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And How Human Raters Affect Your Rankings
Ever have a web page that finally gets to Page 1 for your keyword – and then suddenly plummets to nowhere land? I’m about to explain to you a very possible reason why this happens. I’m also going to share with you something straight from Google that tells us exactly what manual reviewers are trained to look for.
When it comes to Google’s organic rankings, there is a LOT going on to determine where a page ranks…and if it STAYS ranking there. One of the biggest misconceptions is that ranking in Google is purely a “man vs machine” type game.
Grab something to drink and sit back because I am about to show you a LOT about how Google makes algorithm changes, how manual reviews work (and what Google “Raters” are trained to look for straight from their training handbook), and much more.
Here are some quick links to the info you’ll find on this page:
The Reason Behind This Post
How Google Algorithm Changes Happen
About Google Manual Reviews
What About Panda?
What About On-Page “Footprints”?
Who Does Google Want to Please?
How Do Google Raters Judge Web Pages?
How To Survive a Manual Review
The Reason For This Post
In yesterday’s post, I linked to a list of questions from the Official Google Blog that I believe are used by the manual review process. Tonsil Stones Guy left the following comment:
“…Okay, correct me if I’m wrong, but when I read the page you mention, there’s no evidence at all that this particular list of Webmaster Guidelines is actually used by Google’s manual reviewers to review a site. In fact, that page speaks exclusively about algorithmic changes and “the ideas and research that drive the development of our algorithms”. It doesn’t even mention G’s manual review process….”
He is absolutely right. The page I linked to was not congruent with what I was stating in my post.
Thank you for pointing that out!
So let’s talk about how Google Algorithm changes happen.
There were over 500… yes, Five HUNDRED, changes to the Google algo in 2010. That’s a LOT of changing going on, isn’t it?
“…Based on all of this experimentation, evaluation and analysis, in 2010 we launched 516 improvements to search. “
How Does Google Make Algorithm Changes?
I’m going explain how Google makes these algo changes to the very best of my ability. I have a video, I have pictures, AND I have words to help explain this process. We all learn differently, so there should be something for everyone 😉
First, I want you to watch this short video where Google employees tell us how algorithm changes happen. It’s only about 4 minutes, but very enlightening..and important for understanding the rest of this post.
Interesting, isn’t it?
Now let me put what they just said into an infographic so you can see the process flow that leads to an algorithm change. This image is straight from Google found here (very interesting stuff found there, too).
Now, let’s put all that into words. Below is the process as written out by Google (my own comments follow after each highlighted quote)
“A typical algorithmic change begins as an idea from one of our engineers.”
Someone says, “Hey, this query space is horrible….I have an idea on how we can fix it with the algo”
“We then implement that idea on a test version of Google and generate before and after results pages.”
They implement that potential algo change into a test version of the Google search engine that they call their “sandbox”. They take a page on the current results and then a page of the test results (with the test algo involved) and prepare them for the next step.
“We typically present these before and after results pages to “raters,” people who are trained to evaluate search quality. “
Google shows these before and after results to PEOPLE. These people are called “Google Raters”. These Google Raters do not work AT Google… they are “normal” people like you and I most likely working from home or some other remote location.
What are they trained to DO? Well, I’ll get to that in a moment and you’ll know exactly what they are trained to look for…and do.
“Assuming the feedback is positive, we may run what’s called a “live experiment” where we try out the updated algorithm on a very small percentage of Google users, so we can see data on how people seem to be interacting with the new results. For example, do searchers click the new result #1 more often? If so, that’s generally a good sign.”
If the manual reviewers/Google raters like the new “test” results better than the current results, the algo change is tested again as a small sampling of live Google traffic is fed into the Google sandbox so they can test these potential changes on REAL users. This also can explain why sometimes you see totally different results from what you saw minutes ago.
Then, the launch committee analyzes the data from that sandbox test. If the results show that users clicked the top ranking web pages on the new algo, then the change is rolled out to the entire index.
At that point, an algorithm change has happened.
Ok, got that? Yep, it’s a lot, but I think it’s important to know and to understand.
Let’s move on.
About Google Manual Reviews
Many of us might go through our days working online and simply play the “man vs machine” game. We very well might be affected by algorithm changes AFTER they are fully rolled out to the entire Google index, but we don’t suffer from manual reviews from Google Raters.
That’s also how many “crap” sites seem to slip through the cracks.
On the other hand, I have witnessed sites where I feel strongly that they were first hit by a manual “Rater” review….then the algo changed and they dropped to nowhere land in the rankings. Can I guarantee that? Of course not – no one on the “outside” can guarantee things like that about Google. But these weird “dances” that happen and then a major algo change is confirmed just strikes me as odd.
From everything I know (and you’ll know too in a moment), Google Raters are not trained to look at anything “off page” for your ranking web page. They are solely looking and rating the page itself.
Also, as stated by a former Google Rater –
“Yes they have their algorythms designed to get the best sites to the top, but when they do get to the top, they have to be reviewed with a human eye in order to make sure the site has quality. This is the reason the review panel exists and is the reason some of you go from page one to page 10 without warning.”
I want to draw attention to something said there (emphasis mine) –
“…when they DO get to the top, they have to be reviewed with a human eye in order to make sure the site has quality”.
So you work you tail off and FINALLY get to Page 1 on Google for your keyword – you better hope your site can hold up under a manual review by a team of Google Raters.
It’s not ONE Google Rater that determines your fate either – it’s a group of them all giving their unique rating based on Google’s requirements to determine spam and “utility” (ie, usefullness, relevance) of your ranking web page (and only your ranking web page) . Then the data from the WHOLE is analyzed and action is taken (if mandated).
How do I know this? Again, I’ll tell you in a moment.
What About Google Panda?
Now, Google Panda is a bit different (I talk about Google Panda here and here and here). A Panda penalty affects your entire site – not just the individual ranking page on your site.
Google Panda is a separate computer program/algorithm that is run every few weeks by Google. I think that the signals they (Google) get from various manual reviews help “feed the Panda” algo, but I do not think Panda itself is a manual action (make sense?).
Panda has been described as more of a ranking “signal” as opposed to an actual algorithm change. This means that when Panda is run it applies a “tag” to an offending site so that when the “normal” Google algo comes around, it uses that “tag” as a ranking signal (which basically tells the “normal” algo – “do NOT rank any page on this site well”).
So my theory is that Google finds an issue in the organic rankings of their index, comes up with an algo “tweak” to correct it, tests that algo change and hands it off to Google Raters to see if the “tweak” makes a positive difference.
The results of these “tweaks” are also analyzed, and if trends are spotted, they become part of the next Panda run.
That’s just me thinking out loud. It makes sense to ME, but no guarantee it is accurate.
It also makes sense to me why sites who all have a certain “footprint” tend to get penalized or de-indexed en masse – all in one fail swoop.
What About “Footprints”?
If a group of Google Raters all report a certain something about sites that are constantly rated poorly as low-quality or even spam content, it makes sense to me that Google would use that info to create a signal in their algorithm that could affect ALL sites with that particular signal – whether they are “offenders” or not.
That’s why I made that post warning others about a certain “footprint” a training program was putting on their themes for students. I was very, very willing to be wrong with that post, but I couldn’t stand the thought of potentially being RIGHT and never saying anything to help others protect their work. (note: that situation is over and was handled BEYOND graciously by the program owners.)
Ok, let’s move on…
Who Does Google Want To Please?
We’ve talked about what Google’s REAL product is in a previous post (read: We the People, In Order To Form a More Perfect Google) – and it has everything to do with users (because that is where Google gets their real product – from those that use their search engine).
Recently, Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman for Google, released his written remarks before appearing before the Senate Committe on The Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights on September 21, 2011(wow, that was a mouthful…lol).
In those written remarks, Schmidt states (page 7):
“First, we built search for users, not websites, and no matter what we do, there will always be some websites unhappy with where they rank. Search is subjective, and there’s no “correct” set of search results. Our scientific process is designed to provide the answers that consumers will find most useful.”
Google is for USERS – not websites. Google wants to offer the best to it’s USERS – not to each of us site owners.
If webmasters don’t like where they rank – tough. But if USERS don’t like the results they find – BIG problem.
Google NEEDS users.
sidenote: also in those remarks by Schmidt, he said (page 2):
“…Google’s founders, Stanford graduate students Larry Page and Sergey Brin, believed they could build a better mousetrap….”
Mousetrap? Uh, I don’t think I woulda said that. Isn’t that kinda what they are being investigated for? Just saying.
What Are Google Raters Trained To Look For?
So Google makes it clear that they aim to please USERS and they employ HUMAN Raters to tell them what they find relevant, useful, and spam (among other things). PEOPLE feed the Google algorithm – it’s not quite man vs machine, is it?
Now, yes, Google trains these raters to determine spam, low-quality, etc based on GOOGLE’S guidelines, but it’s still PEOPLE doing it.
So, how are these Google Raters trained to determine what is spam, what is a “commercial intent” site, what is a “thin affiliate site” and other things that affect the rankings of all our web pages?
I’ve got a 125-page document straight from Google that tells us. How did I get it? Well I Google’d it, of course…lol! It’s right there in Google’s index – easy for anyone to find.
Click to read: 2011 Google Quality Raters Handbook
EDIT 10-18-2011 8:57 pm EST – I’m sorry everyone, but Google has contacted me and asked me to stop linking to this document.
important to note: this was published on March 30, 2011 – AFTER Panda came to be.
I’ve read through the whole thing a few times and I’ll tell ya what – if we can each train ourselves to be Google Raters, we will be able to put out the content that Google DOES want to rank. No need to game them, we simply just give them the quality they are looking for – which I believe is what Google wants, don’t you?
How Can Webmasters Please Google and Survive a Manual Review?
SEO is very important – it allows us to give the Google algo the signals it needs to determine what our web page is relevant to and should/could rank for.
But first impression, appearance, and perceived “utility” of your web page is equally important – and those things are judged by Google users just like you and me before they become part of any computer algorithm.
To sum up, the list of questions I linked to in yesterdays blog post is, to me, a simple way to ask ourselves the very detailed and specific things Google asks its Raters to do. That’s why I linked to that list of questions as opposed to linking to a 125-page document.
Google wants… no, NEEDS to please their users. “Quality” is determined by users regardless of what their perception of the search query intent is…and regardless of what they perceive a “quality result” to be.
As Schmidt said, quoted above – “Search is subjective, and there’s no “correct” set of search results.”
So very true…and every day – every second – new web pages are found and added to the Google index. Some pages might be perceived as “better” answers to Raters….others might be found to be “bad” answers. It’s an on-going thing. Nothing static about it.
One thing that we just might know for sure – once YOUR web page gets to Page 1 of your query space for a Google search, you very well might be judged by PEOPLE too.
Are you ready for that?
To please Google, we have to please PEOPLE.
Comments, questions, and all that are always welcome. I’ll answer the best I can, but needless to say, I don’t work for Google. I’m just one little woman working from her home in Georgia trying to make sense out of all this – and help others make sense out of it along the way.
