What Google Knows About Spam

If you didn’t attend Web 2.0, you can watch my ten-minute keynote about “What Google Knows About Spam” (and several other keynotes) on blip.tv. I’ll embed the keynote below as well.

The only thing I don’t like about conference speaking is preparing slides. When I use slides at a talk, I almost always make a custom presentation. That’s why I prefer Q&A sessions; making slides is too much work.

To make the process easier this time, I tried using Google Docs to create the presentation, and then saving my Docs presentation in PowerPoint (PPT) so that the conference could easily project the slides. The “Save as PPT” feature worked perfectly for me — go Google Docs team! 🙂 Here are the slides in PowerPoint (PPT) form.

In case you want to see the slides yourself, here they are in embedded form:

In addition to simple PowerPoint exporting, it’s also easy to embed a Docs presentation on your own web page.

[Thanks to Tracy O for cc-licensing the “money” image that I used in the presentation.]

I’ve always meant to do a post to say that search engine optimization (SEO) is not spam and that Google doesn’t hate SEO, but I never seem to get around to it. This presentation gave me a chance to slip those facts into the minds of several thousand tech-savvy folks. 🙂

103 Responses to What Google Knows About Spam (Leave a comment)

  1. That green shirt would look better with an Ale 8 One logo on it. Also, maybe the repeated Catholicism wasn’t spam but hidden repentance reading for the webmaster. 🙂 Seriously, nice to get to see this presentation. Thanks.

  2. Michael D, I’m just glad that they had video of the keynotes. I was going to put my presentation up either way, but it’s much nicer if you can see exactly what the audience saw and even follow along with the slides in full resolution.

  3. Dave (Original)

    Matt, great talk!

    However, you mention that white hat SEO will NOT hide what they intend to do and fully inform the client. While that is true, black hats often do EXACTLY the same. Then, the client is either ignorant to the spammy methods OR accepts them as they TOO are greedy and unethical. Granted though, a FEW may not be blinded by bullshit & greed.IMO, whether the client accepts the risks or NOT should NOT be the issue.

    For a relevant example. Let’s say I can help Grad students cheat on their final exams. I tell the students in no uncertain way that there are risks and what I will show them IS CHEATING. That should NOT be an out for me, nor for the students. *BOTH* SHOULD PUNISHED AND MADE AN EXAMPLE OF IF CAUGHT!

    IMO, Google is just too soft on known industry slammers. Heck, they even leap to their defense and give them GooglePlex tours (talk about mixed signals). The BIG names in the so-called “white hat SEO” arena have a vested interest in SE spam. They are allowing SE slammers to promote their spammy ways, sell links etc and in doing so, CONDONE it.

    I’ve been around the block MANY times and I can tell you for a FACT that the black hats ARE running the “SEO” industry based on SELFISH greed, no/low morals and sef-vested interest in SE spam. The number of vocal TRUE white hats to TRUE black hats is ridiculously low.

    Come on GOOGLE stand-up and [b]S P E L L/Y E L L I T OUT……..PLEASE![/b]

  4. I love the quality of the Blip.TV service, even with YouTube now having higher quality I like what can be done with Blip better.

    I really liked the Fake Steve Jobs keynote at that conference that I watched on Blip.

    I feel a little cheated that you did not get to speak longer. They should have given you a keynote time slot. 🙂

  5. The multimedia adds both an understanding and visual aesthetic enhancement.

    Please consider doing more SEO themed posts with multimedia

  6. @ Dave I think you have over stated the case for the existences of black hat SEOs. I think most people in the industry are honest, but people tend to look to the example instead of the rule; so you may think black hats dominate but there is not way that is true in 2008. If you do something wrong, in almost all cases you know what you are doing and in my opinion you will pay the price sooner or latter.

    @ Matt your point on slide # 14 about – “Smaller sites: Creative ideas for link building and marketing” – this is really what SEO is all about for many. I agree with you that WordPress and content are super SEO techniques,I base all my sites on it (as stated by you previously). However, “creative link building ideas” is what I am a little shy about. I would rather stick to content building than to even think about trying a creative link building idea, because what is accepted today could be spam tomorrow

    @Matt hey what is with slide # 8? is that something that a church actually did? or are you trying to make a point? Hmm the Church is not that bad.

  7. Matt, great job presenting what google knows about web spam, loved the presentation and glad you posted it on your blog! I am glad that you also took a second to mention that SEO is not spam and that there are good white-hat SEO’s out there.

  8. Dave (Original)

    Mark, I think you must have your head in the sand 🙂 The word VOCAL is the all-important-word in this case. Black hats blow their trumpets louder and longer that most white hats. The big name “SEO” forums/blogs WMW, SPHIN, SEW, DP etc are black hat havens/advertisers. Those NOT fully informed of SEO are cosntantly bombarded with Text Link Ads, Link Buying and ALL sorts of SE spam. The ratio of SEO links to SE spam to Google’s guidelines is about 1000:1

    Humans are lazy and too often greedy. Just like the diet industry makes most money by preying on human ignorance, so too does the SEO industry.

    Until Google takes a TOP down approach, I fear the black hats will continue to profit and the cost of the industry as a whole.

  9. Mark, certainly good content building is a great idea.

    Dave (Original), I don’t know about you, but I hear from short-changed SEO clients all the time that didn’t know exactly what the SEO was doing, so it would be progress if clients would press their SEO to find out exactly what the SEO will be doing. In a 10 minute talk about spam I had to elide some of the subtlety about what to expect from good SEOs. 🙂 But I did want to insert that point so that the audience wouldn’t walk out with a misconception that SEO was spam.

  10. Matt re client not kowing is this realy “not knowing” or more like wilfully not knowing.

    though BMW I suspect was just incompetenace as this seems endemic in german Auto industry.

  11. Dave (Original)

    Matt, I DO agree is a step in the right direction. I also bet they plead ignorance when caught, no surprise there. I bet the Cops hear the same all-day every-day.

