Pointers for Google Japan paid-post story

I just did a joint post about the Google Japan issue on Google’s Japanese webmaster blog. There’s also a post on Google’s main Japanese blog. If you don’t read Japanese, you can also watch the video where I recently talked about this.

To the extent that I can speak on behalf of Google, I apologize that this happened. One of the messages I heard was that people wanted Google to take action in this instance, and we did. The toolbar PageRank for google.co.jp dropped from 9 to 5, and I expect that to stay for a while. That decrease in PageRank reflects a loss of trust in the google.co.jp domain. In addition, the PageRank change also has ripple effects for google.co.jp where we lose trust in the links for that domain. The team from google.co.jp will also need to submit a reconsideration request just like anyone else would.

One of the other messages I’m hearing is that Google needs to keep talking about these issues, especially to explain why we think paid posts that affect search engines are bad for the ecology of the web. But in the mean time, I wanted to provide the pointers to the Japanese posts and to the video about this.

33 Responses to Pointers for Google Japan paid-post story (Leave a comment)

  1. Affan Laghari

    As far as I remember, Google used to give Toolbar Pagerank penalty to sites that sell links, like you did to Seo-scoop, Findlaw, etc.

    Most in the SEO world know what value the toolbar pagerank has. The question is: Did this penalty affect Google Japan’s rankings in the SERPS? Why does it still show up for [Google Japan] as Aaron mentioned.

    If I buy links and you’re just going to decrease my Toolbar PR, then I would be more than happy if my rankings aren’t affected.

  2. “The toolbar PageRank for google.co.jp dropped from 9 to 5″ – Is the penalty only on toolbar PageRank? Does the penalty PR 9 to 5 reflects the number of links, why not the penalty be from PR 9 to 7 or PR 9 to 3.

  3. Hi Matt, just saw the Webpronews video, I think you guys have worked through this well, nothing like a crisis to get everyone talking.

    A penalty of 4 is quite huge. You mentioned talking about this issue more as it has been a bit quiet and with a penalty of 4 it seems to be a huge no-no for you guys.

    For most small businesses and websites, a similar penalty would wipe their PR.

    Cheers

  4. It was unbelievable when i heard this news.But it was nice to see how Google reacted by reducing the PR.

  5. At SES London (which I thought for a second you had attended, seeing at the related blog post) I listened to Jill Whalen and Rand ‘discuss’ optimisation tactics and I did agree with Jill when she said that the small time webmaster shouldn’t need to read Googles Webmaster Guidelines – she did mean that people should be working in a white hat way, i.e. not to try and manipulate the search engine rankings, but I do agree with her, in the past the majority of the small time sites I worked with didn’t know there are Google Webmaster Guidelines and if they had bought links, they had done so innocently because they wanted traffic from that domain.

    Is it fair that these small usually naive businesses who have usually invested nearly everything into building there own business should be penalised without communication? I know we don’t live in an ideal world where most things are meant innocently but I am aware that these small time businesses rely on Googles traffic to ‘feed the kids’.

    Google Japan is lucky, they won’t see any drop in traffic – very few people Google to find Google…

    Cheers Gerry

  6. Tom

    When you say “ripple effects for google.co.jp where we lose trust in the links for that domain” – do you mean all the sites linking to google.co.jp will lose trust (albeit a very small amount I imagine) or do you mean the sites that google.co.jp is linking out to will lose trust?

  7. @Gerry Up to a point but in the real world naiveity isnt a defence and you often see “small” businesses using special pleading when they make mistakes.

    eg sacking a woman becuase she becomes pregnant or trying to get out of a descriminaton case or complaining about “red tape” only when it suits them.

  8. Ian M

    Thanks Matt – I get the feeling that we wouldn’t see something like this from the other search engines. Despite Google’s flaws and occasional hiccups, I really get the impression that people in Google really do care about Doing The Right Thing ™. Or maybe you’re just very good at marketing ;-)

    Any chance you could respond to my comments in the “canonical tag” blog post? There are some errors in your slides still, and there’s a really burning question about using it in conjunction with noindex that I’d really, really like to know.