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Oh forgot something that I found humorous….
Inside the Google Raters HandBook you will read that they are REQUIRED to use FireFox.
I think that’s funny since Google has it’s own browser (Chrome).
Just thought I’d add that (yes, I always forget something!)
That is hilarious – but I better get to reading the 125 pages….two of my sites dropped and one didn’t and I am hoping to find the clue somewhere in those pages. 🙂
Hola – here’s the thing.
The Raters are employed thru an external agency (lions whatever….) that has an IMPLIED requisite to be unbiased, therefore the use of a subject company’s own product to produce experiential basis ratings would/could be viewed as being biased.
So using Firefox, Opera or Safari etc. (osmething not based on Chromium to rate Goog is just good practice.
Now that is TOO funny!!!! I am a FF user and think that is hilarious. Thank you so much for this guide…I picked it up from Ana Hoffman who sent her list to your site. Great work!!! Thanks so much,
Yes, many of us do the mistake to forget some points before publishing. After struggling on different websites, I finally managed to download from a forum. Tomorrow, I am traveling and I think that will be the best thing to pass my time in the journey.
I have put a lot of efforts on some of my websites and blog to rank them. I don’t want to lose rankings for some of the reason. I will read this 2-3 times and understand the whole idea.
Your article is excellent and specially the tip about this ebook. Thanks a lot for sharing this.
Thank you, Jennifer! I’ve skimmed the TOC and this looks like it’s extraordinarily valuable information. I’ll be up tonight reading each and every word. Again, thank you.
Dana aka Tonsil Stones Guy
Thank YOU, Dana! I didn’t think many would be interested in a 125-page document (even though *I* find it fascinating and helps me make the kind of content that Google does want).
I appreciate the inspiration to share!
Just wanted to follow up with you on the Rater’s Guide, which I found to be a fantastic read. Thank you again for making this available to your readers.
It’s got me thinking about ways to change some of my existing sites and ways to build new ones, as well as what the relationship might be between G’s algorithm and the guidelines for their raters. It looks like the algorithm has its limitations and some of them severe.
For example, if it takes a manual review to discover hidden text – or at least some kinds of hidden text – that’s a pretty serious limitation that may or may not open or re-open the door for gaming the algorithm.
I think one of the interesting questions that’s still open is the matter of what triggers a manual review? Another is how long does it take to trigger a manual review?
I find it hard – no, I find it impossible to believe that Google has enough people employed to manually review all Page One sites for every search term. So, there’s a trigger: number of searches, revenue generated for Google by certain search terms, or whatever it may be. Do you have any idea as to what that trigger is? Given that info, flying under that radar seems to be at least possible.
Given the variance we all see in the results that Google returns, as well as the poor quality of so many of those results, how is it possible to come up with a business model that can succeed over time in the face of all the uncertainty we’re faced with?
One way, I suppose, is to build dozens or even hundreds of sites, acknowledging that this is primarily a numbers game and acknowledging the fact(?) that unless your site falls into the “vital” category because its URL is basically a brand (or is owned by Google), it’s inevitable that at some time one of those 500 algorithm changes per year will demote your site. And if you build all of your pages in basically the same way, no matter where they rank, they’re all likely to get burned by that one new straw that breaks the camel’s back. Sigh…
To paraphrase Project Runway: “In search, one day you’re in and the next day you’re out!”
Tell me it ain’t so…
Thanks again for the Rater’s Guide!
aka Tonsil Stones Guy
Google through 4 different companies has maybe 200,000 people trained and working on these projects daily. Hundreds more are added week in and week out. As an insider who works on the project and helps get other people on the project I can tell you the manpower is indeed there. Also there is a task-per-hour ratio that has to be adhered to that varies from company to company. I wouldn’t be surprised if in the next 24 months a half million people weren’t working on this project. The pay isn’t shabby either $15-30 per hour of work.
And why , Jennifer, Does Google require raters to use Firefox and not Chrome, do you suppose?
Nothing to do with Firefox being a far superior browser surely!
I used to be a rater. The reason is that, for the raters of that handbook (and that is a newer version of the handbook I used to have!) rater’s tasks are given to them through a toolbar that is only compatible with Firefox. Remember, Raters have been around way longer than chrome, and the chrome plugins have only recently become rather stable.
Also, raters are sub-contracted through a third (or fourth) party company that does the piece work Google send them — so they are not working directly for Google.
Now, if I mysteriously disappear tonight…
Good work, Pot Pie Girl. Keep it up!
FABULOUS!!!! Very interesting information here. Love the side links to “back up” the discussion.
Also exactly what is Google being investigated for?
“appearing before the Senate Committe on The Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights on September 21, 2011”
In short, here is a good analogy of what’s going on with Google that was given during the hearing:
“You run the racetrack you own it, for a long time, you had no horse. Now you do, and they seem to be winning.”
Basically, favoring Google-owned properties in their search results and not “allowing” competition.
Here’s some info of the live coverage
This is pretty interesting. Although I have a hard time with Google relying on getting feedback on the quality of the site based on if they are clicking the #1 result. I feel this, because it almost doesn’t matter the quality of the site – people click the #1 search result, #2 and #3 almost every time as long as the description matches what they are looking for, and most importantly the title tag.
But bounce rate and time spent on a page I think is a big factor.
At the end of the day, and what I got from this is that branding is going to win. I think that if you create your own domain name brand and kind of create your own little market – then they will have no choice but to rank you.
Much like Potpiegirl.com 🙂 – it’s the original – the authority on itself. I have done that with a couple of my websites and have gotten people to search for “my brand” instead of the generic keyword.
Although this is a whole different angle of marketing something.
Great comment, Tenn – and you’re very right!
While I agree with time on site I don’t think bounce rate matters. Both for practical reasons (I can find no correlation with bounce rate and rankings/traffic across the 50 odd sites I have control of) and theoretical reasons (surely the absolutely MOST relevent search result is one that takes you to a page with the entire and exact information you were looking for – i.e. 100% of your users never look at another page on the site).
P.S. @PotPieGirl – just discovered your site while looking into the Panda updates (groan!) and, spammy as this comment would seem on its own: nice site, keep it up!
Jennifer, this is amazing! How did you get your hands on this? Thank you so much for sharing. Karen
I just Google’d it 🙂
How does anyone find ANYTHING online anymore?
Jennifer, great post,most people would just assume that wasn’t public knowledge.. even if it occurred to them to Google it.
Wow, so many courses teach exactly what is mentioned in chapter 4 in that guide, like creating Amazon affiliate WordPress sites with rehashed, cobbled together reviews written by $2/hr writers. One of the examples was actually used in a course! That guide is an anti-Google Sniper guide!
In addition you are taught to spam links, forum profiles and social media. Basically those courses teach you to become a Webspammer! I own sites like that and thought that it was OK but I realize now those sites provide nothing to an end user. I fight to get the sites ranked but I see now this is a losing battle.
I am a programmer and will try to focus efforts on creating services that could be useful to visitors.
Good deal, Len!
What a great post, Jennifer! I have no doubt that this will help a lot of us with our SEO efforts.
Where did you get the Rating Guidelines PDF??? Amazing share!
This is Linkbait at it’s best so I thought I’d help you out a bit! I Stumbled it, Dugg it, Facebooked it, Tweeted it, +1ed it, and submitted the XML feed to a bunch of RSS distribution sites through my RSS Announcer.
I hope it goes viral!
Everybody go here and Digg it too and let’s get this post rocking:
Where did I get it? I Google’d it and found it 🙂
Wow, thanks for all the shares – I really appreciate it!!!!
There is a double message though – sites like shopping.com are Kosher under Google rules. Many of their pages simply rehash specs and don’t have anything else except an affiliate link. Their pages don’t even offer comparisons in many cases. There is proof positive that big PPC advertisers get preferential treatment at Google.
Also, having two or three choices on your affiliate pages(not only amazon) can make a big difference.
Agree, Len – having more than one option is a good thing (in my opinion)
Great post Jen,
To be honest, I don’t pay much attention to what Google does or Google wants. At the end of the day if you provide content that PEOPLE want, you’ve every chance of ranking well.
I don’t know about that, James – I’ve seen a lot of really great stuff buried Page 4 and deeper. We still need to keep SEO in mind to help the algo part of Google…
Just my 2 cents…
I would have said what James said “focus on what the customer wants” and results will follow, but this post has really made me think. I guess we cant assume and when we look at facts such as 501 recent changes in the algo! then surely we need to be trying to ascertain what some of those are..the thought of human raters though! mind boggling…surely these are only used for perhaps industries such as the financial sector or influential industries??? that perhaps I could understand or comprehend!.. just a thought.Thankyou jennifer for some food for thought.
Great read Jennifer. Don’t know where you get the time to read all this stuff and then write about it. Then run your business? One point I would like to ask you, that after reading this post has me wondering about. What do these Raters do when the go through a website that has all the latest good algos but is not the prefered domain extention i.e. .com, .net, .org. What if a site has evrything Google wants, but is .biz or .info how do you think these Raters will react to these sites that are not really meant to rank so well?
Hiya Joe =)
Thanks! Honestly, I don’t know where I get the time, either…lol!
As for Raters and domain extensions – the extension of a ranking web page seems to have nothing at all to do with what the raters do. To me, extensions are more of an algo thing that a manual thing.
Very interesting. I’ve had a site on page one for over a year. I guess it passed the human review.
I was thinking that about a lot of my sites, Bill – let’s knock on wood and keep our fingers crossed =)
Thanks a lot for the good content and all efforts gone into it.
Thanks for reading!
Wow, that is probably the best article I have ever read about Googles algo. I have just downloaded the Handbook, took a quick look at it and thought mmmm best leave this till tomorrow, as its a bit late here and I don’t think my brain is capable of taking all this in at the moment.
It’s a LOT to take in, Alan, but it will amaze you how much is “common sense”.
What I am tired of is seeing a site that is nothing more than a crap home page, MAYBE a few “required” pages (privacy, disclosure, about, etc) and NOTHING MORE, on page one for a keyword SIMPLY BECAUSE…
The domain name is made up of the keyword.
This is especially the case where people are registering domain names that many of us know we won’t get a way with, those with a highly protected trademark name in them. (like maybe – WhiteNikeShoes.com)
And Google can’t see through that? (this goes on for weeks to months, not just a few days).
Funny to see Google admit that their is “no correct answer” for a given search. Ask an internet savvy 5 year old how to spell God: “Capital-G-o o-g-l-e”
.. or so it seems based on how they close peoples accounts down, and generally operate their business.
Oh they can see through it – in fact it is talked about in the handbook. Thing is, it takes a human rater to catch that… the algo doesn’t seem to.
The more accounts they close down, the less competition Adsense and Adwords has — so much for their “quality user experience.” And I hope Google has the decency to employ their raters instead of depending on volunteers or subcontracting temps.
That is pretty much what Google is being investigated for.
For the most part – Once upon a time, Google owned a race track but didn’t have any horses in the race. Now they DO have horses in the race…and their horses keep winning.
