Google Pilot New Webmaster Communications Initiative

82 comments
Source Title:
Google offers advice to sites on penalty
Story Text:

UPDATE: Google have confirmed a pilot project to "open up communications" with webmasters they feel are breaking their guidelines. Emails are being sent to selected websites flagged for removal from the Google index. In the comments of this post, Google's Matt Cutts said "Google is trying out a pilot program to alert site owners when we're removing their site for violating our guidelines. JavaScript redirects are the first trial, but we've also sent a few emails about hidden text, I believe.". He went on to add "Personally, I think opening up a line of communication to let webmasters know when we're taking action is a really good thing--a site owner doesn't have to guess about what happened".

Original Post:
Ooooooh, what fun! Google appear to be sending out "you've been whacked" notices to SEO baddies by email to generic addresses such as webmaster@ sales@ etc. According to this thread at seoforums they even CC'd the webmaster's host!

Dear site owner or webmaster of [url removed],

While we were indexing your webpages, we detected that some of your
pages were using techniques that were outside our quality guidelines,
which can be found here: [link]
In order to preserve the quality of our search engine, we have
temporarily removed some webpages from our search results. Currently
pages from [url removed] are scheduled to be removed for at least 30 days.

Specifically, we detected the following practices on your webpages:
On [url removed], we noticed that pages such as
[url removed] redirect to pages such as
[url removed] using JavaScript redirects.

We would prefer to have your pages in Google's index. If you wish to be
reincluded, please correct or remove all pages that are outside our
quality guidelines. When you are ready, please submit a reinclusion
request at [link]

You can select "I'm a webmaster inquiring about my website" and
then "Why my site disappeared from the search results or dropped in
ranking," click Continue, and then make sure to type "Reinclusion
Request" in the Subject: line of the resulting form.

Sincerely,
Google Search Quality Team

Isn't that sweet?

Comments

One of the previous

One of the previous complaints against Google has been the lack of communication, not least where penalties may exist and on what grounds. So in that regard, it can only be a welcome move if Google are openly contacting webmasters - many of which may not have a clear idea of exactly what they are doing - and stating precisely what they are doing wrong.

However, generic addresses may not reach the right people if they are only collecting from a non-generic mailbox. There would also be the concern of how to tell if the e-mail were genuine or not. I can see spoofing making this wide open for abuse - but that would possibly not be against Google's interests to shape the web more to their own preference.

That is quite cool...

...and easy to automate by the look of it. Might just work, since it appears to be "personal". Nice.

Quote:
We would prefer to have your pages in Google's index

Blast, I would love them to tell me that about my not-yet-indexed pages LOL

Now, there's gonna be a race

Now, there's gonna be a race to see how many of those notices seo's can get...

But if they're copying the

But if they're copying the message to the host as well that could cause trouble. I know of at least one host who would consider closing your account if you're "going against Google's guidelines", and I'm sure there's many more.

Watch out for a large series

Watch out for a large series of Yahoo! bannings as they play catch up on this new service :)

The difference will be that Yahoo's version of the letter will include links to relevant discussions in delicious, photo pools at flickr or dejected webmasters and Tim Mayers IM id hehe...

Dear webmaster...

...we've noticed that your MyYahoo list of bookmarks doesn't meet our standards. Furthermore, your blog posts on Yahoo!360 leave a lot to be desired as far as quality content is concerned. So we have replaced your bookmarks with some of Tim's and we've downgraded your Yahoo!360 account to Yahoo!45.
PS: Is your blast collecting dust? How about updating it?

:-?

insane

i still find a hard time believing that they actually spend the time to write a letter instead of just dropping the pages..

psst.... I think it might be

psst.... I think it might be an automated letter todd :)

banned for 30 days? that's too harsh

couldn't they just send the *sinners* to serps corner?(above the fold left side pls.),
Now seriously - I find it somewhat distinguished, intrigued to find out if something will change in 30 days (assuming the room is cleaned and nanny is happy).

luddites

So they can find the javascript redirect but can't figure it out?

