Tip of the hat, wag of the finger

I’m shamelessly stealing the title of one of Stephen Colbert’s segments. Some consider Colbert the greatest living American. See, I can joke around. 🙂

First, a tip of the hat to Robert Scoble. Scoble did a great interview about the paid search side of search marketing with Jeff Figueiredo of Point It. If you spend all your time dabbling in organic/natural search, this is a good reminder that search engine marketing includes both search engine optimization and paid marketing. Scoble’s interview is great, because when Jeff starts to get too technical, Scoble pulls Jeff back into concrete areas: How do I find the keywords to advertise on? How do I know how much to pay? What is the difference between “exact match” and “phrase match” and “broad match”? It’s a good use of your time to watch if you don’t know much about pay-per-click (PPC) marketing.

A tip of the hat to Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty Fawn). I’ve been using it as my main desktop OS at home, and it’s amazing how usable it is. Are there still tweaks I miss? Sure. It doesn’t handle larger flatpanel LCD resolutions after installation, and the NetworkManager could be installed by default. But the progress even since the Dapper Drake version a year ago is *phenomenal*. I think Mark Shuttleworth and Canonical are making all the right decisions. The user forums are friendly and informative, and it’s clear that Ubuntu is getting serious traction. Heck, pressing the Alt + PrintScreen button even grabs a screenshot. And I don’t need to fire up WinSCP to upload an image to my website. I can mount a remote FTP/SFTP directory from the “Places” menu, then drag and drop the screenshot directly to the remote server. Very nice.

Next, a tip of the hat to gtkpod. All my music is in MP3 format, and I hate even installing iTunes. I like my music players to look like hard drives that just play random tracks, not locked boxes. The gtkpod progam lets Linux users drag and drop MP3s onto Apple devices easily. I just used it to transfer 500 megs of my MP3s from a Nano to a cute little silver Shuffle.

I have to give a wag of the finger to eBay/Paypal. No, not because of the recent kerfluffle. I was trying to donate some money to the gtkpod team tonight, and when I clicked on SourceForge to send them some money via Paypal, I got this error message:

Paypal down

I had to wait for Paypal to come back up to send some moolah. Every website has downtime now and then; it’s just a bother when you want to send some money that second.

Finally, a tip of the hat to Lawrence (Larry?) Lessig. Lessig has spent ten years trying to encourage sound approaches to copyright and intellectual property. His successes include the founding of Creative Commons. But Lessig has decided to embark on a new project. He plans to spend his next ten years working to examine and bring change to his definition of “corruption”:

I don’t mean corruption in the simple sense of bribery. I mean “corruption” in the sense that the system is so queered by the influence of money that it can’t even get an issue as simple and clear as [copyright] term extension right. Politicians are starved for the resources concentrated interests can provide. In the US, listening to money is the only way to secure reelection. And so an economy of influence bends public policy away from sense, always to dollars.

Transparency in government funding and decision-making is a wonderful goal, in my opinion. I’m looking forward to seeing how Lessig tackles this new decade-long task.

Do you have any tips of the hat or wags of the finger you’d like to point out?

111 Responses to Tip of the hat, wag of the finger (Leave a comment)

  1. Matt

    “If you spend all your time dabbling in organic/natural search, this is a good reminder that search engine marketing includes both search engine optimization and paid marketing.”

    Robert Scoble is the master of old news 🙂

  2. Ah, be nice Harith. It’s a great intro for non-search-geeks. And such folks outnumber us search geeks. 🙂

  3. Of course tip of the hat should go to SearchEnginesWeb for so many EXTREMELY HELPFUL POSTS 😮

    Do you have any tips of the hat or wags of the finger you’d like to point out?

    But understanding the politics of being acknowledged, there is one interesting concern about the Search Engine Marketing video…..

    The kinds of clients who have ‘one million’ PPC keywords is an issue that should be highlighted. It should now be understandable why many small businesses or one person operation might get angry and start engaging in Gray Hat techniques or even harmless Black Hat techniques to get some traffic.

    Can anyone compete with someone who has one million keywords and sells everything under the sun – and keeps adding things.

    If they are spending such and enormous amount on PPC how much are they spending on SEO?????? And of course, they have many other OUTSOURCED marketing initiatives such as: Link Bait, Press Releases, etc

    Also, are they bidding for the highest spots for most of those keywords??

    How may SPONSOR LINKS (above the organics) are they getting?

    There has to be a balance to equalize the playing field! Of course, Google has to make money – but so do others striving for a piece of the action.

    So Glad these facts were revealed in the video – maybe now Google Search Quality Engineers will understand. Hopefully, other Search Marketers will give interviews about their Money’ed clients

  4. Hat Tip: Ahh, theheckwithit, no one wants a nofollowed hat tip.

    Finger Wag: Sorry to say this but Matt, you need to surf the web a bit, add some off the beaten path stuff to your feeds, it’s not just the big names that are saying things that are intelligent and provocative. Sure Scoble and searchengineland are fine resources, but show me something I don’t know already.

    Sorry, if I’m a bit snarky tonight:)

  5. Looks like Paypal are also governed by Murphys’/Sods’ law, at least you had an excuse why the money was delayed!

  6. Its an oldie, but still a goodie…

    Finger wag to some CEO’s/Executives/Politicians who seemingly get outrageously high renumeration in comparison to their input.

    Hat Tip to nurses, police, teachers, emergency workers, ambulance staff etc who seemingly get outrageously low renumeration in comparison to their input.

  7. Matt-

    Very much agree about Ubuntu!

    Not on the same scale but I think I should have a tip of the hat for my IE and Firefox add-ons which toggle Personalized Search on and off.


    You did suggest them at the conference 🙂

    – Michael

  8. Matt,

    Your intentions may have been noble but your timing is definitel impeccable (questionable). The cynic in me refuses to believe that your wagging the finger has little to do with the eBay “kerfuffle”!!!

    – Farhad

  9. Hat tip to Google spam team for starting to police the real estate industry reciprocal link problem.

    Finger wag to Google spam team for the manner in which they are doing it.

  10. Hat tip to all those doing free Google-Support in the groups!

  11. Hey Matt,

    Okay we all know Google is trying to take over the online payment industry – and yes I’m more then happy to move over – as I have also personally experience downtime with them on several occasions – nothing to crazy though.

    My big question is this – when is Google coming up with an ebay like auction platform? That is what I’m interested in:)

    Take Care!


  12. If you’re donating to stuff via PayPal, can I have some money? You obviously don’t want all of yours, and I’ll find a use for it. 🙂

  13. You know, someone’s going to tell Colbert that you stole his shtick, and he’s going to give you your very own wag of his finger…

  14. Colbert is the man.
    Something has been up with the paypal camp lately, and I feel their fees are just entirely too high. Something needsto change.

  15. Awee, now now Matt – your “wag of the finger” had nothing to do with the recent kerfluffle?? Nar, it’s just a co-incidence. 😉 Can’t blame us for not buying into that one. LOL

  16. Marcus Murray

    I give a wag of the finger to Google for holding so much value in Wikipedia. I think that the search button “I’m feeling lucky” should just be changed to “Wikipedia”, as they dominate the rankings for just about everything.

  17. The term “finger-wagging” may be counterproductive… for me, it always brings up images of Bill Clinton’s “tell” for when he was trying to intimidate while lying, which brings up the presence of Al Gore on Google’s board of directors, and Gore’s “digital brownshirts” aggression against bloggers. Wagging fingers doesn’t build trust.

