Misc bits

I’m mostly caught up on my feeds. It was relatively quiet the last couple weeks, but I’ve seen 2-3 things I wanted to talk about in the last couple days or so.

First, WebProNews ran this post that claims that Google is selling PageRank 7 links.

My quick take: when you dig into it, it turns out that it’s a Google directory of enterprise companies that can do things like write plug-ins for proprietary data types for the Google Search Appliance, merge geospatial GIS data, and integrate telephony products with Google Apps. This is a program for enterprise companies, and I don’t think anyone has even suggested before now that this directory could be construed as selling links, but just to avoid even the appearance of anything improper, I’ve already submitted a change to ensure that there’s no PageRank benefit from these links. I left a comment on the original post; I wish that WebProNews would show comments on their blog partner program. Right now, someone would read that article, but wouldn’t know that there are any comments (including mine) on the original post.

Next, Elinor Mills wrote about an interesting allegation. I’ll include the whole content of the allegation: [Just to clarify, this is an allegation that Elinor is passing on from a newsletter, not a claim that Elinor is making herself directly.]

In the past, when you launched a website, or Google wasn’t picking up your stuff, you could call the friendly people over there and they’d look at your website to see if you were legit, look at their search results, and adjust their code appropriately. It used to be this all occurred in the same day. Then it was 24 hours. So, imagine our dismay when www.wesrch.com wasn’t even being picked up two weeks after we launched. We had called Google two days into the launch and they apologized, saying their search engines were backlogged with so many sites to monitor. We called after a week and then called again and again, with no better answer. We even tried posting ads with Google and they couldn’t find us. “Clearly, we had tried their patience, as in the end they threatened to BLACKLIST our websites so no one would ever find us again. Now is that power or what? Funny thing is, Yahoo found us faster and more reliably. So, Google is no longer my home page. More importantly, they are showing all the signs of a monopolist trying to forcibly extract revenues for nothing. Whenever this happens, it’s a sign that revenue growth has peaked and they are trying to force it in order to maintain high stock valuations. So watch out if you are an investor

When Elinor asked for a comment about this, several of us read the original complaint, and I have to admit that we were perplexed. Google doesn’t provide phone support for webmasters; as Vanessa Fox recently noted, over 1 million webmasters have signed up for our webmaster console alone, so offering phone support for every site owner in the world wouldn’t really scale that well. They talk about buying ads later in the paragraph; we wondered “maybe they were talking to phone support for AdWords?” But I can’t imagine anyone at Google on the ads side or anywhere else saying our search engines were backlogged with too many sites to monitor. The Google index is designed to scale to billions of webpages, and it does that job pretty well. It’s even harder for me to imagine anyone at Google saying on the phone that they would “BLACKLIST our websites so no one would ever find us again,” because again, we don’t provide webmaster support over the phone, and I believe AdWords phone support would know better than to claim our index was backlogged or to threaten to remove anyone’s site from our index. Maybe a call to AdWords support reached such a fever pitch that a representative declined to run an ad?

At any rate, I’m sorry for any negative interactions that wesrch.com had with Google. The current description of the issue doesn’t give enough concrete details to check out, but if anyone from that domain wanted to clarify or to provide emails or dates/times/names of phone calls (did they call AdWords? Randomly try to hop into the Google phone tree? Talk to a receptionist?), I’d be happy to try to look into it more.

In the absence of more details about their interaction, I tried to dig more into the crawling of wesrch.com. I didn’t see any negative issues (no spam penalties or anything like that) for the domain. I saw attempts to crawl the site as far back as October 2006, but that earliest attempt got an authentication crawl error (that would have been a 401 or a 407 HTTP status code). I believe that this allegation went out Feb. 2nd, and I believe we had at least one page from that site at that point. I did notice that visiting the root page of the domain gives a 302 (temporary) redirect to the HTTPS version of the domain. That’s kinda unusual, but we should still be able to crawl that.

The other thing to look at is current coverage. Here’s what I saw:

Search Engine Number of pages
Google over 450+ pages
Yahoo 1 page
Live about 176 pages
Ask 0 pages

(Note that if you just do [site:wesrch.com] on MSN/Live, you might get results estimates as high as 500+ results, but the way to verify results estimates is to go to the final page of results, and MSN/Live stops after 176 results.)