    When most hire/pay a professional is ANY industry they do so because they have no clue about the right or wrong way. They SHOULD NOT have to pay good money and then have learn about SEO right from wrong.

    When I pay any professional, I should NOT have to check their work for fear a another entity will penalize ME for the professionals low standards . If so, what is the point?

    Why does Google goes punish the victim (black hat SEO client) and not the perpetrator (black hat SEO)?

  12. Thanks for posting this, Matt. I look forward to watching all of it.

    As for “I hear from short-changed SEO clients all the time that didn’t know exactly what the SEO was doing” please remember the sample bias! When a client is communicating with you (Google spam team) following a problem of some kind, what else would you expect them to say besides “we didn’t know what the SEO was doing”?

  13. Matt. You’re a good speaker and have a nice easy manner of presenting.

    I enjoyed watching and as I’m sure many others will note, I appreciate you adding your $.02 on whitehat SEO’s – both to the thousands in the audience, and as a means of enabling the thousands of SEO’s that follow you online to share with any customer that may be wary of Google’s perspective on SEO.

  14. Hey Matt I was reading on a one of the other seo blogs that in Webmaster Central, when your site has issues or is penalized for any reason you still don’t receive the “infamous note” from Google telling you what you’ve done wrong. I know sometimes people in the seo field get upset because one of their sites get penalized and then they talk about how bad Google is, lol but in my experience I haven’t heard of to many people getting notes and knock on wood I havent got one in my box hee hee!

    So I guess the question is do the notes get shot out every time a penalty has been given to a site?


  15. 1)The thing I never understood about spammers or black hats was why do they waste so much time and effort to promote sites in a creatively negative way? If all that brain power was applied to something constructive then they could have long term staying power. They may be clever but not wise.

    2) Everyone talks about quality content, but what is this?

    In my humble opinion it is not a “one page ringer” ,that is, some page that is funny or cute and draws attention Why? These will draw a lot of ‘drive by bloggers’ to your site who come by leave a comment or two and you will never hear from again. This one page ringer is what many people are looking for. Quick easy traffic, similar to those widgets that are linkbait but have not great value.

    Nor is it a niche keyword that will make you rich, that no one has thought of. If you do research and find that one keyword and promote it will will drive some traffic but not a lot.

    Nor are you creating quality content by creating quality content by hanging out on twitter and stumbleupon all day, as many respected people recommend. I think this time could be devoted to building something of value.

    Quality content is not creating quick “top ten list” or “7 reasons why list…..” or articles like this. These list and pages fill the internet and are usually general and do not lead you anywhere. The internet is the biggest receptacle for recycled general information. Nobody wants more of it.

    My own example of quality content is a Russian grammar site I am creating. The total effort might take 5 months. It does not have any ads or banners.I will not create linkbait, nor a cute one page ringer, tables nor article submissions. It will be built on a wordpress platform with a SEO plugin or two.
    It does not even have a lot of Grammar tables, which I think are not too useful to learn a language. It will have 1000s of Russian grammar drills. I study Slavic languages and I know what it takes to learn Russian. That is drills, not easy to put together tables like many websites have. When it is complete it will have a link to my commercial software which has taken 5 years to write. But nothing more. The result of 5 months of work will be a steady flow of traffic that is relevant. And I hope to be some use to the users more than my wallet. This is quality content. People should focus on taking the time and effort to build something that people will use without thought of money. I know this sounds crazy, but I have done it with other sites and it works. This is the best SEO advice there is. You do not need to spend time thinking how to get the edge. It will waste your time. Building something that will help others is the best SEO advice, and it takes time.

    3 Matt after watching the video rather than the slide show the church example was kind of funny.

    Sorry for the long comment. I feel passionate about the fact many people are mislead by the 10,000 sites on “how to make money on the internet” It will only waste their time and create pages which will fill the net but not useful.

  16. Dave

    “When most hire/pay a professional is ANY industry they do so because they have no clue about the right or wrong way. They SHOULD NOT have to pay good money and then have learn about SEO right from wrong.”

    um NO normaly when you hire a professional you are expected to know what they are doing.

    did you see the article http://valleywag.com/388450/why-web-20-fails-at-the-internet abd http://gigaom.com/2008/05/07/web-20-please-meet-your-host-the-internet/ that mentioned how clue less some web2.0 startups are over the basics

  17. Thanks for a great post. Great use of Google tools to embed the PPT- nice!

    This post echos the point that clients continually get caught up in with unscrupulous vendors. SEO is not magic, there are no shortcuts, and you can help your website visitors learn about what you think is important to them (CONTENT) while you are trying to get rankings.

    SEO needs to be a transparent process for clients because they will ultimately be responsible for their SEO success/mess.

  18. Hi Matt,

    You think a Church didn’t spam for money, have you never been to church? The church is the same as any other business, more people equals more money, they just don’t call themselves a business.


  19. Hey man, great PPT.
    I´ll translate it into spanish and leve a Brief on my blog pointing at yourst as autor if you don´t mind

  20. Hi Matt,
    Great presentation I really enjoyed it. I’m wondering if you could elaborate on a couple of points.

    1.) Going a bit off the beaten path. Are you referring to Open Source Software packages that are often easy to spam due to:

    a.) Having their code base readable to anyone.
    b.) Being in widespread use
    c.) Often have low quality spam proctection ?

    If so would you suggest that removing things like:

    – Meta Generator = My Open Source Package
    – Footer Links = Powered By My Open Source Package

    I know from my experience that I still manage to attract spam, but having removed those items has helped alot. It can make it somewhat cumbersome to keep your software up to date.

    I guess that’s why you were recommending SAAS (Software as a Service).

  21. I learned so much in such a short time! Thank you.

    The tip on embedding Google Docs into websites was very useful (and I wasn’t even expecting it).