  9. Ian M

    @Tom – I imagine it means that there is less PageRank flowing to the Google-owned properties linked to from the Google Japan homepage.

  10. Harith

    Hey Matt,

    IMO, the best part of your post is:

    “The team from google.co.jp will also need to submit a reconsideration request just like anyone else would.”

    and you mentioned also:

    “The toolbar PageRank for google.co.jp dropped from 9 to 5, and I expect that to stay for a while. ”

    I guesse once the “for a while” to last three months for anyone else. Would the penalty be shorter for google.co.jp because they are after all part of google ;)

  11. Although you really reacted in a quick and exemplary way by reducing the Page Rank of google.jp – I’m very concerned that you forget the main issue: when a “normal” company hires an agency which does evil things even without the company’s knowledge, it will not only face a PR-decrease, but a severe “-40 to 60″ ranking penalty and loose a real lot of business, so there’s a huge financial damage, even when they’re as “unguilty” as google.jp is. At least that’s what happened about four weeks ago over here in Germany with the clients of a well-known SEO agency which used paid russian links without properly reporting that fact to their unknowing clients – you surely know what and whom I mean.

    So the point is: Google Japan does not depend on rankings. You don’t search for Google in Japan – you USE Google to find other businesses. Hence, a decrease of google.jp’s Page Rank and loss of trust will in nearly no way affect it’s business. People will still “find” Google, look at and click on the AdWords and so on. Therefore, the penalty for breaking your own rules does by far not have the same effect as it has for normal websites. Which is kind of unfair for all of us outside Google.

    When we break your rules by paying for links and getting caught, our company’s business can quickly be ruined, competitors can increase their market share whereas we loose it, the “responsible” people in our company can loose their job, unguilty people in our company can loose their jobs because of the business breakdown and it can take ages until our reconsideration request will finally be heard and we get a “honest” ranking back, even when we immediately started to remove the source of the problem, e.g. by removing all these paid links resp. having them switch to nofollow and sending the request within hours or days.

    But what will be the economical effect for Google Japan? Near to zero, if at all. And that’s why my impression is that you definitely try to treat everyone as equal becase they will need to go through a reconsideration request, but because of the non-existing economical effect for Google Japan, this website seems to be “more equal” than others.

    Of course we cannot demand that you do yourself harm by for example blocking all of google.jp’s AdWords for the next weeks or months (i.e. until the reconsideration request is through, simulating the loss of revenue “normal” websites have to face when being under your penalty) or that you do random redirects for 9 out of 10 visitors to MSN or Yahoo or any other leading japanese search engine (simulating the visitor loss of a position penalty) or maybe even both.

    But what I’d really appreciate would be an extremely sped up reconsideration request handling. So that an affected website can clean up everything, file the request and be back to business within days. Not weeks or months as it seems to be the current case.

    I am by the way doing on-page stuff for an affected client of the above mentioned German agency. The website is definitely facing a position penalty since January, 17th, but there’s still no according message in my Webmaster Account for this domain. Why? And although the paid links have been deleted within days, the contract with this agency was cancelled immediately and new and stronger Terms and Conditions for the ~50.000 affiliates worldwide have been developped and sent out, so that we could send the reconsideration request 12 days after the penalty, we still didn’t get any feedback yet. Why does it take so long? We did the best we can do to clean up everything asap, but it seems that nobody wants to talk to us. Whatsmore, there is no official statement or even a hint from Google Germany about this whole case yet although the disappearance of some well-known websites caused quite a stir in the media and everybody’s wondering why there’s still no statement like for example with the BMW issue quite a time ago. So even the German press starts noticing this behaviour and the articles start to get more and more critical. And of course, my customer with his seven-digit yearly AdWords budget is getting really annoyed about being completely ignored and thinks about putting his budget in different, offline channels like TV spots.

    So like said: if there’s something you should definitely address within Google this year, it’s speeding up the reconsideration requests. There are really many “unguiltily” penalized websites out there who’ve been ripped off by dubious “SEOs” or by not being informed enough and therefore unknowingly doing something forbidden or whatever. Thanks to the google.jp-issue you know for yourself now, how quickly something like that can happen even when some professionals are involved. And therefore you can now perhaps understand that such cases need quick help from your side by really giving them information about the exact problem, by letting them know what’s going on as soon as the reconsideration request is filed and by quickly working on evaluating the removal of the problems and talking to the webmasters when there are still problems left and such like.

