SEO Mistakes: Autogenerated doorway domains

If you’re going to autogenerate spammy doorway domains, here’s a tip: don’t name them after fatal hurricanes like Katrina:

Shop Katrina? Geez..

It’s not only a bad idea, it’s disrespectful.

82 Responses to SEO Mistakes: Autogenerated doorway domains (Leave a comment)

  1. Dave

    RE: “It’s not only a bad idea, it’s disrespectful.”

    bit like the Google update names (i.e Florida)

  2. Dude! I’ve been looking everywhere for an automatic rear view mirror bag toss game and now you’ve found it for me…thanks!

  3. Bryan

    Get ‘em Inigo!!!

  4. hmmm, these ppl have no heart
    your site is having problems with jagger 3 matt?

    thank you for writing this blog

    Cheers from Argentina

  5. Matt

    Dave, I think Brett Tabke called it Florida because there was a WMW conference in Orlando coming up soon. Just like Brett called one update Bourbon near the time for WMW New Orleans. Brett is a savvy guy. :)

  6. BP

    Looter SPAM. Where will they draw the line? Have they no souls?

  7. It was amazing to me how many sites popped up on the SERP’s when the hurricane hit. All different varieties of sites mostly donation type and many like the one you pointed out.

    I think relevance for the english language will always be a challenge. There are so many words we use for so many different meanings.

    Example: one I learned today

    witty / Witty – meaning clever or humorous…but also the name of a computer worm

    If I name my website business after another commonly used term that has multiple meanings I may show up on completely irrelevant search queries. I see this a lot with many sites both legit and spammy type.

  8. Found the Y aspect fascinating!!

    There is at least another 30+ program generated ones in the same place. Think I found the Bacon Lettuce and Tomato

  9. It seems to me that you have done a good job of clearing spam like this out, however does your algorithm know the difference between doorway pages and a calendar? My site had a calendar on it, you indexed every day for the next 30 years, and then tossed the site into the wilderness. No action since filing a reinclude request last Monday.

  10. Mike12345

    Matt, were there pub conferences in Cassandra, Esmerelda and Dominic too? whats the link with these names?

  11. Mike12345

    Actually i just found this nifty thread on WMW by Tedster http://www.webmasterworld.com/forum3/20409.htm that explains it.

    Dave, in short spammy doorway pages named after fatal hurricanes is bad, naming updates after hurricanes that didnt happen is ok because they are just named LIKE the way Hurricances are named.

    Also, its not really exploiting something to benefit yourself whereas having a spammy page that contains no relevant information on that subject is :(

  12. Dave

    Hey Matt

    Brett has also banned half the Globe from WMW, not sure if that’s savvy or not :)

  13. JoeB

    Mr Cutts

    Can I ask for your opinion about this google search which shows groups.google.co.uk linking to several thousand pages via 302 redirects:

    http://www.google.com/search?q=inurl:groups.google.co.uk/froogle_url&num=50&hl=en&safe=off&filter=0

    In the cases I have checked the search result title is the page , the result snippet is the page and the cached content which is held against the groups.google.co.uk url is the page content.

    To my unitiated eye this appears to be a case of 302 hijacking from google. Since my site is listed in that search, and groups.google.co.uk/froogle_url is returned when doing a site:www.mydomain.com -site:www.mydomain.com
    Should I be worried about google ranking issues this may cause?
    Should I delist from froogle if this is whats caused it?
    Should I issue a DMCA notice to Google to get these removed?
    Or will Google fix this?

    Thanks

    JoeB

  14. I believe as Google is going smarter and smarter, all those “Tips N Tricks” from where SEO started will vanish.

    Cheers,
    Divya

  15. Yes, the WMW TOS disallows naming so many things that most threads become silly guessing games. Their convention of calling all products “widgets” is particularly ridiculous. Most forums function just fine while allowing URL’s, naming products, etc.

    But I’m not here to bash Brett Tabke, just his TOS. :) Page 157 of John Battelle’s book strongly suggests that the Florida update was named for the spate of Florida hurricanes, which seemed a bit odd (I’d heard this before) because the really bad Florida hurricane season occurred in ’04.

    It was a devastating update, I do recall reading all the sob stories, all the pain it caused. I remember thinking, “these people must have been doing something awful, Google wouldn’t cause so much heartache and disruption in the lives of ordinary people, they must be more sensitive than that…”

    Google people must skim over Chapter Seven in John’s book. The carnage seems to continue. This kind of disruption is very bad for the general economy, it discourages entreprunership and hurts ecommerce in particular. But I am grateful for Matt’s appearance in the blogosphere, at least rants like this now have a place to be heard. /rant

  16. Not that it really matters, but I read that the Florida update was named for the character Esther Rolle played on Maude and Good Times.

    Keep in mind that Tabke names the updates when they begin. Unless he has inside information on how big they’re going to be, I don’t see any reason why he’d give one a name that implied disaster.

    I’m not a WMW member, by the way, so I didn’t read this there.

  17. >>I don’t see any reason why he’d give one a name that implied disaster.

    This is true, but wasn’t Florida the first update named by Tabke? Only Brett himself an clear this up, but the Florida update was identified as a disaster almost immediately upon its arrival. There was a disastrous hurricane during the 2003 season, Isabel, but it made landfall in North Carolina so the coincidence of the name was probably applied retroactively after the 2004 season which saw four hurricanes cross Florida.