  18. JLH, is gtkpod that widely known to the masses? 🙂

    M.W.A., do something as helpful/open-source for the world as gtkpod and I probably will shoot you some moolah. 🙂

  19. I’m going to have to agree with Marc Rasmussen on this as well. I could not be more happy that you guys are policing the real estate industry. I too feel that it was overdue…

    I wish there was a better way to communicate after corrections have been made on a website to have a penalty lifted or at least to know if it will be lifted.

  20. Finger Wag: I hate to say it Matt, but I reluctantly give a finger wag to Google’s treatment of websites that are mistakenly penalized. We’ve been dealing with a devastating drop in traffic for nearly a month now after a Google slapped our site with a penalty for an unknown reason. Our site is a genuine information resource, the most respected in its category, and has never used anything remotely devious to in any way effect search engine results. Our reinclusion request has gone unanswered and we’re now facing the possibility of laying off staff and cutting back on planned improvements to the site if the Google penalty goes on much longer. I think Google’s intentions are good. But when your site is the one that gets mistakenly crushed in the crossfire of Google’s war on spammers and there is no real recourse, it just doesn’t look like Google is doing enough to watch out of the good guys.

  21. Thanks for the hat tip! Reminds me that we should do an interview too!

  22. Hat tips: igoogle and google desktop are absolutely growing on me. I don’t know what took me so long…

    Hat tip: google finally cracking down on made for adsense sites. (And a very shocked wag that they had been permitting it so long! I always assumed it was against the rules in the first place as it is the number one thing causing search spam and ruining search results.)

    Finger wags… vista ( I don’t even know where to start).

    And a big wag at Donald T. Sterling — still hasn’t stopped his ugly ads in the LA Times and they are getting worse. 🙂 (oh, maybe that’s just my issue….)

  23. Matt,

    Have you see Maplight? They’ve built a database that correlates financial contributions with votes for/against specific interests.

    It’s a great idea and they’ve done a reasonably good job of it. We just need more data in the system.

    The sad part isn’t that there is money in the process, it’s how little money it takes to buy off politicians. ROI on lobbying dollars is huge, into the thousands of percent.

  24. Interesting about Ubuntu, I’ve heard of them before but I haven’t heard reports (good or bad) from anyone who has actually used it – I’ll have to give this one a shot. I don’t suppose you can run Ubuntu and XP at the same time can you? Thanks for the tip!

  25. A tip of the hat to you, Matt, for suggesting this great anti-spam comment plugin (which I now use myself).

    And a finger wag to your company’s HR department; I submitted my CV weeks ago, and have yet to receive an interview or even a personal call. 🙁

  26. Touché! You know I was just giving you a hard time, a guy needs a poke in the ribs every once and a while.

  27. I’m a new reader. Any ETA on the next Grab Bag? We are making over 1 million pages of our internal research documents available and I don’t want to get penalized by Google. We are using a sitemap but is there somewhere that I can/should give Google a heads up that we are doing this so that it’s not mistaken for some type of spam site?

    BTW – Great interview with Jeff Figueiredo of Point It. It confirms the results I have seen.

  28. Who cares if Matt talks about something that you already know? I’ve never gotten this attitude on the internet that information gets old. It’s like saying “1+1=2 is old news, so stop talking about it.” Well, what about the people who have yet to learn this? Everyday there is someone knew on the internet and new to the information that is talked about.

    Interesting bit about Lessig. I actually had seen it covered in some other feeds, but didn’t actually read about until I saw it in yours. So, see, there’s no such thing as “old news”.

  29. re: “wag of the finger”: paypal downtime is unusual, that’s a very uncommon occurrence (although they *did* have almost a full day of downtime the weekend right after i left in fall 2004… just a coincidence, cough, cough 😉

    however, there are plenty of things i’d criticize instead — including the kerfuffle & how they handled it , raising prices instead of expanding market share, prioritizing the marketplace over non-marketplace PayPal opportunities, FUDing on Google Checkout availability on eBay, and in general just not innovating over there anymore.

    fortunately for eBay — and unlike Yahoo — they’ve chosen to replace internal innovation with a big checkbook for acquisitions, and in general they’ve done pretty well in that category (if occasionally overpaying a bit). still, it rankles they haven’t made more hay with all the opportunities they have. eBay had & still has some great assets (not just including PayPal & Skype), and some smart people over there have been held back by waaaaay too much bureaucracy and monopolist behavior.

    really hope the next few years they shake it up more over there & let some of the shining stars who still remain show what they can do. otherwise, they probably won’t hang around much longer.

    – dave mcclure

  30. I finally upgraded to Feisty Fawn recently also. I worked out a nice system where my OS runs from a 2.5 inch external hard drive, so my “computer” fits in my pocket and can be plugged into any computer that can boot from a USB drive.

    Linux is the best way to go for Web development and SEO. My next project is to install Sabayon Linux on my other hard drive…

  31. Rocky, I hadn’t seen that–thanks for mentioning Maplight!

  32. It is strange reading Matt Cutts using phrases like “hat tip” while linking out to SEO contests?

    Oh no, is Matt going to become weak to all the “buzz” like Vanessa Fox did? I mean come on, Vanessa is hanging out with Mozzers and stuff now…it is really strange stuff.

    I prefer the non emotional “you spam my index” button pushing Matt, HUMOR is over-rated just as being part of the “in crowd” is and always will be.


  33. lol.. Tippin the hat to everyone

  34. Dave (original)

    No hat and no fingers! What shall I tip and wag?

    Marcus Murray, agree about Wikipedia. To make matters worse they are open source and anyone can add to it. Not a reliable scenario IMO.

    It would great if Google had an option to include/exclude “Encyclopedia” and “Dictionary” results.

  35. Hat tip to all of the chiropractors, acupuncturists, and other health care adventurers who are trying to get the world to be healthy naturally, and a big finger wag to the pharmaceutical companies, who have pushed so many drugs into the U.S. and other publics that reactions to correctly prescribed drugs has become one of the major causes of death in the U.S.
    (Just search in google for – prescription drugs cause of death – for the whole story). Thanks for letting us soapbox matt!

  36. Matt

    We are behind our usual post-vacation blogging schedule. Blame it on “Privacy” “Vanessa” “Terry Semel” and “Stephen Colbert” 🙂

    “Some things I know I want to talk about:

    1- discussion of the extra info that’s been added to our webmaster quality guidelines
    2- thoughts on SMX Seattle and giving more context on some of the things I discussed at SMX Seattle
    3- talking about how I ordered a machine with Ubuntu pre-installed instead of Windows
    4- a reminder of a good .htaccess practice, possibly with some thoughts on WordPress caching
    5- five things you don’t know about me
    6- a few book reviews from my vacation”

    Ok. You posted about item #2. And I helped you with item #5 so you don’t need to worry about. How about the rest 🙂

  37. I’m surprised that’s the first time you’ve seen that message, or similar, from PayPal. I used to take a lot of payments through PayPal a few years ago and couldn’t believe how much downtime they had, usually timed for when everyone on your side of the Atlantic was in bed.

    It was very disruptive to say the least.

  38. Hey Matt, welcome to the world of Ubuntu 😉
    I use it since 6.01 and it´s the best linux since i´ve teste Mandriva 😉

  39. I just thought of a really good tip of the hat (as mentioned to me by John Alexander):


    You can lend money to people in poverty-stricken countries to try to help get them out of the holes they’re in. That’s pretty neat.

    (It’s not one of those scammy sites either…it’s got news coverage and some pretty serious backers, including some company Matt is tangentally familiar with whose name starts with G. 😉 )

  40. Tip of the Hat goes to….Matt Cutts for giving more exposure to a TRUE AMERICAN HERO…Dr. Stephen T. Colbert DFA

    Wag of the Finger goes to…Matts Cutts and Google because they claim that Google just wants to provide the most relevant results when people do a search, and by all logical reasoning it would seem that an “algorithm” does factor in different variables to determine these results. But I don’t think with my brain. I think with my gut. And my gut tells me that there is no “algorithm”, just crazy liberal voodoo being done in a backroom guarded by bears.