But I have to ask…. if I make a site about xyz topic and offer to list my readers sites about that topic too, don’t I have the right to put my own sites at the top?
To me, Yes I do.
However, Google claims an algorithm to rank the “best” at the top. Granted, Google KNOWS the algo so it should be easy for them to game it, but there in lies the problem.
I could go on and on about this, but perhaps I should save it for another post…lol!
Great post Jennifer – link to as many 125 page documents as you like, it is really useful and makes fascinating reading. Thanks for sharing 🙂
Thanks, Jan. Funny, I thought it was “too much” – glad to know y’all like it and find it useful. I think it’s really cool that Google keeps it out there for us to find. It gives me a better feeling of “transparency” from their end.
Thanks for reading!
What would have been hilarious is if you would have found it using Bing or Yahoo. Just for kicks, I “binged” (is that what you call it – lol?) Google raters guide. Not only could I not find it, I didn’t see any return from Google.com until page 4. Cracked me up.
Oh, and thanks for the informative post, as always.
That would be funny!
Thanks for a great post Jennifer. I tried to get a job once as a Google reviewer but they told me I was overqualified.
Thanks for reading!
Here’s an interesting post about the Google Algo and Quality Raters over at Aaron Walls SEOBook blog:
Hi Jennifer, thank you for the huge amount of information you have provided here on the Google “logic” on rating websites for searchers. You’re right about Google not caring about us webmasters, the things is they don’t really care about users either. They want their users to use their seach engine purely so they’ll make money. No more, no less.
Sorry to sound so cynical. I’ve been a webmaster for 8 years now and have enjoyed some success, but am seriously thingking of giving it all away and moving into another type of business. The internet is becomming too unstable.
Hey Wendy =)
I’m not sure I would say that Google doesn’t care about webmasters, but we (webmasters) are not who they set out to please. Ultimately, we are a big part of the equation.
1. We (webmasters) make great content
2. Consumers are happy with their search results.
3. Consumers are happy with Google.
Mr Schmidt’s point in the quote I gave above is that Google search was created for WEBMASTERS – it was created to help users navigate the web. But without great content (ie, answers), Google can’t return anything. We all fit together in this plan they have.
Hope you’ll stick with it. EVERYTHING has become “unstable” in the economy, might as well be “unstable” at home in your PJs….lol!!!
Thanks for reading and for commenting!
I should think the “Rater’s Handbook” would be required reading for those of us living at the pleasure of a giant. I would very much want to please the Giant Panda since it is his sandbox I work in.
Working with sites on Squidoo has been good training for me to remember whose site(s) it really is. I may put it together, but I sure am not the one to keep it on the internet. In a manner of speaking, I still have to please the Man, even though I may think I am autonomous because I work at home on the internet.
Thanks PPG for repeatedly reminding of online realities.
I totally agree, Buck – and I’m so glad that guide is out there for us to see and read. I think if we apply what we learn, and basically train ourselves to be Quality Raters, we will become much better webmasters who provide much better web pages which, in turn, will make for a better user experience for Google searchers. Everybody wins.
Google prides in being transparent… I think this is a good indicator. I understand why they need to keep their algorithm under lock and guard, but this guide isn’t about the algo – it’s about PEOPLE.
Thanks for reading!!!
Sorry but I gotta call bs on the part about Google priding themselves on being transparent. That is all big talk. This document is from March. So it might even be outdated now. If Google was being transparent, they would just publicly release this manual themselves. Instead it seems they are treating this like a new iphone version. They have also stated that they are being more transparent with reconsideration requests and penalties, but that has not been the case either. This was simply an offering to all the dissatisfied webmasters who are furious over getting penalized without any explanation or further info. Trying to clean up past messes with partial transparency does not make it something they pride themselves on.
As Len said – So many courses teach SEO tactics which go against everything that is said here (and in other posts/videos by Matt Cutts) Thank goodness they are finding a way to shut these types of sites down!
I know that you have an example of a crappy search result, but the search results that I have been doing over the last couple of days are bringing up some really high quality articles – I almost need to raise my reading grade level to comprehend some of them! How refreshing 🙂
Have Tweeted, Dugg and Amplified this post for all the world to see …. ow I wonder if it should be made a sticky over at WF? hmmmmmm…….
Wow, thanks Rach!
It’s a fine balance between SEO for the algo and content/appearance for people.
This is some really interesting stuff. I’m gonna bookmark it so I can re-read it and get my head around it all. Thanks, Jennifer.
Good for you, Joey! It’s a lot to take in, but really helpful.
Jennifer, thanks for doing all the heavy lifting and using your time to analyse and explain how Google algorithms work.
This is all pretty much eye-glazing stuff for a mature-age newbie like myself.
I take great care in posting original, relevant work to my beginner site and therefore have no problem with manual reviewers checking it out.
My concern is that I chose a .info domain extension simply because I’m on a tight budget.
Could it be that Google’s algorithms have been programmed to see the .info extension as indicating a possible spammer at work and therefore blocking any chance of a decent ranking?
I have several .info domains that do very well. I bought them before I knew better. Put up useful, unique content and left them alone for three years or so. Very little commercial interest other than some banner ads linking to my other sites. They are not top 3, but doing very well despite my appalling lack of interest in updating them.
The extension is, if anything (and I have case studies on it) – an algorithm signal. I have .infos that do really, really well. They do take a bit longer to be “trusted” by the algo but can do just as well as any other extension.
When it comes to manual review, the guide says nothing (that I saw) about “look at the extension”.
I was always thinking about “How Googl algorithm is changing. Now i am very thanks full of you to spread i need info. I will keep to visit . I hope , i will get more info related to same.
Thanks for stopping by!
It seems there was some sort of algorithm update last night/this morning. Did you notice this? Were any of your sites affected? Thanks.
Hey Alan =)
I’ve done my ranking checks for today and don’t notice anything (new) out of whack. What kinds of things are you seeing?
Glad you weren’t affected, but since this post is about algo changes… yes, there was definitely an update. I’m sure plenty of others can attest.
Matt Cutts confirmed a minor Panda Update via Twitter – apparently it happened late in the 13th:
See this Twitter conversation –
I also had a dramatic reduction in the ranking of several sites sometime after I checked rankings on the 13th. Several sites were hit simultaneously and all use the same Adsense and Google Analytics account so I thought it might be a manual review. Also, I would have hit $1,000 in Adsense revenue this month from those sites (after increasing $100-200 per month the last few months) so I thought perhaps a manual review is triggered based on Adsense earnings.
The sites are all 10-20 pages (most 700+ words), video on about 1/3 of the posts, a lot of pictures, all unique content, one had some Amazon affiliate links. I also used Web Content Studio to optimize/theme the content on these sites and it helped rankings tremendously. WCS basically helps with LSI using the most used keywords from the top ranked pages. Perhaps my pages are too themed?
Looks like it is related to the Panda update which I guess is better than a manual review/adjustment? Numerous page 1 and #1 rankings dropped several pages so it looks like site wide adjustments. Traffic is now 10% of what it was a few days ago.
Ironically, the none of these sites were designed for Adsense but ever since the first Panda update their rankings increased significantly as has my Adsense revenue.
Time to learn more about the latest Panda update and how to fix my sites. Thanks for the link to the manual
Hey David =)
You said –
“…Also, I would have hit $1,000 in Adsense revenue this month from those sites…”
I’ve heard, more than once, hitting that magic number tends to cause a manual review. I have no clue if it’s fact or not, but it’s always been in the back of my mind.
Best of luck with your sites!
Thanks Jennifer for all that useful info!
I’m in the early stages of I.M. I was beginning to worry about how Google appeared to be moving away from Affiliate Marketing and de-indexing sites left, right and centre.
There does seem to be some hope after skimming through the ‘Rater’s Handbook’. I was glad to read that some Affiliate sites are still acceptable, such as price comparison and/or review sites with recipes!!
From now-on that is the way I will be going (until the next algo change!).
Google doesn’t “hate” affiliate sites, but the guide makes it clear which ones they do NOT want ranking well. The goal is to make yourself a necessary – or at least “useful” step in the sales funnel.
Thanks for reading!
Very interesting stuff, Jennifer, especially the raters manual. Not eactly earth shattering but very revealing to see it in laid out – well discovered! You are a real ‘let’s get to the bottom of this” nerd! My next question is, how does Google decide or prioritise which search queries to refer to their raters. Do they look at customer complaints, particular niches, types of keyword phrases or just random selection? The title of your next blog post, detective Jennifer, should be: “How Google earmarks a search query for manual review.” Look forward to that one! Or perhaps I should just Google it!
How they pick where to “attack”? I have no idea and your guess is as good as mine. Regardless, I think we all should be informed AND prepared for when/if our sites DO make it to Page 1.
Thanks for reading!
Thanks this is a great explanation of the algorithim changes and how they are done. I specifically like the way you explained how panda update(s) fit into the mix. I am not sure i have seen that explained so well. Thanks for this.
Thanks, Steve! It’s weird, I collect the info for my own knowledge and then have to basically break it down, dissect it, and then explain it to MYSELF. This is how I explained it to ME….lol!
Great post and you have started the wheels turning yet again.
I tried to access the 125 page file through your link above and I get a “file damaged beyond repair” error. Perhaps this is a temporary thing….
I was wondering if you have an alternative link to the pdf or if anyone else has?
It seems like too good a document to not be able to access.
Thanks Again for all that you do for us.
Hmmmm…file still works fine for me. Anyone else having issues?
First, thanks Jennifer for sharing your thoughts with us. I always find it helpful 🙂
So now we could have two tasks to handle. The first task is to work to fire up our pages to Google page 1. And other task is, when they’re in the right place, make sure that they’re high quality and useful for people as well. And someday, we might face some bad-mood raters and they say “No, this site is like s***” then all of a sudden, our sites sucked to the void permanently. What a scary scene lol!
OK, just kidding. But I think it’s time to consider paying more attention on researching before we write anything. Post-Panda is a really tough time. And we don’t want our content labeled spammy by some unknown people.
Nice reading as always Jennifer. Have a nice day!
Thank you, Duy!
Thankfully, ONE rater can’t do that… it would take the majority of a group of raters to return their assessment of that page and then any changes would come right from Google (from how I understand it).
Post-Panda is definitely a “unique” time – and many are being scared away. Those that run are probably the ones who don’t want to a) deal with it, or b) put in the extra effort. I don’t think Google minds losing “them” – and that just might make it easier for those of us who DO stick around and put in the extra effort.
Hope you have a nice day, too!
Another amazing post!
I think Google is on the prowl. It feels like they are testing, tweaking, and experimenting more than ever before. Honestly I have never seen search results so unstable. Site rankings have always jumped around, but over the last 2 months or so it seems as though things have gotten a little crazy.
It might depend partly on the keyword/niche, but it seems like I can check Google results 10 different times throughout the day for the same keyword and I get 10 different front page results every time. One minute my site is #1, then #8, then completely gone from the results, then to page 2, then back to #7…etc…all in the same day.