    Sorry if this whole comment is now a bit of a rant, but this issue is discussed really hot over here in Germany and the violation of your own rules by your own Japanese department and the mild consequences for its business is not really helping your reputation at the moment…

  12. Dmitry

    BTW, Matt, one more question.

    If I will take a big amount of money, and order 2k paid blog posts that pointing to the any website, will google penalize this website? If yes — can I point this links to google.co.jp, to drop it’s PR. What can guys from google.co.jp do in this case (as far, as they cannot remove the paid posts, cos it was paid by me)?

  13. Affan Laghari

    @Harith!

    IMO, the best part of your post is:

    “The team from google.co.jp will also need to submit a reconsideration request just like anyone else would.”

    Honestly, this seems to me the only part that I can’t understand. The requesting reconsideration page of Google Webmaster Guidelines says:

    “If your site isn’t appearing in Google search results, or it’s performing more poorly than it once did ….”

    So these are the cases when you need reconsideration really, and I don’t see Google Japan having either problem. Those worrying about Toolbar PR are either obsessed or want to sell links, and I don’t expect Google JP of any of that.

  14. himynameis john

    #
    Dmitry Said,

    February 19, 2009 @ 9:04 am

    BTW, Matt, one more question.

    If I will take a big amount of money, and order 2k paid blog posts that pointing to the any website, will google penalize this website? If yes — can I point this links to google.co.jp, to drop it’s PR. What can guys from google.co.jp do in this case (as far, as they cannot remove the paid posts, cos it was paid by me)?

    You know, I see the above question all over the web, so I’d also like to know the answer. :S

    Thanks.

  15. Been Caught Spamming

    Sung to the tune of Jane’s Addiction
    Been Caught Stealing

    They’ve been caught spamming;
    once… Google Japan
    Bought some paid linking
    Just to help promote their brand.
    Saying we’ll do no evil…
    well it used to be their stand.
    Now they grove on blogosphere spam.

    Pay per Post promotional whore
    Bloggers became Googles’ whore.
    It’s all right! It aint no crime, you’ll be fine
    On CyberBuzz’ dime.

    Matt Cutts, a blogger too.
    He says well this’ll never do.
    Judgement from the GooglePlex,
    a penalty there must be.
    And he did it just like that.
    If you try to spam something;
    in a box of sand you’ll stand.

    Pay per Post promotional whore
    Bloggers can’t be Googles’ whore.
    Not all right! Some kind of crime, you’ll do time.
    But CyberBuzz is fine.

    We checked out their page rank.
    Sat around and laughed.
    We sat and laughed and
    snapped fingers in the air!
    And they did it just like that.
    Cuz it meant nothing
    To anyone that actually cares.

    Pay per Post promotional whore?
    Bloggers ain’t nobodies whore.
    Hey all right! Take that dime, you’ll be fine,
    Fine, fine, fine, fine, fine fine…

  16. shades1

    -The team from google.co.jp will also need to submit a reconsideration request just like anyone else would.

    LOL

  17. Brad

    You said:

    “That decrease in PageRank reflects a loss of trust in the google.co.jp domain.”

    Come on….is this really the truth? I’ve never seen a decrease in Toolbar PR correspond with a site’s search traffic stats. In this case especially, I doubt this penalty will amount to anything tangible.

    The only thing a decrease in Toolbar PR affects is how much a website can sell links for.

    Lastly, I too would like to see an answer to Dmitry’s question. This has got to be answered at some point.

  18. Dave (original)

    “The toolbar PageRank for google.co.jp dropped from 9 to 5″

    What about innocent site that they pass PR to?

    IMO, Google is NOT getting the message out to all Webmasters. Rather than repeating failed history, why not learn from it so Google do NOT repeat it?

  19. Dave (original)

    Matt, again Google appears to be treating the symptoms (client) and not the disease (perpetrator). Why?