    So watch out Matt Cutts and Google…you are on notice. If you are not careful you will be dead to me like MSN Live Search, owls, and Hootie and the Blowfish.

    On another topic, am I the only one that has fantasies about bringing Jeeves back from the dead…Ah well, we can all have dreams I guess…

  41. Wow, I’ve been using Ubuntu since Edgy was released and I must say I love it, but I never realized you can connect to a server in the places menu.

    That’s the coolest thing ever!!!

    I wonder if I can make Bluefish open and save directly to the server?

    That’s an affirmative, I guess I don’t need an ftp program anymore 😉

  42. Wag of the finger to Matt Cutts who doesn’t like being associated with voodoo I guess…just was trying to bring a smile to the faces of those who understand the true genius of Stephen Colbert…did not really care about the link…so maybe if I post with no URL, you won’t wag your finger at me…You are on notice…again…

  43. I agree with Marc Rasmussen – what Google is doing to the mom and pop Realtor is not right. The people who have been affected by the May 9th reciprocal linking penalty are not professional SEO’s. Ironically the professional SEO’s rankings who did these linking schemes on behalf of the Realtors did not suffer any drop in rankings. Realestatewebmasters.com is currently ranked #9 for the term “real estate”. So they cause all of these issues for their Realtor clients yet their own personal rankings are not affected. Something just doesn’t seem right about that.

    This isn’t a game. These are real people with real families who livelihoods were crushed.

    Isn’t Google supposed to be logically consistent? Why are some real estate sites still being penalized after 45 days – while the vast majority of real estate sites in every major market are still loaded with reciprocal links and state pages? Why were only a few dozen sites manually picked out and penalized? The sites penalized on May 9 have all deleted their state pages, cleaned up their sites and submitted reinclusion requests. Yet a Google representative won’t even comment on this penalty. The only comment anyone in the real estate industry gets is from Greg Boser claiming Google has told him that this is a 30 day penalty. Well it’s well past 30 days. Why can’t Google comment to Realtors directly about this instead of getting bad information from 3rd parties?

    Beyond the specific issues of reciprocal linking, cloaking and other nefarious SEO techniques is the fundamental question of logical consistency as regards Google SERP’s. It’s not like we’re a bunch of kids playing marbles on the sidewalk for quarters and bragging rights. Residential real estate is a billion dollar industry on the Internet and the Google search engine is THE destination of choice for research that leads to prudent decisions for millions of families nationwide.

    How is it possible that the most logically consistent and intellectually rigorous search engine in the galaxy suddenly goes haywire in a highly significant way for a highly significant industry? If all real estate websites in my market were being rewarded or penalized in a logically consistent manner, I would keep my mouth shut, put my nose to the grindstone and make every effort to “get clean”. But the current situation is completely nonsensical in a completely un-Google-like fashion. There’s just no escaping that obvious fact.

    Am I missing something….or does this irrational, illogical situation in the real estate industry strike at the very heart of what has always made Google….Google.

  44. What went haywire Fang? It’s Google’s engine and they are frequently selective in what and how they deal with things. Pleading ignorance is no excuse, and its disingenuous, especially since your forum members have spent a great deal of time promoting and defending these practices.

  45. Fang

    “Isn’t Google supposed to be logically consistent?”

    That was a sad reading indeed.

    However, maybe your story would encourage other publishers to spend some time reading, understanding and following Google Webmaster Guidelines .

    Good luck.

  46. Fang,

    Don’t bother with Igor. I joined his group only to be solicited by him to correct my Google penalty in a used car salesmen fashion in exchange for a lifetime one way link from my home page to a bunch of his travel websites. When I politely told him I was not interested he cussed me out.

  47. Wow Guys,

    Let’s clean this up some…First of all:


    realestatewebmasters did not condone or support people participating in recip linking and publicly state so at some point last year. You can look that up. So, don’t blame them for that.


    I can’t believe you would actually come to this particular blog to solicit business.


    While the guidelines are there and they are clear, when I started my website and looked online searching in Google for ways to rank higher everywhere I looked it talked about linking, reciprocal to be specific. As a REALTOR and not a webmaster by trade, I was just trying to do the best I could with the capital I had, which was mostly my own time.

    * – A big wag the finger at Google for not handling this in a much more clear and concise fashion.


    If you want the search results to not include reciprocal links all you have to do is write a short blog post stating this right here on this platform providing a warning and your message would have much more success than it has thus far. The real state websites on the first page for Atlanta real estate right now are loaded with recip links and yet they sit there untouched. While, my little website sits hammered back on the 4 – 6 page for EVERY term including my own name in quotes. Same goes for that jewelry website you spoke of in another post. What gives? Many of us who were penalized on May 9th removed our links prior to being penalized and were still penalized. I (and others, including Marc Rasmussen) have followed the recommended steps from Google to get back to where we were and have yet to hear anything.

    HAd I known when I started what I know now, I never would have had any reciprocal links to begin with. All I can do now is to make sure that it has been corrected. Which it has. So when does this end?

  48. IVB / Igor soliciting business on the GWMH forums is a continuing issue, and I hope gets resolved soon.

    That having been said, he does point out a good link – John (JLH) dug up the following link –


    Don’t be put off by the fact it looks to be in Italian – scroll down. Susan Moskwa (linguist + new webmaster trends analyst with Google – congrats) has added the English translation right down the bottom – it really is an interesting read – may help shed some light on the situation (although I haven’t heard of emails being sent out – that may be specific to Google Italy).

    I might add, the reciprocal linking prob doesn’t seem to be just restricted to real estate sites – it’s a challenging question for G though – how to allow business sites to compete on even ground with informational sites when the business sites often have more resources to throw at link building campaigns.. G seems pretty good at working out these things contextually, but it’ll be interesting to see how it goes 😉

    I think this is probably an example of one of the big areas where personalised search has huge potential to be more of a help than a hindrance to businesses.

  49. “realestatewebmasters did not condone or support people participating in recip linking”

    So that’s why they charged $500 a month to build recip links? As recently as this May that service was advertised on their site. It’s gone now, but here it is from last year:

    Part of that service was a page that they created specifically to be linked to from the home pages of the link building clients of Advanced Access, the other RE web design company.

    What a tangled web…

  50. Ryan Ward – your joking right? Of course Real Estate Webmasters “condoned and supported people participating in recip linking ” they were charging webmasters $500 per month to do so on their behalf! I think I counted 60 reciprocal linking clients on their link exchange page at one point. 60 clients times $500 per month. Do the math. I think they were definetly condoning this practice.

    The people affected by this May 9th penalty once again are not professional SEO’s – they are Realtors. It’s the “professionals” who got them into this trouble in the first place. Many of these Realtors in fact did find out that reciprocal links were not the way to properly get links and removed all of their reciprocals. Some even removed them weeks or months before the May 9th penalty and yet were still penalized by Google.

    These Realtors are people who did not know any better and who thought they were hiring a “professional SEO” company to handle their SEO in an ethical way that was not against Google’s guidelines. The Realtors were shown the Google SERPSs for their market and could see their competitors trading recip links and ranking at the top of their markets search phrases. In fact, these Realtors CAN STILL look at the Google SERPS in their market and see the same competitors rankings at the top.

    I think everyone’s issue is that why did a few dozen sites get hand picked to be penalized for reciprocal linking and hundreds or thousands of others did not? That is what is not logically consistent. Obviously the sites that were penalized were picked out by hand. Why these sites? Why do the rest of the top sites in most major markets still continue to get away with trading reciprocal links? And why are the reinclusion requests for the penalized sites being ingored after 45 days?