    And it’s good to hear that SEO is valued but has been damaged by evil-doers. I’m glad you were able to weave your SEO comments into the presentation. I’m not an SEO guy, but I do think everybody who wants to get their (legit) messages out to the world should know some things about it. Glad Google seems to understand that.

    Thanks for the good stuf, Matt.

  22. Hey Matt,

    Btw, thanks again for the tips. That archive opening thing has been going very well. Googlebot and crawl/index team have been very cooperative. Power to them 🙂

    Have decided to move forward to open the articles archive of the second large news site!

    A suggestion for your next presentation: The magic of In-House ethical SEO 🙂

  23. I try and be as open and trustworthy as possible and am happy to see this post to reaffirm my beliefs.

    Trying to get clients do be a lot more open and thus trustworthy is difficult at the best of times 😉

  24. Matt, in your last slide you mention that users can register their site with webmaster tools and be alerted if their site has been spammed. I had a fairly siginificant hack of my site recently and was penalized in google search results for a couple of months until I got it straightened out. This involved someone putting hidden pages and later hidden links on my site. My site was using google webmaster tools at the time but I didn’t receive a notification, unless by chance I missed it in my sea of emails. Is there any particular email subject to look for or can you give any further tips on how to make sure google will email me as a site owner? Anything I can do to have my email address more trusted by google as a webmaster tools site owner?

  25. embedded Google Presentations rock.

  26. I think what a lot of people miss when they build a website is simple quality control. I think a lot (if not all) on page SEO is just that, quality control and using the on page elements in the way the W3C intended. I spoke about it here.


  27. We have people coming to us all the time to ask for IPs from multiple blocks, because their SEO people told them it’s necessary. Would you comment as to whether or not this sort of tactic is considered “spammy” or illegitimate? It seems to me that they’re just trying to create farms of backlinks, and trying to hide that the backlinks are all coming from the same people.

  28. Great video, Matt. You’re up to 282 Diggs and counting. The Search industry really appreciates your SEO is Good slide, too.

  29. Matt opens the talk by clarifying that he is not talking about email spam, but web spam. I think this is specific to search engine spam. When did google corner the market on the entire web?

  30. Spam = Bad, unless fried 🙂

    SEO = Good, if you know what you are doing.

    Matt = Killed the aspirations of thousands of “SEO is dead” crowd in one post.

  31. john andrews, I’m including the sample bias in my consideration. 🙂

    Donovan and dave, we do notify a lot of sites that are hacked, but not every single one. We’ve been thinking about ways to alert more site owners, but it’s a difficult problem.

    Andrew, no need to be ultra-cynical. 😉 The church that had “Catholicism” a ton on its home page certainly wasn’t shooting for monetization as the highest priority.

    VSEO, I’m fine with that.

    Gavin Doolan, I won’t get into the “open source vs. closed: which is more secure?” debate here. But I will point out that if you use a popular product (e.g. WordPress), it’s more likely to be targeted by a hacker than a less common package (bloxsom, for example). Usually removing traces of which product you used can be a good idea, but won’t protect you completely. Keeping your software updated helps, and consider software-as-a-service so that you don’t have to patch the software yourself. That would be my advice.

    Harith, I’m glad it’s been helpful. 🙂

    Dave Robinson, I do think that sort of foundational work is very important. Things like getting good url structure really matter. But then there’s the creative/link-building/marketing side to SEO as well, which can also make a big difference.

  32. matt, thank you for discussing this. your seo hacker prediction recently came true for us – and i blogged about it here:


    We do use Webmaster tools, but it did not alert us.

    — Eric

  33. Matt, i just wondered about the video on Blip.Tv rather than YouTube 😉

  34. Dave: “Mark, I think you must have your head in the sand”
    Oh boy, here we go again…. 🙁

    And before the witch-hunt ensues, It’s important to remember that most small business people can barely handle email. They honestly don’t understand what is, and is not Black/White Hat SEO. Most don’t even know what “SEO” stands for. It’s a very different situation from something that’s widely understood, like that cheating-on-a-test example. A mom & pop hardware store that hires a crook by mistake deserves a second chance… The Grad student who has presumably just spent 16+ years in the education system (from grade school through undergrad)…not so much. Apples & oranges, really.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing, Matt! This is helpful, and who knows, it may help spare a Mom & Pop shop from accidentally signing off on something they ought not to.

  35. BTW that “Insert Hidden Text Here” snippet you found is a classic! 😀

  36. Placing a “nofollow” attribute and announcing it somewhere on the site will reduce spam comments. Also I believe a web-site’s rating should be influenced by the “K.I.S.S.” principle (Keep. It. Simple. Stupid.) Is the content clearly displayed and free of clutter? I believe in a delicate balance between onpage links, ads VS Content. It drives me nuts on some search results that have three sentence on the subject and submerged in a pool of ads and links. (a perfect example of what im talking about is pcmag .com With links of everything submerged in a pool of ads and if that wasn’t enough they shoot floating ads left and right while your reading he content. I feel harassed when i go there.)

  37. eric shannon, we’ll keep looking at ways to ramp up the communication more.

    Kevin, the conference recorded it, so I didn’t have a say in blip.tv vs. YouTube. But I thought blip.tv did a fine job with hosting the video content.

  38. Thanks Matt I think Google’s biggest shortcoming is lack of individual communication with Google. If you’re site suddenly disappears, there’s no way to query Google as to why it’s gone – no I’m not talking about domain banning, I’m referring to odd changes/domain problems.

    I’d like to see Google add some sort of support ticket system that allows webmasters to go through a checklist and have actual communication with Search engineers or whatever you call those little green people that work at Google. I think Google has all the resources to help webmasters with a system like this, obviously weeding out the more simple questions and referring them to a FAQ – and sending others to a support ticket system that gets answered ideally in a timely manner.