It’s making it really tough to determine if what I’m doing is working or not because it’s hard to determine if the fluctuations are just Google being Google or if they are caused by things being done to the website, backlink strategies, etc.
Honestly I’m at the point now where it doesn’t do me a bit of good to check rankings because they are all over the place….time to coin a new Google phrase….the “Google Shaker”. 🙂
Hey Derek – thank you!
Google’s results have been crazy and highly-dynamic (by the minute) since Caffeine came out in June 2010 or so (my post about Google Caffeine here).
Believe it or not, not very many years ago, it could take MONTHS for Google to find and index a new url – really! That is super hard to believe now when Google can now find my post within SECONDS of me publishing it.
Also, back in 2001, we had 9/11 – Google couldn’t keep up or even HAVE the latest news and info on that tragedy. They used to only update their index once a month.
Now it happens constantly – which means that yes, we get relevant, fresh, and hot off the presses news – but it also means that the index is more dynamic than ever – meaning the results in many, many query spaces change by the minute (or by the second).
Every time Google finds a new url in your query space, finds a new back link, someone loses a back link, etc etc etc, your query space can change.
Also, here is some quick and really good info on WHY we get different results each time we search…and why I might see one thing, and you see another. It’s by the folks at dontbubble.us (shared by @seobook ) – read this at dontbubble.us – very insightful.
Thanks for reading and for your comments!!
I can attest to that too. A week ago, I was in the mood to check positions in 3 times within one hour, and then, late at night for a couple of keywords. One of them: not in the index at 10:12, #55 at 10:30, #128 at 11 and some minutes, #234 at 6 pm, #39 the next morning. At the same time, one of the keywords for the same site I’m going after, is always #24, no matter (so far) what I do.
Thanks for the link to the guide. I was gearing up to spend some time looking for it.
An aside: it keeps surprising me when people object that Google doesn’t show all/only quality sites in the top position as Google does do that. They just use a slightly different definition: quality = lots of people end up using Google (clicking on ads) as a result of visiting a site and/or lots of people stick a lot on the site and lots of people come back. Because, in either case, Google makes money.
And, ultimately, quality sites are sites that make Google money. Even if they rehash stuff.
Hey Dusan =)
Without a doubt – Happy Searchers = Happy Google.
Thanks for stopping by!
I found it very interesting that the handbook states that it is “Proprietary and Confidential” yet you found it indexed in Google’s search results.
The chapter regarding spam recognition is particularly eye opening. Among other things, raters are instructed to do a sentence level text search to find any copied or scraped content. I use Digi Traffic Multiplier on many of my properties, including a site in postion #1. I think it adds value, but I’m not sure if it would cause a spam flag if reviewed by a rater.
I really love the fact that they left it out there – it’s helpful for us.. not in a “how to game them” kind of way, but to really know what they consider ‘spam’ and ‘thin’ etc. I think it can help us be better.
I’ll have to go back and look, but isn’t there parts in there about “duplicated” content?
Thanks for reading and for commenting!
Nothing in the manual about “duplicate content”… just “copied content”.
That’s the term they’ll use for same/exact content on two different domains. True “duplicate content” is when the same content is found on the SAME site.
Whew… What an exhaustive read. I just finished reading the google quality raters handbook and that explains the reason why it took me so long to post a comment. Most of the information in there for the raters to use for rating websites are similar to google’s quality guidelines laid out for all webmasters. The panda update is kinda linked to those guidelines and anybody adversely impacted by panda should start there.
It IS a lot to read, isn’t it, Charley? For a lot of us, much of it was “common sense”, but some of it was very eye-opening. Also, as it’s been said, “Common sense isn’t that common” and even though we KNOW, we still try to take shortcuts around it (if that makes sense).
Thanks for reading (all of it)!!
I’ve been hit by the recent rash of changes over the past 30 days or so. My site went from getting 200+ hits per day to an average of about 60 starting on September 14/15. Sales plummeted. Yes, I use a plugin which grabs information from Amazon to present products to customers but I also have well over 100 unique posts on my site and provide reviews from products that I have and continue to use. Perhaps the worse part is that I should be seeing an increase in hits this time of year instead of the reverse.
I’m going through the manual review document to see if perhaps I can tweak my website and get in the good graces of Google again.
Sorry to hear this, Paul.
Hope you get it sorted out!!!
I use to be a quality rater. It is great part time work at home. But yes google is extremely strict. I wanna tell you they are serious about their quality raters. There are two entry level test the second part takes a whole week. If you don’t complete a cetain amount of task in one week,or if you make too many mistakes you will be kicked out of the program. I was there for one year it was too stressful, and yes I got kicked out. However, it is helping me with internet marketing. Also if you want to know more about how google works check out this forum ran by an ex google employee named Gavin. http://simplenichestrategies.com/
In addition if anyone is looking for at home parttime work and feel you can keep up here is the link to the opening. The main office Lionbridge is in Massachusetts. The managing office is in Ireland. Lionbridge I believe is a contractor for Google
Wow, DC – thanks for sharing!!!! I imagine it would be very stressful. “Funny” thing is, many of us already do a lot of that each day NOW (when researching a niche)…lol! But HAVING to do it could be very trying.
Great share links..thanks!
Jennifer – great job and thanks for taking the time to do this for all of us. Lots of
interesting information. Thanks again.
Thank you, Mary!
Great reading and +1-ed by me!
Thanks for sharing! I just read the handbook. I’m wondering about using bit.ly or other sites to track links is such a good idea anymore….could this possibly be against the guidelines?
Hey Adriana =)
I don’t really *think* so, but it’s open to any interpretation.
Thanks for reading!
Thanks for this post PPG!
Can’t get anything up when I click thru for the 2011 Google Raters Handbook though. Keeps saying the file is damaged…hmmm I feel a conspiracy theory coming on!
Hi, this happened to me first time but I refreshed the page and it came through.
Hi Alan, thanks for that. I tried it again…had to refresh a few times before it came good, but I have it now!
Big thanks to PPG!
Thanks for the help, Alan!
There must me millions of search terms in the US Google alone…. do you really think they can do a manual rating on every 1st page result? I think competitive terms that get a good deal of traffic are on the rater’s “hit list” t monitor and rate. But the thousands or so keyword searches then get very little traffic, sort of, like microniche keywords, are able to operate “under the radar” for the most part.
I did a little research and discovered that they have about 4500 raters (worldwide, I think), so they can’t possibly hit them all. My guess is that the manual reviews are a little like an IRS audit.
I agree, Karen… like a check and balance type thing.
Naturally, they can’t hit EVERY first page… and Google also says about 15% of their DAILY searches are phrases that have never been searched for before”
“15% of the searches we see everyday we’ve never seen before.” from here.
Considering they get about a BILLION searches a DAY – that means about 150,000,000 are brand new, never searched before phrases – every DAY… YIKES!
The point is, if you manage to get to Page 1, the odds of your web page being manually/human reviewed go up big time.
I just had my site vanish from page1, 2, and 3 just yesterday. I had the Seo in pretty good shape but wasn’t that good of content. Now the adsense revenue has vanished over night. This sucks!
There was a minor Panda update late on the 13th. Matt Cutts confirmed that here:
People, I’ve been reading this thread and a common theme is running through it:
SEO is hard & ever-changing + Panda is hurting a lot of rankings/sites + algorithm changes
are really hard to keep up with (I guess that’s 3 themes (-:
Anyway, would you like to know how to solve ALL THREE of those problems???
It’s really quite simple & logical: Learn how to drive traffic to your sites without SEO!
No more worries about where your pages rank.
No more long, boring, tedious hours spent on backlinking & indexing.
No more fighting with your competition for SERPs.
Let’s face it: SEO is a LOT of work!
And all that hard work could go right down the Google drain.
And there’s nothing you can do to stop it!
Why not learn how to drive non-SEO traffic to your sites?
You can spend the same amount of time as you used to on SEO…
and keep getting traffic for months or even years later from your efforts.
And it doesn’t matter where your sites rank in Mr. G!
Learn it, implement it, test & track your efforts and keep doing the methods that work.
Good advice, Jim – thanks!
What effect has the update this week had on the perfect storm blueprint? I had a autoblog in the loan niche that was seeing 10-15 dollars in adsense earnings daily vanish overnight….What a drag.
There was a minor Panda update late on the 13th (see confirmation image in comments above)
Autoblogs are a bit risky these days – Perfect Storm Blueprint doesn’t teach that.
Thanks for reading!
Regarding autoblogs – here is a recent forum thread where Matt Cutts actually talks to a site owner about his “auto-generated website” – read here.
And here is the post from the site owner telling his story.
Don’t you think that the manual review would be useful/applicable for exact search terms that are greater than a certain amount. Would they really be interested in doing manual reviews for search terms that are IE. <2000.
Search volume could come into play when deciding which query spaces to check on – so could CPC costs. They gotta keep their advertisers happy!
Thanks for reading!
I really enjoyed this post. I’ve never really heard the Google Algorithm explained quite this way before.
I wonder how Google reviewers can find the time to review all the search results. Clearly there’s no way that Google could employ enough people to do this, so they much have some way of prioritizing.
I also wonder if following the methods outlined in that PDF (thanks for that, btw. Looks like good reading material) could help revive a penalized site in the long run…
Very informative post thanks. I got killed with the latest update 🙁 and I provide high quality information.
Hiya Clayton =)
Naturally, there is no way they can review ALL search results….impossible. Google does a BILLION queries a day and they say that 15% of them are new phrases that have never been typed into Google before. Yep, no way humans can look at EVERYTHING.
What they do, tho, is take a sample of queries, pass them along with before/after results and let the raters do their thing. If the “after” results are considered better by the raters, then Google moves forward with the algo change process (feeding small stream of live traffic to their sandbox results, evaluate that, then roll out to entire index which DOES affect ALL query spaces).
As for “reviving” a site…. interesting and something I’ve been putting a lot of thought into. In theory, if raters are given before/after results to rate and that algo then does in fact roll out to the entire Google index, that would mean there were new “signals” added to the Google algo. If a site that was hit by that algo tweak manages to un-do those negative signals, one would think the algo would bring them back again.
But that’s for the normal algo. Panda is another ballgame. That “penalty” affects the entire site, not just the ranking url on a site and from what I understand, that penalty can hang with your domain for a long time making it close to impossible to rank well again.
Just my thoughts on that!
Thanks for reading!
Thanks so much for sharing this information. There is definitely a lot to digest for those of us who are not familiar with how Google works especially when it comes to using other people to review and rate our sites. Very informative. Thanks
Thanks for reading, Liz!
Bravo! That’s a much more in-depth analysis of what I was talking in my Google Panda analysis back in March — and May, when Google released that guide to the Panda Update. It’s not the checklist the raters actually use — bravo for digging that up! — but rather, it’s the kinds of things Google is trying to reward.