    Perhaps the biggest question of all is this – what are we supposed to think when only two sites have returned from the May 9th penalty and they both returned after about 2 weeks. The kicker is that both sites STILL have reciprocal links on them. Sure they both removed their state pages but they still have thier nonsense “contextual linking” links on their sites. They are still reciprocal links.

  51. Fang,

    I understand your confusion about what realestatewebmasters did, but, this is not the place to get into it. I could not afford the service of $500/month and when I inquired about what they did for the money it had to do with writing articles and the like with resource links, but, this is not the place to get into that. You can look for yourself at the realestatewebmaster forum and find where the owner specically stated last year that they don’t do reciprocal linking like we are talking about here. Please, leave your personal gripe out of it!

    I can’t agree with you wholeheartedly with regards to your argument either. Two wrongs do not make a right. Just because someone else gets away with it does not mean that we should too.

    The point that needs to be stressed is a better solution to fixing the problem. There are many people such as myself who made the mistake of “gaming the system” through recip links and still do not know it is wrong. A solution would be to have Matt Cutts come out and say:

    “Attention webmasters of all industries: It is not O.K. to participate in reciprocal linking sceams (sp?) of any kind. We are working on correcting this through an algorithm, but, until then, if we see you participating in this you could be subject to a penalty at the discrtion of Google. Play at your own risk. You have been warned”

    This would be an effective method and would provide all industries with proper notice.

    Now as to why we are still penalized, perhaps someone will get to us eventually.

    Some help would be nice here Matt!

  52. Ryan I think that it is you who is confused. Perhaps you should read the Real Estate Webmaster forums more yourself. Go back in time a little bit more than the last month. REW had one of the largest reciprocal link exchange networks going which any Realtor could be a part of for $500 per month. Only recently is this $500 per month service for “writing articles”, “contextual linking” and such.

    Many webmasters have been hurt by what Real Estate Webmasters and Advanced Access did on their behalf. As far as two wrongs not making a right this is where Google is not being logically consistent. If reciprocal linking is wrong then why are there Realtor websites STILL ranking at the very top of “city + real estate” searches in Google? And if reciprocal linking is wrong why do the only two Real Estate Webmaster sites to get their rankings back after the May 9th penalty STILL have reciprocal links on their sites?

  53. Igor said,

    “I am doing it all out of my pocket! I do not even ask people to donate money to me or the project!”

    No, you just want to help people out of the penalty box in exchange for a life time home page link to 4 or 5 of your websites. That’s just what I need. To get in even more trouble with Matt over a paid link.

    Tip of the hat to Marc Rasmussen for speaking up in Matt’s blog when so many other Realtors wanted to.

    Wag of the finger to Marc Rasmussen for starting some bickering in Matt’s blog.

  54. Finger wag to me for reading Igor’s post above.

    Tip of the hat to me for being smart enough to not waste any energy replying to it.

  55. I have a question about Greg Boser: Does he work for Google? Is he an employee or a paid contractor? Michelle Sterling is the owner of a site that was affected by this May 9th penalty in the Las Vegas market. On Thursday night she had drinks with Diann Tonnesen (the owner of greatlasvegashomes.com which is mentioned above for reciprocal linking). While discussing the natural results in Google and the May 9th reciprocal linking penalty and how it affected Michelle Sterling’s site, Diann asked Michelle “What did you do to piss off Greg Boser?”

    What does Greg Boser have to do with the May 9th reciprocal linking penalty that has affected so many Realtor websites? Better yet what does Greg Boser have to do with Google? Did he come up with the list of sites that were penalized? A little clarity about his role in this process, if any, would be appreciated.
    Four quotes from Greg Boser on April 27, 2007 and April 30, 2007 on the Real Estate Webmaster forums – 10 – 14 days before the May 9th reciprocal linking penalty:

    “And your opinion regarding the value of your ‘relocation directories’ is also completely irrelevant. THE POWERS THAT BE consider them to be spam. Period. And I think you will see in the upcoming months a significant increase in the number of sites that start vanishing from page one.”

    “Trust me, THEY are not done.”

    “All I can really say is that I think it’s extremely foolish for anyone in the real estate space to think that this problem is only AA’s.”

    “You can continue to try and paint a picture where AA was stupid and did something ‘unique’ to cause them to get banned, but I CAN TELL YOU THAT THIS IS NOT THE CASE. And just because your site, or other REW sites haven’t been hit yet doesn’t mean THEY approve of your links.”

    I find these statements to be amazingly clairvoyant. Greg Boser mentions REW by name as a target and ten days later REW sites are hit.

  56. I’m curious about the Las Vegas real estate market SERPs in particular. I find it interesting how the websites ranked #1, #2 and #9 for the term “Las Vegas Real Estate” were not penalized when each of them has reciprocal links all over their sites.

    greatlasvegashomes dot com is owned by Diann Tonnesen and is the #1 ranked website for the term “Las Vegas Real Estate”. Diann has reciprocal link state pages listed on the very front page of her site. She also has 28 reciprocal links to other sites listed right on the front page of her site. This seems like a great candidate for the May 9th reciprocal linking penalty which affected so many other websites yet her site was not touched. Why not? What makes her site so special that she can blatantly get away with what so many other sites were penalized for?

    Lasvegaswebofhomes dot com is ranked #2 for the term “Las Vegas Real Estate”. This site has more reciprocal links broken down by state and cities than I have ever seen anywhere. On his front page, click the link that says “Agents around the country”, and you will find literally thousands of reciprocal links on his reciprocal link state pages. He also appears to be cloaking the front page of his site. Look at the text only Google cache for the front page of his site.

    It looks nothing like what the visitors to his site see. Also notice the reciprocal link state pages listed there. This site not only has thousands of reciprocal links but is also cloaking. Yet they were not affected by the May 9th reciprocal linking penalty. Why not?

    millionsaver dot com is ranked #9 for the term “Las Vegas Real Estate”. This site not only has one set but TWO sets of reciprocal link directories. The bottom left hand menu of his site has links to two recip directories – “links” and “resources”. Not only are there state reciprocal linking pages listed but hundreds if not thousands of other reciprocal links to other industries not related to real estate. At the bottom of the front page of this site there are also Realtor to Realtor reciprocal links. This site was also not penalized. Why not?

  57. Colbert is the man??
    If paypal wants to charge high fees just don’t use them. That’s how you solve that.

  58. A finger wag. ” Every website has downtime now and then”. Sorry Matt but I emphatically disagree. The entire Internet experience (and perhaps many business’ profitability) would be enhanced if the movers and shakers of the ‘net would just get off this “last century” attitude of accepting failure. the technology is available to see to it that this does not happen, but as long as we are going to operate in the “failure is inevitable” mode we will get we we expect.

    Especially for a huge money handling site like PayPal or a site that serves millions of users, like BlogSpot, perhaps), these unplanned outages should be a thing of the past. real-time server mirroring combined with geographic diversity of the servers (to avoid single points of failure) are “nickel-dime” in relationship to the money at stake … but we accept excuses instead of progress.

  59. Dave (original)

    The people affected by this May 9th penalty once again are not professional SEO’s – they are Realtors

    Fang, how do you, or anyone (including me) know which sites/pages have been and penalized and when the penaly took affect?

    Some sites/pages are likely big enough to wear a penalty without *appearing* to lose rankings, while others aren’t. Some have likely had their links for SE *neutralized* already, others maybe haven’t.

    The bottom line is this IMO. ALL Webmasters would serve themseleves better by focusing on making their own site THE site for their chosen topic and not worrying about what their competition *appears* to getting away with.

