How Google gave the spammers all the power
Ian Lurie Jul 5 2012
Google launched the Penguin update to filter out spammy links. Great! That’s fantastic! Lead us, oh tuxedoed little birdie, to the Golden Age of SEO! Content, marketing and all-around smarts will win the day!
Penguin is not subtle. It targets link profiles that flunk fairly obvious, common-sense criteria: Don’t buy links; don’t get site-wide footer links in 5-point type; don’t spam forums; don’t get 2,000 links with identical anchor text. In short, don’t acquire crappy links. You can read a longer explanation of Penguin here.
If Google penalizes you, you can file a re-consideration request.
But the common sense ends where the request process starts: The spammers are in control. Here’s why:
In the last few weeks, I’ve noticed legitimate sites, selling real stuff in a thoroughly businesslike manner, getting their re-consideration requests slapped down.
I’m not Google. But I know a wee bit about what spammy SEO looks like. The sites in question have reformed—they’ve given up their dastardly link-dealing ways.
So I did a little digging, and discovered that in every rejected case, some of the spammy links remain. They remain because we can’t get the site owners to remove the bloody links. We’re not hiding them. We’re listing them. Hell, I’d personally go to Google on bended knee and beg that they devalue the links if I could.
How much cleanup is enough?
That led me to write a little ditty:
If any spammy links remain, your request goes down the drain.
1,200 link removal requests isn’t enough. If you want to get back into the rankings, you have to actually get all of those spammy links removed. Or just pray the re-inclusion team misses the remaining links in a spot check.
Google gave the Batmobile to the Joker
Which leaves me in a pickle. I’m a strong believer in TOS-compliant search engine optimization. Do what Google and Bing want: Help them find, correctly categorize and rank the best stuff. Simple. If you screw up, fix it.
Except that now, site owners can’t do that. If a spammer decides not to remove a link, or if they’ve abandoned their site, Joe the Siteowner is hosed. Google, you’ve just put all the power in the hands of the people you most detest: Spammers. People who sell links, build blog networks and otherwise wreak havoc on your algorithm.
Um. Why, exactly?
The answer: Disavowal, or an ‘A’ for effort
Google, we need that link disavow tool. Now. It’ll totally wipe out a nice little consulting division here at Portent. And I’m OK with that. Just give site owners a way to yank links out of their profile.
Or, when a site owner sends you an excruciatingly detailed list of every link they’ve tried to remove, give them an ‘A’ for effort. Then devalue the remaining links, and move on.
Just please, put the power back in the hands of the site owners, OK?
Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent Inc. He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Forbes.com and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, SIC and ad:Tech. Follow him on Twitter at portentint. He also just published a book about strategy for services businesses: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle. Read More