Sometimes javascript behaviours are required in achieving a certain functionality without regard to search engine placement. And for this they want to ban pages?

I think in light of this, it can be argued that considerations of index placement in google have a chilling effect on technical advancement on the web. Hence, google is shaping the web, and not for the better.

The automated letter is just a way of saying "please do it our way or else".

Are you sure it's real?

It seems to me that if G sends you an itemized list of the nasty things they've caught you doing, they're clueing you in on the nasty things they haven't caught you doing, so you you know exactly why you've be penalized. That means that they're not bothering with the living in fear strategy: one of your sites gets penalized and you don't know why, so you'd better clean up everything if you want the site to get back in.

Email Spam to stop Search engine spam

Now one of these is actually illegal and the other is a spin doctor's creation, interesting approach Google.

OK I have three more things to say.
Firstly: Have we had this verified, have we seen more than one?

Secondly: Wow I can't believe they are doing this. Are they trying to make friends with webmaster? decided to employ a guilty until proven innocent approach to JavaScript? smoked too much weed?

Thirdly: I've had lots of sites dropped/kicked lately but interestingly one just popped back up. Can't have been a review because is should be banned but I wonder if I would check my vast collection of catch all whois emails.

Spam

As the previous comment states, this is spam in my book.

I seem to remeber reading

I seem to remeber reading about these before, you had to have something with high PR that got banned and then block the googlebot using the robots.txt file

>>true I hope Matt will be

>>true

I hope Matt will be in here shortly and tell us.

"block the googlebot using the robots.txt "

OK, I've just had a high PR site banned.
it was a 7 and has 150,000 backlinks from yahoo.

If I call Google's bluff and add a robots.txt blocking the Google bot they'll all of a sudden want me back and send me this email?

sounds like the same tactics parents use to get 4 years olds to do things. I'm confused????

This is real.

Google is trying out a pilot program to alert site owners when we're removing their site for violating our guidelines. JavaScript redirects are the first trial, but we've also sent a few emails about hidden text, I believe. This is not targeted to sites like buy-my-cheap-viagra-here.com, but more for sites that have good content, but may not be as savvy about what their SEO was doing or what that "Make thousands of doorway pages for $39.95" software was doing. Personally, I think opening up a line of communication to let webmasters know when we're taking action is a really good thing--a site owner doesn't have to guess about what happened. But again, we're starting with a trial program.

I'll blog about it more soon.
Matt

matt

that is very nice of you to let us know. :)

besides javascript redirects, what other tactics do you think will merit a friendly letter?

tg

Excellent Move

I couldn't agree more with this decision by Google. Two-way communication is the best way to have positive feelings associated with a company - smart move.

how about an opt-in system

you might need an opt-in system to stay on the right side of the law.
How about webmasters entering their whois email from a banned domain at http://www.google.com/amibannedforbeingadumbassseo.htm and if the email matches one of these good but 'stupid' domains you send the email?

besides it'll give the mods at WMW something new to cut and paste into their forum when newbies post :)

Someone tell Ralph - he's

Someone tell Ralph - he's got a lot of mail coming. :D

Two-way

Quote:
Two-way communications

Sadly, no.

Quote:
From: Google Search Quality DO NOT REPLY <DONOTREPLY@google.com>

Thanks for the update Matt, sorry for the bumping around guys, i've been editing a bit and messing with the title hehe..

Dear Googler...

Dear Googler {insertname},

We just detected you are hiring many Google Hot Chicks to work at tasks as yet unspecified for Google. Please be advised that while hiring chicks is to be commended, hiring too many Hot Chicks is likely to get you 30 nights on the couch.

Furthermore, don't try cloaking the hot chicks, that will earn you an extended visit from the mother-in-law as a house guest.

cc. Your wife

***********************

Seriously, doesn't an automated unsolicited email shotgunned out to guesswork addresses, violate various anti-email spam laws? If somebody replies to those emails will they actually get read by a real live human being or an autoresponder? Are there written guidelines as to what a good JS redirect is and what a bad one is? Are these sites being reviewed by real human beings, with proper training or just a robot?

