Adam Lasnik took a bold step forward recently at GWHG and opened up the forum for suggestions for Googler’s to respond to. In his own words:
We invite you to ask questions in this thread that:
- don’t deal with a specific site or sites
- are likely to be of interest to a great many webmasters around the world
- aren’t already covered in one of our recent blog posts or in our Help Center
I thought I’d take a stab at identifying some questions from every day non-professional SEO’s and web developers standpoint. This is based on my experience in GWHG and just some of the many often repeated questions we see. I was trying to be cognisant of the limitations that Googler’s must impart on themselves when offering information as we don’t want to help any spammers inadvertently. None of these are too in depth, nor all too insightful but they are FAQ that I don’t see answered (at least clearly) in their documentation. So here goes my list of subjects I think should be addressed:
- Paid links clarification – There are two areas that need clarification with this issue. The Help Center says, ” Buying links in order to improve a site’s ranking is in violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines and can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results” yet we’ve heard from people like Adam Lasnik that, “the more common penalty applied in the case of linking schemes is for the link seller to have their ability to pass PageRank stripped away” By more common, I’m GUESSING that both the seller and the buyer can be penalized. However, what scares me, and probably most people is not understanding how the buyer is penalized as those are links on other sites and we’ve been told all along that other sites cannot harm your ranking. The other area that I’d like to see addressed is the Paid Directories references. Google pushes the yahoo directory in their guidelines, and Matt Cutts has defended them and give some guidelines on deciding whether or not a paid directory will be penalized or not. One of those directives centers around the review process that Yahoo! uses. Is there somewhere I can apply to be granted the status us a reviewer? Is charging for links that are not nofollowed fine if you don’t accept all applications and clearly state it on the site? Is this a privilege reserved for Yahoo! or can others gain this status?
- Bad neighborhood – Not linking to a bad-neighborhood is often the advice given when evaluating a site. How are we supposed to determine what is a bad neighborhood anymore? Banned sites no longer have their PageRank gray barred, sites often have a ranking penalty applied while still showing all of their pages indexed, with the expansion of the supplemental index most sites can get almost all of their pages at least indexed. Is there any signal to look for other than a site being completely removed from the index?
- Nofollow funneling vs. robots.txt, or both - Matt Cutts said, “The nofollow attribute is just a mechanism that gives webmasters the ability to modify PageRank flow at link-level granularity. Plenty of other mechanisms would also work (e.g. a link through a page that is robot.txt’ed out)” I can see how using nofollow on some of the links on a page will increase the value passed to the remaining links as the density has change, but I don’t understand the use of the robots.txt. Does this mean that if I had a page with 100 links on it and 99 of those links went to a pages that were blocked by robots.txt when the PageRank distribution is calculated the one link to a page that is not blocked would receive 100% of credit? After finding the links on a page and then visiting them and seeing a robots.txt block, does Google go back and recalculate the link juice for that page?
- Incremental penalties - Various webmaster forums have long heated debates over minus this and minus that penalties. Could you expand on the existence of such actions where a site is just across the board demoted for everything. If it doesn’t exist it would be nice to hear that as well.
- Homepage missing - Many, many, people have found their homepage missing yet the other pages on the site are still there. Is this an indication of anything, a bug, a hiccup, something to worry about, going to fix itself? Anything you can say on that would be great, it’s just happened too often to be coincidence.
- Not ranking for your domain - One of the great many indicators that people use to determine if a site has suffered some sort of penalty is the “doesn’t rank for the domain name” test. Is there any validity to this? Or is it just misguided?
- Meta tags - Could you please make a statement on which Metatags Google considers useful for it’s system?
- No Messages - The message box in Webmaster Tools is great, though as you’ve stated you don’t notify 100% of penalties. The problem is that I don’t think its clear to people that not having a message does not mean you don’t have a penalty,the same goes for sitemap errors, robots.txt errors etc. People have flipped it to believe that a lack of a notice means that everything is fine. A post stating clarifying that would be wonderful
- Reconsideration Request– I’ve seen it stated elsewhere but not officially the time it usually takes and the fact that multiple reconsideration requests aren’t looked on as a negative, something official would help.
- Procedure for cross domain and in domain redirecting, is there a spamming threshold - What is the official stance on how to implement a sitewide redirect to a new domain, slowly, in chunks, all at once? The same for an in-site reconstruction. Is there an element of spam detection if someone 301’s too much?
- Mythbusters post - I’d love to see some sort of mythbusting, official, post debunking some of the common Myths that you can.
- Spam, paid link reporting fallacies - Once of the biggest reasons some people believe they’ve dropped down in the index is because someone has reported them as spam or as a link seller. Adam on the other hand has said in a comment before that you could report a site 40 million times and it won’t hurt their ranking (of course they could be dumped if they were indeed spamming). A statement to the point that if you are a good site, other people can’t harm you by submitting reports.
- Bad External Links - Often people come to the group wondering if a link to them on some crap site is hurting them, I’d like to see an official statement to point to.
Like I said, nothing to in depth, just some of the more common questions and misconception that I’d like to see expounded upon.