Beating Your Google Rap Sheet

27 comments

Moving beyond the link profile it appears Google has built owner profiles and is possibly using them as an element in the algo (and reminding us once again to give due respect to tinfoil-hat Threadwatchers).

From the AU Interactive Blog:

At Pubcon last week during one of the sessions, Matt Cutts was reviewing an attendee’s website and using his laptop (which was tunneled into Google’s brain I assume), looked up all the domains this person owned and called him out on it, suggesting that a number of other websites he owned looked spammy.

For anyone who doubts they'd do this, please consider the TrustBox: Google has certainly proven that they don't mind collateral damage if overall relevancy is improved.

I've written some tips for keeping your sites disassociated and avoiding the Google Rap Sheet (TM), but I'm afraid they may be somewhat lacking because my hat hasn't been made out of 100% tinfoil in the past. So any further suggestions are most appreciated...

Meanwhile Graywolf has posted a sort of open letter about this issue, asking Matt Cutts to comment and give some guidance.

Comments

i am a strong proponent of

i am a strong proponent of tin foil hats and think all people -- regardless of race, age, sex, and whatever other demographic categorization you'd like -- should wear them, generally at all times. dont leave home without it!

although i think owner profiles is something google should be doing, it will help them improve their business model and create great new stuff. it is a natural step in their business model. IMO the problem emerges when google is more secretive (i.e. the pricing algorithm). trust comes with openness; without openness, you leave people wondering why you're not being open, and thus you invite people to boldly don their tin foil hat....

Been watching for this

I too have been interested in this.. Some highlighted points from the PubCon site reviews are HERE:Matt Cutts Site reviews

He did so on a few sites he reviewed

Double Secret Probation?

Maybe, but their data is pretty spotty if that is the case. I have encountered some pretty low and dodgy characters that call themselves "marketers" and I don't see Google whacking them down at all.

I'm not saying they don't but....

Matt doing it against a specific site owner at pubcon doesn't necessarily mean there's a pile of dossiers already prepared somewhere - its something that everyone does when they're checking out a site for the first time, especially when you get the feeling there's something more to the story.

It worries me because its easy to make a wrong association and jump to conclusions but I think spammers have been aware that this can be done for ages and if you build solid WH sites it would only be a benefit for new sites (assuming they get it right) so I'm not sure that its worth putting the hats on just yet?

hmm

its something that everyone does when they're checking out a site for the first time, especially when you get the feeling there's something more to the story.

Well, if I had access behind private registrations -- like it appears Google does -- THEN I might do that :-)

The fact that he could pull up 40 domains (with privacy on) means they have a tool built just for that.

But you think they would only use said tool at a session at Pubcon?

The fact that he could pull

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The fact that he could pull up 40 domains (with privacy on) means they have a tool built just for that.

There is much more than WHOIS info that can give the game away.

It may be (and although I was in the session I can't remember the URLs so can't check) as simple as an Adwords ID, sites residing on the same IP all on the same theme, whilst being the ONLY sites on that theme (not hiding in the masses) etc etc etc. The list could go on for eons of potential things that could be used algorithmically to detect related web sites, but think outside pure data and think along the lines of the following too.

Have you ever looked at 2 sites and had an instinctive gut feeling that the same web designer put them together?
What about your favourite author? Do some authors have a writing style in their books that is hard to define yet enjoyable to read ?

Can that be put into a set of rules that a computer (or person, or people, or even, god forbid, students) might be able to understand ? I know it can be done, as I have done it, and I bet ya a penny to a pound that Google's team of coders are better and bigger than mine!

Come on people...

You give them your list of sites as I'm sure your IP address is logged with each "ADD URL" request, sitemaps, etc. Then people sign up for AdSense and slather it all over the place or AdWords linking to your landing page, or Google Analytics, so Google knows EXACTLY who you and your sites are.

Not to mention those people that get a few dedicated servers of their own and pile a bunch of domains on them, duh.

Lastly, does anyone remember when Google became a registrar but said they weren't going to sell domain names?

How hard is it to look people up when you have the entire registrar database at your disposal?

DING! DING! DING!

Our time is up and thanks for playing.

How hard is it to look

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How hard is it to look people up when you have the entire registrar database at your disposal?

Bill, thankfully lots of people think like you which makes my life easier :)

DING DING DING

We have a Winner...

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Lastly, does anyone remember when Google became a registrar but said they weren't going to sell domain names?