Good effort

I think it's a good thing that at least they are trying.

I also think it will be a great deal of fun to start sending out bogus ones to scare off some lightweights.

I want to take my hat off to

I want to take my hat off to G on this. Communication can only be a good thing for all concerned. Sure, they need to think a touch more about the implementation of how they communicate with webmasters (Google the spammer. Even I don't email spam:P ) but the reality is this is a move on the right direction.

Guys n Gals at Google you have just earned yourselves a few more mojo points in my eyes. Well done. Keep it up and you'll be at the zero point status as I am afraid you lost BIG mojo with Toolbar and other badly conceived ideas recently

Maybe..

I have some big reservations about that CC. to the hosting company. It's one thing to control your own index and decide what stays in and what gets banned, but it is quite another thing to drag third parties into it.

I guess if these are not borderline cases it might be a step in the right direction.

Yep, this is a good move.

Yep, this is a good move. Just surprised that only one bloke has 'fessed up to receiving a notice. Or, could he have been the last person in the world still using doorway pages?

Well, I'm impressed, but I

Well, I'm impressed, but I still have misgivings.

Quote:
This is not targeted to sites like buy-my-cheap-viagra-here.com, but more for sites that have good content, but may not be as savvy about what their SEO was doing or what that "Make thousands of doorway pages for $39.95" software was doing.

I imagine the example here is a little bit of an exaggerration -- that there are likely to be sites that get caught in this regardless of the relative spamminess of their domain names.

If some sites are going to be given the benefit of the doubt and alerted to the problem, then Google will have to make a serious effort to pick the right ones. Is that going to be based on algorithmically checking for more than one evil deed? Apparently not, since they're currently just looking for JS redirects. So does that mean that they'll all be given a look by a person before a decision is made? Or does it really come down to JS redirect + spammy domain name = dump em without telling em?

Great move

Regarding the cc:host thingy I'd think they won't do that if they have a contact email via verified sitemap account. Besides daily crawler problem reports one more good reason to register the webmaster/site owner at Google. N/K

e-mail spam

I agree on the e-mail spam and I think they'll have to be careful. What if someone just gave up on Google, spammed away for MSN and Yahoo, and just so happened to do well in Google on some update. Do they deserve an unsolicited e-mail from Google? Of course Google will say that if the webmaster gave up on ranking in Google then they should have banned Googlebot. If you don't want to receive unsolicited e-mail then you have to opt out of Google with robots.txt ;)

Personally, I think its a great idea. I'd love to receive an e-mail telling me that there was a problem. Instead of scrambling around trying to figure out why my site was dropped when I thought I did nothing wrong.

Will there be a reduction in forum posts or mails to Google from people asking why their site was dropped or will the titles change to "I was told I'm using hidden text but I'm not!!"?

I'll talk about it more..

I'll blog more about it soon, but we're not shotgunning out to a lot of email addresses, just a small set of contacts we can find to reach the site in question.

I'm happy that several people like the idea. :)
Matt

I can't believe they are giving cues to SEOs

I'm surprised Google are giving any cues away.
I would send the email saying you've been caught. Here are our guidelines and re-submit.
One warning, one change, no clues - if you don't know what you've done, fire your SEO and get a new one.

sites that get caught in

sites that get caught in this

There isn't anything new to get caught in. G has looked for fishy JS redirects, doorway pages, etc., and penalized them for some time. The new thing is that G is now telling site owners what they found and are giving them an opportunity to correct it. They just happen to be using the JS redirects to pilot the program.

Makes a heck of a lot of good sense. Apparently the folks at G even got tired of reading all those "Why has my site been dropped by Google" threads.

what if...

I think it gets a lot more interesting when the problems occur off site, and others may have done the damage to your site for you. How do you clean up 100,000 blogspams another person did for you?

How does Google know who did the blogspam, forumspam, etc etc etc?