    That would put Google into another boat amongst search engines, to be the first search engine putting transparency between the sites they index and the search engine itself. I’d say that Google would be the first search engine to give the ability to fully communicate with the people behind the search engine – and allow webmasters to report their bugs to Google with the ability to actually get a response. Right now with most search engines, it’s like talking to a wall – you’re unlikely to get a response back to a legitimate question concerning a bug.

  39. “Mark Said,
    May 12, 2008 @ 3:54 am


    2) Everyone talks about quality content, but what is this?


    That is a great question, and the answer can not be given because this is one of those examples where it doesn’t matter what you say. People will hear it in the context of what they are capable of producing them selves.

    Many (most?) people think that quality content is a lot of words on the page. Many (most?) people think that content is just words, hence the enormous amounts of garbage articles that are being published every day.

    Think of quality in the sense of: “Ability to attract links naturally”. How many webpages have you linked to yourself? Probably not that many.

    Also something to realize is that quality content can represent something that is beyond what’s written on a page. Something that people want. Now you’ll attract links, not because of what’s written in the page, but because of what it gives access to.
    That needs an example? Think of a page where you can get access to something for free.

    Now don’t think that just giving something for free will get you tons of links. The success depends on how badly people want that free something. So you need to be creative here and give something that has actual value. (not as easy as it may seem.)

    Also something to realize is that some content will never attract links, but is actually very high quality content. For example some informative pages about a certain product. These types of pages can be quality content because they may help increase your conversions. Not everything is about links.

  40. @Matt … Since you have brought the topic of adding sites to Googles Webmasters section as the best way to ‘know’. I wanted to ask something you have not seemed to have broached. I well, we as a group, have tried to find information on this but have never found anything clear.

    Is there a penalty to sites for being in large or very large groupings with the same account.

    Should we make a separate Google Webmasters account for each site.

    As a service for multiple clients do you need more than one webmasters account for the sites, ie one for your use one for the clients?

    Thanks in advance for this insight, I’m sure many would love to know.

    Oh and man…. the ‘don’t fill in this box’ , that is awesome Mr.Cutts. Thank you for the idea and pass on to the concept maker that its cool. I am suggesting that a similar ‘box’ is added to every directory owner I know. That would cut at least 80% of the spam submits right out I would guess 🙂 AWESOME

    As always bra’, great info, thanks


    Mich D

  41. “Think of quality in the sense of: “Ability to attract links naturally”. How many webpages have you linked to yourself? Probably not that many.”

    I definitely second that. An excellent rule of thumb, which has proven accurate in my own experience.

  42. Very nice Matt. Good one!

    My main concern with the state the industry is that it seems that blackhat SEO is very acceptable as a business practice these days. It seems there is not much stopping firms from spamming Google. I mean; if a blackhat site is caught spamming, they are given a couple month time frame and the penalty is lifted. I’m sure that depends on the offense, but it just seems to be something the spammers don’t mind for a few months or years of making money off their blackhat ways. I feel there needs to be a much stricter penalty or ban involved with all of this since we ARE talking about money.

    I think we all have noticed a huge increase in SEO blogs out there who are teaching how to trick Google and how to get away with things. Why is this? Why does it seem to be fashionable to be a blackhat now?

    I’m with Dave on this totally. Google should be getting to the root of the problem much more than what she is doing. Instead of simply penalizing the client; penalize the SEO who helped them as well. It should be very easy finding out the firm who helped the client spam, right?

    I’m not too happy right now with the state of things. Not at all. When the industry seems to praise and promote blackhats at most every turn, you know something is very, very wrong.

  43. Thank you Matt
    and you all
    for this productive discussion, I do learn a lot here!
    SEO is difficult matter but the open discussion on Matts blog teach us how SE looked at it.



  44. Matt,

    Have you guys ever considered a rel=”spam” method?


  45. Hay matt youre looking good – an 8 year all spam diet seems healthy!

  46. What is google doing about linkbait spam? I am in the education industry and deal with a few sites who claim to be nonprofits and use this to scam individuals and schools into linking to them.

    How can google enforce this? The results are pretty devastating. Their sites are worth tens of millions by doing this and within the top 5 on high profile terms. Do I have to sue them? They are mulit-million dollar criminal entities and they can bury me in court? Law enforcement doesn’t take much interest because it is essentially a victimless crime. The result is that this form of spam is effectively bulletproof. Google ends up indirectly encouraging huge fraud in the “outside” world which victimizes schools, librarians, etc..

  47. Matt:

    I’d like to use your presentation & speech in a SEO class that I am teaching at UC Santa Cruz Extension this summer.

    Being the good intellectual property respecting guy that I am, I wanted to ask permission first.

    Here is the link for the course. (spaces added)
    http://www. ucsc-extension.edu/ucsc/public/category/courseDetails.do?method=load&courseId=3187089&selectedCategoryId=1000075&selectedProgramAreaId=1000167&selectedProgramStreamId=1528546

    You can contact me at my email address with a yea or nea.



  48. Dave (Original)

    Maurice ,

    um NO normaly when you hire a professional you are expected to know what they are doing.


    When I go to the Doctor and have no clue about his profession.

    When I hire a Plumber I don’t expect to have to stand-over him.

    When I take my car to a Mechanic I expect him to fix it.

    Most hire “Professionals because the have NO CLUE about the profession.

  49. Dave (Original)

    And before the witch-hunt ensues, It’s important to remember that most small business people can barely handle email. They honestly don’t understand what is, and is not Black/White Hat SEO. Most don’t even know what “SEO” stands for.

    You should read your post I replied to if your memory is that bad. Here’s a clue 🙂

    @ Dave I think you have over stated the case for the existences of black hat SEOs. I think most people in the ****industry****** are honest,

    After the memory refresh you can read my other posts and see you and I agree on the point that: “Most don’t even know what “SEO” stands for…”

  50. Dave (Original)

    Have you guys ever considered a rel=”spam” method?

    Don’t you think it will abused rather than its intended purpose? I do!

  51. ErnestHemingway

    I wished I was there.
    IS there anyway to watch the whole video or seminar?
    I would really like to know more..