  60. Dave (original),

    I agree that it is best to concentrate on correcting our own issues instead of worrying about others. That is what I have done. Let me give you an example of how I know that my website has been penalized:

    I can take ANY string of words that I have tried to optimize for (including so many words that only about fifty results are returned) and my website will still be at the end (somewhere between page 4 and 7). On the morning of may 9th, It would have been top 5 on the first page for those same terms. You can put quotes around specific things that it should rank higher than and it still doesn’t.

    All of my reciprocal links have been removed with the exception of the company that built my website and one “resource” which now consists of one directory (epowerredprofessionals, which requires a recip link to be included in their directory – and I have clicks to my website from them) of other realtors that consumers can link to. I notified EVERY partner that I was removing their link from my website. I used the URL removal tool. I filed a reinclusion. Those with what seemed to have the best available information (Greg Boser) stated that it was a 30 day penalty. I have statistics in ny Google Analytics showing When Google ( and yes, it shows as “Google”) visited my website prior to the penalty. In fact, all of my reciprocal links state pages were removed prior to the last visit I received from Big G and I still got hit with the penalty.

    For some of you this may not mean much. But to me, with a wife that just finished cancer treatments and a 1 year old daughter, this means my livelihood to a large extent. That is the importance of google search results. I am a REALTOR, and a webmaster out of necessity (although I have grown to enjoy it) who has been learning as I have gone. I have learned a lot – For example, don’t “game the system” with reciprocal linking as in reality, that’s all those links were for. This may seem obvious to some of you who are more experienced than I am.

    This is exactly why I am posting here now – because unless there is specific word handed down from Matt Cutts on this issue, people will continue turning a deaf ear. This is not good for the consumer as it returns false results to the consumer. I get it.

    That’s why I suggest that Matt actually post something similar to what I posted in an above comment as it would provide a better solution to a problem that he and his team would like to see resolved and consumers would benefit from.


    Post something clear and concise on this and I will give you a tip of the hat too! (not that you need it from some REALTOR you don’t know)

  61. Ryan I hope you don’t mind but I felt this was important information. I read your comments on Marc Rasmussen’s REW blog today and feel that everyone reading this thread would be interested in the information that you came up with.

    Below is a direct quote from the comments section of the blog post referenced above written by Ryan Ward:

    “This not something that I ever intended on going public with and it is only speculation on my part.I certainly cannot confirm any type of relationship with Greg Boser and anyone at Google as I am simply a mom and pop REALTOR® who operates a website that was also hit by the penalty in Atlanta.

    I will say this:

    Greg Boser (webguerilla) came up (as webguerilla llc) while I was checking my Google Analytics reports and then shortly threafter I was visited by Google (it shows Google) in my Google Analytics and then I was penalized. I can’t make the connection any further than that so this is not an accusation. I took screenshots of all of the visits from both Google and webguerilla llc and have them in a file on my computer and on a CD. You can call me if you have any questions. I am free all day tomorrow.

    I had originally felt there would be no need to ever follow up on your suspicion, but, you know this has affected my livelihood and it needs to see the light of day. Like I said in my earlier comment, I can’t put the pieces together, but, my suspicions are there is something to this. I would love some more investigation into this because I too had removed my state pages before I was penalized. Unfortunately it appears that there were other forces at work that pointed our websites out before the pages were removed.

    Here is the timeline for the series of events I outlined in the above post. I have sceenshots for all of these events:

    April 15th – AA websites hit

    April 17th and 18th – I was visited by Greg Boser. Do you think he said something to Google? Because….

    April 20th – Google AND Greg Boser aka, webguerilla, llc paid a visit.

    April 24th – Google came back again.

    April 30th and May 1st – Advanced Access – Who do you think told them?

    May 3rd – Google one more time and my state pages had been removed by then.

    May 9th (Day of Penalty) – Greg Boser, coincidence?

    May 11th – Greg Boser – Maybe checking to make sure?

    I don’t know for sure, but, this all seems very suspicious to me and it has affected my livelihood in a serious way. My wife just finished a battle with breast cancer and I have a 1 year old daughter. It’s not a good time to loose the income revenue because some “SEO expert” felt his reputation would be tarnished since he was on the books at Advanced Access. I would like this cleared up and have considered speaking with a lawyer about it. Ryan Ward”

  62. Nice work Fang, post Ryan’s writings but keep your own identity a secret!

  63. That’s fine. I said that and that is how I feel and I do have the screenshots. Please understand that I am making no accusations, I simply want some transarency and I feel like the stakes are high enough for those involved that some clarity on this subject would benefit everyone. At the end of the day, I had state pages at one point and will accept that as my own fault and inexperience. I have corrected the issue. There is no legal issue here either. Greg is more than within his bounds to speak to whomever he would like about facts on a real estate website and when he looked at my website on April 17th, (he or someone on his server) I had state pages. I took them down shortly after the AA websites were hit.

    It is important to remember that everyday new websites come online and they are told to exchange links to increase rankings artificially. I need look no further than my own inbox or phone calls I receive from SEO companies all day long to know that these schemes are still being conveyed as best practices for Search Engine Rankings by far too many people and Google would be best served by stating something more clearly.


    I don’t want your job as it is clear from this one blog post that it is way over my head, but, sometimes hearing from the people in the trenches can help to shed some light on situations that can’t be seen otherwise.

    I’d really like to tip my hat 🙂

  64. Dave (original)

    Ryan Ward, sounds to me very much like you *were* being credited for some spam, got caught and recieved a penalty. Cleaned up, filed a re-inclusion and got re-included. You are likely now ranking naturally.

    BTW, a “directory” that demands a link back to be included is a link farm, not a directory for users. You are linking to a link farm on every single page.

  65. Dave (original)

    It is important to remember that everyday new websites come online and they are told to exchange links to increase rankings artificially. I need look no further than my own inbox or phone calls I receive from SEO companies all day long to know that these schemes are still being conveyed as best practices for Search Engine Rankings by far too many people and Google would be best served by stating something more clearly.

    Google HAVE always stated clearly about gaming their SE with link spam. Read their guidelines for Webmasters, that’s why they exist.

  66. I stand by what I say and I do not feel the need to hide about any of this. Like I said transparancy is extremely important and lends to credibility. I accept that what I did was not within the guidlines whether I realized it at the time or not. Once I did realize it, (again, before I was actually penalized) I corrected it. All I would like to know now is whether or not my website and the others affected and corrected will return soon. Otherwise, I will need to build a new website and start from scratch…As will the others affected.

    For others just beginning or that still have reciprocal links like these discussed here, a clear answer would benefit everyone from consumers and Google to the website owners still participating.

  67. Dave,

    Sorry, but, it is still penalized. I won’t try to change your mind here though. It would take far too long.

    By the way, would being included in a directory that actually sends visitors to my website and returning a link to them be considered link spam? If it is, it shouldn’t. By definition, this is exactly a relevant use of a reciprocal link. They do something for me and I do something for them – all relevant to the actual intent of the two websites involved. This is very different than state recip links pages. Am I missing something here?

    Your post illustrates exactly why there needs to be further clarification to people operating websites. We both read the same thing in their guidelines and have very different opinions about what is a link farm…

  68. I seldom even look at the SEO blogs anymore unless something earthshattering seems to be happening, as I am too busy keeping my site up to date and trying to sell real estate. In addition, I do not understand most of what Matt is writing about, as it is WAY too far above the head of this non technical pea brain of mine!! 🙂 But when I get numerous calls telling me I am being “discussed” by name on a blog, I have to respond.