It looks like Google crawls wesrch.com at least as deeply as any other major search engine. I’m still confounded who the folks at wesrch.com could have talked to at Google, but I’ll leave open the offer to dig into it more if they want to provide more details. And I’ll wish them well for their new domain in the future.

Moving on, I got a kick out of this one. In the “can’t win for losing” department, there’s this post. Someone going by the handle “earlpearl” pointed out a thread to Barry Schwartz, in which someone reported that Google Maps had incorrect info for Duke Medical Center. The good news is earlpearl mentions a few hours later that the info has been corrected. Everybody’s happy, right? Nope, someone with the handle INFO (which I think is the same person as earlpearl) posts to the thread and says:

I see that Google Maps corrected this information in one day. I’m still
trying to learn how the bad information I submitted can be corrected.

Looks to me like Google only responds to large institutions!

So Google got criticized for having bad info for a medical center. It sounds like someone at Google took action quickly, but then we got criticized for only responding to large institutions. Personally, I think if you’re going to correct bad information, medical centers are one of the first places I would tackle. πŸ™‚ There is an ironic twist on this. I think earlpearl/INFO is partially frustrated because they’ve reported outdated info regarding some bartending schools, and that data hasn’t been changed yet. But the twist is that earlpearl’s thread about bartending schools has gotten two personal responses from a Google employee (“Maps Guide Jen”). Jen’s most recent reply struck me as pretty responsive:


Thank you so much for all this detailed information. We’ll look into your
reports further to try and track down where our data might be outdated. I
definitely appreciate your taking the time on this!


My hope is that we’ll check into earlpearl’s report as well and then everyone will be happy. πŸ™‚

Those were 2-3 semi-negative posts that I wanted to give a quick take on. Just so that people don’t get down thinking that every post is negative about Google, here’s a really interesting post by Bill Slawski of SEO by the SEA. Bill pulls together mentions of twelve different Googlers who have made nice contributions to Open Source or open standards. I know of several other Googlers who help open-source projects and who aren’t on that list; it’s good to be reminded that Google contributes to the open source movement in a lot of ways.

Update: Clarified the post to note that Elinor didn’t write the allegation I quote up above; she found it from a newsletter and is passing it on to her readers. Thanks for pointing out that my language wasn’t clear, Philipp. πŸ™‚

47 Responses to Misc bits (Leave a comment)

  1. Oh, and by the way, it’s good to be back. πŸ™‚ I have to get up at 6 a.m. the next couple days for various meetings, so I’m hitting the sack early for a few days. But I do intend to write a bit about SES London and the Dublin trip. πŸ™‚

  2. Hi Matt,

    It will be great if we get to know what all was discussed in the SES London. I am very excited to know about all this…Waiting for your post….

  3. Welcome back. You’re supposed to wait for us to say that first. Otherwise you disrupt the flow of conversation and everyone’s head explodes and universal chaos ensues. No wait…that was an episode of South Park. Never mind.

    Advance warning of future stupidity (and yes, I’m fully aware that this is the responsibility of the site owners, but if they already blamed you once, they’ll blame you again):


    Note the “Cached” portion. Why?


    Check out #3 in that list:

    WeSRCH grants the operators of public search engines permission to use spiders to copy materials from the site for the sole purpose of creating publicly available searchable indices of the materials, but not caches or archives of such materials.

    I start the pool that on March 1st, the WeSRCHers will complain about this. (It’s also my birthday, and therefore the most logical and appropriate day for insanity to occur.) Any other takers?

    By the way, if there were crawling issues, there may be a very simple explanation: that entire site is behind an SSL. SSL for an entire site that clearly doesn’t require it + too many users = higher potential for a site to be unreachable for a spider or user at a given time. Ockham’s Razor strikes again.

    (Yeah, Matt, you got your Peano’s Axioms, I got the razor to cut through ’em. It’s on now.)

  4. One thing about the previous post: bolding of the quote from the legal section was my own to enhance the key point, not from the original site. So they didn’t do it.

  5. Welcome back. Hope you didn’t spend ALL your lottery winnings…

    Quick question: How would I go about finding out why a “competitor” got de-indexed without getting them back into Google’s index? πŸ˜‰

    It’s not really a competitor, more like the target of a complaint where I ranked #2 and their practically empty 1-page site (heading, phone number and e-mail address) was #1.