It seems to me that there’s something very clever going on here. People (raters) give Google ratings of a whole bunch of sites, then Google analysts attempt to find reliable patterns, ranking signals, that will reproduce those same ratings. I’m not quite sure how to put this clearly, but the criteria that the HUMAN raters see may not be the ones the algorithm looks for. Human judgment is hard to mimic with a computer! But if, for example, a site tends to have spelling mistakes in the medical industry, it’s probably not an authoritative site. A human rater will see “this page sounds bogus” and the algorithm will see “this page has a lot of typos” or even “the code is atrocious” and come to the same conclusions about the page using different signals. The Google analyst’s job is to find signals that tend to rate pages the same way as the humans, even if it uses different (more easy-to-measure) signals to do so.
Enter Panda. One of those signals turns out to be what kind of domain is it? WebMD is obviously going to have better medical information on the whole than Squidoo. (Sorry, Squidoo.) Therefore, Panda is a special, occasional algorithm that acts like a ranking factor. (Say what?) Basically, every few weeks, Google punches the Panda button again, either because it’s refined the Panda algorithm or just to refresh its evaluation of various sites. Panda analyzes the spam-to-quality ratio on each domain. Each domain gets a “Panda Factor” (my term for it). Then, that Panda Factor becomes one of the 200+ “signals” used to rank individual pages on that domain. Panda is not the only ranking signal, so you can still get traffic for a “Panda Punched” site if you ace a bunch of the other “signals” (backlinks, for example, or authority — I imagine WIRED Magazine editor Chris Anderson’s Squidoo lenses could withstand a Panda Punch) but the Panda Factor is obviously a strong signal compared to others.
Thank you – and good to see you!
You said –
“…People (raters) give Google ratings of a whole bunch of sites, then Google analysts attempt to find reliable patterns, ranking signals, that will reproduce those same ratings…”
BINGO! Exactly my thoughts! They (Google) use PEOPLE to to find footprints, signals, patterns, etc that they can’t “find” with an algo – and then update their algo to remove those types of signals and patterns. Yes, many “false-positives” come along with it, but I think this is EXACTLY how it happens.
Just a quick note to all…..
If you’re comment doesn’t show quickly, please bear with me. I have a lot of spam catching stuff going on (it’s like my own little “Panda”…lol! ) and some comments are getting caught. I am going as fast as I can to keep up. Thank you for your patience!
HERE IS MY BIG FEAR –
let’s say goole does have an issue with a particular site and sends it to “no-where” land and eventually that domain expires. What if let’s say a year later, someone else gets into that niche and is looking for a good domain name and try to acquire that particular domain since it is obviously now avilable.
How will such an individual know the history of that domain? will that person even know that the particular domain has had a bad record with google? 🙁
(i hope my question make sense)
What if you get hired to do SEO for someone who’s done something Google didn’t like, so they’re not in the index, except they don’t tell you that, they tell you they never tried to rank before?
At least, with your scenario, providing proof that you are a new owner should stop the penalties (assuming logic applies).
how do you contact google to let them know?
“In addition, if you recently purchased a domain that you think may have violated our guidelines before you owned it, you can use the reconsideration request form to let us know that you recently acquired the site and that it now adheres to the guidelines.
To request reconsideration of your site:
Sign in to Webmaster Tools with your Google Account.
Make sure you have added and verified the site you want reconsidered.
Request reconsideration of your site.”
@ Dusan –
“What if you get hired to do SEO for someone who’s done something Google didn’t like, so they’re not in the index, except they don’t tell you that, they tell you they never tried to rank before?”
Well my answer to that is simple. If someone contacts me to do SEO work for them, there are things I look at RIGHT away – before ever taking them on as a client.
One of the things I look at is:
Is their site indexed? If no, is it a brand new site? (check WhoIs). If it’s a NOT a brand new site, odds are good that something is going on.
Jennifer, you’d be surprised how fast some people manage to piss Google off. For older sites, you’re right.
@ Michael – Makes total sense… and good questions!
Let’s keep in mind that when someone buys a “new” (to them) domain, the site gos to new hosting and is registered to someone else. I’ve read others SAY they have had luck “reviving” their own penalized sites by moving them and changing registrars, but I don’t know this for fact.
But yet another scary thought –
Above, greekseek said – “Basically, every few weeks, Google punches the Panda button again”
That sounds like this whole panda thing will be taking place more frequently than ever before, are we going to keep getting hit every week? what i mean is that will the frequent push of the panda button continue to have the same massive effect or are these freqency just a “minor clean-up”?
One of my web sites took a major hit in the latest algo change from page one to oblivion, now I recently re-built this site from html/css to WordPress, similar content but while I was at it I decided to cloak my affiliate links, was wondering if link cloaking is now a no, no for Google?
Hey Alan =)
So sorry to hear about your site! As for the link cloaking…. I imagine that if they considered it a ‘sneaky redirect’, it could definitely be a problem, don’t you think?
Thanks for reading!
Wouldn’t say they was sneaky as such just masked really, using the gocodes plugin. However will be an interesting experiment to change ’em back and see what happens 🙂
Great article! Very timely too, as 5 of my 8 money sites just got hammered by Google’s update on the 13th. I’ve always had enough niche/server/age/ host/platform diversification and high quality content to keep from getting nailed on more than one site at a time, but this time they got almost everything.
The sad thing is that they got so many people’s truly excellent sites, some of which were very large, well aged, and highly respected sites with tons of very high quality content and a great reputation. The owner of DaniWeb posted on a forum a few days ago, saying he’d been hit hard, and that’s no thin affiliate site, with thousands of pages, a PR6 and an Alexa of under 1,500.
I posted a link to this post over at WF a few days ago, because I hoped it would help some people. It certainly helped me.
Hey Steve =)
Ouch! That sucks about your sites… sorry to hear it! I hope things get better.
Thanks for sharing this post over at WF – I really appreciate it!
Did you notice Search Engine Land linked to you?
Yes, great job Jennifer! I found out through SEL and promoted it on linkedin.
Pretty cool! Thanks! And a big thanks to Barry at SEL for the mention!
I don’t know what the HUGE fuss is tho…. it’s been out there on the web since August.
It’s a big fuss because nobody else has bothered their arse to go and search for something like this 🙂
I wonder why Search Engine Land didn’t just download the book and give tips. Why the need to mention your specific name? Something funny about that. IMO
Very interesting to learn how they proceed with changes.
There is a lot of potential for a human reviewer to get the review wrong especially for someone who is not an expert in the niche the site is about. And, I think this is now happening a lot.
You can package a site to gain trust from people who don’t understand the material without actually providing high quality content. How many of you come across sites with great content that are packaged in a really crappy way? I come across them a lot. In fact, many good old blogs with killer content on them look like crap and are sure to be downgraded by a reviewer even though they might very well be the highest value information on the net for that subject matter.
This is part of the reason why some article directories can’t keep spam out. You can’t always spot low quality content unless you actually know something about the material. Could a lawyer spot a phony whitepaper about some medical journal? Could a doctor spot a phony write up in a law journal? No and heck no.
The only person who is really qualified to judge the quality of a site’s content is someone who is in the target audience for that website.
This whole quality check is going to skew things so that sites with low quality information that are packaged well will still rank higher while sites with higher quality information that isn’t packaged quite as nicely are going to suffer in ranking.
Great read Jennifer. Thank you.
Thanks, Ted! and thanks for stopping by and commenting!
This is one of the awesome posts I’ve ever read. Thank you for sharing the information.
I wonder how I can get the handbook? Where can I download it?
The link I got it from is linked out to at the bottom of the post.
Thanks for stopping by!
I got it now! Thank you so much.
I have to take exception to something in this post, namely the idea (from Schmidt) that Google tries to please the searchers. I own a few small businesses myself, and I try to please my customers. Google’s customers are not the searchers. They are people who buy Adwords ads. I’m one myself.
How do I know this? Because that’s how they make their money!!! To the extent that Google gives us good advice on setting up our sites to rank, it is because those changes deliver better, more focused clicks for ad buyers like myself, not because it delivers better results for the searcher.
Now, if I put up a site on back pain, and have well researched content and offer solid products to treat back pain, I will be highly ranked. But not for the sake of the searcher – no, it is for the sake of the Adwords customer who has his ads running on my site.
Now, does this benefit the searcher? Of course. But that is not Google’s intention. The intention is to make money. It really is that simple.
A superb post I must say 🙂
Hi Jennifer, much kudos to you for the detailed write-up… Not to mention the treasure trove of information, that is the Google Search Quality Guidelines PDF! I’ve rummaged over the document and it’s interesting to note that Google uses 6 different categories for their Rating Scale. The highest of which would probably entail lots of good, relevant content including images and/or videos.
I have difficulty believing this is truly from Google:
1) why would they demand firefox usage when chrome is their main browser?
2) google engineers know very well that .ppt, .xls, and .doc files can be virus ridden and are in no way “safe” to open
3) I read quite a bit of politically correct corporate writing. Why do they use “he” exclusively instead of her and or she?
4) why make no mention of google?
5) why rate sites with a suspicious file or virus as “Unratable: Didn’t Load” clearly they should be marked as spam or malicious.
I’m only on page 7 but this seems fishy to me. Perhaps I am too impatient.
Hey Josh =)
Well, you can stop wondering if it’s authentic or not – Google just contacted me and asked me to stop linking to that document.
Thanks for reading!
Any idea how to find it now? I can’t seem to find it when I google it.
Well, I hope that before they contacted you, they told the site that posted the guide to take it down — they’re the REAL culprits!
And why on earth would this be “confidential and proprietary” anyway? Isn’t it everyone’s best interests what Google expects from site owners, advertisers, and affiliates alike? Why keep it a secret? It sounds like Google needs a reminder as to who ultimately signs their paychecks. Is it time for us to get together and “de-occupy” them?
Hey Jennifer…Guess what I found today?
I found a forum at WAHM.com that is dedicated to all things about Google Raters!
A whole bunch of members there are Raters and share stories about the job.
Unfortunately, I didn’t see any threads about SEO secrets or tips but
I couldn’t spend too much time there today. I’ll go back tomorrow.
Check it out when you have some extra time (haha, yeah right!).
I do hope you made a copy and post it on your web page…or are you going to do as “big brother” (Google) requests?
This isn’t a “big brother” thing, John… this is a legal kind of thing. So yes,I will do what they asked of me. They were extremely nice when they asked me to stop… I don’t care to find out what the next step would be if I do NOT stop. I have much better things to do than to battle Google, Inc.
We are talking about public information here. I understand you agreeing to not link the document to your web page. Are you sure it is a legal issue?
How did they contact you ? We never have a change to contact them, the only way we can contact them is through Google adwords support. Can you post a screenshot of the email they sent to you ?
They contacted me via email….I might post it, but it’s just an email 😉
Actually if you looked at the bottom of each page it states that it’s proprietary and confidential. That translates to not for public use or viewing and not public info. So Jennifer is doing what she needs to protect herself.