Thing is, i remember threads

Thing is, i remember threads from years ago asking if we can have a tool/mechanism for finding out what went wrong, and Google have always said it's impossible to do that - but now, as Danny has also noted, suddenly it's all possible...?

off site SEO banning

I don't think Google would be sending this email to sites they think blog spam.

I know that doesn't solve Googlebowling but if you are guilty that kinda of 'SEO spam intent' you're not likely to get a warning.

More info

One of the benefits in my mind is that it helps get the word out to avoid a certain technique (e.g. lots of doorway pages that each do a sneaky JavaScript redirect).

Danny makes a good point in his write-up; we didn't have resources to do this before. And right now we're not emailing very many people as we explore this. But it's important that we're opening up some communication. We're trying to do it scalably, but it's two-way because we give specifics on what was against our guidelines, and where to go to file a reinclusion request to communicate with us. I like that part of it.

To be honest, Danny had a lot to do with this. He has always prodded us about how we should offer "what happened to my site?" info, even if people had to pay for it. I never wanted anyone to have to pay for that info, because it seemed like a conflict of interest. But the seed was planted, and so we're always thinking about ways to help regular site owners without giving a huge advantage to spammers. This seemed like a nice step.

Great Idea - now we need a name...

I think its a great idea for the majority of companies that have NFI, and will at least cause some web designers (who also have NFI) to get a clue.

Sure - at the hardcore end of the scale - its probably moot. But in terms of the great unwashed - those that submit spam reports and then complain nothing ever happens - this will be a huge public relations win for Google.

Now, all we need for a successful Public Relations campaign is a name for... the place "pages from [url removed] are scheduled to be removed for at least 30 days." will go....

How about the Google Sin Bin (Gbin); Google purgatory (Gpurgatory); the Google Bench (Gbench); Google Jail (Gjail)? Any other ideas?

damn :)

ERROR: GBIN.COM is unavailable and has been removed.
ERROR: GBENCH.COM is unavailable and has been removed.
ERROR: GJAIL.COM is unavailable and has been removed.
ERROR: GREVIEW.COM is unavailable and has been removed.

This is not targeted to

Quote:
This is not targeted to sites like buy-my-cheap-viagra-here.com, but more for sites that have good content

I think PR people should be a little less casual than this. Okay, so we all understand the gist of Matt's comment here in SEO world, but there is nothing patently offensive about a domain named buy-my-cheap-viagra-here.com It's Viagra. It's for sale. It's discounted. The snippet and URL are the only vehicle provided by the mighty G for the marketing pitch, and the webmaster is doing a decent job using those.

I suspect Google doesn't like the OTHER tactics that a site like buy-my-cheap-viagra-here.com is *likely* to be deploying, based on past observations of similar sites. But does that provide a basis for discrimination? Especially in comments from a PR person?

I point this out because as Google starts emailing hosts and ISPs suggesting websites are not "quality according to Google", it has stepped into the political arena.

Will this backfire for Google? Won't an SEO be pleased to take a Google hint email to the client and say "see... we're riding the competitive edge at this risk level. After this, it's all-in, no holds barred."

Matt, I'm nothing but

Matt, I'm nothing but thrilled if we're moving from the "we're always thinking" stage to a "we're doing it" stage. I said it was odd we never got this before, but I'm happy if it's coming our way. Honestly, I'd encourage you to go further and make that basic checking page if the pilot thing goes well. It would be so nice to point newbies at it and say, "Here, Google itself will tell you if you're having problem." And think of the nice message you could have.

"GoogleBot has analyzed your page. We detected spam. You are now penalized for 30 days!"

"GoogleBot has analyzed your page. If you were wondering why we didn't have you indexed before, it's because you had a robots.txt file up banning us!"

"GoogleBot has analyzed your page. You're squeeky clean. Would you like fries with that? How about a 'I passed the GoogleBot test' logo? You'll find one below!"

Of course, it's a dangerous path. If you start telling people if pages are OK with a spam detection tool, they'll be wanting that cool meter next. Dare I remind you of your words earlier this year:

"You can imagine that people would see if they were cool and if not, then they'd change some things and check again, trying to manipulate their coolness," Cutts said. "That's not what we want. If you're naturally cool, our CoolRank technology can detect that. And the best way to be cool is to just think about how humans perceive cool and act that way."