    The association of Google updates with disaters is apt, I do believe that these updates cause severe property damage and cost lives in the form of suicides and broken marriages.

  18. “but wasn’t Florida the first update named by Tabke?”

    Nope. Brett started naming them sometime around (or before) the Boston conference, a year prior to the Orlando conference, hence the name “Florida.” As I recall there was an update, “Dominic” named for the pizza joint next door to the hotel in Boston.

  19. >>a year prior to the Orlando conference, hence the name “Florida.”

    I stand corrected, but hold to my assertion that Google updates capriciously ruin lives. Suicides, failed businesses and divorces don’t make good video the way storm surges do…

    Google, I point to your flaws because I love you and don’t think you really want to do these awful things.

  20. Scott Polk

    During an update, it’s true Google can ruin lives … but it only hits the ones that are not playing by the rules … get over it. If your optimization techniques are pure then you have nothing to worry about. Non-relevant sites fall out of the index all the time … makes my job easier … too bad

  21. Wow it is a pretty dumb idea to name a doorway domain something like that. Just think how people are going to think of it — whoever has that up is pretty nearsighted.

  22. Most people cannot even tell you when the Florida update occurred. That is why it’s a bad idea to name updates, and an even worse idea for someone like Matt (or anyone at Google) to endorse the practice.

    Updates should be referred to in proper chronological context, so that people know how old the changes really are.

  23. er….anyone wanna discuss doorway domains??? ;)

  24. Matt

    PhilC, I’m against them. :)

    Andi, we have to keep pressing forward when we believe we can improve index quality, e.g. Update Fritz in summer 2003. Fritz was the change from a monthly crawl to a fully incremental index. At the time, lots of people said “just stay like you are! Don’t change anything!” Now, the notion of search engine that is only updated once a month seems quaint. If Google didn’t keep improving its algorithms (with the attendant change that results), we wouldn’t be a leader in search today.

  25. Changes are good, even if they make my job harder…

    Doorway pages are bad, even if they make my job harder…

  26. George

    i don’t see it disrespectful at all. It it just a name… who cares..

  27. NeO

    Matt…

    I have to agree that doorway page makes my blood boil! I purchased Hurricane-Katrina-Survivors.com hours after I saw the first newscast on tv. I don’t have any advertisements up, not trying to make a dime off of the site, just there to help out… Unfortunately I propagated about 20+ hours too late the domain without the -’s beat our team to the punch… But now we all help out on the other site! I hope that Google severely spanks companies that create doorway pages like that, and continues to reward those trying to do good :) (on your last update HKS went from a 0/10 to a 5/10) Very cool, now what to do with the site to continue to help?

    NeO

  28. >>>Andi, we have to keep pressing forward…

    Absolutely Matt, and I can acknowledge that occasionally it is necessary to destroy innocent people because there are uninteded consequenses to algorithm updates. Progress is written in human blood, it always has been.

    My criticism is that in the past Google has been much too insensitive and apparently oblivious to the damage that has it been doing. The narrative in Chapter 7 of John Battelle’s book should be more than just required reading for Google engineers, they should be required to face the families that have been devastated by their actions. The case study in that chapter ended happily–many others have not.

    The harm caused is systemic. People are less willing to take risks when these stories of Google’s indifference circulate. In addition to the ill will there are long-term economic consequenses for ecommerce. Google fouls its own nest when it hurts innocent e-merchants.

  29. to say that google should consider the effect it’s algorithm changes have on others is just retarded.

    If your business relies soley upon somebody else’s constructs that are entirely out of your control, you are taking a big risk.

    As with any big risk, you should be prepared to face the consequences.

  30. Matt,

    We really appreciate the effort Google goes to in order to deliver the most useful results to the searcher–and also the effort you in particular have put in to keep up all up-to-date and involved and respond to our questions. Very good “net citizenship”, especially for such an industry-dominating company.

    Have you considered creating a customer advisory group, with reps from key areas (e.g. travel, electronics e-com, news, etc.)? Microsoft has what it calls Regional Directors (non-employees) which is pretty effective, I think.

    Andi: what’s a “book”? I think maybe I saw one of those in a museum… :-)

  31. Little Guy

    -Andi, I have a few questions for you…

    1.) If your site is the most relevent site for a particular query, do you feel it should occupy the top serp position?

    2.) If so, what do you say to the person who previously occupied the top position –don’t you have any feelings whatsoever toward that poor person?

    3.) Are you so cold and un-caring that you would simply allow your site to replace that person’s less relevent site?

    4.) Don’t you think you should provide (at your expense) some sort of out-reach program for people who you so coldly and un-caringly replace in the serps?

    5.) Shouldn’t you volunteer to give-up your top serps position for a few hours each day to ease the other person’s transition into oblivion?

    6.) Don’t you think that YOU should mitigate the SEVERLY HORRENDOUS AND CATASPROPHIC DAMAGE that YOU are doing to other people by unfeelingly having the nerve to create a relevent site that ranks well in the serps without even the slightest regard for others who may have chosen to spend less time and energy on their site?

    I really think you and all the other unfeeling un-caring high-ranking people should re-think your approach to the net and put yourselves in the shoes of all of us little people who need to spend our time sitting on the couch eating Cheetos and watch Okra on TV, rather than working on our sites.

    Time to do some soul-searching.