You are one hell of a digger, girl! Thanks! Got mine from megaupload. It is all clear – we need to make sites from people BUT when you do affiliate marketing Google likes to make things complicated. Raters apply -60 penalties left and right without notifying! This Google’s dirty secret is no longer a secret. With all this Panda stuff they knew marketers and black hatters will dig down and eat it alive. They got it coming. It is just the beginning… “Welcome to the Google’s rating program”. LOLs!
Thanks! But it wasn’t..and still isn’t…that difficult to find =)
Pot Pie Girl,
I mean no disrespect, and I even find your naivety to power, like a breath of fresh air! There is a certain innocence you possess that is really cool to me!
What I mean is this Pot Pie Girl, were talking about Google, and although I know they have very sophisticated algorithms, they also have dirty dark little secrets just like the rest of the powerful. There are just as many major decisions made over a couple of dry martini’s as there are over their keyboards!
Now I know you can say Relentless1 can you prove these theories, and I would only ask you, can you prove me wrong?
I’m not trying to get into a …………match with anybody, but make no mistake about it, were talking about a company that could make an island disappear, so nothing they do surprises me. I have faith Pot Pie Girl, but it sure isn’t in Google or their algorithms.
By the way, I love SEO, I believe if your on-page optimization is good, h1 thru h3, meta disc. image disc. onsite page to page links, boldings, italics, underlines, you know the drill?
Some decent backlinks, XML sitemap, make sure all your pages are indexed, ping your site regularly!
I believe there is a good bit of truth in your words Pot Pie Girl, but I honestly think your giving the
powers that be to much credit for being fine upstanding gents in nice suits.
You could be right, but money changes people, and were talking obscene amounts of money, the kind of money that can make a lot more then your traffic to your website disappear!
I really appreciate the hard work and long hours that I know you put in to this business! Do not put all your eggs in the Google basket, they may be the biggest, but were talking over a billion people online these days, get it where ever you can, there’s a lot of money online!
Unfortunately, there are those who have so much money, that the money is no longer the focus, the challenge is gone once you get there, just like with anything else.
I love this comment, The Relentless1! Especially this part –
“Pot Pie Girl,
I mean no disrespect, and I even find your naivety to power, like a breath of fresh air! There is a certain innocence you possess that is really cool to me!”
While I could write a 10,000 word blog post based on things in your comment, I’ll just say this – I am far from naive when it comes to Google and “watching the other hand”.
Ever see the movie “Wag the Dog”?
Thanks for an awesome comment!
Who has a copy of it?
I’m sure it’s still out there somewhere….
It all boils down to just creating a site that is useful and deserves to rank and for business customers that can’t seem the need to create useful content when they just want #1 for the service pages I have this useful little analogy:
Google wants to serve great and useful results to it’s users, if you do that, by sharing your knowledge and experience, then as a reward, you can get more traffic and rank your service pages.
Ultimately, they probably end up getting more business from the shared knowledge and blogging but for so many small to medium businesses, getting them to make that conceptual leap beyond reproducing the old school brochure online and really sharing and interacting with with their users can be a tough job (longest sentence ever).
Still, when someone makes that leap and sees the benefits, the business that comes in from the post you made a year ago, the caller that stops you in your tracks during your tired old sales spiel and tells you they have read your blog and know you can do it – well, that’s when it all comes together.
Really, super awesome post and I love the Panda idea that it applies a ranking signal to a given site, page or cluster of pages, that would certainly seem to be how it works and is a useful way to at least explain it.
Thanks, Marcus! Thank YOU for adding to the conversation!
Sure, Google is a business, and there are questions to be asked about the blended results and the prevalence of their own properties in some categories of search results but as a digital marketer, I don’t think it is useful to become a tin-hat wearing conspiracy theorist.
Just concentrate on the areas that you can make a difference in by creating great content and interacting with your audience.
thats very interesting, is there a link to download the document?
Anyone who has a link to the document? This is interesting.
Such a shame that Google asked you to take it down! Didn’t get a chance to read it. I’m sure it’s full of a lot of stuff we all already know, but perhaps don’t know that we know… Gutted I missed it!
Your post is very interesting and – actually – all your web site is cool. I’ll follow it 🙂
Is there any chance to get the Google Handbook via email? Could you please be so kind to send it to me? I would appreciate it so much. Although your explanations are very interesting and helpful, I’d love to read the long pages 🙂
Thanks a lot,
Sorry all… but nope, can’t email it (or perhaps I should say “won’t” email it. Not in the mood to take on Google, Inc…lol!)
If you’re creative, you can still find it. I have no doubt it’s still out there – and probably LOTS of places now….
nice article, but google needs to improve the algorithm with other languages, for example when someone searchs something in spanish many times the english websites are better ranked than spanish web sites, even if your keyword is in spanish.
Interesting point, Juan… I never thought about that.
very interesting post and blog. It’s a pity you had to delete the link to the doc. I will keep reading your posts.
Hi Jennifer this a very nice infos but who has a link to the document?
Or can u send me on email?
Hi Potpie girl and thank you for some very good information.
Do you know if google have started manually rating non-english sites aswell? If not, do you expect them too?
I would think there are some challenges connected to manpower if they were to manually rate small countries. They would have to do an awful lot a work to rate smal languages…
You’re most welcome!
Yes, they rate all languages and have Raters all over the world.
See this web page for more info.
Thanks for reading!
I have it. If anyone wants it DM me on twitter: @joshbachynski
As a medical acupuncturist turned SEO web-site developer I must applaud you for such a great find. I have found myself asking these same exact questions in recent times and this really just adds to my own theories of pleasing the customer(your visitor) first. I don’t see Google as the enemy, but I do see their role as being more of a “You Shall Not Pass” gate-keeper model if your site’s content is lackluster.
It’s not about them being an “enemy”. The issue is that even if you think your content is good and you reach the first page, you could plummet to the bottom on the next go wrong. It’s not a stable algorithm. The bottom line: if you reach the first page you better make sure you are really bringing in solid traffic over the long haul. Think about this. You do a great site with good content. You’re number 2 on the first page. You get traffic galore. But the next time the algorithm is run (panda 20 for example) then your traffic and bounce rate doesn’t meet certain criteria for whatever reason or mistakes you’ve made. Boom. You move down. What is the meaning of this? You will never reach Nirvana unless you can guarantee all your fellow enemies who aren’t on the first page will continue to link to you and or your social media campaign is off the chart. Do you see the problem? You can never count on income? just as in life. Except. The google life could end for you in 3 months (the next update) So this is no time for anyone to get cocky about having great content. It’s time to devise new strategies to get website awareness and KEEP IT. In my locale there are many new ads on TV about websites. For a while that died. But it seems those with the money are now advertising their websites wherever they can to keep the traffic flowing. The internet game is changing. We are back to the model where its more than building a content website and doing nothing else but selling ebooks. You will now need to get an offline PR agent and make sure you build your own traffic without just depending on SEO. Right now we are in a state of denial. SEO only is for those with the budgets and expert employees. (and I mean employees who are at the top of their game in SEO) The little guy has to be unique and build more of their traffic from offline or through social media. And speaking of social media. All Facebook has to do is buy a search engine, like Bing, and get an algorithm which insures that all the people who aren’t making it with google can now make it on Facebook. We all need to wake up and smell the new roses. It’s not just building an information content site anymore(gosh darn there are only millions of them in every niche). Your site will need to be readable on IPAD, readable on Cell Phones and deliver some type of connection which can rival their social networks and or be compatible with them.
The internet world is fast and furious. So we need to move on to Web 5.0: Social media, fun and engaging websites and websites which promote interaction. (Squidoo did it; they were ahead of others. Many won’t leave squidoo because of the sense of community and because you can quickly build a fun web page). Don’t you think the Squidoo leader has a sense of where all this is going. I say for the independent web developer it’s time to get out of the “content information” business and start building community and fun. Nice for you to get on the first page of google but Social Media is going to kick the first page but. And spare me the argument about people still reading content. Now they can buy the content for a great by right on their ebook readers and re-refer to it over and over. Are we willing to think outside of the content information box?
You’ve heard from me a lot recently about the “resolution of disapproval” (S.J. Res. 6) against Net Neutrality, which extremists plan to push through the Senate.
There’s a reason for all the emails: This dangerous resolution would hand over control of the Internet to companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon while stripping the FCC of any authority to protect users’ online rights.
The vote on this resolution could happen as early as next week. So we need you to be a part of Free Press’ national call-in campaign to make one thing absolutely clear to Congress: “Corporations can’t take the Internet away from us.”
Please pick up the phone now and call (your U.S. Senators)…Tell them: “Don’t sell out our basic right to communicate online. Vote ‘no’ on the resolution of disapproval.”
We’ve created an easy-to-use “whiplist” (http//:www.savetheinternet.com/whiplist) that helps you make the call. Just enter your zip code, find your senators and click their names. We’ve also provided a sample call script should you need to use some talking points.
Here’s the thing our senators need to know: An overwhelming majority of Americans want an open Internet. Period. We don’t want corporations blocking what we say or do online. We want every website, from the biggies like Amazon and Google to sites operated by millions of small businesses and bloggers, to be treated the same, with no fast lanes for companies with deep pockets.
These are simple, common-sense demands, and it’s time our senators heard them.
So pick up the phone, call your senators and demand they vote “no” on this resolution of disapproval. We’ll follow up on our progress as we get closer to the vote.
Fixed link: http://www.savetheinternet.com/whiplist
You know what is really funny … Google is trying so hard to hide the book, but if had just come right out and said point blank “If your website meets these criteria, your website will rank better”, it would go a long ways towards cleaning up the SERPs anyways.
Ya know, in a way they already DO tell us. There are public webmaster guidelines out there and the things in the guide weren’t exactly “ground-breaking” news or things I didn’t already know, agreed?
The thing about the guide is that it let us feel “inside” as opposed to feeling like we are fed some other information publicly. Also, we get to really see what these Raters do..and that is really interesting to me.
But all in all, yes…. I feel – and felt – that the more that have this info, the more that might take it really seriously…and in the end, make their sites better.
Thanks for reading!
Indeed interesting. I wonder how they FIND these Google raters?? Not on Craigslist I hope!
Google outsources this to other companies. These other companies recruit just like any other “work from home” type employment – but they (the Raters) are not employees, they are contractors who only work for a year.
hi can the report be emailed to me? thanks!
Ironic isn’t it…internet “word-of-mouth” is usually a desirable thing…unless big G hears about it and thinks otherwise 😉 use backwards logic & you may still find.
The funny thing is that you can actually find it on Google Docs ^^
“Yes they have their algorythms designed to get the best sites to the top, but when they do get to the top, they have to be reviewed with a human eye in order to make sure the site has quality. This is the reason the review panel exists and is the reason some of you go from page one to page 10 without warning.”
I always had such a feeling ((
The question for me is “how well qualified” are these Raters…
That’s a good question. From my understanding, these Raters are people like you and me, BUT they are not internet marketers and most likely have little interest in how Google ranks web pages and algos and all that stuff we stress over.
Think stay-at-home moms, college students, etc.
I agree with seo wargames…I think Google are definitely trying to improve search and ideally solve the global spam problem algorithmically, and I think more transparency would aid this.