    Fang, I don’t know where you got your information, but you misquoted my conversation with Michelle Sterling of http://www.mslasvegashomes.com. During our discussion I did ask her if she knew why her site had been penalized, and if it could have been due to her previous association with REW. She mentioned, and I agreed, that we had both heard rumors that the AA sites had been hand penalized, as has been posted already on many forums. I do NOT know Greg Boser and have never spoken to him, though of course I have heard of him as he is huge in the SEO world, but it seems like you have an issue with him?

    We also discussed how my site had been pirated by a porn site out of Russia around the same time as everything else was going on. I speculated that perhaps this site was selling leads from the sites it took over. Keeping in mind that Michelle and I were together about 3 hours with three other women, and this entire conversation occupied about 15 minutes total. The other two hours and 45 minutes was devoted to the problems in running a team, kids, golf, health issues, and vacations we had been on. Michelle was very nice and funny and we had a great time, which unfortunately has now been tainted by your posts.

    Fang, I am fairly sure you must be a Las Vegas agent or well connected with one by your “critique” of the Las Vegas sites and other references to the Las Vegas market on various posts made by you, though you do not identify yourself, as Dan C pointed out. This will be my only post on this subject no matter what else is written after, as I do not want to get into any kind of prolonged dialogue. But I did want to at least respond one time on the topics you raised:

    At the 2005 Pubcon conference I and several other agents personally asked Matt about reciprocal linking at a spur of the moment brainstorming session that started in the hallway and attracted so much interest it had to be moved to an empty conference room. At that session Matt said that there was nothing wrong with reciprocal or home page linking as long as it was not “excessive.” We even asked him outright if 50 home page links was too many (trying to get some gauge to go by) and he said no, though he would NOT advise doing more than that. (If this has changed, a heads up would sure be appreciated, Matt!)

    Did you look at my state pages or just assume they were lists of links? They actually have some basic state information (a work in progress unfortunately delayed somewhat by health issues) and a form for sellers to fill out who are relocating from Las Vegas to another city. Some pages also include links to one or two agents I know and would feel good about referring from my personal sphere of influence – others include none where I don’t know a good agent personally. I have also included links to helpful resources in each state like the local Board of Realtors and the State Real Estate Divisions, NONE of whom would ever be linking back to me. These pages are meant to be a resource for my sellers, and as I get several outbound referrals every week from those forms, obviously they are working well for my clients.

    A certain amount of linking is natural in any industry’s web sites in order to gain business and to provide value to clients. Those of us who have been on the Internet for more than five years have all had pages with long lists of reciprocal links in the past, as everything we read initially told us that this was a “good” thing to do. Many of us have now jettisoned the majority of those links (especially in recent months) trying to be compliant with Google’s guidelines as we understand them. But many sites still do have literally thousands of links on their sites. I am confident Google will ultimately (and probably already has) figure out algorithmically exactly how much weight to give to these kinds of links, hopefully without specifically nuking just a few individual sites.

    I also agree with Ryan and others that if we concentrate on just adding content to our sites and keeping them updated, we become THE site of choice for our consumers. As a do-it-yourself agent that started with NO budget at all, my pages are all handwritten original content, and it is a labor of love to keep it current.

    Fang, I do not want to “bicker” with you as Marc put it, but I did want to attempt to set the record straight at least one time. I am not going to respond after this to anything negative, so hopefully you will respect my wishes and this will be the last time you will refer to me or my site in any of your posts. Life is too short and precious.

    Ryan, I would like to take a moment to personally wish your wife all the best with her fight against breast cancer. I too have just undergone the battle with breast cancer and finished chemo in April. It is a tough, tough road and not over by any means when the chemo and radiation and surgeries are done. There are many years of surveillance and other medicines still ahead, as well as the constant fear of recurrence which at times is paralyzing. Please tell her my prayers are with her, as one survivor to another!

  69. Dave (original)

    Ryan, you THINK it’s still being penalized, unless you have something in writing from Google you are not sharing?

    Directories that require a link back require links in an effort to manipulate PR. Google are VERY clear on NOT doing this. Google are also VERY clear on how you are held accountable for who YOU choose to link to. They are also VERY clear on NOT becoming part of a bad neighborhood.

    You have *site wide links* to this “directory” that attempts to manipulate PR and is VERY likely part of a bad neighborhood. What more can be said.

  70. Dave,

    I also THINK Ryan’s site is penalized. With a little leg work it is pretty obvious to see.

    It would be great if Google shared something like that in writing. Tip of the hat to Dave for coming up with a good idea. Although, Matt may give him a wag of the finger for the idea.

  71. I do not have site wide links to it. It is a button on one page! What website are you looking at?

    I’m not going to argue with you about whether it is penalized. It is. It’s a sitewide penalty that makes all of the pages come up lower on any search result returned.


    Please explain what you are saying and back it up with something that is verifiable. Otherwise, you have not provided any information that you are a reliable source for your SEO advice or produced anything that verifies what you are saying!

  72. “”””””Ryan Ward – your joking right? Of course Real Estate Webmasters “condoned and supported people participating in recip linking ” “”””””

    Don’t push the blame to REW. As I have mentioned (and you elude to), we are Realtors with zero to one employees in most cases; not SEO’s, not webmasters. Before the AA and then the REW “hits” there were no concise agreements on what was over the line.Case in point, the publishing of Matt’s response at Pubcon about the 50 links on state pages. EVERYONE (99.99%) in our industry were and still are using State page link exchanges or something similar. It was not clear cut and dry that, that simple act was black hat. We are not privileged to the “whispers” in the industry. It’s amazing to me that several folks (respected high profile SEO types) have mentioned (after that fact) they “heard” it was coming. If I had “heard” it was even an issue, I would have deleted my state pages immediately.

    I for one, and virtually everyone I know don’t want anything to do with black hat tactics. There just should have been a heads up of some sort, like a blog post with a pre-warning or something added to Google’s Webmaster Guide, or better yet an Algo change so everything was across the board and on even keel. How could it possibly be more fair than that – everyone at fault hit the same way.

    I hope the penalties are soon to be over so we can get back to our lives. We weren’t cloaking to sell drugs, or gambling, Viagra or porn or Paris Hilton videos. I think there should be some consideration on intent and magnitude of the violations, placed in to perspective if you will. JMHO.

    I do agree 100% with a tighter “policing” of the real estate industry. I feel my site could easily be #1 if the policing was across the board.

  73. My site was also penalized. It fought with #1 & #2 position with Homegain for about 2 years for the main kw’s in Google. Now it fluctuates on page 5 to page 7 for any search done.

    I also removed my state pages (which had few links to begin with & even fewer reciprocals – most were one-ways from me on these pages) but still got hit along with what seems like a handful of REW members (& a couple of ex-REW members which really piques my interest).

    I read Google Guidelines over many times. I truly did not think recip links were against the Guidelines as I did not read it that way. Now I learned a most valuable lesson but as Ryan states, I would have liked it clarified better as I would have never done it to begin with.

    As Diann states, she’s still confused after speaking with Matt on what to do now. I’ve heard it’s the state pages G doesn’t like sifting through & I’ve been told it’s the recip linking or maybe it’s just excessive recip linking.

    I don’t think Google is spilling the beans on their algo by being more explicit on what the problem is as I and I’m sure others would follow the rules if we could understand them.

  74. Diann, the point you make about your reciprocal link state pages seems to be a little outdated. Rand Fishkin interviewed Matt at the Seattle webmaster conference and there are videos of this interview posted on the Seomoz blog. You should view the 2nd video at around the 5 minute 38 second mark for more up to date information on how Google feels about reciprocal link state pages.