  52. Dave (Original)

    See Matt, this is EXACTLY the kind of crap I’m talking about


    Google wonders why those ignorant (to SEO) get banned after paying a “Professional”.

    Why doesn’t Google REFUSE to Index/Spider sites that promote and gives step-by-step details on how to spam the SEs? I mean, Google ONLY bans the effect (normally a victim who paid good money) and NOT the cause, why? I can supply a VERY long list if you like?


  53. @Dave(Original)
    I know I’m not matt…but do you really want Google policing content?
    Doing so opens them up to have to deal with a variety of judgment calls that could really only end terribly. Does Google support porn? What about certain political speech? Hate speech?
    One of the reasons Google IS so successful (in my opinion) is because they don’t really police content beyond the basic idea that it’s coherent.

  54. Great presentation Matt!!! Need more like it…

  55. Hi Matt,

    You noted in one of your slides smaller sites should find white hat SEOs that do creative link building. What would you say is OK in the framework of “creative link building”. This is where SO many people get totally confused. What is “good” link building VS. bad” link building according to Matt Cutts? Can you provide real world exampleS (yes plural) of both the good and the bad?

  56. Dave (Original)

    but do you really want Google policing content?

    No, only content on how to spam the Google.

    I get the gist of your post, but ALL those you mention have no effect on organic search results relevancy/accuracy. In contrast, SE spam ruins small business, drives searchers away and cost SE & other web business Millions per Year.

  57. Dave (Original)

    This is where SO many people get totally confused. What is “good” link building VS. bad” link building according to Matt Cutts?

    I’d guess unique quality content in the flavor of the housing site. Do that and one actually get TRUE votes 🙂

    Forget ALL about SEs and create content for humans. The irony is, that Google ranks content for humans well above SEO content. That’s because human searchers dont give 2 hoots about SEO and Google caters to its human searchers 1st and utmost.

  58. Matt,
    I wanted to extend my personal “thank you” for posting the video, What Google Knows About Spam to your blog! You have done a great job with the presentation and for getting the word out in a comprehensive manner.

    Thank you again!

  59. You say one of your favorite captchas is the one with the Foxes, where you “click all the foxes” what about people who are blind ?

  60. I see that the head moderator of that sphinn.com site chimed in at the SEJ article linked to above. This is what he wrote:

    ” evilgreenmonkey on May 13, 2008 at 2:46 am

    Great post Ann, I’ll be covering the same technique in my presentation at SMX Advanced.”

    That pretty much sums up the state of the industry nicely. It truly does seem that Google and other se’s and many, many SEO’s in this industry totally approve of this stuff. Afterall; many out there including the se’s support all of these conferences, right?

  61. Thanks for the video… great to show people who have no idea about bad SEO and web spam. I can’t count the number of people who ask us to get them in the top of search engines, and then follow it up with something like “can’t you just stuff the word XYZ in our page 1000 times?”

  62. Hi Dave,

    Thank you for responding, but unfortunately that did not fully answer my question. Hopefully, Matt can chime in with real world exampleS of what a creative link building campaign is…From what I can see for almost any competitive keyword, 8 out of 10 sites that are on the first page have implemented a concerted link building campaign. If you check their backlinks you will find a cornucopia of different backlinking methods:

    On Blogs – you clearly have paid for, but unmarked as such links. So the links are not entitled with “paid” or “ads” or sponsored. They have the external links to sites under “”my friends”, or they write about their “reviews” of the particular website.

    Directories – Lots of types, lots of ways. Some are paid (violation here?) some are free. Some give a description of the site, some don’t. What’s good and what’s bad?

    Widgets – Many have created all sorts of widgets and tools. The widget gives a link back to some site other than the site the widget is being hosted on. The user gets the widget for free, but they need to give a link back. Good or bad?

    Link Exchanges – From everything I have read, these are almost always “bad” unless you trade just a few links with sites that are related to your site. If I am mistaken, please correct me.

    I really need to see several exampleS of both “good” linking methods and “bad” link methods so that I and others reading this will stay within the guidelines. Plus those that have unknowingly violated the guidelines can if possible fix their mistakes before their sites (and lives) are ruined.

  63. @Peter (IMC) “Think of quality in the sense of: “Ability to attract links naturally”. How many webpages have you linked to yourself? Probably not that many.” Your statement is a clear statement which I guess all internet marketing comes down to. The question is how, in a non Spammy way, that does not waste the marketers time or more important the people who read the pages which you create. Even if it is not Spam, people create worthless pages which take up space.

    I think again it comes down to creating content people will read and find of value, and maybe I am weak with the marketing part, but real value seems to attract visits for me, even if I do not have many links. But you are right, many sites have value but get few visits. So if anyone knows a marketing secrete I am all ears.

  64. Mark,
    Worthless pages usually don’t attract any links. But I understand your worry. The taking up of space, even of non spam pages, is not a concern. That is pretty normal and to be expected in a free society. It is up to the search engines to deal with this, which they are pretty good at by the way.

    “My main concern with the state the industry is that it seems that blackhat SEO is very acceptable as a business practice these days.”

    Aren’t you a little bit too worried? Do you see that many spam results in Google? Sometimes you may argue that a page is not related, but that doesn’t automatically mean it’s spam. There are very few search results where I’m like: “D@mn, a spam site.”

    The fact that people are so openly discussing how to spam may be an indication that they just are having more difficulties spamming.

    Your suggestion that Google should be more agressive is the wrong approach if you ask me. Combatting spam through penalties is the correct way because it increases awareness. Those normal websites that use hidden text and some other relatively innocent techniques aren’t the spammers you are so worried about. And I’m pretty sure that the professional spammers aren’t complaining when a site of theirs gets kicked out. That’s a calculated risk they took.

  65. Matt,
    I recently reported several sites that were cloaking, to my amazement the home pages that were reported were gone from Google Serps within 3 days.

