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Updated Google Webmaster Guidelines

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#1 JohnMu


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Posted 05 June 2007 - 02:33 PM

Here they are ....

A nice writeup at http://searchenginel...0605-131904.php

Paid links are now officially out - including a URL to report them: Infos on paid links

What do you like, what don't you like? I like how it is much more elaborate now - much less guessing for a webmaster who doesn't have that much experience. Good job!


#2 lee.n3o


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Posted 05 June 2007 - 02:49 PM

Google's Terms of Service do not allow the sending of automated queries of any sort to our system without express permission in advance from Google. Sending automated queries absorbs resources and includes using any software (such as WebPosition Gold™) to send automated queries to Google to determine how a website or webpage ranks in Google search results for various queries.

Interesting.... Surprised they actually named WebPos Gold!! I bet they are happy .. LOL

I also like how they have actually said using "Using CSS to hide text" .. So is that an indication that they are crawling stylesheets and checking font colors against background colours?

Like you say... I think its alot clearer

Edited by lee.n3o, 05 June 2007 - 02:51 PM.

#3 JohnMu


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Posted 05 June 2007 - 03:04 PM

Web Pos Gold has actually been in there for a long time. I was wondering why they didn't remove it or add a bunch of the other tools as well... but that would be too much marketing and they'd almost have to mark it as a paid link :)

I agree about the CSS - it's much clearer now. There are still so many SEOs who say CSS image substitution for a bunch of keywords within a h1-tag is ok...

You could assume that they check for these things, but on the other hand, it's just plain impossible to do it all algorithmically / automatically. However, they can go pretty far with "signals" that add up and then trigger a manual review of a page.

Think of a simple thing like a hidden link: by keeping track of the Googlebar traffic they could determine that out of say 1 million (tracked) visitors, nobody ever clicked on this or that link which the crawlers found. It could either mean that the link is of really bad quality (hey, any normal link gets clicked on at least once out of a million visitors) or invisible.

I'm not so sure about hidden text, but titles and h1-tags could be analyzed for spamminess even without knowing if they're visible or not (say check the words in the tags against the keywords in the meta-keywords tag or against keywords with an unnaturally high frequency within the page or within the anchor text linking to the page).

There are a lot of small things that could be added up - with enough of them potentially problematic, it could start running stronger tests (say a full page rendering with the browser CSS to determine off-page or invisible placement) and even a manual review. They're pretty smart, those Googlers :D


#4 Jem


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Posted 05 June 2007 - 04:09 PM

It's just a shame that the people at Google don't know the difference between a tag and an attribute!

Edited by Jem, 05 June 2007 - 04:13 PM.

#5 eKstreme


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Posted 05 June 2007 - 06:06 PM

Google and most other search engines use links to determine reputation.

Google should speak for itself only, regardless if what they say about other SEs is true or not.

However, some SEOs and webmasters engage in the practice of buying and selling links

And so they're not going to get any presents from Santa

, disregarding the quality of the links,

False. I know that a lot of webmasters check the quality of the sites they're linking to inside out. It's for the very same reason Google mentions in their guidelines - bad neighbourhoods.

the sources,

Again, false.

and the long-term impact it will have on their sites.

This is FUD unless Google actually states clearly otherwise. Vague language, smoke and mirrors, and veiled threats are so Web 1.0, or Microsoft circa 1997.

Buying links in order to improve a site’s ranking is in violation of Google's webmaster guidelines and can negatively impact a site's ranking in search results.

And why should I care? Oh wait...

Google works hard to ensure that it fully discounts links intended to manipulate search engine results, such link exchanges and purchased links. If you see a site that is buying or selling links, let us know by clicking Report spam in the index under the Tools menu in Webmaster Tools. We’ll use your information to improve our algorithmic detection of paid links.

For the users of the website, why should they go through the trouble? The only people who will care are the competitors. This kind of "oh we love you so help us give you better results" tone is hypocritical and naive (which Google certainly isn't). Google actually knows this as the only people who have Webmaster Tools accounts are webmasters. So Google is asking your competitors to rat you out and asking you to rat out your competitors.

Do no Evil? :)


#6 Jozian


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Posted 05 June 2007 - 07:28 PM

ROLF, Pierre! Nice critique!