    I’m just really curious… Anyway, I still enjoy the “debunking” posts of yours…

  6. Matt, Any comments/thoughts about the recent overcharging/overestimating situation with AdWords. The adwords blog seems to have left out a repsonse to this glitch. It was very troublesome.

  7. Geeez Matt,
    The phone number to the back office at Google is (415)-213-4…. gosh I forgot the rest of the numbers, I had them written down here somewhere! Well if you just search for Googles Phone Number, I am sure anyone can find it! πŸ™‚

    Joking aside, before Pub Con Vegas I really thought of Google as a big corporate conglomerate who did not have a soul or care.

    I had put years of work into my site, had all the things I thought it was supposed to have to rank, and still google had me ranked in the high hundreds for my major keywords.

    It was a google engineer, who said to me, if you think you are doing everything right now, then why don’t you simply resubmit your site to google with a note asking to remove any past penalties. I did so, and within a week my site rose up through the rankings to around 12, where it belongs based on the age of the site and the links.

    What I learned from that, and watching you and the other google employees as pubcon, was that you guys actually really care about your users, webmasters and searchers. I had always thought that a comment on a submit url was just read by a $700 dell computer, and dumped into the algorythim. To actually see years of my work embraced and counted by an individual and to see the results within days brought cheers and tears.

    It has resulted in some people who were very badly off, achieving great improvements in their health, as well as increased income for our organization. I can not thank you and the rest of the team enough for actually caring enough to read my little two line submit site notes, for you for taking your time to mix it up with the pack of webmasters, and for that google engineer (Go New Dehli!!!) who took the time to suggest I simply resubmit the site.

    So don’t worry, I got googles back. If they give you and the other Googlers any grief, send em my way!

    And yep, this is google butt kissing, but I owe them a lot of thanks.

    Dr. David Klein

  8. http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&safe=off&q=site%3Awww.youtube.com%2Fresults%3Fsearch_query%3D

    This is quite interesting – – the massive amount of YouTube Search Queries that are in Google SERPS … .. but is also helpful to come accross for suggesting video topics

  9. Hmmm… I was talking to a fellow who was selling web development solutions the other day. Lovely man, but obviously hadn’t been doing sales for web for too long.
    He related the tale he heard from a prospect where they had been offered a deal ‘with Google’ for $40 a month to get top 5 ranking on phrases.
    I explained that this was either a total con, and the phrases would be ‘left footed wellingtons in Nigeria’ or a partial con, where they were getting placement in adwords. its not a new scam.

    The point? I wonder just who Hutcheson is dealing with that he *thinks* is Google?

  10. High trees catch more wind and only he who does nothing does nothing wrong.

    The only thing one can do is to do his/her best and listen to your customers. If you have a listening ear for them and act fast upon their suggestions and complaints you will do just fine.

    In my mind most critics are hairsplitters who just envy your success and are angry about the fact they hadn’t your idea first.

  11. >I’ve already submitted a change to ensure that there’s no PageRank benefit >from these links

    We don’t have a link in there, nor are we ever likely to have. But, I do think you are being rather unfair to the companies who have put time and effort into supporting your APIs. They are being punished by Google for the fact that a third party got the wrong end of the stick about one of your properties.

  12. Matt

    Is Google groups the best place for offering up corrections to Google Earth as well? That Jen person seems very helpful – I don’t know where it sits on the list between Bartending schools and Medical Centres, but Google Earth has mis-spelt an entire island (St Agnes in the Isles of Scilly – mis-spelt as “Agnus”!)

    I know it only has 60-odd inhabitants, but still…


  13. Thanks for the wrap-up Matt. You got me really confused on one thing — your post made it look like Elinor Mills wrote the allegation in question (Elinor being a well-respected, trustworthy information source). When I visited the article linked it turned out this was not the case: the quote you provide is by Dan Hutcheson, not Elinor. I know you didn’t want this to come off this way, and everyone can read the original article themselves, but it can be really easily misunderstood by the way you introduce the quote and not mention that Dan wrote this.