    But their sites remain listed in the map section on top, as well as sub-pages within the site are still indexed.
    Does Google remove all pages eventually or will they leave the pages that were not cloaked in the index

    Thanks for your insight

  66. Hi Peter, You are right; it’s not the innocents that I’m worried about at all. It’s many in the SEO industry promoting blackhat tactics and blackhat firms. That gets under my skin big time. Google should do more to combat the actual firms who practice and teach and promote the crap. Where did some website owner who did not pay for help learn about this stuff?

    From the SEO industry as it exists today.

  67. Dave (Original)

    Great post Ann, I’ll be covering the same technique in my presentation at SMX Advanced.”Google sponsors this? Looks like 1 department of Google SUPPORTS SE spam, while another punishes the victims of it.

    It’s no wonder so many INNOCENT Webmasters pay for blackhats selfish greed.

  68. Dave (Original)


    Great post Ann, I’ll be covering the same technique in my presentation at SMX Advanced.

    Google sponsors this? Looks like 1 department of Google SUPPORTS SE spam, while another punishes the victims of it.

    It’s no wonder so many INNOCENT Webmasters pay for blackhats selfish greed.

  69. Mike Schinkel, I would worry about rel=spam that some bloggers would get sloppy, so you could try to hurt a competitor by spamming in their name and getting bloggers to blacklist them. We’ve seen small-scale versions of that with Akismet where Danny Sullivan’s and Shoemoney’s comments sometimes get marked as spam because someone else spammed a blog while pretending to be Danny or Shoemoney.

    CVOS man, I need to write up a “Fitness Plan for Software Engineers” that I’ve been doing for the last few months. 🙂

    John32t, feel free to use that speech or parts of it for your class.

    ErnestHemingway, you literally saw everything of mine that the audience saw. I just had a 10 minute presentation and you can see the rest of the keynotes if you follow the first link in my post. It is nice to watch from home without paying $1000 or however much it cost. 🙂

    Raffi, see http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/seo-advice-getting-links/ for some advice I wrote a couple years ago and just recently posted. Essentially, if you can make such a compelling service or resource that it attracts editorial links all by itself, that’s one of the best ways.

    There are very few search results where I’m like: “D@mn, a spam site.”

    Peter (IMC), you’re touching on an important point. We certainly prioritize user-visible spam highly, because that’s the stuff that annoys our users the most. But beyond that, we also start to think more about spam that is less visible, plus issues like bias and skew in our results.

  70. Dave (Original)

    Nice cherry picking, Matt 🙂

  71. Hi Matt, alway great to hear you talk it encourages me to think you are not out to get everysite I create! 🙂

    When talking about spam you might like to check out the SPAM song by Monthy Pythons Flying Circus.

  72. Hi Matt,

    First of all thank you for taking the time to respond. However, I would like to further expand the article you posted in March. In essence, you are suggesting writing compelling content, so much so that others would link to it as a “reference” of sort.

    Although this is possible with a highly trafficked site or blog, it does not seem practical with most commercial sites. For example, how compelling can the content of a dog walker site be? How compelling can the content of a medical transcription service site be? Even if the content is nothing short of spectacular, what lets anyone know about the site in the first place? People need to know the site is there in the first place for them to read the content and find it so astonishingly appealing that they would link to it. It seems like a catch-22…

    Most commercial sites are not “sexy.” There is not much content they can add to their sites that would be compelling enough for anyone to link to. In addition, most blog sites nowadays have the nofollow tag on them so the backlinks would not count and as a result the rankings would not increase (minus a slight increase if the site somehow received significant traffic and became sticky).

    I find this black box on proper link building to be nothing short of an enigma. We are left guessing as to what is “right” and what is “wrong.”

    Consider this – what if someone was buying ads via their Adwords rep on Google for a site that offered widgets. This person works with their Adwords rep who recommends a slew of keywords that will get traffic to the site. So the ads roll out and people find the widget site via a Google ad, sign-up and place the widget on their site. People do not need to compensate the widget site with actual dollars, they just need to give credit to the widget site by linking to it and to one other site. Is that “wrong” and if it is “wrong” do you penalize any site that benefited, including the free widget site knowing that Google sold the ad in the first place?

    Your clarification on these matters, specifically the very detailed widget scenario I described above, would be very beneficial to webmasters who wish to comply with guidelines and your recommendation in the video of “creative” link building.

    I thank you in advance for your detailed response and for the energy you put into your blog clarifying things for the community.

  73. I have seen a few sites by major companies use hidden text and redirects etc, however, if after they have been reported they still remain in the top ten of google results, months latter, is this because google might not consider it spam? They do it in a very subtle way but for me if the text is different from what I am view this is a spam site. The funny thing is they are major sites and do not need to try to distort results.

  74. Hi Matt,

    The idea to put the keynote and the video of your conference here is simply great 🙂

    Sorry to bug you but talking about spam, Gmail has a severe problem with its spam filter now, there is a dscussion below related to the problem

  75. @ Mark: “The funny thing is they are major sites and do not need to try to distort results.”

    And that’s the rub… When a site becomes “major” enough, they can largely get away with anything. For instance, could you ever imagine Google blacklisting the New York Times’ site for selling paid links?

    When a site gets to a certain point of popularity &/or reputation they become, effectively “above the law” because Google knows that if users can’t find that NYT article on Google, they’ll simply head to Yahoo or someone else. At that point, Google simply makes a strategic business decision to keep that popular site in their index, rather than run the risk of losing that user to another SE.

  76. @Hmmm here is an example of “above the law” Rosetta Stone language software which is #1 for “learn a language” and IMO is not great software, but they are just a big company. They in their index page cloak text and hide links. And if you view their source code it says

    .jsclass body .randomcontent{ /*Do NOT remove! CSS to hide random contents in JS enabled browsers*/
    display: none;}

    If any other company did this they would get in trouble. They use “display none” to stuff keywords and other clear violations on their site. But I guess they have become so big that they can get away with it and not even care to hide their tracks. The wrong is done to google users because Rosetta is big but poor quality and very commercial, while other people have honest, non cheating sites of pure value and quality but to not get ranked. So I guess it is about money why google does not nuke them.