I’m caught between a rock and a hard place, I just wondered how you felt about Google not passing on the referring keyword through analytics now…. So Google hate SEO? Loves users, but Google is a site that steals other sites content.
The organic search space is becoming more and more streamlined and I suppose the spammy sites will have to battle it out in the paid search market.
That’s a topic for another post 😉
i may have beaten you to it 😉 http://www.netlogisticsuk.com/blog/google-hates-seos-seo-is-officially-the-hardest-job-in-the-world
Is there any way to get the document?
The interesting point is for me that beside this “normal” quality rater thing there must be some other people looking around for all the bad guys in the nice Google world.
There are more or less dramatic penalties suddenly imposed, sometimes right and sometimes wrong.
There is this instrument of review application via the webmastertools which – fortunately – works in most cases quite well.
But still there is this bad feeling of a “secret war”, when they come and kill your site – and you don´t know why. So how to appeal when you don´t know the reason?
I hear ya ..but we have to remember, we (webmasters) are NOT Google’s priority. Google was created for searchers – not for webmasters or SEOs.
We (SEOs and webmasters) are here worrying about Google because they are, by far, the largest provider of consumer search in the world.
At the end of the day, Google wants SEARCHERS to be happy….
Google’s changes can mean big gains and losses for companies.
Panda was done with the best of intentions, yet many pages dropped in rank for no real faul of their own.
Google doesn’t always ge it right first time!
Nope, of course not… that’s why they try and try again (which makes it all the more “interesting” for us…lol!)
Thanks for this information. though I didn’t get a chance to read the document, I have gleaned some information that should help me to improve my site
One of the most interesting parts of this manual is the first paragraph:
“As a Search Quality Rater, you will work on many different types of rating projects. These guidelines cover just one type of search quality rating – URL rating.”
It seems to be implying that there are different manual review departments looking at different things. Perhaps one department is trained to specifically judge backlink profiles for spam. Or maybe there is one department that handles all situations where there is a network of related sites all owned by one party.
So while this manual is fairly helpful, it is only part of the story. Don’t expect Google to be nice enough to secretly post the other documents online.
There ARE different types of “quality raters” out there… some are for Ads, some are for video (I found that guidelines book too)…
((I wonder why Search Engine Land didn’t just download the book ))
because they were threatened just like Pot Pie Girl and would have been destroyed just like she would have been if they had done it.
For the official record – I wasn’t “threatened” – I was asked. I am just smart enough to know what could happen if I didn’t act when they asked nicely 🙂
Hi. This is a very interesting feature and to be honest one that worries the hell out of me.
I have just launched my community and social network site and started a very basic SEO. I can see the value in seo, but hate the fact that google have put themselves into a position of control over every website there is For that is what google search engine rankings are all about. To put it in true basic facts, If google like you you will succeed. If they dont you will fail. They and a few other search engines have just become to powerful for the internet.
The human resources issue is, in my opinion, a very bad move and the ranking system as it stands favours a very select few. Go to google search, type in a key word and many sites pages are listed time and again. When or if the search was as open as google say, then the only requirement a searcher needs is the sites home page. Just about every key word imaginable is used which creates a bias towards larger and more established sites. This in itself creates a very unfair system which google and other search engines use.
Many new webmasters like myself are being forced to spend untold amounts of money on SEO which is creating a very unfair system and a gravy train for a select few.
Google’s slogan is “do no evil” but they are driven by entities infected by “the love of money” not by what is best for humanity. Readers of the “good book” know what the meaning of this is. It is not peace and love for all mankind, it is from the “dark side”. Go ahead pot pie and rate me spam. We should not condemn anyone infected with the disease of being influenced by the forces that control the almighty buck and are kicking our but. Just as soon as we do, we to will become infected. The answer is not bowing at the feet of the mighty one (google).
Not gonna “spam” ya John 🙂
But here’s the thing – Google is a business. They are not a non-profit that is here to produce “peace and love for all mankind”. They are a business with stockholders to please, employees to pay, and all the other stuff that comes with running a business.
And, majority of the folks here in these comments are worried about THEIR business too – they also have bills to pay and hopefully, profits to make.
While I hear where you’re coming from, I just wanted to put it into another perspective.
“Don’t Be Evil”
Google’s unofficial motto may be “Don’t Be Evil,” but a new book questions that pledge.
“Google knows you better than you know yourself,” charges Scott Cleland, author of “Search & Destroy, Why You Can’t Trust Google Inc.” “They know what you want, what you think, what you believe, what you read, what you watch, what you intend to do.”
Cleland stops short of declaring the Internet giant “evil,” but says, “Google pretends to be trustworthy, ethical and unbiased and it is none of the three. It allows anything short of evil.”
Cleland’s biggest concern: Privacy. Through the myriad products and services Google provides, Cleland says the company knows your interests, desires, and needs through Google Search; the news, commentary and books that you read through Google Books; the sound of your voice and the people you call through Google Talk; your medical history and prescriptions, through Google Health; your travel destinations through Google Maps; and the list goes on.
“They are pack rats. They keep everything, and they actually have three copies of everything that goes in there. People have no idea they literally have a mirror of the online world and three copies on Google’s computers,” says Cleland.
Though privacy is Cleland’s largest concern, his criticism does not stop there. He says copyright infringement, antitrust issues and conflicts of interest also plague Google.
“They have no respect for other people’s valuables. They are a serial scofflaw of copyright policy, of patents, of trademarks, and of confidential information.”
“Is it possible to be quoted shrugging my shoulders?” asks Google spokesman Adam Kovacevich when Fox News requested the company’s comment on Cleland’s book. “Everyone knows that Mr. Cleland stopped being a neutral analyst years ago and is now paid by Microsoft and AT&T to criticize Google full-time.”
Cleland, who is also president of a consulting firm, Precursor, has been described as “a payola pundit” by critics, who they say is a consultant to some of Google’s competitors, including Microsoft and AT&T.
When Fox News asked him if he is, in fact, paid by those Google competitors, Cleland refused to confirm it or reveal the names of any of his clients, saying, “I have a research consultancy and I have Fortune 500 clients. I don’t discuss who my clients are at any given time, but I do work for Fortune 500 companies.”
He says, “Google likes to disparage my reputation because I have a message that they don’t like.”
While Cleland classifies Google as the No. 1 privacy and security threat on the Internet, other observers don’t see it quite the same way.
“It’s sort of lunatic to isolate Google as really the force behind all the things that disrupt us and threaten us on the Internet,” said Wired Magazine senior writer Steven Levy, who conducted two years of research at the company’s Mountain View, Calif., headquarters for his book published this year, “In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives.”
“What happens is that Google is the company that most successfully takes advantage of the Internet,” says Levy, who does caution that “there’s a real concern because they do have a lot of information about us, and I think Google should be as transparent as possible. In most cases, I think they are pretty transparent about what they have on you and how it works.”
As for the motivations he observed, Levy believes the “don’t be evil” ideal is still part of the equation.
“What I found really was the impetus for founding Google was actually to do good for the world. As it got to be a big corporation, it also has a goal of making a lot of money and helping its shareholders get increased value as well. But, I think doing good for the world still isn’t out of the equation.”
Google has also come under harsh criticism and investigations by law enforcement over privacy concerns and other issues.
On Tuesday, South Korean authorities reportedly raided that country’s Google offices to investigate if the company “has been illegally collecting private data.”
And here in the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission is reportedly preparing to launch “a broad investigation of Google.” There have been probes into a variety of Google services, from the use of its street view vehicles to its social networking site, Buzz. In March, Google agreed to settle FTC charges “it used deceptive tactics and violated its own privacy promises to consumers when it launched” Buzz, according to an agency statement. The settlement called for Google to “implement a comprehensive privacy program to protect the privacy of consumers’ information,” the FTC said, including “regular, independent privacy audits for the next 20 years.”
Google states on its website that “we pursue ideas and products that often push the limits of existing technology,” but also says it “acts responsibly” to ensure “any innovation is balanced with the appropriate level of privacy and security for our users.”
The company lists what it calls its “Privacy Principles,” which include making “the collection of personal information transparent” and being “a responsible steward of the information we hold.”
“You can make money without doing evil,” states Google.
But privacy experts say there are troubling issues that merit further investigation.
“I don’t think there’s ever been a U.S. corporation that has had so much control,” says Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, in Washington, D.C., who also teaches Internet privacy law at Georgetown. “It would be like a company producing automobiles, providing oil, and building the highways … We’re in a similar situation today with the Internet and Google.”
Rotenberg says there are appropriate concerns regarding some of privacy issues raised by Cleland’s book.
“The privacy threats are legitimate,” he says. “Even though you think that you’ve left their website and you’ve got the information you need, Google doesn’t forget you. They didn’t forget you when you did the search and they didn’t forget what it was you were searching for. And they keep that data to build these very deep profiles about Internet users. I think an obvious question to ask is why should a company be allowed to keep that kind of information?”
He, as others have proposed, says Congress should consider the possibility of regulating Google like a public utility.
“I think Google has gone too far. It has collected too much data about too many people, involving too much activity that is personal and they shouldn’t do it.”
“Any company with the power of Google has to be watched,” says Levy. “But I don’t think Google is a company which is intending to take over the world in some sort of negative sense.”
But Cleland’s version of Google argues that it does.
“Google says overtly that they want to change the world,” Cleland says, warning that “Google is leading us towards a collectivist society, a planned economy and one world government.”
“The more you learn about Google, the more troubled you will become.”
Fox News Producer Meredith Orban contributed to this report.
Interesting share, Paul – thank you.
Ya know, this whole “don’t be evil” thing kinda throws me for a loop. What IS “evil”? I live in the South of the USA so I can tell ya the answers I’d get if I asked around here…and Google’s not doing any of those things.
Is it “evil” to collect info about those that use your product?
If so, my grocery store is “evil”. I have a shoppers card at my local grocery store. Every time I spend money with them, I get money off each gallon of gas I buy and additional savings on specially marked products. I really like that.
However, that grocery store gets a lot more info about ME. They know what I buy, what brands I am “loyal” too, what sales of theirs I take advantage of, do I buy my meat there, do I buy my produce there, how often I shop, common times I shop, how much I spend, do I get my prescriptions there, etc etc etc.
It’s all about knowing your customer base, right? So they can advertise to that customer base in the most targeted and effective way – agree?
So is my grocery store “evil”? They pretty much do what Google does…collecting user info in exchange for getting something “free”.
Is that really “Evil”?
Now, I am just offering another way of looking at this – and if you’ve read my post “We the People, In Order to Form a More Perfect Google” you will know that I DO follow and pay attention to the BIG privacy concerns regarding Google. Some of it is down-right scary…especially when it feels like they are out there…somewhere… “Stealing” information (the street cars thing).
But I have to ask… do you (or anyone) really think that the average Google user really cares if Google knows what they like? By Google knowing those things, they (Google) attempt to give that user a more “relevant” experience – or at least that is the perceived goal. Wouldn’t that actually make a average Google user happy or at least more satisfied with their experience?