  14. Matt Cutts,

    Could you please look into a problem I and a few others are experiencing with the Froogle shopping list/wish list? Mine has been deleted:


    Thank you,

    P.S. Given that I use Firefox+NoScript, I doubt I was the victim of a cross-site scripting attack.

  15. You might want to pass this along if they haven’t been made aware of this issue already..


    A site identified by Google as Paypal.com but isn’t… imagine the phishing “potential” here… yikes!

  16. I tired of receive webpronews spam on all my emails, i ask them to stop that. without any success. What a spammer can say about anything??? he is a spammer, look at you first , then look the rest… i hate webpronews…

  17. Tim, I was on one of the email discussion threads, so I know that they’re taking it very seriously. I believe that they expect within 2-3 weeks to have everything completely backed out.

    Dr. David Klein, I’m glad you had a good experience. πŸ™‚ That helps counterbalance the person who showed up on CNET.

    S.E.W., I’ll check into that.

    Jack, I tend to agree that the program was quite misinterpreted, but I also think it’s important that Google avoid even the appearance of anything improper.

    Henry Elliss, that’s my best guess of where to report things. It does seem like Jen is pretty responsive. πŸ™‚

    Philipp Lenssen, I’m happy to reword things to make it more clear; Elinor was just quoting a paragraph of text that appeared in a newsletter.

  18. Philipp, I updated the post to make it more clear; thanks for mentioning that.

  19. I guess since Google is the largest search engine, some people blame it if it does not work for them, some people criticize whatever they do….

  20. The guys over at WPN might have gotten a bit defensive, but I had to laugh at the “self-dugg” comment.

  21. Hey Matt,

    Always great to see Google taking quick action! Although, I do have to admit that Yahoo! often beats out Google in indexing speed. At one point, I had a domain (that was formerly expired), that a client wanted back up and running. It was getting some big buzz, and Yahoo! and MSN both had it ranked in about a week.

    Despite the heavy linkage, submitting URL, implementing sitemaps, including AdSense (as I’ve heard rumors this speeds up inclusion – I was getting a bit desparate at this point), it took Google over a month to get it in.

    Obviously, Google still trumps on quality, but it would be nice if at least home pages would be indexed more quickly.

  22. I was wondering if by chance you would know why the pagerank for the non-www. version of a site has no pagerank, but the www has a pr of 4. This is the case with a site I did, and I set up the preferred domain to www, so I figured the pr would pull from the www. version.

  23. Hey Matt,

    Great to have you back!

    Could you elaborate on this a bit?

    “(Note that if you just do [site:wesrch.com] on MSN/Live, you might get results estimates as high as 500+ results, but the way to verify results estimates is to go to the final page of results, and MSN/Live stops after 176 results.)”

    Do you think MSN is stopping at 176 to save cache space? Does google do the same? Etc.


  24. Mike Bogo, I know that there’s some interesting issues around domain kiting (or tasting, depending on who you’re talking to). I might check about speeding things up a little bit though.

    Matt Sandy, you might put a 301 in place as well, but it probably just takes time.

  25. You mention links. It appears more people are aquiring domains in bulk and taking a couple of months to link build to them. Once the links are built and the site is indexed a redirect to a single main site is accomplished. The benefit being able to use one link source for domains and ultimately realizing all the link power of numerous domains. There are many valid reasons for a 301 redirect but thinking out loud… Maybe if site age and redirect date was placed in the equation link credibility scores could be established. A site which has existed for a year or so would redirect more “power” than one of lessor time. The link credibility score would remain for the duration of the redirect and the age the redirected site is frozen ie. site.info is “live” for 3 months then redirected for 1 year then redirect lifted for 3 months the sites age would be 6 months not 18.
    Maybe this really isn’t a problem but I doubt the directories and other sites who provided the “ghost links” to the site to be redirected would have agreed to the link if they knew and I wonder if this type of linking stratgy is what the search engines had in mind when determining which site would meet the searchers needs. OK, done rambling…

  26. -First, WebProNews ran this post that claims that Google is selling PageRank 7 links.-

    Um, that link goes to ConversionRater, not WebProNews.

