Weekly SEO news: 17 December 2013
Welcome to the latest issue of the Search Engine Facts newsletter.

The head of Google's anti-spam team, Matt Cutts, has published another video on YouTube. In this video, he answers the question why Interflora's penalty was lifted after just 11 days. Has Google different penalties for different websites? What does this mean for your website?

In the news: the latest search engine statistics, black hat SEO tools are only for churn and burn websites, guest blogging can cause problems, and more.

Table of contents:

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1. Google’s Matt Cutts: repeat offenders get bigger penalties

The head of Google's anti-spam team, Matt Cutts, has published another video on YouTube. In this video, he answers the question why Interflora's penalty was lifted after just 11 days. Has Google different penalties for different websites?

Why was Interflora's website penalized?

Some months ago, the website of Interflora (a popular UK flower website) was penalized because the company had purchased many backlinks from various newspaper websites. After just 11 days, their website was back in Google's index.

Most websites need several months to recover from Google penalties. In the YouTube video, Matt Cutts was asked by a webmaster to explain the penalty of the Interflora website:

Matt Cutts video

Matt Cutt's explanation

Unfortunately, Matt Cutts didn't want to talk about specific penalties or companies. In the video, he said that repeat offenders get hit with a stronger penalty than websites that have used spam techniques for the first time:

"Google tends to look at buying and selling links that pass PageRank as a violation of our guidelines and if we see that happening multiple times, repeated times, then the actions that we take get more and more severe. So we're more willing to take stronger action whenever we see repeated violations."

It seems that Interflora was a first time offender and that they weren't fully aware that the paid links from newspaper websites could cause problems. When Interflora removed the newly purchased links, Google restored the previous rankings of the website.

What does this mean for your website?

If you have received a spam warning message from Google, you should remove all spam elements from your pages and you should try to remove all spammy links that point to your web pages.

Interflora's high rankings have been restored because the company already had high rankings before they acquired the paid links. If your website received high rankings because of the paid links before Google detected them, it's likely that your web pages still won't get high rankings when Google lifts the penalty.

If you want your rankings back, Google expects drastic actions

Matt Cutts explains in the video that Google expects you to take drastic actions if you used spam methods to promote your website:

"So that the sort of thing where company is willing to say, 'You know what, we might've had good links for a number of years and then we had really bad advice and someone did everything wrong for a few months, maybe up to year, so just to be safe let's just disavow everything in that time frame.'

That's a pretty radical action and that's the sort of thing where we heard back on a reconsideration request that someone had taken that kind of a strong action, then we could look and say, 'OK, this is something people are taking seriously.'

Of course, disavowing links in bulk can also have a major negative impact on the rankings of your web pages so you should be very careful with such a thing.

If you disavow all links that point to your website, you basically start with nothing and you have to build new good backlinks that point to your website before Google will give your pages high rankings.

"It's not something I would typically recommend for everybody to disavow every link you've gotten for a period of years, but certainly when people start over with completely new websites they've bought, we've seen a few cases where people will disavow every single link because they truly want to get a fresh start.

It's a nice looking domain, but the previous owners have burnt to a crisp in terms of the amount of web spam that they've done."

Spam techniques will hurt your business

The bottom line is that you should avoid spam techniques at all costs. If you must use these techniques, only use them with domains that you can afford to lose. If you're serious about your business, avoid spam methods at all costs.

If you use white-hat SEO methods to promote your web pages, you don't have to worry about Google penalties. White-hat SEO methods require more work but you will get high rankings that last. As a bonus, it's likely that you'll sleep better. :-)

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2. Search engine news and articles of the week

StatisticsNovember 2013 U.S. search engine rankings
"Google Sites led the U.S. explicit core search market in November with 66.7 percent market share, followed by Microsoft Sites with 18.1 percent and Yahoo Sites with 11.2 percent (up 0.1 percentage points). Ask Network accounted for 2.6 percent of explicit core searches, followed by AOL, Inc. with 1.4 percent (up 0.1 percentage points). [...]

18.1 billion explicit core searches were conducted in November, with Google Sites ranking first with 12.1 billion. Microsoft Sites ranked second with 3.3 billion searches, followed by Yahoo Sites with 2 billion, Ask Network with 464 million and AOL, Inc. with 253 million."

Matt Cutts: how Google handles duplicate content

"In a new video on YouTube, Google’s Matt Cutts addresses duplicate content. He says that 25-30% of the content on the Internet is duplicate content.

According to Matt Cutts, that’s okay. Google doesn’t treat duplicate content as spam. Google does, however, show only one of the pages with the duplicate content in the search results. This might feel like a penalty but it’s not."

Matt CuttsGoogle's Matt Cutts: guest blogging can cause problems

"In a video on YouTube, Google Matt Cutts said that there is a lot of low quality guest blogging going on. If you want to use guest blogging to promote your website, you should be aware of the following."

Blackhat SEO tools are only for churn and burn websites

Last week, Google penalized another link network (Anglo Rank). The developer of that tool said in a black-hat online forum that his customers should have expected this:

"If you are using a blackhat service and not expecting a manual penalty or rank drops after few months then I don't think this or any other blackhat service is for you man. These links are for churn and burn sites like i have said many times before in this thread do not point these links to a site which you can't afford to lose."

Editor's note: if you're serious about your business, do not use black-hat SEO tools to promote your website. Better use a white-hat SEO tool that plays by the rules if you want to get lasting results.

Related: Google has penalized another backlink network.

Bing allows exlamation marks in ads
"We have removed the restriction on use of exclamation points in ad titles from the Content and Style Guidelines. A single exclamation point is now allowed in the title of an ad."

Search engine newslets

  • Google tests ads in the Knowledge Graph.
  • Bing improves Bing's version of the Knowledge Graph (without ads).
  • Google AdSense now supports custom ad sizes.
  • Advertisers to spend $5.60 billion on YouTube in 2013 worldwide.
  • Survey: smartphones are used for shopping research but not for buying.
  • 31% of Yahoo's revenues come from Microsoft.
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