    There is nothing unique about your reciprocal link state pages – many of the agents affected by the May 9th penalty also had basic information and content on their state pages, contact information and links for local real estate boards, state licensing agencies and contact forms for surfers just like your site has right now. These sites were all still penalized while your site was not. My question was originally and still is – why not? Why was your site spared while other sites were penalized?

    You even admit here to having state pages and what your arguments are for having them. The arguments you put forth are not any different then what every other site owner states are the reason for their sites state pages. The simple fact still remains that many sites were penalized on May 9th for reciprocal linking and having state pages. But many more sites still have these states pages and reciprocal links and have not been penalized. Why is this? Many sites also removed their state pages before they were penalized. Yet sites like yours still have state pages to this day and were never touched. Again why?

  75. I am also a Realtor that was impacted by this penalty. It impacted several of the sites of Realtors that I have helped with their websites.

    What I think dissapointed me the most is that one of the sites, the site of two of my colleagues – http://www.PalmBeachCountyHomes.com has never been involved with link exchanges. When I worked with the team from REW to create their site – the state directory pages were created. The pages have never had any links on them, yet their site has been negatively impacted by all this. Other sites that have participated in link exchanges that did not have the state pages were passed over by this.

    With all the knowledge and skills of the people that work for Google – it is hard to understand why it has decided to selectively impact a small select group of websites because they happened to be created by the same vendor and then leave the worst offenders continuing to place at the top of the search engines. And to decide to do this when the real estate market has been hardest hit makes it all the worse.

    Do I suggest to these agents to start new sites? Do they continue to add content on a regular basis and let time address this issue? We are out here trying to understand the rules and help our clients (property owners that need to sell their homes) get the most possible exposure for their properties. We also try to provide buyer prospects with information about the local communities that we live in and to display by neighborhoods the properties that are for sale in the areas.

    Is having an IDX (system to display real estate listings) on our site a problem? Somewhere there has to be an answer to these questions so we can work to stay within Google’s guidelines and provide our buyer and seller clients the best websites we can create.

    Hoping someone from Google shares some guideance for us on these issues.

    Thanks in Advance
    David Abernathy
    Co-Owner Exit Realty franchise Jupiter, Florida

  76. Dave (original)

    Hmmm, Ryan states ” won’t try to change your mind here though. It would take far too long” and Marc states “With a little leg work it is pretty obvious to see”.

    Ryan, as you know for a fact that your site is being penalized the task at your hands is easy. Clean as per the Google guidelines, that’s it!

    The site wide link are the 2 you have in your footer, both lead to the same site. I assumed this site was the “directory” site. Looks like they are to your “SEO” which is even worse! Google clearly state to be weary of “SEO” that harp on about “Link Popularity” and links back to SEO site.

    BTW Ryan, I have backed up what I’m saying with the Google guidelines. On the other hand, I haven’t seen one thing from yourself that backs up your mind-set.

  77. I don’t think you should be allowed to make Colbert references ever again. In fact, I think it’s treasonous.

  78. Bravo Memphis – what a fantastic post! You bring up many outstanding points.

    I loved your comment “We weren’t cloaking to sell drugs, or gambling, Viagra or porn or Paris Hilton videos. I think there should be some consideration on intent and magnitude of the violations, placed in perspective if you will. JMHO.” So true!

    You have got me thinking – what exactly caused Realtor websites to pop up on Google’s radar at all in the first place? Why now? Are Realtors trading reciprocal links really on par with Pills, Porn and Casino black hat spamming techniques? Should Realtors really be penalized the same way as these black hat spammers? Most Realtors are certainly not professional SEO’s and most didn’t realize they were doing anything wrong in the first place. But if trading reciprocal links is truly against Google’s guidelines then ignorance is not an excuse. You can be sure now though that the offending sites will never again engage in reciprocal linking if the penalty against their sites is lifted. Your “shot across the bow” has been heard loud and clear. All of these sites have suffered enough. Especially considering that the same penalty levied against Advanced Access sites was lifted at around the 35 day mark. The REW sites have now been penalized for 46 days. Is this because Advanced Access had Greg Boser advocating on their behalf with Google while REW does not?

    Once again I’ll just say that if every offending website in my market had been penalized logically, consistently and fairly I would not say a word – I would accept this penalty as just since all offending websites were penalized in the same manner. Unfortunately this was not the case. Somehow Google came up with a small list of sites to penalize and let the biggest offenders of reciprocal linking continue with their high rankings. That is just not right. Whatever happened to “Don’t be Evil”?

  79. I find it laughable that REW and Boser weren’t penalized but that the google spam team penalized the people they represent.

    I also find the authority google gives large sites like Yahoo, Wiki, ect to be a much higher level of spam then any small scale realtors working together to gain high search placement.

    Then again what do you expect when you are working with a large company like google who only cares about adsense profits and who has forgot what made them great.

  80. This conversation seems to have gotten a little ugly. I think that all Ryan and Marc are asking for is some clarification as to what Google is up to. All of this started with AA and their Spammy recp linking getting punished, and so AA hires Greg Boser. Here in his own words is what he does “I have never denied the fact that during my time as a consultant for AA that I gave both Yahoo and Google examples of other companies engaging in the same kind of behavior that got AA penalized. It’s part of the job when you are doing reinclusion work. You clean up your mess, say your sorry, and promise not to do it again. You also respectfully ask them to apply the same standards to everyone in the space. That doesn’t always happen, but you always ask. Doing anything less than that would be the equivalent of SEO malpractice.” What a slimmy jerk.

    I believe that what the over all main question is, if this is such a big deal as to remove 30 or 60 or how ever many websites the removed, then why is it you can look at almost any competitive real estate search term and find websites that are full of spammy reciprocal links even today, and they rank very very well.

    The only reason I am posting here today is that I have read the whole blog now, plus read the whole story as it has played out. It is my understanding that the AA sites that got punished were all back to their former placement just after the 30th day of the punishment. Ryan & Marc are now at the 45th day, they are frustrated, Matt and the Google spam team don’t seem to want to do the right thing and at least say what the heck is going on. And on top of that they come here to Matts blog because Matt is not responding when approached from the proper channels, and they get harped on by people like Dave (original), I mean please, lay off.

  81. You even admit here to having state pages and what your arguments are for having them. The arguments you put forth are not any different then what every other site owner states are the reason for their sites state pages. The simple fact still remains that many sites were penalized on May 9th for reciprocal linking and having state pages. But many more sites still have these states pages and reciprocal links and have not been penalized. Why is this? Many sites also removed their state pages before they were penalized. Yet sites like yours still have state pages to this day and were never touched. Again why?

  82. Hey Judy:
    I agree with you about homegain. Before being penalized, I was competing with the local newspaper for ” fort lauderdale real estate”.

  83. Some very interesting comments. You can almost see the steam rising from these Realtors heads. My guess is that Matt won’t comment on this situation. Perhaps Google has some sort of internal policy about that.

    “Google stomping on mom and pop Realtor” That sounds like a good Dateline or 60 minute segment. Does anyone have the number for NBC or CBS?

    Fang summed it up best – Whatever happened to “Don’t be Evil”?

  84. Dave (original)

    LOL! I can’t believe you guys are missing the obvious and have your heads sooooooooooo far in the sand. But, I wont “harp on” 🙂

  85. Enlighten us Dave (original) with your solution. I am all ears. I hope you have more than just “follow Google webmaster guidelines” because I have done that. Perhaps I should just throw in the towel now. Matt are you looking for an executive assistant? 😉

    Nice post Jim. Everyone was wondering if the web gorilla had something to do with it. I was hoping to extract more information from him but he won’t be back to comment. Interesting chain of events – get hired by Advanced Access as a consultant to clean up a penalty, clean up the penalty and in the meantime send Google a bunch of spam reports about various REW websites, get them penalized, then go into the real estate website business and possibly sell sites to the penalized website owners.

