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March 11, 2013

Google Opens Up About Manual WebSpam Removals

On the first of March, Google Product Manager Jake Hubert announced a new interactive infographic by Google called How Search Works. The infographic allows visitors to get insight into what happens between the request of a search query and the retrieval of results, which Google says happens “billions of times a day in the blink of an eye.” The graphic is broken into three sections, which briefly go into crawling and indexing, the algorithm, and Google’s measures against webspam, both automatic and manual.

The piece is a follow-up to one released last year, The Story of Send, which reveals the path of an email around the world. The new graphic is relatively simple and aesthetically pleasing; it would serve as a nice introduction to search but experienced webmasters are unlikely to glean anything new from the piece. The third section, Fighting Spam, however, has some interesting information about Google’s penalization process.

This section details the types of webspam Google most often takes action against, with a chart showing the prevalence of various techniques over time. They explain the process of notifying spammy site owners and receiving reconsideration requests, with timelines for these as well. Perhaps the most interesting feature of the new graphic, however, is a section with live webspam screenshots. When you click “See what we’ve removed lately” you can see a semi-live feed of sites that Google has manually removed from their index.

Usually the feed shows sites removed in the past hour, but only about 46 or so at a time – which is why RustyBrick created a webspam archive. Their archive has, at the time of writing, more than 3,000 screenshots pulled from the infographic. There is also a search to see if one of your own sites was included. (Remember, however, that the search only checks if your site is among the manual webspam examples given by Google, not if your site was automatically penalized or manually removed but not included.)

Also included with the How Search Works infographic is a 43-page guide detailing how Google manually evaluates quality. The Search Quality Rating Guidelines document, however, is actually a much-condensed version of an earlier one never released publicly, but leaked among webmasters. The earlier, 161-page list of guidelines was intended to be a handbook for quality raters to use when evaluating relevance of sites and whether or not they should be manually removed from Google’s search index.

Search Engine Land posted a very long list of all of the changes they found between the most recent leaked document and the one made public by Google with How Search Works. While some of the changes are to be expected (they removed details about how to use the rating interface), others are a little more interesting. They emphasize that quality raters “do not directly impact Google’s search result rankings or ranking algorithms,” and a number of actual URLs used as examples have been removed. Search Engine Land’s Matt McGee gives two possible explanations for the removal of the examples: that Google wants to stay vague about the actual examples and ranking system, or that they did not want to have to constantly maintain this list as the internet is an ever-changing place.

Despite the cutbacks to the document, it is not often that Google opens up like this and makes any element of the ranking process public. Though hopefully you are not creating spammy web content yourself, it can be very useful to have this peek into exactly what the search giant considers spammy or low-quality. This knowledge can take a site that’s on the edge of being potential webspam back into safety.

Though the whole guide is a useful read (and trimmed down to 43 pages it’s unlikely to be a very time-consuming read, either), the conclusion gives a good half-page summary of exactly what characteristics belong to webspam pages and which belong to good pages. In particular, if a rater is unsure of whether to mark the page spam or not, they are told to ask themselves the following questions:

* Does the page provide the user with a good search experience?
* Does the page contain original content that would be helpful to users?
* Do you think the page should be included in a set of search results?
* Is the page designed for users? Is there a human element to the page?
* If you removed the PPC ads and copied text from the page, is there useful content remaining?

At a bare minimum, these are good qualities to keep in mind anytime you build a website.

Adrienne Erin is an Internet marketer who works for several online business schools. She is always interested in the latest news from Google.

24 Responses to “Google Opens Up About Manual WebSpam Removals

    I am really impressed by the efforts Google is putting in regarding security, keeping in mind that people are really being affected badly by these spammers and wanted Google to do something in order to control it. Thanks for sharing the news I think this will really help a lot of people.

    i had no idea that google does webspam removals would be quite time consuming or much hectic. Or may be not for google.. thanks for your this useful information

    avatar Adrienne says:

    They do as much as they can automatically, but I imagine they do so much manually because the algorithm probably identifies a lot of false positives – websites that shouldn’t be marked as spam but are by the algorithm.

    avatar Shilpi Roy says:

    Very informative post. Google comes up with great innovations. As more and more people are using Social media tools they get used to Google. So its very important for Google to have a good security and hence this manual webspam removal is as addition to the growth for Google.

    avatar ZeroMile says:

    New improvements. Thanks for info.