I even remember something about google archiving all the old registration records, so they could back track all the domain name transfers...

So, to recap...

If you are living the Whitehat Lifestyle, use this as an opportunity to establish the trust and reputation Google so greatly wants to profile. Jam all that pristine data down their pie holes.

If you are living the Grayhat or Blackhat Lifestyle, lie. Lie like it's your job. Lie like it's the antidote. Cover your ass, throw anybody that knows about your network into a woodchipper, and then lie some more.

yawn.

incrediBill you're boring me. No serious SEO posts her sites to sitemaps unless there's something to be gained, and then she only does so via proxy. No serious SEO aggregates sites on ONE server or datacenter. No serious SEO works hard as SEO by night, and discloses accurate, specific, non-unique WHOIS data to the ENTIRE FREAKIN WORLD via domain registrations by day.

She doesn't do that because HER COMPETITORS would use it to their advantage.

AdSense? AdWords? Analytics? When did you stop listening?

Scoreboard gave us the Sopranos version. The Corporate version is similar without the drama. I recall a certain pharmaceutical company in New Jersey erecting empty grain silos in the parking lot of a aging, outdated manufacturing plant, just so the competitor's aerial photography would suggest active development. Not much of a hassle, actually, and quite effective.

I know a company that sent 40+ empty tractor trailers to line up outside a mail facility, pretending to be queued up for massive amounts of mail. It was meant to cause the competitor to drop it's competitive marketing materials early, and I heard it worked.

If you're seeking top rank and you don't think you're competiting with others *and* Google, you're good news for JasonD.

Jawn

You were in the session where Matt ripped that guy a new orifice...

Did he seem like a serious SEO?

Would a SERIOUS SEO put themselves up on the sacrificial altar to get shredded in public?

Also, I was using AdSense as an example as there are many things that can tie sites together like the same account codes for stat trackers, indextools, even a payment gateway code in a form, you never know. Lot's of ways to link sites together, just use your imagination.

Besides, Google can only track people leaving some form of trail and I just pointed out how the lame ones will get tracked, like that poor putz Matt ripped in that session.

Brandable Sites

The takeaway lesson is that Google is working to reward people who develop brandable sites, and to make it just a bit harder for people that they can catch putting up garbage. They won't catch everyone, but on the flip side there aren't that many people out there who are smart enough and well-resourced enough to outrun Google over the long haul. Some will, and some of those are posting on this board, but the message to mopes like me is to elect a different strategy and focus on slowly building brandable sites.

BTW, I can't see a experienced webmaster putting any site up for review at a Pubcon session. For someone like the chiropractor from San Diego, who knows he knows nothing and is looking for some free consulting on a site that is not his main business, it makes sense, but for a real webmaster, you are just inviting the hundreds of smart and hungry webmasters in the room to steal your ideas. It's hard enough getting the savvy folks at Pubcon to even tell you what they do.

..

?The idea that google keeps a site owner ‘profile’ is not so outrageous. Actually, it’s a very smart way for google to go, at least I think so. (Hey Matt be sure and put that in my ‘profile’ - please note, I am talking nice about google, for a change. ;)

But as we all know SPAM evolves...

As I am sure most of you already know, the latest trend in search engine spam is to use other peoples domains via exploits in their CMS to spam the index. So all you need are a bunch of ‘throw away’ domains (complete with phony registration details) to serve the cloaked/redirected content from.

Move... Counter Move...

So as you can see, even if google is keeping an ‘owner profile’ this is not going to even slow down the professional hard core spammers.

The ONLY WAY to slow down the hard core spammer is with humans chasing them down and a human finger clicking the delete button... I think google has learned this lesson...

The ONLY WAY to slow down

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The ONLY WAY to slow down the hard core spammer is with humans chasing them down and a human finger clicking the delete button

It's not the ONLY way but it's definately one possible (and actual) way

..

I may have been over stating my point, a little ;).

But as far as I know, there are only two ways to spot spam in the index...

1. The Algo
2. Humans

And I think we can all agree that the algo method has not been working out too well lately for google against the hardcores.

i have to suspect owner

i have to suspect owner profiles go well beyond being a spam fighting tactic and will ultimately play a role in helping google create B2B offerings that are customized for the webmaster. along the same lines this could also end up being an innovation to adsense; i.e. trusted owners get their own ad network, one that could appeal to advertisers concerned about low quality adsense publishers (like the secret google ad network andy beal blogged about).