:)

OK - how about: Google

OK - how about:
Google Whacked (G-whacked) - except that's already been used...
Google Unserped (G-unserped)
Goolge Lost (G-lost) - the opposite to Google found....
Google non grata (G-nongrata)
:)

Too funny..

That April Fools story about "we're always thinking" helped too, Danny. :)

http://blog.searchenginewatch.com/blog/050401-071840

Also from that joke article:

"We're always open to new ideas at Google, and we take all feedback seriously," Cutts said. "I can assure you we'll spend a lot of time pretending that we might actually create some type of coolness checking form but which really has a snowball's chance in hell of ever appearing. Um, did I actually say that last part out loud?"

See? Now we're actually getting a chance to move forward on some of the stuff I've always wanted to tackle! :)

Most impressed

Clearly a very welcome move.

My 2cents

I agree that getting such an email from Google would be most helpful (though I hope I never have cause to receive one of these).

What I can't agree with is the opinion that sending such an email notice would be construed as SPAM...spam is unsolicited email, yes? If a person makes their email address available to the public (like on their website), aren't they inviting email from anyone? Besides, if I received an unexpected email from a company I'm somehow associated with, I would be pleased for the communication - not glaring at it as SPAM (especially when the communique was helpful to me).

Great Idea...

Now when will Yahoo follow?

G - I think this will work. These are obvious things anyways that won't help/hurt real spammers.

I'm always happen to see ways where mom and pop and smaller sites can be helped.

congrats

lots of negative comments here, personally I actually think Google giving people a chance to mend their ways isn't really a bad thing at all. Congrats to Matt Cutts and the team. I can only hope that the communication thing spreads throughout Google, you guys still haven't really gotten "valuing your customer" that much but its getting better.

Very Cool

Nice work Matt and Google. It's refreshing to see you guys trying to communicate.

This has been one of the most requested features...

This has been one of the most requested features in SEO history, in my opinion. It didn't matter who the search service was, the forums have been filled for ages with "Why was my site dropped?" threads. People do their best to suggest what went wrong, but if Google is actually going to tell (at least some) people, that may be a step in the right direction.

But given Google's market share, I can also see how it may become more of a policing action. Webmasters still have a right to do whatever they wish with their pages, and Google's preferences are not always in step with reality.

>>If a person makes their

>>If a person makes their email address available to the public (like on their website), aren't they inviting email from anyone?

Sorry pal but uhh no. According to ICANN you have to provide accurate information about the domain you own and that information is publicly accessible unless blocked by a registrar's privacy program. That may well be where Google is getting the e-mail addresses from. In case you don't know, people leech the unblocked info to spam the e-mail addresses. I get at least 10 e-mails a day about Viagra or "hurricane in your pants" off of the e-mail addresses I set solely for what shows up in WHOIS. Those e-mail addresses that I set are used for nothing else. That's why some registrars allow people to set up spam/whois privacy accounts so that people do not receive spam from leeches who suck up WHOIS info. Claro?

I think the best thing for Google to do in this situation is set up a confirmation system for URL submissions. Submit your URL or sitemap with an e-mail address of the domain that is being submitted for confirmation of ownership. THEN, they can include some fine print about "If we find your site using tactics against our rules then we are allowed to send you an e-mail notifying you of your offenses. Register with us then we notify you. If not then screw you and don't whine in public about your site being dropped.

msgraph

My comment regarding non-spammishness of these notice emails was made after reading not only this article, but reading the info posted in the linked forum which relates that the email addresses sent to were readily available on the website in question. Nobody had inferred info snatching such as WHOIS data.

The webmaster (Hampstead) relates there:

Looks legit to me.

Email was sent to the email addresses found on the website. Also to generic addresses like webmaster@ and the like. I was also surprised to find that the host were coppied in too.
...

