest and links that came up along the way.

For those of you that aren't members, you can (obviously?) sign up and never miss a moment, or you can follow our activity over on Facebook or Google Plus for details each week. Our members get the first crack at an actual seat in the session each week, an added benefit.

I look forward to seeing members and non-members alike over the coming months. We've been enjoying them so far.

ALSO; we have a POLL on the home page so you can tell us which topic you like for an upcoming session.


Read more]]> (David Harry) Industry News Tue, 23 Jul 2013 14:10:50 +0000