Serious SEOs Use Sitemaps ... for Clients....

John,

There are the sites that I own and there are the sites that I work on for customers and they are two different beasts and the seo work is different... In the case of the clients, I can see many reasons to use sitemaps, especially for people with huge database driven sites... Plus, last night at SEO for Web 2.0 Adam Lasnik hinted at a way to work with getting AJAX indexed using sitemaps (And Adam, if you are reading this: I was kidding; I have never made fun of you on here! I'm just jealous that you have such a great job, yeah I'm a Playa Hater!:) and not afraid to admit it.)

Now if I had my own huge database driven sites, I wouldn't submit a sitemap....

BTW: Scoreboard, you get props for funniest comment of the week. Funny... but true.

>>google keeps a site owner

>>google keeps a site owner ‘profile’

Yeah, they probably do. I think I remember Matt Cutts implying something like that about lots0, too lots0, a couple of years back at SEW forums.

Heck, they probably have a top ten Google Enemies list and everything.

Natasha

Natasha says :

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There are the sites that I own and there are the sites that I work on for customers and they are two different beasts and the seo work is different

I think that is a very telling statement. SEO is a varied field. I wonder why you don't provide the same services to clients as you do for your own sites? If you had clients who were highly competitive, would that be different? Are you holding back because you don't have adequate indemnity for the risk? Is the client calling the risk management shots, or is the SEO? Does the client even know about them? Perhaps the risk/benefit ratio tolerances are different between the client and the SEO? Does the client have the right SEO?

When people talk about SEMPO I cringe because it doesn't represent SEO (in my view). Someday, some association will ask the tougher questions and help define SEO for clients and SEOs. Until then, there is so much wasted bandwidth talking about it. When DaveN pokes the Google beast on his blog, it often seems like the only fair-trade SEO/SE communication going on.

Sitemaps is not a necessary ingredient for search engine optimization. It can harm you if you are in a competitive field. From there, every SEO and every client can make their own decisions.

SEO is by far the most interesting and challenging field of endeavor I have ever known.

?I remember that too Brad.

?I remember that too Brad. :-)

I can’t find the thread now, but from what I remember, it was perdy plain (but not stated outright). Matt implied that google was watching me and a few others with a more than a little interest. I do believe that was around the same time google became a domain registrar.

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Heck, they probably have a top ten Google Enemies list and everything.

I lay heavy odds they do, only I’ll bet it’s a top 1000. ;-)

Note to Matt... I have given up the dark path...
Too much work and not enough money.
So you can stop watching me now... OK?

..

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I wonder why you don't provide the same services to clients as you do for your own sites?

I can't answer for Natasha, but I can tell you that most SEO's use their own sites to 'push' and 'test' the algo limits, but are far far more conservative with their clients sites.

of course, but the questions

of course, but the questions still remain. Does the client know? Who's managing the client risk (including avoiding it).

Research is an endeavor. Development is an endeavor. By your own admission above, the "dark side" is too much work and not enough money. That sounds like the SEO was funding the R in R&D for the clients. As long as this industry stays fragmented and that sort of thing goes on, it will never advance because the SEOs will undervalue themselves to clients, and no one will cover the R&D.

In normal business, R&D is carefully managed as an expense and often capitalized against future profits. We hear all the time how pharmaceutical companies spend hundreds of millions in R&D, which justifies the high prices for drugs later when they are available. How about SEO?

Research is an endeavor.

Yes lots0,

but I can tell you that most SEO's use their own sites to 'push' and 'test' the algo limits

Everything I learned about SEO I learned by doing, and I think that is true for most SEOs... Actually I asked some SEOs recently "What is the biggest mistake you ever made?" And no one would answer. And I'm thinking that the only way to learn what works and what doesn't work is by trial and error... What's white hat one day is black hat the next such as reciprocal links, I actually get some sort of joy out of testing this stuff. And end up doing it in my free time.. which I guess is what you are pointing out as a mistake John....

I agree that

"That sounds like the SEO was funding the R in R&D for the clients.

However I have always pushed to have R & D as part of my job descriptions.... however when you are working for clients especially in an agency environment it is not a matter of

too much work and not enough money

the realities are that #1: Clients want low risk, high reward and we can't pretend otherwise. #2: Clients are billed by the hour... and I don't know about you, but I already have a hard time getting the research hours for client specific work... I'm pretty sure that people would balk at the line item for general R&D.