>>Also to generic addresses

>>Also to generic addresses like webmaster@ and the like.

hehe guess you don't see my point lol

~sigh~

Generic addresses aren't neccessarily from WHOIS...they are generic. Sheesh!

Host

Am I the only one that has a problem with Google contacting MY webhost about MY activities?

I think at the very least, that needs to be nipped in the bud NOW.

Also, i agree with those calling for a verification system rather than a blind email:

  • Enter url
  • Enter
  • Get Email

Much better for everyone concerned. The webmaster has opted-in, G have no UCE issues, no third parties get tattle-tailed to....

Nick - I always cc: you

Nick - I always cc: Brian (and your family, friends, old school principal etc) whenever I've got an issue with your activites
:)

Google shouldn't cc the host

From a legal point of view the only rules *broken* are Google rules,
They don't necessarily cope with any other "Internet Rules" or SE "Thought Police".
It's legit that Google ban/filter/algo-change in order to improve THEIR serps relevancy, But they don't own the web yet,
I'm not familiar with any rules against JS.
It is just as if I was offending someone (lets say I called him names) while driving in a leased car,
the issue is between me and the cursed person, I can't really see him approach the Leasing company.

I think there are some privacy issues here

I think there are some privacy issues here which should be explored. Google's actions with this kind of program can be both helpful and damaging to Webmasters. ISPs do NOT like to receive complaints of any kind, and many will pull the plug rather than play referee.

I think it's good that Google is willing to communicate with delisted Webmasters. But this may not be the best approach.

Undecided

I have pondered the Host issue and couldn't decide my stance, so didn't comment on it...on one hand, it seems a dastardly thing to do and beyond the scope of Google's business. But on the other hand, hosts are now becomming legally liable for what they allow/host, like file-sharing of copywrited materials. In this instance, I don't see the connection but Google may be trying to gain goodwill with hosts for times in future where it may be needed.

It's possible Google's just looking out for the host's interests...But, if Google's simply trying to put more pressure on the webmaster by tattling to the host... well, that just wouldn't be kosher.

More info II

Just a quick note to say that we try to alert the site owner via publically available email addresses. If we can't find that, we fall back on a few generic addresses like

and

. We're not trying to email the webhost, just the site owner. If Hampstead wants to let me what webhost was cc'ed on the email, I'll look into it.

Again, we're not trying to get the site in trouble with their webhost; we're just trying to alert sites that they'll be removed from Google and how to request to be reincluded.

Hope that helps. I'm glad that this question came up, and I'll check to make sure that we're trying to email only the site owner/webmaster.
Matt

Here's the info you wanted.

As well as using webmaster@ and the like you also used technical@ and admin@ the host. The use of technical certainly makes it look like you are specifically targeting the host.

The host in this case is globalgold.co.uk - As far as I can see, these email addresses would not be available from the site. I'm guessing there was a whois query or the like to glean extra information.

Hope this helps.

godaddy

so, if google cc's godaddy as your host, what's the fee going to be?

btw, in the real world, if i write to your associate about your business and it then affects the business relationship it is actionable as commercial interference.

with respect to email addresses, google is already an accredited icann registrar with full access to the raw whois data. did someone forget?

Subject to verification,

Subject to verification, which i believe Matt's seeking, I think this is covered now is it not?

Quote:
We're not trying to email the webhost, just the site owner.

google speaks to us

that's really good news. till now i could not understand why google was so incommunicative. the first step into the right direcction was the appearance of matt and his blog - becoming something like the jeremy zawodny of google. the current step is one step further than I expected (in that short time) :) but now i am convinced that google will open more and communication channels to the public. would be nice to see activated comments in the google blogs. please speak to us.

nice to know

Nice to know why but I guess there will still be zero response to your mails when you try and get it sorted out. As it is now. Like Matt said they do not want to go down the payment road but if you need to cover the cost of such a department then I bet 99% of people her would be happy to pay if they got a genuine response and a quick reinclusion. Heh, they would be overrun at update time. I say why not if the department would pay for itself,would be a big plus.