  32. >>>to say that google should consider the effect it’s algorithm changes have on others is just retarded.

    I resent being called retarded and won’t escallate the flame. But I am saying that for Google to ignore the effect it is having on the larger community is short-sighted. If you are too short-sighted to follow that reasoning I won’t waste my time trying to get through to you.

    Crushing one’s competitors is one thing, making enemies among your associates is quite another. Google should understand that people will keep their resentments to themselves until it is time to deliver a comeuppance. When you are the biggest player in the arena people who feel they’ve been wronged will smile to your face while plotting to stab you in the back. It’s bad business.

  33. >>>Andi: what’s a “book”?

    1. It’s a school thing, you wouldn’t understand.
    2. The guy you call to bet Stanford over Cal.
    3. Ask the Association of American Publishers.

  34. I never said you are retarded. Just your idea.

    Regardless, I don’t think it’s any of Google’s concern as to what effect their algorithm changes have on people.

    For every website it hurts, it helps another one. One could argue philosophically that not helping one website is just as ethically wrong as hurting another website.

    I don’t want to get into a Peter Singer style “bleeding hearts insiders/outsiders” type argument, but I can if I need to.

    I will re-emphasize my point. Businesses have to do what’s good for business. What does a search engine do? It shows relevant results based on a query. If that search engine somehow decides your website isn’t relevant it’s not their fault. Make your site relevant and you won’t have this problem.

    Or better yet, base your business around something other than your google position. There are tons of other ways of getting traffic, it’s not good business sense to put all your eggs in one basket anyway. As any stockbroker will tell you, diversify my friend.

    Now, lets examine more from google’s point of view. If they didn’t change their algoritm ever, search engine rankings would be really easy to manipulate. I know, I’m #1 in MSN for all my keywords :) (middle of page 1 on google) They haven’t changed in forever, and it’s really easy to gain the top spot. This would be bad for google.

    Google depends upon advertisers money to stay afloat. If you could easily gain and keep a top ranking, would you continue to pay for adwords? Of course not!

    These algorithm changes are necessary for both of those reasons. To keep SEO’s from being able to manipulate the system, AND to try to provide more relative results for the searcher.

    If your site is less relevant now after an update, that’s not Google’s problem, it’s yours. I have never had a problem with any of my sites after updates, and I don’t expect to either.

    I’m sorry if you thought I called you retarded, I did not. I merely tried to explain how your idea would not make any business sense for Google.

  35. Dave

    Andi, you must remember, after each update, for every upset Webmaster there is another that is over the moon.

    If Google try to please all the people all the time they will end up pleasing very few.

    I agree that Google must/does do what is best for it’s business as a whole, not try and please currently well ranked Webmasters.

  36. >>>Now, lets examine more from google’s point of view.

    That was the pov from which I wrote my last post, you weren’t listening. I understand what you are saying and it is a good thing to say to someone who is bellyaching about dropping in the rankings. I am not doing that, though I certainly have been there and can speak from experience about it.

    I’m actually telling Google that they are creating legions of enemies, and that is bad business. Wrecking innocent lives may or may not be a factor in your thinking but morality aside, that too is bad business. It will come back to bite you.

    Now Ryan you didn’t read my last post (to you) because the answer you just gave did not match what I said. So I’m not going to waste much more time on this one because you probably won’t read it either. Presumably others may.

  37. >>>Andi, you must remember, after each update, for every upset Webmaster there is another that is over the moon.

    See the above post Dave.

  38. I suppose it is not good to criticise without offering a remedy. Not being within Google the size of the problem is beyond me, but I do know it hurts ecommerce out here profoundly.

    Many businesses have just quit and fewer will start because the Google results are so erratic.

    This is a serious brake on the Internet itself, it is not a small problem, it impacts the entire tech sector and the general economy, employment, retail sales, everything. And that, guess what, hurts Google.

    The thing that angers people the most is the lack of common decency on the part of Google when it comes to the ordinary courtesy people have come to expect when doing business. Getting a polite canned email is infuriating. Hire a dozen people to talk to these injured webmasters, you won’t regret it.

  39. Dave

    I cannot see your reasoning here Andi. Google can never tell Webmasters why they drop, or rise. Their algo and elements used within, are not for the general public.

    If Google didn’t make these updates they would, at best, lose their position as #1 SE.

    The aim of updates is to drop spammy pages/sites and make their SERPs more relevant. This likely pleases 10 times the amount it displeases. Unfortunately SEO Forums, Bloggs etc are mainly used by those who have lost positions in the SERPs and doesn’t come close to representing the www on the whole.

  40. Markus

    no offence but Andi sounds like just another small time webmaster that created a business based on FREE traffic. He was then shocked to wake up one day to find out that his FREE traffic was gone.

    Every update one site will get more traffic and another gets less. Who cares what site is number 1 for a query as long as its relevent.

  41. >>>I cannot see your reasoning here Andi. Google can never tell Webmasters why they drop, or rise.

    I didn’t say that they should, Dave.

    >>>If Google didn’t make these updates they would, at best, lose their position as #1 SE.

    I didn’t say they should stop, Dave.

    >>>The aim of updates is to drop spammy pages/sites and make their SERPs more relevant.

    Yes, I know Dave. These should continue.

    Dave, you absolutely refuse to read what I’ve said with understanding, you answer points I never made.