As long as this industry stays fragmented and that sort of thing goes on, it will never advance because the SEOs will undervalue themselves to clients, and no one will cover the R&D.

Actually, I think that this is where the solo seo and the in-house seo have the advantage over the agency seo, because you factor R&D into your work.

I agree to a certain extent that

When people talk about SEMPO I cringe because it doesn't represent SEO (in my view). Someday, some association will ask the tougher questions and help define SEO for clients and SEOs.

At SES San Jose I asked the final question of the conference, "What have you heard at the conference that you feel is total BS, and you wish you could rebut?" Funny no one was brave enough to answer that question (except Oilman afterward, which was pretty funny) and DaveN was one of the panelist...

Maybe we should all bring out into the open the quiet conversations that we have at the bar about the realities of SEO as opposed to the SEO that most clients get sold... but then again search engine reps are watching and reading, and no one wants to reveal all their cards in a public arena... do they? What do you think?

btw:

Sitemaps is not a necessary ingredient for search engine optimization. It can harm you if you are in a competitive field.

I believe that the BMW and Colgate cases show that major brands have a quick get out of jail card... so I'm not sure I agree with that, maybe you can email me that... since I have only seen positive results.

no real evidence of owner profiling

I'll pitch in my 2 cents with a bit of the Voice of Moderation (I'm a moderate in most things, since I note that objective truth is rarely to be found at either end of the extremes).

Just as IncrediBILL mentioned, it's widely known that Google obtained registration data in order to be able to detect sites related to one another in grandiose linking schemes. So, if sites were to share registration information, domain name servers, or IP addresses, those would be some clear signals that the sites are related to one another.

Also, through analysis of linking systems, it's pretty straightforward to identify sites which only seem to be linking to one another, with few inbound links. (See the paper on Combating Web Spam with TrustRank.)

So, those methods of combating linking schemes are known and reasonably assumed to be used by a few of the major search engines.

However, THAT's a far cry from "owner profiling", which implies that a perfectly good site that's not using any sort of bad practices might get penalized just because it's owned by someone who has done something bad elsewhere. If the perfectly innocent site isn't part of a dodgy linking scheme or other black hat practices, then I think it's highly unlikely that it would get penalized or lumped into punishment with the bad sites.

Unless someone has a good example of a good site getting sucked into a penalization with a bad site, and if the two sites only have ownership in common, I don't think there's any reason to believe that "owner profiling" is occuring.

?John good questions but a

?John good questions but a little off topic for this thread.

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Does the client know? Who's managing the client risk (including avoiding it).

I don’t know how others work, but I have always been an advocate for full disclosure to the client and letting the client make a ‘fully informed’ decision. As a matter of fact, arguing that position a long time ago at iamhelpless helped to start all the crap about White hat vs. Black Hat. Believe it or not, the self declared White Hat Spam 'outer' his self took the position that clients should not be fully informed of all the details, choices, benefits and risks that SEO provide to a website owner... White Hat my ass...

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We hear all the time how pharmaceutical companies spend hundreds of millions in R&D,
which justifies the high prices for drugs later when they are available. How about SEO?

Apples and Oranges John... The drug companies research is complete as soon as the drug is approved for sale to the public. The SEOs research is never done because of the constant changes in the search engines and technology.

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"What is the biggest mistake you ever made?"

I have two... Making fun of Larry and Sergey and Not buying more google stock at the IPO...

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Unless someone has a good example of a good site getting sucked into a penalization with a bad site, and if the two sites only have ownership in common, I don't think there's any reason to believe that "owner profiling" is occuring.

I think there are lots of reasons to believe that owner profiling is going on.

Just because your on some list does not mean all your sites are going to be penalized, unless you give google reason to penalize all your sites. When google reached out and squashed SearchKing they did not penalize all Bob’s sites, only the network that was selling PageRank and google was really pissed off at Bob.

Also most of the folks that are on that list don’t have any sites that google considers as ‘good’ anyway.

Besides it is only common sense that once you identify the foxes, you watch the foxes so you can keep them out of the henhouse. If I ran google, there are several people on this board I would keep a VERY close eye on (u know who u r)... And I am not near as smart as some of the folks that run google.

Not all drug companies do R&D, John

Many wait for patents to expire and serve up at a fraction of the cost, watered down generic versions based on R&D that is 20 years old. Sounds like most SEOs today doesn't it?

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