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bwelford

Should Search Engines Abandon Terms Of Service And Quality Guidelines

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I am somewhat bemused to see that the Google Webspam group has just imposed a penalty on the Google Chrome group. For at least 60 days the Chrome web pages will rank significantly lower in search queries. In due course, the Google Chrome group must submit a re-evaluation request to prove that they are no longer operating outside the Quality Guidelines.

 

Looking at all this with fresh eyes, I believe the situation is too complex for most of us. I've felt for a long time that Google publishing PageRank data was a very wrong move that caused more harm than good (if there is any good in that). Extending that idea I'm not sure the Terms of Service or Quality Guidelines do much for us either.

 

What is useful is the publication of best practices as they have done for SEO and for mobile-friendly web pages. However publishing what gets you banned just means that those inclined just skate up as close as they can to the boundary fence. Clearly these restrictions are not working.

 

Instead why not leave it a little unclear what are the precise reasons for a ban or downgrading. Let webmasters seek to offer the best possible user experience without knowing what precisely might downgrade their web pages. It couldn't be any worse than the present system and might be significantly better.

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Haven't some of us often called for Google to be clear with their guidelines and penalties, so that we'd know what to expect and know what exactly is wrong with our website, as per Google?

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I think it should work the other way around - if you get a penalty it should be posted to your WMT account with a note of the reason, so that you can fix it. The argument against doing this see,s to just be that it will give too much away. But it must help improve the quality of websites if they did this. Chrome were lucky as they were told exactly why they got a penalty and therefore knew exactly what to do to fix the problem, and their marketing people also know to update their code / designs etc. to ensure that videos with links comply with Google guidelines. How many other websites and businesses fall for similar reasons but never find out why? A lot of people have great intentions but are banished from Google for honest mistakes, not "black hat seo". It is still nowhere near transparent enough for my liking!

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The Chrome group got penalised because their marketing went (apparently inadvertantly) askew of their own guidelines. I found two things of interest in the story as reported:

* the 'problem' was not picked up by the algo and the penalty had to be manually applied. This could mean that Google exempts it's own properties but I suspect more likely that this is another case of a transgression threshold that is about to ratchetted very very low for while. 'Paid' links work because, done well, they can not be distinguished from unpaid links. And the greater the authority/trust of a site the more grace (I believe) that is given - unless publicity shines in sufficient strength.

 

* that the letter of the 'law' was applied whereas, in similar circumstances, a run of the mill site would be out indefinitely to forever. This part is not at all a surprise; major businesses, i.e. JCPenney, BMW, have a long history of wrist slaps and short carefully circumscribed penalties. The rules are neither equally nor eqivalently applied. Which is always a good reminder to understand how they are applied to your vertical and niche as well as to know just how 'big' your business is should the manure fly.

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