  42. Google is harming the American economy, harming ecommerce, harming the tech sector, harming itself. Begin with that as my premise and reread my posts if you want a clue.

  43. I will develop this further outside of Matt’s comments, but I’m not letting this go.

    Google’s has taken a classical utilitarian position on this: that their over all goal of organizing the world’s information is important enough that the toll of some lives ruined, some suicides, some failed marriages, some ruined businesses is ok, the cost of doing business.

    Perhaps they are not aware that these things happen, well here I am a voice crying in the wilderness, yes they do. And if Google remains so obtuse as to continue to deny that it happens I may make it my business to track these down and document them.

    I’d prefer that Google acknowledge that this is a problem and that they are working to alleviate it. I agree basically with the over all goal and a utililitarian position is not all that odious to me, so long as it is acknowledged. Poor communication with webmasters is the biggest problem as I see it, but I do not claim to have the answers here, I am just saying that the biggest problem is that Google denies that this is a problem.

    Maybe I’m just a little too pissed about it, but that’s me, deal with it. I’m not going away.

  44. Matt

    Andi, of course I read chapter 7 of The Search. Battelle tells that story from the perspective of the owner of 2bigfeet.com, and that webmaster felt like Google just wasn’t aware of him at all. But I was looking at 2bigfeet.com back in January of 2004. Heck, I remember Danny Sullivan asking me about that site soon after Florida.

    There are billions of pages in our index, and well over 50 million domains registered world-wide. When we change our algorithm, we don’t have the resources to respond to most questions about individual sites that moved up or down. But please don’t assume that we’re not listening, trying to improve, and reacting to individual feedback–we just don’t have the ability to carry on a conversation with each person about their site right now. I was analyzing 2bigfeet.com to see why it wasn’t doing well during the time after Florida, even though we didn’t have the resources to engage that site owner in a discussion.

    Could Google do better? Of course, and we’re working on it. During Jagger, we provided a much more visible way to give spam feedback, and someone is looking through each spam report. This blog is one way to get the word out and answer common questions. I think that there are still other ways that we can help webmasters with their sites, and I’ll continue to push for Google to find new ways to tackle that problem scalably (for example, the program we’ve started to alert mom & pop sites if we have to remove the sites because of hidden text or other obvious problems).

    I don’t know what else to say. I just think it’s telling that you mention “these stories of Google’s indifference” when in fact I remember working to see how this site (2bigfeet.com) could do better or how our algorithms could change to help that site. But I don’t have the ability to correspond to every website owner, and Battelle never interviewed me for his book, so it’s natural that chapter 7 would make it sound as if Google were indifferent.

  45. anonymous coward

    It’s funny that andi mentions that site (2bigfeet.com), because as far as I can tell, its ranking precisely for the term that is in its H1 tag – whatever issues Google had with the site seem to have been resolved.

    As Dave points out, for every #1 site that is sent to #10,000 in the index, a #10,000 site is moved upward. There’s always going to be a site in the #1 slot.

    Google is not “ruining the economy” or whatever was the overriding assertion of Andi’s rant. Nor is Google broken, as many people affected by an update tend to claim. The day that someone searches Google for “cell phones” and comes up with pages on apple sauce recipes, Google will be broken. But as long as “cell phones” produces pages about cell phones, the searchers will be happy and won’t care if the site belongs to Andi, Verizon Wireless or Amazon.com.

    During the 2003 Florida update, 3 of my sites lost their rankings, a setback which represented a loss of $6,000 dollars a month, but the lesson was well worth it.

    I am now making nearly twice that amount of money with nearly 200 sites on a diverse range of topics, none of which I have to obsessively check their rankings, garner links for by hook or by crook. I have so many content sites (real content) online now that I rarely check Google (or other SE) rankings.

    All I’ve done is create valuable original content in carefully researched niches point a couple links at them and let the SEs do their thing. Some of my sites make a couple dollars a day, on average- a couple make a couple of hundred dollars a day – but none are “the site” – SE rankings rise and fall – and diversity is the only answer.

    If you got hit by Jagger, tighten your belt and get cracking. Diversify, or otherwise change your business model so that you aren’t depending on free search engine traffic to pay your mortgage.

  46. Thank you for this reasonable answer Matt. As may be apparent my passion for this issue is not driven just by having read Chapter 7 in John’s book. I mentioned that here to illustrate a situation that I have encountered in my own experience as well as over and over again in second hand accounts. It is not just from reading posts on WMW and elsewhere, I have corresponded extensively with other victims who were ignored for months on end.

    Others who have had this experience are too busy trying to fix their own lives to complain like this so I do feel I am speaking for them.

    I am heartened that I do see improvement in how this is handled. It does still bother me though (as you may have gathered) that this could have happened on as wide a scale as it did…

    My greater concern is over the effect that this has on the well of entrepreneurship. How many of those so devastated will not only drop out of the race but will spend the next several years complaining that “Google sucks.” That hurts everybody because the alternatives Y and M really do suck–this kind of friction holds us all back. Thanks again Matt for your answer and for providing a place for me to vent this.

  47. Russell

    Dear Matt, this is partly in response to your statement once that Google wants to find ways to discourage spam and Andi discussion on Google effect on businesses when Google change things. I apologize it not related to the Subject heading.