  86. I have state pages with the specific state information on them. These pages were built in hopes of obtaining relocation leads. These specific pages have never had links other than links to other pages of my site. The state pages that are being referred to here are those that were built specifically to hold recip links, correct?

  87. Dave (original)

    Enlighten us Dave (original) with your solution


  88. Tip of the hat to Forbes for their Fictional 15 and the Pentagon in avoiding prisoner abuse, Wag of the Finger to Australia for beingtoo much like France and Hollywood Foreign Press.

  89. Yea, that’s exactly what I thought Dave (original).

  90. John A. Davis

    “Our reinclusion request has gone unanswered and we’re now facing the possibility of laying off staff and cutting back on planned improvements to the site if the Google penalty goes on much longer.”

    anyone that puts their future in Google search engine hands is crazy

  91. Dave (original)

    Marc, I suspected your thoughts were always “why?”.

    I’m curious as to why you more worried about others sites doing well and not that yours isn’t doing so well. Funny mind-set.

  92. I also saw PayPal down, but then I logged in at paypal.be and it worked just fine.

  93. Read back over my posts Dave (original) did I complain extensively about the other non penalized sites? No. I am more concerned about when I will be unpenalized.

    My thoughts are always “why”? Check your last 2 posts.

  94. Dave (original)

    I am more concerned about when I will be unpenalized.

    IF you are penalized you will be “unpenalized” as soon as your site is squeaky clean. IF you are penalized you must have dug yourself into a hole, no other sites, not Google, just you, so it’s up to you to back fill the hole.

    How about telling me *exactly* how you *know* you are being penalized?

  95. IF you are penalized you will be “unpenalized” as soon as your site is squeaky clean. – Not true. Google is good but they don’t work that quickly.

    IF you are penalized you must have dug yourself into a hole, no other sites, not Google, just you, so it’s up to you to back fill the hole. – Done. Been done.

    How about telling me *exactly* how you *know* you are being penalized?

    Search for my name. The most authoritative website (thesarasotamls.com) about me isn’t found until you get to page 4 or higher. I wrote a blog post with the title “Sarasota Home and Condo Inventory Levels – February 15th”. You can search that phrase in Google with quotes around it and you will come up with one site – my site. Now search the title without the quotes. Again, I come up on page 4 or more. I could give you numerous other examples but I am sure you will find a way to discount them.

    SEOMOZ has a great blog post about the Google reciprocal link penalty. Go to their blog and find the post titled, “What it Looks Like to Be Hit By Google’s Real Estate Reciprocal Link Penalty.” I am not sure if Matt wants me to leave a link. John’s website was penalized as well as mine and a handful of others on May 9th. Matt even makes a comment about penalties.

  96. Dave (original)

    Good grief! I didn’t mean “as soon as” literally.

    IF you are penalized you must have dug yourself into a hole, no other sites, not Google, just you, so it’s up to you to back fill the hole. – Done. Been done.

    Problem solved then.

    I could give you numerous other examples but I am sure you will find a way to discount them.

    Only with facts, but I’m sure you don’t facts spoiling your stories.

    Like me, I don’t think Matt gives 2 @#$%s about your site. Good-bye!

  97. Pretty childish Dave (original). I must have forgotten a rule I usually live by:

    Don’t argue with an idiot. They will bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.


  98. Dave (original)

    LOL! Who’s the “idiot” being penalized 🙂 I guess you “must have forgotten” about that too 😉

  99. Hi!

    Dave (original) Said:
    It would great if Google had an option to include/exclude“Encyclopedia” and “Dictionary” results.

    this would be a next smart step (and this for more segments)
    in the Button-Tide afferent the Searchulator.

    Greetings Karl

  100. Ubuntu Rocks…

    Especially when you run “Beryl”…
    Beryl completely rocks…

    I had the same problem with a large widescreen monitors…
    But a friend showed me how to fix that quickly…

    Find your resolution settings and manually configure the /etc/X11/xorg.conf

    Run this command w/ your resolution and Hz:
    gtf 1680 1050 60

    copy the code that comes back into your xorg.conf under the monitor setting:
    Remove the # (comment)
    Also Remove the underscore Hz. In my case _60

    Page Down:
    Add your resolution in quotes in the last line available, where you see a list of resolutions… i.e. “1680×1050”


    And there you go, Ubuntu on large format monitors…

    Now I run Kubuntu with Beryl, this is off the chart awesome…
    Have fun…

  101. After reading all of this, of course I realize it’s a webmaster’s worst nightmare to find out the site you’ve been doing SEO for has been penalized. The one thing I don’t understand, however, is why webmasters who have been penalized feel that after they ‘clean up’ they have a right to the SERP positions they once had.

    The real estate sites we SEO have not been penalized, and that’s because we don’t implement reciprocal linking schemes or spammy state pages. All SEO applications aside, link schemes and state pages would make our sites seem more generic. And we want in each case for our visitors to feel like they’ve found a local expert. Anyone looking for an out of state referral will not have any difficulty finding one; it’s what 80-90% of all real estate business comes from, so any local realtor/broker will know how to point to someone outside of the state.

    I’ve been hoping Google would start policing this matter for a long time since I’ve seen clearly poorer quality websites rank over ours despite our best efforts because (we suspect) of their large number of mostly irrelevant links. I’m sure there will be some bumps in the road as far as widespread policy enforcement, but I think it’s gotta be clear that eventually all offenders are going to get docked if these practices continue.

  102. Dave (original)

    So true John. Spammers that dig themselves into these wholes seem to think that after they ‘clean-up’, their previous spot is being being held & waiting for them.

  103. Sorry to do so, but 2 finger wags from my for Google:

    1. Google Checkout still not available for international merchants, that way you are more or less forcing them into PayPals fangs 🙁 BTW. Google Checkout will also be down for 60-90min today.

    2. The German Analytics team can’t even spell the month July right :-/ Correct would be Juli, but they are spelling it Julie, and that for almost 3 weeks now… and nobody at Google seems to notice or care. So much for Google Quality!

    So Google, before you wag your finger at others, get your own things straight!

  104. Looks like Paypal are also governed by Murphys’/Sods’ law, at least you had an excuse why the money was delayed!

  105. Don’t argue with an idiot. They will bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.

  106. Tip of the hat to Matt Cutts and the spam team for only making it 60 days and not longer. 😉

  107. Rishi Lakhani


    Marc, It may be due to different data centres, but your site seems to do well here?! Infact for most the terms in your title tags you are resoundingly on the top three…

    If there is a penalty, (if it exists…) could it be regional? Which would strike me as quite odd…

    I know google used to warn site owners when they were about to be hit, but since the German Scam… they stopped doing that – anyone else actually received a warning before their site dropped?

    Just curious.

  108. Hi Rishi,

    I am no longer penalized. It lasted about 60 days. I tipped my hat to Matt for not making it longer.

  109. Rishi Lakhani

    @Marc Rasmussen: 😉 that cool…

    hat tip to all the people on this blog making interesting (and reasonable) arguments.

    finger wag at those who just make comments without thinking!!! (there are quite a few arent there? lol!!!)

  110. I’m just curious for an answer on this subject. Why would Google give a higher value to real estate related websites that are not even registered in the area they are in?

    I can’t speak for other states, but in Illinois, real estate websites must clearly state the address of the company in the area they are in directly on their homepage.

    I would think that a consumer would have a better web experience from a website actually based in the area they are searching in then a site from a differant area. What are your thoughts on this?

  111. It was only a matter of time that Matt and the anti-spam crew penalized Homegain for their guerilla spam techniques. Kudos to the Google team for making things right!