  27. Hey Matt, quick question: Why would you give them so much time? Makes me want write an article and see if I gain as much personal attention from you as they did. Seems to me that all they wanted to do is make you write about them. So why do you care? Ive been involved in the web, SEO/SEM for about a decade and I dont recall Google ever taking calls for Natural Search. Paid Search is a different story. We got our own Google reps, which I must say are awesome! Far cry from Yahoo, MSN and ASK, although the last two do an attempt to make you succeed rather than just making you spend money on ADs. Yahoo just wants you spend spend spend, and all they focus is on CTR. Who gives a flock of seagulls if you have an awesome CTR but no conversions? But thats an entirely different topic and I have already derailed already.

    So yeah, why did you put so much energy on wesrch? I was even tempted to go check their site, but I didnt want to give them merit, so I didnt.



  28. I say to my wife all the time – Google is our friend.

    Google needs us as much as we need Google. It is a mutualistic symbiotic relationships. No us, no Google. In an odd way, we are almost like employees of Google. If we do well and follow the guide lines we get traffic which eventually turns into our pay check.

  29. Paul Avery , yes i agree with you google is our friend i like it soo much

    Matt Cutts, you are always shiny matt with your post and i realize that you having hard work there in google to make life easy for us.

    i think Google should open volunteering support for us πŸ˜€ so we can help more and i’m sure that every body will help

  30. Matt,

    If you’re interested in half-baked allegations, I’ve seen signs recently that Google is penalizing page content that appears in Google Books. I wrote Books about it, they passed the correspondence along to search, and this morning I sent them a blog post I wrote about my fears years yesterday on my Publisher’s Obsession blog.

    Since I got back online after lunch, the Books results are gone from the basic searches they were appearing in over the past couple weeks. Can’t say I’ve seen the pages that appeared to be hurt recover any, but those duplicate content penalties have always been a bit mysterious.

    BTW, first time I ever failed the spam protection question. I must be on automatic to have answered that the sum of 4 + 5 = 4 +5


  31. This is killin’ me. Is there an RSS feed in xml format for this blog? I see one for comments on the post. I see RSS 2.0 link on the right, but no XML address (at least that I can find). Thx.

  32. Okay… ignore my last comment. Even though its not in XML format it still works fine in my RSS reader.


  33. Geez Matt:

    You didn’t mention that in my subsequent comment at Barry’s forum/news updates I referenced that it was good that the Duke University change was made quickly. That was a plus.

    I’ve helped the other site. I have some comments/suggestions about the other site you referenced. Some of the referenced changes were made. It took about 9-11 days. I missed the exact date some of the referenced old information was deleted.

    I hope Google’s customer service efforts are strong in that regard. Prior to contacting Google Maps for business owners we read thru virtually all of the past comments (about 200 contacts) and wrote a letter that did a lot of Google’s homework w/regard to bad info. It took 2 emails and being meticulously specific.

    But I hope that Google is putting significant manpower into that type of customer service response. It could have been so easy to spam actual competition and try and get all existing competitors banned. The letters to Google Jen didn’t do that at all.

    I’ve been working w/ Mike Blumenthal at blumenthals.com/blog, Bill Slawski, and a few others with regard to the significant changes via Google maps inserts into organic search.

    I’ve followed Google local responses for several years. Google’s algo logic made great strides in early February ’05. Businesses that couldn’t be found with logical searches for a business and a city/region/state prior to that, were subsequently showing up in organic search.

    Now with the insert of maps into these types of searches a large amount of new data has been thrown into the mix. There is some level of old or erroneous data. Setting up google maps for business owners is a positive move. Hopefully the level of customer service connected to Groups for business owners will be able to match the level of help needed and at the same time Google will be able to catch and monitor requests for changes that may not be honest.

  34. Matt: I hate to stay involved on this…….BUT……on 2/26 Google Jen responded within G maps to the Duke University person referencing that she remains concerned and G engineers are working on the topic.

    It appeared totally corrected on 2/21…and I checked it again today. It references the Duke Website and/or a single phone number. Totally different than what was shown in the initial complaint.

    The google Jen response is either disingenuous or a reflection that the person tasked w/ the response is not in touch w/ G engineers–or they aren’t in touch w/her.

    It leaves a question as to how problems are actually being handled.

    I think this is good that it has a bit more openness via your comments. Google should up its level of customer service responsiveness to perceived errors and be more on top of responses.