    Very interesting and something that all bonafide webmasters are happy about Im sure

    avatar BlokeToys says:

    Such a shame Google only applies such rules to small businesses while allowing their top corporate retailers to dominate the search results with weak or copy/paste content.

    Hard to believe anything Google ever says these days when you work your butt off to make your pages as unique and informative as possible (completely beating what the competition does) and STILL get nothing back from them.

    avatar Coffee Lover says:

    Its funny how the seductive slight reveal always works! We love you google, and your manual span removal is fantastic, there are a lot of low paid workers out there in the world hired to try and rank garbage sites.

    avatar John says:

    I believe they will incorporate human filters into the algorithm more & more in the future.

    avatar Adrienne says:

    Or at least algorithms that mimic human filters!

    avatar Robert says:

    Google is trying to dig a hole in the ocean. I get that much spam submitted to my directory weekly. As we do a human edit, it does not get added in the first place, so it doen’t have to be removed later. A problem not mentioned, is when these black listed domains are sold, b and g refuse to consider them even though the new site content is totally different. You spend months trying to figure out what’s wrong with the site, then try another domain and bingo it’s indexed.

    avatar D.M says:

    I have to say that I read this blog (SPN) daily and the advice I’ve gotten is so good that I created a site using every single bit of knowledge I’ve learned here and in less than 5 weeks after publishing it’s in the top 4 serp results consistently for ALL major keywords and search terms!!! I can’t believe it!

    Thanks to all of you who post these great tidbits of information! We’ve already booked over 20k worth of business since publishing with $0 in advertising costs!

    Yes, we’re a ‘small’ business but if these results continue we’ll be ‘medium’ before we know it.

    Following the simple new rules of unique fresh original non-repeated content really works! For us at least.

    avatar Ion Saliu says:

    This is a bunch of Google moles and Google addicts! If Google were sane, their search engine would simply ignore irrelevant links. Why waste so many resources by punishing like a cruel god?!

    All webmasters have the right to increase traffic, including by entering their sites’ addresses in various directories. In fact, Google has terrible links as well, including from porno sites (with ‘Search powered by Google’ boxes!)

    avatar Ion Saliu says:

    Not to mention the very lucrative Google AdWords business with porno sites – the biggest chunk of AdWords (porno sites pay a lot more per ad and click!)

    “…a 43-page guide detailing how Google manually evaluates quality…” is pure and knowing damned lies!

    Google has done everything but put cyanide in our servers to prevent our news releases, documented prophecies and commentaries from our SUBSCRIPTION lists and those searching for our information.

    Google doesn’t like ANTI-COMMUNISTS as our blocked and returned emails clearly document – along with our ZERO ‘rating’ in their reputed ‘search’ …

    And, FOR THE RECORD, we will not suck their socialist behinds at any time for any reason. If those Marxist cracked pots want changes, THEY can make them.

    Colonel Robert F. Cunningham,

    avatar juergen dorn says:

    it’s okay, I see some positive ranking effects for clients, which have been compromised with bad links built by angry competitors, so let’s see …

    : ) bR

    Hi Erin,
    I really like the animated Infographic that you shared at the beginning of the post. It’s a long Infographic but an interesting one. It is really inspiring to see such animations and it motivates me to think creatively to work on ideas & produce such meaningful animated Infographics.

    As far as the summary is concerned, I agree with you. Basically it just boils down to those 5
    reasons to perform well in Google.

    Thanks for the Infographic & the summary. You just made my day!

    avatar Ted and Dani says:

    Ahh we have a new god, thy name is Google. Will a day come when all us non believers in the Big G band together and bring about change?

    avatar Sudarto says:

    We have to be careful with what would be done by Google related optimization of website. Thank for your new information.

    Google uses to hire third-part companies to do the bulky part of this manual evaluation of websites and search results. Then, the preliminary results are evaluated by Google staff to result in a list of websites to be penalised.

    avatar Nina says:

    It is good that Google notifies website owners of spammy links so, that they are aware of why Google may penalize them if he so chooses

    avatar Hammad Baig says:

    Very interesting and something that all bonafide webmasters are happy about Im sure

    avatar anonymous says:

    Spam is mostly not a problem for me, because I don’t publish my email, and I am careful with the services I register for.

    The only spam I get is from Site Pro News. Lots of it.

    I am not a registered user of this site. I have not given my details, and I am not stupid enough to click any unsubscribe links.

    avatar says:

    Very informative post. Google comes up with great innovations. As more and more people are using Social media tools they get used to Google.

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