  20. Dave (original)

    One of the messages I heard was that people wanted Google to take action in this instance, and we did. The toolbar PageRank for google.co.jp dropped from 9 to 5, and I expect that to stay for a while. That decrease in PageRank reflects a loss of trust in the google.co.jp domain. In addition, the PageRank change also has ripple effects for google.co.jp where we lose trust in the links for that domain. The team from google.co.jp will also need to submit a reconsideration request just like anyone else would.

    Just how silly do think we are, Matt. Nobody would search for google.co.jp as it’s a SE. As such, TBPR means zip to them.

    Do you think lowering lowering Google.com to TBPR 5 would have any effect on traffic?

  21. Jag

    Matt,

    Does this Page Rank drop from 9 to 5 for google.co.jp have effects? If so what all, pls omit loss of trust in the google.co.jp domain

    PS: For normal domain I can understand the effects of Page Rank drop but for Google I don’t :)

    Also there are hidden gain in this “Japan paid-post story” people will discuss about this issue with a link for google.co.jp so chances of Backlinks to increase right? lol :)

    Thanks

  22. integrity in linking

    I admire Google for standing up for it’s principles. It shows that you hold people accountable for trying to game the SERPs, even if they are your own people. Now if you guys will only have the cohones to bust your own VC firm Sequoia capital’s Shoptyle.com for all of their paid links originating from the sugar inc network sites like fitsugar.com and popsugar.com.

  23. Is that true, reduction in page rank from 9 to 5 ?
    Well it is nice to see that Google has reacted in the right way by reducing the page rank

  24. This might be a first…a major company punishing itself (or at least attempting to in the eyes of the public) for something that, if looked at in the correct context, isn’t even its own fault. And as is usually the case, the tech community gets some of the facts right, then proceeds to miss the most obvious thing completely, choosing to blame the big guy rather than take a hard look at where the real problem is.

    Think about it, people…what is the primary reason that the PPP community exists? Perceived search engine benefits…something Google really can’t take advantage of as such because well…they’re a search engine. If they wanted to put themselves at the top of every SERP they deem to be relevant…well, they could. It wouldn’t be very smart of them to do it, but they wouldn’t need to pay a bunch of blog posters to do something that they could do in-house and presumably in a much less expensive manner. Not only that, they could do it in a way that would be so subtle that no one might ever notice. Remember, they control the horizontal and the vertical (other than personalized search, and even that has its limitations).

    So…what other reasons could Google possibly have to use a PPP service provider? Here are two really obvious (yet really effective if done right) possibilities:

    1) To get feedback on their new widget (i.e. a focus group).

    2) To spread the word about the widget to new potential Google users (i.e. a marketing campaign).

    In other words, Google’s intent was in all likelihood perfectly innocent and well-meaning, and had nothing whatsoever to do with the SEO/SEM community. The reason this turned into an issue? Because the SEO/SEM community totally bastardized yet another perfectly good idea and did what it usually does to anything that might be useful…turned it into a vested-interest entitlement-without-reason screw-you-screw-me industry whereby the only people who stand any chance at succeeding are those on the top of the pyramid selling snake oil to the lemmings underneath. The guys who created ReviewMe, PayPerPost, SponsoredReviews and (insert other PPP front for SEM scam here) are the ones who caused this, not Google.

    That’s probably why Google came up with the TBPR punishment…they knew that the majority of people who would be angered by this story would also be ignorant enough to be satisfied by an adjustment of a value that ultimately doesn’t mean much of anything. A few of the so-called smarter types will still rail on about Google doing evil and how this is hypocritical and how the punishment is only for show and so on and so on…but again, why should Google really punish itself for a situation that other people created?

  25. Who cares about Pagerank…

    Since Google wants to make an example, and rather than being hypocritical(as Google usually is) why don’t they inflict the SERP, the +60, and the not ranking for their domain name penalty as well, just like they have been doing to all other sites since August of 2007.