    Google intention and sincerity is great with the new email program communicating with Webmasters and Site Owners, The less spam on the web the quicker Google can deliver relevant results. I’m an sure that in the war between the SE, the most important factor is who can index and delivery accurate spam free results the fastest. However there could be a change in the way they Google tackles this situation without the possibility of causing ill effect.

    Is it really fair to penalize a site I read which had sloppy coding (like my grammar): a dreamweaver typo where one deleted the text of the link, but didn’t remove the “action” caused a hidden link and then penalized and out of the index or for other un-intentional errors and oversights? Because it’s difficult to really know what is intentional spam or not, would it not be fairer to offer a 1 week or 2 week notice to fix otherwise the site will then be removed for 30 or more days.

    Yes, we are suffering from the 30 day removal; our problem was a bunch (actually a whole lot) of keywords a part-time programmer had left on the page hidden. Hidden text on 1 page out of several hundreds of pages. The keywords where supposed to be for a Pad file you use to submit software to Cnet and other shareware sites. Yes I am a small business owner with a site online. I might know that keywords and keywords phrases are important to getting some kind of positioning and targeted traffic and natural inbound links are critical from what I have read on SEO but if you asked me to write a hyperlink in HTML, I would not know where to begin. Site owners beware; your web designer or programmer might not know what they are doing. Don’t go cheap, find reputable designers who have worked on some large sites and know the rules well, other wise, it could cost you dearly.

    If I new SEO and Coding I would start a business “Google SEO Diagnostic Center”. Get your site lubed and polished and make sure it meets the Google guidelines for 49.95.

    The timing of our site removal cannot be worse; November is our biggest month of the year by far and actually helps us carry forward as a business for a few months. Inventory is high brought in for Christmas season, cash flow as a result is at a low, part time employees hired, investments made to launch new unique content pages with an online gallery. Income down approx 85% since removal. The walls of a small business fall down fast. The stress is enormous, actually has made me sick. Every time I open up IE with Google as my default, I think of changing it to Yahoo or MSN.

    Your front on spam is the webmasters who surf the web constantly. Developing good will with them and having some kind of PR program in place will help the influx of spam reports. Have a button built into the Google Toolbar which links to the spam report page!!!. Does the Blue and Yellow smiley really work?

    Many email addresses have Spam filters and the Google email gets kicked back. The site owner does not realize Google sincere intentions about making them aware of a pending removal and is really confused about why the site is not indexed. Bad will is developed. Yes technology has advanced but sometimes a 37c stamp works better.

    Don’t u think that Google should make webmasters and site owner read and except the Guidelines before they submit http://www.google.com/addurl/?continue=/addurl this might help get some of the spam fixed before it is submitted?

    If Google really wants to discourage spamming either intentional or not, they should go big once with a major PR effort. Offer an Amnesty with a link on their homepage to the Guidelines. “New Webmaster Guidelines” for a month or so. I am sure a good % of folks visiting Google are site owners and webmasters checking their rankings. This is high visibility and I am sure will get a lot of pages cleaned up without having to remove the site and potentially damaging an innocent business owners. How about advertising the Guidelines on WMW and other forums? Atleast Google can say they made a big effort notifying siteowners.

    Onto links which seems to be getting more and more confusing as to what is good and not, is it frowned upon to buy a static link on a site (PR9) for example about PDF documents and you sell a PDF to Word converter? What if you sell laser printer paper and do several anchor text link homepage to homepage link exchanges with a few sites selling laser toner cartridges or laser printer repair. All these sites having very high PR. Is this seen as artificially trying to increase rank and is against the guidelines and can a site be penalized or banned??? The conversion rate can be very good as well as traffic from these types of links. Any clarification on this would be appreciated.

    I know one site launched end of Nov, 2004 in same industry as us, they did hundreds of link exchanges, bought some power links on PR8 sites and within a few months was in the Google index, on first page for important keywords. This creates LINK BUYING WARS between sites especially since these links have impact in Yahoo and MSN.

    For a little nostalgia, this brought a smile to me and might to other Google lovers if you have not seen it in a long time: http://web.archive.org/web/19981202230410/http://www.google.com/

  48. Wow, some interesting comments and a debate that hasn’t yet resorted to childish name-calling. I’m impressed!

    Anyway, I’ve been reading this fairly closely and decided to interject my own thoughts.

    #1. Google has always provided the most relevant results for me for non-commercial, technical searches. For example, if I want to look up a hex error code to figure out what it means and the solution for it, I just plug it into my Google toolbar and usually find what I want within the first 5 results.

    I don’t know if this is because Google’s database is so big, whether it’s because I was looking for something most people wouldn’t compete for, or a little bit of both. In any event, it’s always worked for me.

    #2. Up until J2, I’ve had a bizarre and ongoing Google problem that apparently only happens to me. Every so often, hwen I’m looking for something totally innocuuous (like Powassan, Ontario tourism a few years ago), I’ll turn up a site related to the gay community. I’ve found a gay hockey league, gay hotels, a gay nudist club, all sorts of stuff.

    I’ve got NOTHING against gay people, but it gets really annoying when I’m looking up Danforth Bowl and find the Toronto Naked Men’s Club because they had an event there.

    Again, though, this hasn’t happened since J2 but has happened intermittently over the years. But I figure it’s just me, and it’s a running joke among my buddies that I’m accessing the google.gay datacenter. So it’s all good. :)

    #3. I think that Google, in the J3 update, has improved its commercial relevancy quite a bit. It’s still got a ways to go to get rid of the spammers and losers, but that’s more because of the sheer volume of idiots and the relative lack of vigilance and awareness of vigilance on the part of users than it is on the part of Google.