Headlines

  • Google Holding Websites to Ransom
  • Google's New Backdoor PF(r)I
  • Google Excluding Websites for Profit

That list would be a mile long in reality. It'd be a PR disaster, and could bring a lot of negative attention their way - but hey, hold on a moment.... that's not stopped them in the past? :)

YOU HAVE MADE MY DAY!!

And it is a Friday. Very good news!

Even if Google did decide to

Even if Google did decide to e-mail webhosts about exclusion issues, I doubt that most small to medium hosting companies would see it as an issue concerning them, unless their other clients were threatened with exclusion because of it.

Webhosts are usually keen to comply with legal notices, but by the nature of their business, are open to hosting websites that may cause some controversy.

I suspect a big part of Google's approach is aimed at naughty corporates, where Google would need to gain the attention of the right department to have the issue more quickly addressed, rather than simply e-mailing some clueless sales rep via general online contact details.

2c.

TOS abuse is taken seriously by many hosting providers

Quote:
Even if Google did decide to e-mail webhosts about exclusion issues, I doubt that most small to medium hosting companies would see it as an issue concerning them, unless their other clients were threatened with exclusion because of it.

Most of the hosting agreements that I have reviewed forbid site operators from violating other services' TOS as well as their own. While their primary concern may be email spam, some hosting companies also mention search engine spam (probably because they didn't appreciate being dumped by Altavista on Black Monday).

It would depend on each company to decide whether its TOS had been violated and how to deal with the situation.

But a former Supreme Court Justice here in the U.S. wrote many years ago (I quote from memory, so it may be a little off), "It is better that five hundred murderers go free than that one innocent man go to jail."

That's my take on the subject.

Oh yes - one more thing.

I followed the link in G's email to submit a re-inclusion request, but re-inclusion isn't actually an available option. Maybe it should be if you are directing people there!?!?

>>hosting companies also

>>hosting companies also mention search engine spam

Well better switch hosts if that's the case.

You're not violating a search engine's TOS when using dodgy tactics on your site in order to improve your ranks. Unless of course you have something implemented on your site that actually "uses" their service without approval like automated querying.

shared IP

There is often comment about SEO risks associated with shared hosting, "dirty" IPs and the like. It seems natural that a shared host provider aware of these ideas could be concerned when a name-based virtual site gets a warning from Google. It's risk management.

Thanks, Hampstead

Thanks, Hampstead. I'll ask someone to check into it and request that they not send an email to the technical or admin contact address.

Í do think better

Í do think better communication between Google and webmasters in general are fine. However, the suggested approach is WITHOUT A DOUBT illegal in at least Denmark (where I know the anti-spam, marketing and privacy protection laws quite well) and possibly many other countries.

The law here is very simple: You need to have gained approve from anyone you send such emails to, Google. Thats it. And YOU are responsible for providing the evidence in any spam-case that you actually DID get that approval.

So, just tell me what kind of headlines you want here:

A) Google implement great new opt-in programs to warn webmasters about exclusion

or

B) Google engage in blatant spam to combat bad search quality!

You WILL get one of them if you continue this program.

Best thing I've heard in a long time

This is a fantastic advance, Matt. What a relief to get advance notice that something has gone astray and your client's site is about to be dropped. I really don't see the problem with the emails going to different places on the clients site.

The only people who could object to that would be SEO's who are trying to hide what they are doing from their own clients. Hang them out to dry.

There are technical/legal issues with spam legislation - legislation which is clearly inadequate for situations like this. Spam is repeated unsolicited sales attempts. Google isn't selling anything here, they are just providing a timely weather report - and not very often at that. There is no service proposed.

The issue of notifying people of violation making it easier for spammers to test their techniques with less risk is a real one. I think this program should be reserved to sites which pass basic content guidelines and appear to be an asset to the search engine. There is no right to such a notification and no right to automated tests.

I can't believe the half-dozen or so SEO's above complaining about this tremendous advance by Google. Just can't get over perhaps losing some kind of black magician status that flatters their shaky self-image. Anything that can gamed sites out of the SERPs and bring more quality sites in is a small but significant advance in the efficient function of collective knowledge.

blogged

Matt finally got round to writing it up in convinient Q&A format - read, he wants a link from WMW hehehehe....