  77. Rosetta even leaves in their source code for all to see “BEGIN FRIGHTFULLY DIRTY JS ” this is where their JS script beings to hide text and links.

  78. Really agree that concentrating on content is the way to achieve good things – and its great that Google seems to agree with this. At the end of the day, it is hard to get away from the fact that search engines should bring up the most relevant and potentially useful result at number 1 position for whatever was searched… followed by the next most relevant… and the next. Somewhere along the line, most people seem to be forgetting this point.

    Make your piece of content the most useful piece of information in the world on your given subject, theme or phrase, and you’ll DESERVE to be in the top spots. SEO just helps the spiders know what you’re talking about. Your content is what gets you links and repeat visitors.

    Further, if you’re selling something, you should consider paying to advertise rather than expecting to rank first by virtue of the fact that you happen to be in business.

    That’s enough venting from me. Good speech.

  79. Google is both a commercial and non-commercial search engine. If I search for dog walkers in Los Angeles, I expect Google to bring up sites of dog walkers in Los Angeles.

    If Google did not bring up those commercial dog walker sites, I would cease using Google as would the masses. Google searches will then primarily consist of “how to…” searches and name lookup searches done by those doing background checks on their dates…

    Aside the above, sticking to the Matt Cutts presentation video to which my comments are about, Matt stated larger sites should use internal linking and smaller sites should use creative link building and marketing. If you watch the video in its entirety he is clearly referencing commercial sites. To that end, I and many others, need a clear definition of what creative link building is, so that we can stay within the guidelines.

    My scenario of the “widget” site above is a direct question that if Matt would answer, in detail by explaining his logic of sites penalized/not penalized and point of view, would settle a lot of confusion as to what “creative link building” is. A response of refer to my post on… will probably only add to the confusion as I have searched through hundreds of pages of Matt Cutts posts and have not found a direct answer to the “widget” creative link building question above.

  80. Dave (Original)

    To that end, I and many others, need a clear definition of what creative link building is, so that we can stay within the guidelines.

    The best and most orginal method for link building (and fast becoming a thing of the past) is frequently adding unique quality content in flavor with the site. Link OUT to other trusted sources (if it helps the user on the page) and submit to some directories such as DMOZ, Yahoo and a few others. ANY directory that requires a link back, is one to be avoived at all costs. As too are ANY that use cost based submission based on link value. Pay ONLY what you think direct click traffic is worth. For most directories, inluding DMOZ that works out to $0.00. Yahoo IMO, is not worth anywhere near the cost they charge.

    Content IS king and always will be. It takes work and research, but, by design, there are NO long lasting shortcuts for doing well in Google.

  81. Dave (Original)

    Matt, if don’t like Google to be seen sponsoring ‘how to spam us’, why not raise the concern WITH relevant Google department as apposed to removing my link that shows Google sponsor the SMX?

  82. Matt, you claim webmasters tools alerts users to “hacks”, does this include any true form of hacking? Sounds to me like at most, it alerts users to content shifting towards black-hat SEO techniques. Your statement using the term “hack” is pretty bold for what the service actually offers.

  83. Matt –

    I too would like to know the answer to the above link building question. Why not advise people on that?

  84. Matt,

    Interesting what you said about less visible spam. Made me think about how you can diferentiate between for example what is link spam and what is promotion. I can imagine that link variation and link history play a big role, but the professional spammers should be able to deal with that.

    If the content of a site is no longer visible spam and the html is clean too, then you can even argue it is no longer a spam site. The same logic applies to links. If you, as a spammer, make sure you get around the spam detection algorithms, then you pretty much aren’t a spammer anymore. If the spam detection is that good of course.

    I can understand that a filter that only lets the good things through is never as good as a filter that takes the bad things out. Blocking some good things is worse than letting some bad things through.

    It seems to me that the professional spammers now are at a level where they create a network of sites that is so much interconnected with the rest of the web that they´re hard to detect, but are in fact what Google considers the ideal world. That’s how good you and your team are at spam detection. The only thing left is the content. Wouldn’t you need some form of Artificial Intelligence for that?

  85. Dave (Original)

    If you, as a spammer, make sure you get around the spam detection algorithms, then you pretty much aren’t a spammer anymore.

    Rubbish. That’s like saying, if you are NOT *caught* cheating at a card game, “then you pretty much aren’t a” cheater. If you are not *caught* cheating in your marriage, “then you pretty much aren’t” cheating.

  86. Not taking it out of context, it is not rubbish.. 🙂

  87. “For example, how compelling can the content of a dog walker site be?”

    This is where you lost me, Raffi. I’d want to hear all the dog walker stories, the cases of interesting clients, how people view dog walkers. If you haven’t read True Porn Clerk Stories, it’s an amazing example of taking a 9-to-5 job and turning it into a really compelling bunch of content. So my short answer would be to look for an on-topic, yet creative hook or angle.

  88. Dave (Original)

    Peter, as I quoted YOUR words, it’s NOT out of context. Why just admit is was silly statement?

  89. Hi Matt,

    First of all thank you for responding:)

    Okay:-) So someone creates the most amazing, the most mind boggling fictionally and intricately woven dog walker content of all time. All the while having the notion that “content is king” on her mind. She publishes her content, sits back and waits. She hopes if she writes it, the dog walking clients will come. But will they? How will they know the site is there in the first place? Now, if her dog walking site was prominently ranked on the first or even second page, since her site is being found I can see how she would get more natural links and get her site ranked even higher. The rich get richer…The highly ranked get ranked even higher with good content, but what happens to those that have no visible rankings? How will their stories be read in the first place?