    I put myself in the class of “lack of vigilance”, and I’ve already starterd taking small steps in that regard as far as reporting crosslinkers and other spammers.

    #4. I’ve noticed a lot of web designers have backlinks on the bottom of each page (or atl east the home page) of their clients’ sites, thus helping themselves and hurting their clients. Is there any way within the algo to deal with that situation?

  49. Dave

    RE: “There are billions of pages in our index, and well over 50 million domains registered world-wide. When we change our algorithm, we don’t have the resources to respond to most questions about individual sites that moved up or down”

    Too True! Common sense really and I believe most are fully ware of this fact Matt.

    The problem seems to be, that once a page makes it to a good Gogle SERP position they tend to think Google owes it to to them to keep it there forever! A combination of arrogance and ignorance I guess?

    The other VERY common problem with most small business on the Web is that they seem to think a few good pages will be all that’s needed. These businesses have to realize (if they want profit *long term*) they need to keep adding content, content and more content (no, not Doorway pages or spam). The more page you have the better insured you are against SE flux and changes. It also attracts good quality one-way links like a bucket of Prawns in the Sun attracts flies :)

    Content is still King! n:)

  50. Speaking about online merchants and businesses, Andi said that, “…for Google to ignore the effect it is having on the larger community is short-sighted.”

    In my mind, Google’s responsibility is to an even larger community – web visitors and consumers.

    Google’s job is to deliver relevant search results to the people clicking from site to site on the web, not to deliver visitors to businesses hoping to make money from those visitors.

  51. anonymous coward Said,
    >>>Google is not “ruining the economy” or whatever was the overriding assertion of Andi’s rant.

    My over-riding assertion was not that Google is “ruining the economy,” I never said that. The verb I used was “harming,” and there is a subtle distiction, I think that most of what Google is doing is very GOOD for the economy. I am trying to do some fine tuning here, I’m not coming at Google with a hatchet.

    I think we can agree that some innocent bystanders have had their businesses fail and their lives ruined as a result of some Google updates. I think there always will be some collateral damage in any large scale operation and no matter how bad the damage is I don’t think this is evil though the people on the wrong end of the damage may well see it that way. The goal of this particular rant is to call attention to the damage and point out that this damage ultimately hurts everyone in ebusiness. There should be less damage. I’m not genius enough to know how Google should do this, even if I were privy to all their inside information I wouldn’t be smart enough to fix it.

    But I do believe that there are people within the G organization wise enough to recognize that I have put my finger on a problem that needs attention.

    The most frustrating thing in the past has been just getting G’s attention when it was causing great harm to some bystander. I think we’ve gotten past this, Matt is listening and no matter how bad the problem may be at the moment I think a solution is under way.

    One of the minor difficulties G creates for itself is arousing people like me who will sink our teeth into their ankles pit-bull-like until they notice us. If Google were not responding, if they were *really* being obtuse, I think I would try make a career (or at least a few bucks) out of exposing the carnage. G is WAY smarter than to let that happen.

    Terry Said,>>>
    In my mind, Google’s responsibility is to an even larger community – web visitors and consumers.

    Indeed, that is the ball that G must keep their eye on. But there *are* other responsibilities which must be tended to. We all have many responsibilities, we cannot get by doing just one thing. Successful people and companies keep many balls in the air at once, please indulge my juggling metaphor and my cute clown face. :)

    Webmasters and e-merchants are not trivial players in this game and if they are trod upon too often they will turn upon Google and become the enemy. That is not good, that is the problem I am pointing to here.

  52. Dave Said,
    >>>The problem seems to be, that once a page makes it to a good Gogle SERP position they tend to think Google owes it to to them to keep it there forever! A combination of arrogance and ignorance I guess?

    It is neither arrogance nor ignorance to plan one’s future business on past performance, that is how it has been done since ancient times Dave. Google SHOULD know that if it delivers consistent results over a long period of time that people will build important structures based on the expectations created by this consistency.

    To callously and knowingly destroy people’s businesses and lives is not good business, this will come back and bite you. Perhaps Google wasn’t aware that it was ruining people’s lives, well they can’t use that excuse anymore.

    Matt Said,
    >>>we don’t have the resources to respond to most questions about individual sites that moved up or down”

    You will pay now or you will pay later, cry me a river poor baby…

    http://www.marketwatch.com/tools/quotes/financials.asp?symb=GOOG

  53. Dave

    RE “It is neither arrogance nor ignorance to plan one’s future business on past performance, that is how it has been done since ancient times Dave”.

    Who said business should not plan for the future? Certainly not I! In fact, it is you that seems to be suggesting this. That is, once a page gets to a money possy in the SERPs they should sit back and expect nothing to change in thier lifetime. Time to wake up and face the real World guys!

    RE: “Google SHOULD know that if it delivers consistent results over a long period of time that people will build important structures based on the expectations created by this consistency.”

    Exactly why I said small business MUST come to understand that reliance on only a few pages has about the same potential as a Moth flying around a light globe! You MUST spread the traffic across at least 100 pages to insure yourself. It’s Web commerce 101 as far as I’m concerned.