The Aussie folks he used as

The Aussie folks he used as an example are going to wonder why the sudden surge in traffic. Curious as to why they haven't cleaned up the pages as yet. Might not have received or opened the e-mail? Thought it was a spoof?

I notice also that Matt is giving some very specific advice. In the comments Brian asked if it's okay to 302 old doorway pages; Matt replies to 404 them. Those are comments you used to have to travel to a conference get face-to-face. The lines of communication definitely seem to be opening a bit.

daft bloody question if you

daft bloody question if you ask me...

"can i still benefit from my old spam?" - brian you muppet :)

Good idea for the most part

I think this is generally a good idea, but I have a BIG problem with the host being notified. Hosts should not be involved unless there is some legal issue, like copyright.

I would hope Google uses the email address displayed on the site, or in the whois info, rather than something like "webmaster". I don't have that address for any of my sites, so I would never see their message.

I don't consider this type of email to be spam, and neither does US law. I can't speak for other countries.

> Most of the hosting agreements that I have reviewed forbid site operators from violating other services' TOS as well as their own.

Whoa! That is so wrong. Google does NOT own the Internet and is not a regulatory agency, and I am not obligated to comply with any TOS except where I have agreed to (such as on a page with Adsense ads). They have no right to impose anything on me as far as what I can put on my site (as long as it's not violating THEIR copyright or trademarks), and the host has no business being involved in such cases.

Even my site was removed

Just to keep you guys updated that even my site was removed yesterday without any notification being sent to any of the addresses mentioned on our website( as stated by Matt here).

I am really impressed with the idea that G has implemented but then they should mail the site owner/webmaster before removing it from their engines so that the SEO/webmasters can take care of what is wrong with their site

I have emailed them to know the reason since this is a major issue to be taken care of ( not because it happened with our site but also because major of people who are not aware should also be known about this fact)

Do you guys think/ have any experience in getting any replies from the G team with the link posted above

> Spam is repeated

> Spam is repeated unsolicited sales attempts

No, you may wish so but that is definately not how the law is in many countries. The law here in Denmark, as well as many other parts of Europe (based on EU law) does NOT require the email to be either "selling" or repetitive. If it's an uncolicited email from a company it's spam - that simple. Like it or not.

Google Pilot Program

I'm a recent recipient of Google's site removal letter. A copy is below. The declared violation was "hidden text/link." We detected an end tag > after an anchor link which was colored the same as our background. Our programmers missed this, but it was visible on a Mac! This wasn't even a HREF link, it was an anchor. The > symbol was the single character that became hidden just to the right of the actual text link which aids in scrolling our site. This was fixed within 24 hours. Our site has been up for 6 years and we've never violated any of google's guidelines. Does anyone know what google's policy is for a programming typo which one would not think violates Google's policy in this particular instance?

,

,

Dear site owner or webmaster of url.com,

While we were indexing your webpages, we detected that some of your
pages were using techniques that were outside our quality guidelines,
which can be found here: http://www.google.com/webmasters/guidelines.html
In order to preserve the quality of our search engine, we have
temporarily removed some webpages from our search results. Currently
pages from url.com are scheduled to be removed for at least 30 days.

Specifically, we detected the following practices on your webpages:

* Hidden text/links on xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.com

We would prefer to have your pages in Google's index. If you wish to be
reincluded, please correct or remove all pages that are outside our
quality guidelines. When you are ready, please submit a reinclusion
request at http://www.google.com/support/bin/request.py

You can select "I'm a webmaster inquiring about my website" and
then "Why my site disappeared from the search results or dropped in
ranking," click Continue, and then make sure to type "Reinclusion
Request" in the Subject: line of the resulting form.

Sincerely,
Google Search Quality Team

Does anyone know what

Does anyone know what google's policy is for a programming typo which one would not think violates Google's policy in this particular instance?

Try emailing those addresses you've included in your post.

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