  35. Does anyone else detect a Daniel Brandt undertone to earlpearl’s postings or is that just me?

  36. Adam

    Btw, where have you been πŸ™‚

  37. Funeral. And I wish I was making that up. Fortunately for me, it wasn’t my own.

  38. This post made me chuckle, if only people bothered to read Google’s webmaster information… or any seo information…. Or if journalists could be bothered to research a story fully before writing it.

    Anywho I just filled out a spam report but thought I’d mention the query here too just because it is one of the most dominating instances of spam I’ve seen. I found it when doing some keyword research for a client, and while the keyword isn’t too competitive it is quite shocking that a spammer could get around 80 nearly consecutive listings in Google for it starting at about result #7. Subdomain spam is alive and well apparently.


  39. Daaaag!

    I just paid $10,000.00. A few friends of mine were gonna sign up too, to get that Pagerank 7 link.

  40. I wasn’t going to do this, but since Chris brought the idea of weird stuff up, I found this one today:


    It’s not so much the results themselves as the alternative suggestion:

    Did you mean: Why am I seen this website?

    The same thing happens with or without quotes.

    To be fair, I was only looking to find something relatively obscure and web-geeky (another example of a domain squatter page), so this is one of those “if you weren’t such a nerd, you wouldn’t have discovered this” things. I’m just hearing the voices of my past English teachers floating around in my head (no wait…hang on…now I’m hearing Saliva….oh yeah, I’m wearing headphones…never mind.)

  41. In reference to the “Google directory of enterprise companies”, so you zapped away page rank huh? Well that was nice of you. What you’re saying is you don’t trust these websites? Why even have the directory in the first place.

  42. They don’t have to worry about getting indexed now.

  43. Matt:

    I hope you still go back and review comments on old posts. Today, there are several complaint comments on google groups for maps for business owners.

    The complaints are similar to those by the person from Duke Medical Center and others. Wrong phone numbers appear. Websites that don’t represent the search query appear.

    G Maps has inserted lots of data into its data base. A certain signigicant amount of this data is coming from old or outdated sources. Other information is showing in a G Maps algo that does not seem to be as logical as basic G search.

    I’m sure G is seeing dramatic increases in traffic off of the maps inserts directly into that source. Unfortunately G maps has information that is not current from existing web sites or is working w/ an algo that is inferior.

    Businesses are complaining. One business noted that a little old lady is getting misdirected calls to its business. Possibly not as dramatic as flooding the wrong numbers at a medical center but no way to treat a senior citizen.

    Corrections are being made but they are not being made quickly or thoroughly. In fact it takes a dramatic complaint to get a quick change or one has to deeply research what is happening to ascertain how to “possibly” get Google customer research to act more quickly.

    Almost exactly two years ago Google made algo changes for local search queries that dramatically improved its search logic for local queries like Rochester NY dentist. Now it has changed the search landscape via inserting maps at the top of a page….and the maps information is often misleading. Its an algo and logic step backwards.

    I hope the powers to be take a more active role in addressing these problems.

  44. This “Misc bits” post is the closest related where I would like to ask a question.

    I have noticed that Google recently implemented automatic spelling correction in its search results.
    E.g. looking for “NIT basketball” from Netherlands, returns Dutch sites with the words “basketball” and “niet” (‘not’ in English), which is very annoying.
    Any way to turn this function off?

  45. Good Day Matt,

    I have authenticated tagged my site for google in regards to spam reproting – a certain site is ranking high in the search engines using
    hidden text on the top and bottom – google has not responded to
    this – any feedback versus going to SES and tracking down Adam
    and yourself – this site is taking over $250 000 a year in business
    away from me – using black hat techhiques and I have reported
    this site for over 10 months with various rates of success – it lost
    a lot of inbound links and disappeared for a while – now its
    back hurting my company using unfair techniques. Besides a
    spam report what options do I have…..


  46. Hi Matt,

    If the page you talked about was nofollowed, shouldn’t this page also be?


    What about these pages?

    All of them have regular links – shouldn’t they all be nofollowed? Of course this will truly showcase the ridiculousness of the current paid links “controversy” πŸ™‚

  47. I am familiar with the guy that is mentioned in the question 2 above. I would have reported him too, but had no idea where to go for that sort of thing. I see there was no response to the question, so maybe I will message the poster directly and see what ever happened.