    RE: “To callously and knowingly destroy people’s businesses and lives is not good business, this will come back and bite you. Perhaps Google wasn’t aware that it was ruining people’s lives, well they can’t use that excuse anymore.”

    Googles intetion is not to destroy any business, assumming the business is not black hat. Their aim is to look after their customers, of which SEO and Webmasters represent only a small %. You are also ignoring the fact that Google is enabling the exact same number to prosper and is responsible for many cheers of rejoice!

    It has taken me 8 hard years of constant building and content adding to get my site in it’s profitable state. My biggest % keyterm that users find my site via sits at only 1%. I’m found via about 138798 *different* keyphrases each month. This is my single biggest insurance againts algo changes etc.

    Each time Google has a shake-up some pages drop and some rise. Overall though, the trend is up slow & steady.

    Anyway, I will unlikley agree with you and you with me. All I know is my hard work and method continues to work and I’m a small business.

  54. Dave Said,
    >>>You MUST spread the traffic across at least 100 pages to insure yourself. It’s Web commerce 101 as far as I’m concerned.

    It comes down to this Dave: just how big an industry does Google want SEO to become? All indications are that Google would prefer to control this function themselves because there is just too much room for abuse when there are hundreds of independant people claiming to be able to produce Google results.

    >>>I’m found via about 138798 *different* keyphrases each month..

    That’s what we call an “axe to grind” Dave. I don’t know how many keyphrases I’m found by Dave, I’m too busy creating content to track that…

    >>>Anyway, I will unlikley agree with you and you with me.

    I don’t think you’re trying very hard to understand what I’m saying Dave.

  55. Dave Said,
    >>>All I know is my hard work and method continues to work and I’m a small business.

    That explains it Dave, I hope that continues for you. I’m arguing that it should. You should never have to wake up one morning and find that it has all disappeared in the latest update.

  56. I think Andi has a pretty solid point here. If Google is perceived by a significant percentage of the webmaster community as indifferent to the brutal effects Google’s changes have, that’s bad for Google’s business.

    Linux isn’t successful because there’s this great business opportunity to go head-to-head with Microsoft on operating systems devt….its adoption grew at tremendous rates because a whole lot of people were pissed off at how Microsoft wasn’t listening.

    What Google is going to struggle with is how to communicate with, get useful feedback from, and PROCESS the feedback from an insanely large number of webmasters. I admire and respect the efforts and openness shown by Matt and GG, but hey, this ain’t scalable :-)

  57. >>>this ain’t scalable.

    Either that’s true, or the first one to prove it wrong owns ecommerce in five years. Business likes stability, that’s axiomatic.

    Pay for it now or pay big-time when someone else wins favor with merchants, who after all, are AdWords clients. I don’t think G wants this community bad-mouthing them…

    It is difficult for me to know how large the problem really is. Hey it just looks like a tiny crack in the facade from where I’m standing now…

  58. Dave

    RE: “I don’t think you’re trying very hard to understand what I’m saying Dave.”

    I believe I understand you, but do not agree with you. What you say would be nice, but totally unrealistic IMO.

  59. >>>but totally unrealistic IMO.

    If Google doesn’t have the resources to address the problem it is by definition a huge problem–they do have vast resources after all, I linked their financials above.

    So what does this mean? Large numbers of e-businesses angry at Google? That’s not good… I wouldn’t short GOOG, but I wouldn’t buy either unless this were explained to me.

  60. Dave

    RE: “So what does this mean?”

    Google can focus on being a Search Engine and not a small business counselor :) They can also focus on increasing their share value for its many, many owners.

    Andi, let’s say page 1 for the search term ‘blue widgets’ is occupied by 10 different web businesses and has been for 2 years. After a Google update all 10 get spread out over page 2-4 and page 1 has all new relavant results. What eaxctly is it you would you like Google to do?

  61. Hey.. folks does it mean that the curtains are down for blackhats…no…he he he .. they will come up with pretty serious stuff soon…:)

  62. Dave Said,
    >>>What eaxctly is it you would you like Google to do?

    I would like them to be able to anticipate catastrophic changes. I don’t mean ten or even fifty percent losses, I’ve suffered those and not been stressed. But when a change is likely to have a devastating effect on a business I would like G to be more sensitive and understanding (i.e. a form letter is the same as a knife in the back).

    I think this awareness is already happening, but since it didn’t happen fast enough for a company with G’s sensibilities it disturbs me–hence the rant.

    It is in G’s best interest to do this, it is good business, good PR and adds a bit more humanity to life on the ‘net in general. It DOES bother me when I hear so many people badmouthing G and swearing to “get even.” No matter how big or good a company is, that hurts it.

    Certainly G has the technical know-how to anticipate catastrophic effects on the sites they index. Not destroying honest people’s hard work is good business and pays off in the long term.

    Andi Said,
    >>>I wouldn’t buy [Google shares] either unless this were explained to me.
    I know the answer to this, I just got a little carried away with the bluster yesterday, sorry.

  63. “After a Google update all 10 get spread out over page 2-4 and page 1 has all new relavant results. What eaxctly is it you would you like Google to do? ”

    Very interesting point of view. It’s important not to forget that the search engine is there for the people, and not for the SEO people. Given this point of view it is sensible to knock around the results abit, especially looking historically at things.