#7 Ruud


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Posted 05 June 2007 - 08:28 PM

I don't see how this remains relevant or true:

Some examples of cloaking include:

* Serving a page of HTML text to search engines, while showing a page of images or Flash to users.

Without stipulation this "rule" is if not unfair, insane.

#8 sonjay


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Posted 05 June 2007 - 08:30 PM

I wonder what Tim Berners-Lee thinks of Google's stated attitude toward links. Back in 1997, he wrote this:

The intention in the design of the web was that normal links should simply be references, with no implied meaning.

A normal hypertext link does NOT necessarily imply that

* One document endorses the other; or that
* One document is created by the same person as the other, or that
* One document is to be considered part of another.


#9 A.N.Onym


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Posted 05 June 2007 - 08:44 PM

I haven't found where it states we can use CSS to hide some text for design purposes (or use content {} in CSS files). What do they say about it?


#10 yannis


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Posted 05 June 2007 - 10:34 PM

Paid links are out? Does this mean if you listed in a paid directory you are in trouble? Does this include paying to be in the Yahoo directory? (Don't tell me Yahoo is o.k. because.... but Joe Doe's attempts to create a specialist directory are not!

Checking CSS? Virtually impossible to-do, as one can actually use javascript with an onload function or a mouse-over to hide anything you want on a page! Besides it will be difficult to distinguish between genuine and non-genuine use of hiding elements such as in index blocks, roll-overs etc!

Worries about cloaking still? The web is moving to customization. Many web 2.0 websites and CMS systems show a different front page for different user groups! Very retro!

What all the major SE have so far failed to deliver it was the much promised artificial intelligence algos. Algos that can distinguish a relevant page from irrelevant content. On many queries answers and Wikipedia both show up. As you know answers includes a full copy of the wikipedia!

What I would like to see was reporting comment spam, with Google having a mechanism to automatically detect it after a report and banning the website (or at least the pages that it redirects to - as lots of these spammers hide behind .edu domains etc..). This should include forum spamming! :) This would go a long way to 'clean-up' the web!


#11 JohnMu


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Posted 06 June 2007 - 03:14 AM

I agree Pierre, the page about paid links could use a bit of "polishing" ;) (or a lot - it's v1.0). However I still feel that it is in general something that is a good idea, something that is a tiny help for the small guy (with no budget to buy links).

It will never cover all the millions of ways to sell links for PR, but they will likely recognize and ignore the most popular kinds. Yahoo must be ok, they explicitly mention it :spambuster: -- also, you don't pay for the listing in Yahoo, technically you just pay for the site review (not that it really makes much of a difference, money is still being passed and a listing is then made).

It was to be expected that things like this would get some of the SEO people a bit worried - but on the other hand, who is to say that they haven't been doing this for a long time already? I doubt they would add things the the guidelines that have not yet been tested.

Take the guidelines for what they are: the things that Google values. You do not have to abide by them, it's your site and you can do what you want with it. Cloak your heart out, baby. Of course if you want to get and keep your site listed in Google then you will have to play by their rules, no matter what they are.

Also, a lot of the guidelines are just guidelines. It does not mean that they algorithmically check compliance on every crawl - technically they can't. There are a lot of things they won't be able to check automatically, but by writing it down at least they're giving people an idea of what they want to see. Sure it's a bit of FUD - "do as we say or we'll throw you out -- if we happen to catch you and don't like your smell (in addition to not doing as we say)" - but isn't that the same everywhere? I could spam the forum here with an affiliate link and it is likely to stay - someone with a bad reputation wouldn't be able to. We all know that there is always some room for interpretation within guidelines and rules.

Personally, I like that they are going into detail for a few of those issues. Many new webmasters have trouble to understand what is really meant and often do what "a son of a friend who has a website" recommend doing (keyword stuffing, hidden text, etc). More details help to explain things, but also give more material to fight - because we (or the experts) all know that XYZ is usually a bad idea, but if you do it for ABC or combined with DEF it could be ok. See cloaking for usability, hidden text/links for graphic design and usability, buying / selling links for traffic (or not knowing to mark them), etc.

I like your comment on AI, Yannis. I would love to see more of it as well. However, AI in search can only work if it knows your habits. When I search for "stamps" I might be looking for something completely different than when you do the same query. Is it surprising that Marissa Mayer (who has a strong AI background) is pushing personalized search this much? But that's a topic for another thread (or a lot of other threads :) - why does the day only have 24h... :( ).