I’m really thinking out loud here – sorry (but hey, it’s my blog, I can ramble if I want to…lol!) – but yes, all this “privacy” stuff IS important, but it’s not my main concern as far as Google goes these days.
My biggest concern is that at one time Google’s goal was to index all the pages on the web, help people find good “Answers” to their searches, and get them OFF Google.com as fast as possible.
BUT – at that time they didn’t have their own pages in the “race”.
Now they do….and it really looks as if there might be favoritism towards their own web properties – and maybe even to those who spend the most on their advertising (ie, AdWords).
THAT bothers me.
Thanks for your comment – you got me thinking – and rambling…lol!
There us a big difference between market research and collecting private information, the perogative being private information.
Its a well documented fact google have breached many countries privacy laws and they have been and still are, investigated here in the uk. But all this doesnt deter from the fact, google and other search engines are controling the internet in a very biased way which is against all accepted principles.
As i said, all this frightens the hell out of me.
Nice mention on…site reference by Jenna Scaglione ….it pays to be open and honest…and your honest desire to help doesn’t hurt either….we love ya girl……
Thanks for being you
Continued respect and admiration
Thanks for all of the info, you’ve certainly given me a lot to think about. 🙂
Thanks a lot,
the last time this document leaked it contained some really important information about how queries are divided through :information, navigation and shopping.
and just like the last time i am going to read it all to find out everything that’s new.
keep in mind everybody that the new guidelines are probably correlated with panda 2.5
which means, understanding the handbook is understanding panda.
Good luck every one!
I just experienced a MAJOR drop in rankings for one of my main keywords as well as a drop in my traffic, and hence my earnings… which is what led me to your post. It makes a lot of sense that Google would update the way they rank pages ever so often, because there is always so much new information being created on the internet every day. What is your advice on dealing with changes in the algorithm? How do we work towards keeping our spot on top, when we aren’t sure what to work on and what’s being “changed” about the algorithm in the first place?!
Thanks so much for posting this. For those who wanted to read the original article, or who have the article and didn’t want to read the whole thing, I’ve summarized the section on webspam here:
Good stuff! I am still trying to wrap my head around the reasons why this Panda update hit my site.
My explanation was that I must be less popular than big recipe sites that are now ranking better than me…
Wow, this is a lot of great information!…Thanks for sharing. It will take me some time to read through the document, but it will be well worth the read…
Hi Jennifer, would you mind e-mail me the copy? Thanks in advance, great finding and great blog you have!
Hello Jennifer, great post! I did not even think any before that such handbook exist. The BIG G should paly open cards with us, I regret that I was unable to download the hanbook. I would be grateful if you could send it via e-mail to me. I’m looking forward to you next interesting post!!!
Hi Jennifer – Came across your great article – but looks like I’m a little late to download the pdf. Would you mind emailing the pdf? Would really appreciate it. Thank you very much Jennifer.
Ladies & gentlemen, Jennifer can not email you the PDF that you missed!
She could get in a LOT of trouble if she did that.
Don’t you understand that?
Just Google it (~:
Hey Jen? Did we break your previous record # of Comments?
It looks like it to me but I must ask you first.
I did some pinging and RSS feed submissions and some xxxxxxxx.
Oops, I can’t talk about that here, lol.
Expect more comments.
Jenefir you wrote a great article to understand about Google politics.
Here we go again! Those characters at Google must stay awake all night just to think these things up. If they’re going to be paying “human raters”, I suspect this may end up very much like the ODP directory, corrupt, and playing favorites. ( I got this from reviewers who resigned because of the problems) I read some of the proposed changes and quite frankly, I’m not going to pay much attention to them..tired of jumping through Google’s hoops.
Thanks for the great post Jennifer! That`s funny that at 109 page PPC ads are called “spam elements”.
Very interesting post Jennifer! All my 3 main sites (which are very good quality IMHO) have been dinged at various points this year, and while they’re recovered somewhat, the experience has made me nervous of depending too much on search traffic. I now have a plan in place for much more diversification over the next couple of years, and feel better for it.
BTW, for those looking for the document – it’s still out there. I just found it on a file hosting site today – took me about 5 minutes of Google searches.
Can you supply the search query that brings up the doc?
A great read and some thought provoking comments. I remember the days when Yahoo ruled, if you were not listed in yahoo forget it. Will this be the start of a large swing towards other search engines? We are all looking at it from a website owners point of view but what about the surfer…
If Google has got this wrong with Panda it won’t take long for surfers to get fed-up with Google not supplying relevant search results and turning to Yahoo and Bing.
I know Google is always looking to improve and I know a lot of us make decent money from being an affiliate however I can see this Panda update making a whole host of people poorer. Not just the affiliates but the small stores that rely on the affiliate to bring them sales.
Is it Googles long term plan that the little guy will only ever attract a visit to his site if he forks out for adwords? As for sites that are ‘thin’ what about services such as a local plumber, a man van, a painter and decorator or a taxi cab firm? Surely as each requirement is different they are going to utilise a one page site looking more like a business card, will they suffer for having a’lack of depth’.
I agree with Man Van….I think we may see a shift to Bing and Yahoo.
I know that I am trying very hard to develop meaningful content. I agree with MV that they probably want all of us to use adwords. Sucks …. but way of the dollar these days!
Shame I am late 🙁 would love to read it to improve my website.
I love it when independent SEOs outclass the big gurus and discover something important that everyone else missed!
Well done. I’m sure lots of very important people will be following your blog closely from now on…
A link from Chad drove me.I was curios about the Google’s leak document but I guess, your article is worth my time reading.
Thanks Pot Pie Girl for making this post because I have been wondering how all of this works, especially when it comes to websites that are considered worthy of staying in the top rankings. Plenty has happened on the web since the beginning of the year and I am sure there is going to be more to come. I write for Hubpages and find that when I stick to articles about hairstyles and how to style hair I do really well when it comes to traffic.
I couldn’t access the guide you were talking about but I will see if I can google it and read more of the details of how the raters look for signals and stuff for websites. Have a great day!
Great report. This certainly gives me some insight as to how to Google works. I just got my money site de-indexed, and I need every bit of information as to how to fix it. That Quality Raters Handbook would have come in very handy right now. Too bad you had to take it down. Thanks for the great info!
I think my site was hit by a human reviewer. Is there anyway to tell.
The site is prideofbritainhotels.com. I have been working on ‘luxury Hotels’ (UK) for quite some time, amongst others. Anyway it moved up nice and gradually 5,4,3 over several months.
It hit position 1, it was there for 2 days and dissapeared back to page 2.
Can anyone offer some advise.
I’m #2 on Google for “Clickbank for newbies” — in the form is a Street article. The site itself is nowhere to be found. Yet on Yahoo/Bing, it’s #2 — right behind the vendor’s official site!
For “converting to mp3,” I was #1 but now I’m nowhere in sight. However, it’s still #1 on Yahoo/Bing.
Maybe we need to follow the lead of Occupy Wall Street and launch an initiative to de-occupy Google.
If it will cheer you up any, “luxury hotels UK” comes up #2 on Google in New Jersey!
There’s a chance your ‘luxury hotels’ keywords raised a flag during a manual review.
– keywords look excessive
– keywords could annoy or distract a real user
– keywords are stuffed below the fold
A few years ago, some webmasters saw an “eval.google.com” referrer link but I don’t think it’s visible anymore.
Check out Google’s reconsideration requests to find out what happened to your site. http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2011/09/reconsideration-requests-get-more.html
One of our sites dropped off and we requested a Google manual review. It took a few months, but this week we were back up to ranking #5. Yeah! This told me that Google liked what they found.
This thing about Google raters has me and my business partner at odds. He seems to think that Google will be checking every site that ranks for ANY #1 keyword. I think he is giving Google WAY too much credit. There must be billions of keywords and keyword phrases. I feel the chances of a site being manually checked because it ranks high for a particular keyword are about one in a million. What are you thoughts on the likelihood of being singled out for a review?
Hi Deane / Rocktivity
I am trying to figure out why the site got hit.
It is clearly relevant.
I was thinking, could this be it. In the footer of the page, Luxury Hotels is mentioned quite a lot, could this be it ?
On the subject of Google’s algorithm…TechRepublic posted a great article on how Panda hit a lot of quality content sites in collateral damage: http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/hiner/can-google-survive-its-blind-faith-in-the-algorithm/9654?tag=nl.e101
PotPieGirl, what a shame you didn’t submit the handbook to Google Book Search; there appears to be little concern for copyright there 🙂
Thanks for this wonderful post Jennifer which I found very interesting.
I have not read the Quality Raters guide yet but I am sure will help me/us to understand more about what Google is looking for and how we can become better creators and publishers of high quality content that will not only please the algorithm, but ultimately and most importantly, please the manual reviewers.
Hi PotPieGirl! I am found your post while trying to make sense of the Google algorithm. Great post and like your down to earth matter of fact tell it like it is attitude! I have read countless other blogs and yours is the easiest to actually understand what is going on with Google. I also found it funny about requiring firefox! I would love to apply for a reviewer job!
Awesome! I never thought Google algorithm works like this, after you discussed it precisely I think I have the grasp of how Goggle changes their algorithm. In short, even if its an algorithm there are still human interaction on it (reviewer job)
What an awesome article!! Thanks for putting together such an informative post, I’m sure this will benefit many people who are trying to win the good fight against those algorithms!
In the report Google gave this page as an example of a Relevant Page (ie a good example)
1) Keyword density for Honda Pilot; Honda; Pilot; are all way over 1%
If google is supposedly counting symonyms then the keyword density is close to 5%!
2) This site is a Lead Generation CPA /Affiliate site!
Check out the “Affiliate Program” Link in the footer
“Edmunds.com is the number one source of new car leads in the industry.”
“Publishers who become Edmunds.com Affiliates earn $4.75 for every new car lead form completed on the Edmunds.com site because of their participation.”
“Join the Edmunds.com Affiliate Program through our trusted third-party affiliate tracking partner, Commission Junction.”
Assuming Google isn’t stupid (debateable) has anyone got any rational explantions?
What an awesome article!! Thanks for putting together such an informative post, I’m sure this will benefit many people who are trying to win the good fight against those algorithms!
Jennifer: I just found your blog this evening and I had no idea you were publishing such great content. I knew you produced a great info product but I had no idea that you are such a prolific blogger. Thanks for the post — it was very informative.
You raise a great point that if our site gets to page one we had better be ready for humans to judge it. I’m amazed at the all the short-cuts and tricks that a lot of IMers play as they attempt to game Google. Just “Do The Work” and produce great content that solves problems. Stick with that mindset and you will be so much better off in the long run. And you’ll sleep better too!
I’ve found your blog through Chad’s. And it’s quite nice to read your post for I’ve found it interesting. Thanks for the info!
I’ve found your blog through Chad’s. And it’s quite nice to read your post for I’ve found it interesting. Thanks for the info!
Unbelievable, I would like to understand google process in creating their algorithm