    I guess we can make this as complicated as we want, or as easy as we want. One thing is for sertain however, we are spending far to much time over at SE camp, :D Maby we should start a SEA (Search Engine Anonymous), I feel I could need a visit, :D

  64. in my experience, I’ve never heard of a tenured, fresh, relevant, on-topic website dropping in the google rankings after an update.

    I’ve seen tons of spammy websites, black hat technique websites, link whore sites, and sites that basically offer no content to the user drop like flies.

    This is what I would expect to see, as most searchers don’t want this type of site.

    If you give me the URL you’re talking about, I’ll gladly diagnose why I think you dropped.

    If you’re talking about the andilinks URL linked from your name, I can tell you why that may have dropped.

    That site is just a bunch of links to stuff. It has no unique content of it’s own that can’t be found elsewhere. It’s just links, with adsense thrown in.

    In a search engine spider’s eyes, this is not relevant, fresh, unique, or on topic, and should not rank near the top of any search results. Just look at this page: http://www.andilinks.com/web1.htm It’s nothing but a huge link farm, with some SE spam (all the celebrity names on the left) and ads.

    what benefit does the end user get out of that site as opposed to just typing “web building software” into google? I can’t see any.

  65. Dave Said,
    >>>Google can focus on being a Search Engine and not a small business counselor

    Google has understood for many years that they are effectively much more than a search engine. Having a good reputation in the small business community will add to their bottom line in significant ways. Acting like Godzilla will not.

  66. Dave

    Ok, so you want Google to be “more sensitive and understanding” and send letters to all those that drop drastically in the SERPs. What should these letters say?

  67. Dave Said,
    >>>What should these letters say?

    I’ll refer back an old document Dave, you probably read it some years ago. http://www.cluetrain.org/

    Markets are conversations Dave, they are not form letters. Google is being stupid and I’m trying to give them a clue. I think they are trying. I think they get it, but they are way behind the curve on this one, many people are very pissed.

    What should these letters say? A good opening would be “oops, sorry.”

  68. Dave

    IMO, Google can see no ROI for doing this, neither can I to be honest.

    AFAIK no SE does as you are wanting. Doesn’t that say something?

  69. Dave Said,
    >>>IMO, Google can see no ROI for doing this, neither can I to be honest.

    I can’t open the pod bay door for you this time. Sorry Dave.

  70. Dave

    Sorry, no idea what you mean.

  71. It’s a joke, but it means that our debate is over, you win. There is considerable ROI but if you can’t see it there’s no point. The pod-bay door is locked Dave. If you figure out where the ROI is we’ll talk. Hint: think long-term.

  72. The joke is a reference to the 1968 Stanley Kubric movie 2001: A Space Odyssey http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0062622/

    The line about the pod-bay door is spoken by HAL, a prototypical rogue computer that refuses to open the pod-bay door for Dave. Often used in situations where a computer is ****ing over a human.

  73. Dave

    Was HAL a ‘touchy feely’ computer like you desire? :)

  74. Dave Said,
    >>>Was HAL a ‘touchy feely’ computer like you desire?

    No, HAL was the villian of the piece, but I don’t desire computers (I dominate and exploit them) and this “touchy feely” thing is creepy and disgusting, I don’t think you’ve been paying attention Dave.

  75. Oh wait, I didn’t see the smilie, you must be joking…

  76. Dave

    LOL! Who hasn’t been paying attention Andi :)

  77. Bob Larson

    Matt,

    If one is to believe your Halloween quote ‘My name is Inigo Montoya. You spam my index. Prepare to die!’, one would also think you are aggressively seeking solutions to halt the ever-increasing scrappers / spammers. To that end, I would propose to you what appears to be a relatively easy solution:

    Follow the money.

    Since AdSense is the cash cow that motivates the spammers, why not use the AdSense data to weed out the unscrupulous pages they generate. Accounts of spammers could be easily identified by their footprints:
    1) Thousands or millions of different phrases.
    2) Phrase churning as their sites are banned.
    3) Clicks across hundreds or thousands of sites.
    4) Multiple sites of an account holder get banned.

    Once identified, the accounts should be closed and the creators banned from AdSense. Due to the time consuming, manual labor of creating and verifying multiple new AdSense accounts, the ROI of this type of spamming would quickly drop below the point of profitability.

    Since one of my hats says ‘Database Programmer’ on it, I know this could be done with an amazingly insignificant amount of effort.

    Is the extra couple hundred grand of revenue really worth harassing your users through that extra page and click ?

  78. Bob Larson Said,
    >>>an amazingly insignificant amount of effort.

    Avoiding collateral damage and not filtering (and damaging) a few innocent legitimate sites and AdSense publishers would require a bit more effort.

    That said, I agree with Bob. A sophisticated profile of parasitic sites shouldn’t be that difficult to develop and screen manually. I manually screen records in my own database, a bit tedious but v. good ROI.

  79. Maybe I’m getting a little nostalgic, but I’m starting to long for the days when the OLD search engines only brought up websites whose content related to the search terms that I’ve entered. I actually can read or learn about the topic, products or services from the original source.

    The NEW search engines seem to return more and more websites that are simply directories that may or may not relate to my search term, but have lots of Adsense Ads (or other ads as well).

    Perhaps its time for a NEWER search engine that ONLY returns AD FREE websites in its generic search results.

    One can only dream….

  80. Matt do you know anything about austogenrated website building-The aimis to building thosands of site daily and linking them with the aim of genrating traffic?

  81. Sometimes people will do anything just to generate money.

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