Maybe to get back to the guidelines: would you prefer to have guidelines for the newbie and technical guidelines (with all the marketing, usability, etc info added) for the professional? I imagine it is way too hard to make one set understandable for everyone. Would the pro need more information or perhaps even less? What else would you like to see covered in their guidelines?


#12 kestrel


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Posted 11 June 2007 - 03:18 AM


Slightly off topic... but wondered what other software fall into the category of Web Pos Gold. I've not used this peice of kit myself but was considering using WebCEO or Digital Points keyword ranking tools.

If these two peices of software send automated queries to check positions could they get the site penalised?

WebCEO advises that they don't run the queries to quick to prevent a penalty.

Anyone have any views on this?


#13 Toe


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Posted 13 June 2007 - 03:26 AM

kestrel, I remember been banned by Yahoo! for the whole day by using one tool of SEO Elite. That is why I avoid it like a plague :(

As for WebCEO - I am a long time user of it and have never experienced any punishment or bans from any SE. So I think they are really good in human emulation

#14 kestrel


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Posted 13 June 2007 - 03:40 AM

Interesting... I've never used SEO elite. The features list didn't seem to do much than most of the free tools out there.

I've heard good things about WebCEO. Digital Points tool also comes highly recommended. It just concerns me when I here bad things about sending automated queries.

Would be useful to know what attributes a hazardous piece of rank checking software displays and if two tools both send automated queries, what is is that singles one out as being against googles guidelines.


#15 Toe


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Posted 13 June 2007 - 03:50 AM

As I understand Google and others do not want to be abused (and it is easily understandable :( ). So if the query doesn't seem automated it is OK.

But you are right, it is interesting to see this through the eyes of Google

#16 JohnMu


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Posted 13 June 2007 - 04:54 AM

I've accessed the major search engines a lot in between, in an attempt to learn more about what is going on with some sites. ;)

Automated querying usually means that one user is using the search engines a lot more than average. The logical consequence (for the search engines) is having the server throttle the availability for that user (either through delays or through temporary bans of that IP address). Usually the ban will just be a few minutes (I have avoided pushing it further), but I have heard that people have had bans of a day (or in very few cases, even more).

It would not make sense to apply any sort of penalty to the domain being queried for - anyone could be running the automated querying.

First of all, automated querying is almost always not as interesting as doing these kinds of queries manually. You almost always see a lot more and can learn a lot more by doing them manually. If you do SEO professionally I can see that it might make sense to do "reports" on ranking and such, but in the end it will always be incorrect anyway. The important metric is not really ranking, it's much further down the line: profitability. But I guess that's something for a different discussion :(.

If you do resort to automated querying you should always make sure that your system is not going to load the search engine's servers significantly. Partly to avoid getting your IP blocked (even temporarily), partly to avoid calling attention to the domains you're watching (the queries are easy to recognize -- imagine if they were yet another "grain of sand" that Google watches to determine which domains to line up for a manual review or automated penalty?).

At any rate, they're against the ToS. You -- and your clients (and indirectly you again) -- will have to live with whatever consequences that the search engines choose to apply. The consequences will not apply to the maker of the tools that you use -- they can sell you whatever they want and they can "promise" anything (you wouldn't be able to prove that any reaction was because of the tool anyway).

Even if the consequence was "just" a temporary ban of your IP from the search engine, how would that impact your work? If SEO is important to your work, then you wouldn't want to have a day without Google-access. Don't push your luck in an attempt to offer something to your clients that a) doesn't make a lot of sense in the end and B) could impact all of your clients (and your work).


#17 kestrel


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Posted 13 June 2007 - 05:36 AM

Hi John,

I agree that that the bottom line is usually conversions but clients still want to see ranking reports and damned if i'm going to check 200 keywords manually.

I'm quite happy to advise that the only metric i'm prepared to report on is revenue growth. Would be interesting to see how others get this point across. Especially when the majority seem to be fixated on rankings.

I'm currently working on a pitch for 5 figure a year contract and the client wants keywords a, b and c on the front page in the first 3 months or we lose the ongoing contract.

We've tried convincing them that its about revenue and they're simply not interested. Rankings or no contract.

Some would say clients like that aren't worth the time. Personally, i can't afford to turn down 5 figures.

But as you say, another conversation :)


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