I’m no stranger to Google’s reconsideration request. I’ve helped dozens if not hundreds of people scour their sites, identify possible violations, implement changes, and compose the reconsideration request. I don’t do this as a professional cause but as an extension of my efforts in helping webmasters in Google’s Webmaster Help Group. Perhaps its because I choose the sites I want to work with and only cater to the ones that I believe are acting in ignorance rather than more devious intentions, but my success rate is quite high. There’s never been a case I couldn’t solve, then again this is probably due to my selective choices and not my mad Google skills. Either way, I know of what I speak.
Which brings me to an interesting situation that I was alerted of in twitter, saw in Sphinn, and then saw unfold on Dazzlin Donna’s take on SEO news, tips and theories SEO Scoop Blog. If you take the time to read Donna’s post you’ll see that she was caught up in the paid links dragnet and lost some of her visible PageRank. After a while she decided to demonetize her blog and set it up to comply with Google’s guidelines regarding paid links. She’s not Yahoo! so her time and opinion in choosing which sites to review are not worthy of being compensated for if they contain an active link (Google’s opinion, not mine). After cleaning up the site she submitted a reconsideration request to Google. Time passed and yet her PageRank penalty persisted. Five weeks passed and she has finally found some resolution, though not through Google’s reconsideration request, but through the only solution that will actually work.
From my outsiders point of view and without any inside knowledge, the situation unfolded like this.
- Sometime in late December a reconsideration request was filed.
- Five weeks passed…
- Donna posts her plight to her blog
- A twitter is sent out.
- The post is Sphunn.
- 20 people sphunn it.
- The Sphinn goes hot 2 hours later.
- Matt Cutts comments on her blog, scolding her for her non-scalable method of approaching the situation, but offers to help.
- Matt offers to look into another commenter’s site.
- Matt says that her disclosure policy could be the problem.
- Donna changes her policy and responds that she did so.
- Matt emails the Google employee charged with reviewing Donna’s request. Apparently there is another post that is still passing PageRank that was paid for.
- Donna fixes the post and comments that she did so.
- Matt points out another violation.
- Donna fixes that violation.
- Matt praises his team and says that they will get to it soon.
I would not have thought of how obtuse this whole process was had it not been for Matt saying, “In general you want to go with the reconsideration request approach rather than invoking me (that’s not scalable :)” [my emphasis] Obviously this process is not scalable at all. Here we have someone who’s worked on fixing her site, made some substantial changes, submitted a request for review, and apparently missed some things. What she missed was exactly the same problem that she already admitted guilt to in the reconsideration request, but rather than offering any help Google files the request in the circular file and ignores the problem.
Since the majority of site owners don’t know Matt Cutts, know how to use social sites to get attention to their blog, don’t have blogs for that matter, and if they did probably wouldn’t get Matt to write six comments on their blog and send an email on their behalf, this is not a scalable solution.
A scalable solution would be the following:
- Site owner fixes site and submits a reconsideration request.
- Google reviews the site and finds some outstanding violations.
- Google sends a message back in the site owners webmaster’s tools message center saying, “We have received and reviewed your request for consideration. Unfortunately at this time we are unable to act on your request due to continued possible violations of our Webmaster Guidelines. Please feel free to review the Webmaster’s Guidelines, make any changes that you find appropriate and resubmit your reconsideration request”
- Site owner digs deeper and sends in request.
- Google responds with another note, “We have received and reviewed your request for consideration. It appears that your site is now within our guidelines.”
Notice that I didn’t even say that Google had to specifically say what violation they had. I didn’t even specify whether or not a penalty has ever existed or has been lifted. What I did do is “COMMUNICATE“. Letting the site owner at least know that they are being heard. Google’s response can be an automated one with only two possibilities. I’m sure their is a radio button somewhere on a computer somewhere that a Google employee is clicking when they review a reconsideration request. It wouldn’t be too much to program one of two auto-responses depending on the status of that button. That would be a scalable solution.
Their communication efforts in the help groups and their webmasters blog have been quite admirable lately, but there still is a disjoint between your average webmasters and those who know how to get to Matt Cutts, and that is just not right. Not right at all. I’ve heard many people say and write that one thing you should look for on an SEO’s resume is whether or not they know any search engine engineers, this situation just adds that, and that is just not right. Not right at all.
Having Matt Cutts be the voice of Google out there writing on his own blog, commenting on people’s sites, and occasionally penning something on the official webmaster’s blog is great and wonderful for the community that watches that sort of thing. I just believe that those people are a small subset of the actual webmaster population and the majority should not be at a disadvantage because they don’t subscribe to the right feeds.