    You want to exemplify a ‘real penalty’, then might I such that you; ‘Do Unto Yourself as You Do Unto Others …’

  26. Brian B

    The reconsideration request is interesting. Perhaps you can talk a bit more about this? I recently purchased a domain name that I have wanted for about 10 years – it was held by a CPC domain squatter and I suppose things finally became bad enough for him/them that I was able to secure the domain for a few thousand dollars less than I thought possible (but still in the several thousands of dollars range). I’ve now owned the domain for about 6-months and while I don’t expect it to just spring to the top of the results for my target keywords – I would expect it to at least appear somewhere in the first 30 pages of returned results – and it doesn’t. It does however have a PR of 4. The CPC website was removed the second I purchased the domain and there is currently a growing and very popular blog on the new website. I’ve submitted several reconsideration request and – “no dice” – I’ve not even had a returned message stating if or not I have done something wrong, so it’s extremely confusing to me! Could you maybe talk about the process behind the reconsideration request a bit? Thanks, Brian

  27. When you say “ripple effects for google.co.jp where we lose trust in the links for that domain” – do you mean all the sites linking to google.co.jp will lose trust (albeit a very small amount I imagine) or do you mean the sites that google.co.jp is linking out to will lose trust?

    Certainly at least the latter, Tom, which in turn can affect google.co.jp in various ways, including its own PageRank and thus its rankings in Google.

    “Is that true, reduction in page rank from 9 to 5 ?”

    That’s correct, Narendra.s.v.

  28. Google should have taken stern actions against google.co.jp, because only SEOs and web marketing executives know about PR, normal google users don’t know anything about PR. They don’t even install google toolbar. These things are used and known by little bunch of people. To remain trusted by normal people, google should have done something more than just reducing PR.

  29. I gathered, this was to push results on to Y! pages, not G’s.

    So with that said, did Google.jp talk to Y! and apologize for not playing well with others?

    Seems like the only credible thing to do.

  30. Dave (original)

    including its own PageRank and thus its rankings in Google.

    Why would they care about ranking in Google when they ARE a SE of Google? BTW, they still have the number 1 spot for the handful that actually DO search for Google Japan.

    The only thing worse that NOT taking action, is to pretend to take action and thinking it will fool the people.

  31. Unbelievable

    Seriously?

    A PR reduction of 4 wow, big whoop. My blog has been blown out of the results by Google, i search for “mydomain.com title of page” and i’m nowhere amongst just a few hundred results.

    What comes up before me? Guestbook spam that doesn’t even have my domain, sites that have scraped my feed snippets and link back to me, sites labeled as “Malware may harm your computer” etc.

    I posted on Google Webmaster help, everyone tore my site to shreds and the only problem was 2 errors in my CSS (xHTML is Strict Valid) and there is 3 sites my friend owns on the same IP linking to mine because they get related traffic.

    Matt, how about you knock 4 PR points off my PR5 and give me my rankings back instead of directing people to malware and guestbook spam who are trying to find any of my content?

    Google fair? Yeah right, i also find it humorous Google is completely destroying user experience to penalize me for a couple of links. Well.. No i will not remove them, if someone i know in real life wants to link to me so be it Google’s the one looking bad going by the many comments from people looking for my site.

    So, have a great day!

  32. Ed

    Ok Matt, it is very honourable that google believes in punishing itself in the same way as all other sites in the index although there are some fair points made here. However, I will definitely sit with google for penalising German sites that buy links from Russian sites in order to improve PR. I mean, how stupid can you get and if you’ve lost business by doing that, that’s tough because you shouldn’t have bought the links in the first place.

    I do have a minor issue that is reflected in some requests, re-consideration of penalties need to be improved and contact webmasters who have google webmaster accounts about penalties would also help!

    One other thing, I’ve reported endless sites foir buying links and none of them get penalised, does google even look at these?

    Regards

  33. SEOdiot, you were doing on-page SEO for the German company and you had no idea whatsoever what was going on in the backlinks of that German company?

    Also, to the German webmasters and SEOs out there: don’t fear the Linkzar. :)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

If you have a question about your site specifically or a general question about search, your best bet is to post in our Webmaster Help Forum linked from http://google.com/webmasters

If you comment, please use your personal name, not your business name. Business names can sound salesy or spammy, and I would like to try people leaving their actual name instead.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

css.php