    In the true porn clerk story you mentioned, here is how the site got read in the first place and how she got links as taken from the site itself:

    “For a while, it was a well kept secret how good her journal was. Then she appeared on NPR’s “This American Life” and all hell broke loose.”

    In addition, it is a journal and not really a small commercial website like the one you alluded to in your video and the type of site I have in mind. The porn clerk story is asking for a paypal donation…

    In any event, I certainly don’t want to pester you as I truly appreciate you taking the time, but staying in line with your comments on the video of creative link building. Is the below OK and if not, why not?

    Consider this – what if someone was buying ads via their Adwords rep on Google for a site that offered widgets. This person works with their Adwords rep who recommends a slew of keywords that will get traffic to the site. So the ads roll out and people find the widget site via a Google ad, sign-up and place the widget on their site. People do not need to compensate the widget site with actual dollars, they just need to give credit to the widget site by linking to it and to one other site. Is that “wrong” and if it is “wrong” do you penalize any site that benefited, including the free widget site knowing that Google sold the ad in the first place?

    Once again, for you to take the time to respond to all these people asking questions is totally commendable…Thank you!

  90. Read the whole paragraph Dave, or the whole post for that matter. Taking one sentence and commenting on just that sentence is taking it out of context.

    Spamming in order to make money is bad and anoying, but spamming blogs to get more attention is extremely enoying. If you don’t have anything other to do than searching for things to critize then go take a walk or something but stay away from your computer.

  91. Matt,

    Found your slides interesting, but the types of spam you displayed was really old school. I would hope Google knows more about spam than what you talked about.

    I personally know you do, but I think that your software algorithms have focused so much in detecting spam, that they make big mistakes and penalize sites that have earned the public’s trust for many years, even before Google was around.

    I have one such site that spends more time in Google’s penalty box and the site is not a spam site at all, but a Public Service!

    You mentioned to sign-up to Google’s webmaster and you would alert a site if there was something wrong.

    Hmmm, out of all my sites that have signed-up to this, they have never got a message from Google even when I have requested a reply.

    I would really like to communicate with you Matt, but not in this forum.
    Matt, I have some ideas for new features at Google.


  92. I just wanted to say that I was thoroughly impressed with your presentation.

    No “Ums”, “Likes”, “You Knows”, and dear lord thank you for not reading the slides verbatim. =)

    Not to mention the subject material was extremely interesting and insightful as well. =D

    Thanks for all the great work Matt.

  93. Matt,

    The site I mentioned in my last comment, came out of Google’s penalty box shortly after I posted it here and has stayed out until yestarday.

    Again, this is not a spam site, but seems to be caught-up in your spam algorithms. Can you please take a look at the site?


  94. I have noticed more and more instances of fake press releases showing up on google lately.

    For example a company posts a link to a press release about being honored by an association, then they link to the associations website.

    You go to the associations website listed in the press release and find out through a whois that the domain was just recently created, and owned by the company who the press release was about.

  95. Spam is the ONLY way to ma to make money on the web
    I live in poor country and my family is the most important to me
    You live in comfort and can smile all the way to the bank

    What is better?

    1. Spend HALF year optimizing site for few keywords and loose first position overnight because someone do it better

    2. Made mass pages and after 5 days make 10 to 20 $ a day

    Really – 2 options is the ONLY logical choice for thinking peoples


  96. Hi!

    The more spam there was, the richer Google got.

    from http://www.scroogle.org/bubble.html



    PS: I try to say it at all ways; but no reaction:

    Globalisation Ballet is dancing in Heiligendamm the expensive dance of NoDecision.

  97. Question is what does Google do about a Gmail Account Holder spamming many Google Groups over a week?

    And the answer is NOTHING, even those The Gmail Account Holder have reported many times to Google, in fact not doing anything Google is helping the spammer and if so how much commission does Google get from the spammer?

  98. Question…

    I did comment some nice photos on Panoramio and in one or two days I got dozens of links coming into my site, I understand that It happened because did write my link, that´s ok, however and because Panoramio´s system my comments multiplied by 4 times more or less to other users´s comments…

    Is this Spam?

  99. Google needs to start clamping down on repetition across and within domains. Many many site owners (especially web designers) create multiple sites where the only page text that changes is a reference to the business location.
    This lot have covered almost the entire UK.
    Returns 160+ index’d sites all with practically identical page text.
    Why isn’t google doing anything about this sort of thing?

  100. Francis Scriven

    I don’t really see the point that SEO or paying someone to do SEO for you is not the same as spamming. The whole point of pagerank, which still is so important for Google, is that it is based on a presumption that links coming into your site are out of your control and therefore they should count as a vote towards the authority of your site. However, if you do have control of links coming in then you are dispruting that basic concept. Those people with the greatest money or resources are disrupting or manipulating page rank. Imagine I have a very relevant page for the user’s search terms but my links are not there because I’ve not had the money to employ an SEO team, my page will most likely be further down in the rankings. Link building is the de facto method of achieving high search rankings in Google, how can this be?

  101. Hey, the video was sound,
    I have had loads of unique hits from China, seems to look like some kind of spam?
    Does anyone know whats going on?

  102. I couldn’t see the video .. it is streaming only but not playing 🙁
    Any direct links pls?

  103. First I’d like to say that quality content is notably valued by Google and that it gets indexed and can rank quite highly with almost no optimization (via links) under certain conditions, if for example the keywords being targeted are low in competition and the content is highly relevant to the search term. So thanks to Google for making this possible.

    What I find difficult to do, is to optimize an article that provides quality content on a topic for which there is high competition and no single obvious keyword phrase. It could be a truly excellent article and never ever be seen because its on a SER page 582. The article is relevant to the site topic but specific to its own subtopic. If it were read perhaps it could garner links – hence bookmarking linkbuilding – which if done personally is a form of spam.

    If anyone can suggest a non spam way of bringing such quality content to the attention of people who might read it, and link to it, I’d love to know about it.