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Long-Time SEO Jill Whalen Moves On, Praises Google For Rewarding Content More (searchengineland.com)
57 points by recusancy on Oct 31, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 39 comments

"The tricks to beat and spam Google, Whalen said, no longer work as well."


I know a half dozen guys who build millions of automated links every day. They say an easy term and they're in the top 5 results after 5 days, a hard term (a variety of diet pills, etc.) and it takes them a month. They get manually banned from time to time, but they just pull another URL from their pool and start over.

It's gotten more sophisticated and therefore is more difficult, but to say spam doesn't work is laughable to anyone who is or knows anyone in the blackhat SEO "industry."

Hey Austen, if you'd be interested in sharing any specifics (companies, keywords, people, etc.) regarding people spamming by leaving millions of links gumming up the web, my team would be happy to investigate in more detail.

Hahaha do you seriously think he's gonna give up the keywords these guys are making money off.

Spamming sites still worked pre-hummingbird and infact it works even better now.

Even Negative SEO works just as well. Have a competitor you don't like? Give him 100k blog comments with "Buy Viagra" and suddenly he will be de indexed in 3 months or less.

I think half the reason she quit is that SEO is so damn unpredictable now. You can make a spammy site and might rank or might get de-indexed. But at the same time you can make a 100% whitehat site and it probably won't even rank and can get just as easily de-indexed as a blackhat spam site.

You need to read up on BlackHatWorld a bit more Mr Cutts.

Hey Matt G, I appreciate the suggestion but I already read quite a bit of BHW.

P.S. I enjoyed reading about that Twitter stuff from 2-3 years ago.

One of my sites was a victim of the negative SEO trick, I kept getting warnings from Google (Site violates Google's quality guidelines) that there were links to my site that violated their guidelines.

It didn't matter what I said in my reconsideration request to explain I had no knowledge or control over it (I've no interest in spammy link sharing or buying links), I kept getting similar canned responses.

I gave up in the end.

In fact, there are many spamming sites in non-English searches. If you like these info,I can mail you some.

That's the joke.

Email me - email address in HN profile

No one likes a snitch.

No one likes spammers.

Hate the game, not the player.

No I think in this case: Fuck Spammers.

Speak for yourself. Snitches on spammers hold a special place in my heart.

I work a lot in the EU markets (half German). Here some of the biggest spammers I know

casamundo.de + .nl - auto generating texts and internal, irrelevant links. Outranks every player.

independer.nl/autoverzekering/merken/opel.aspx - generating doorway pages with minimal / none added value

veiligonlinegeldlenen.nl - just check their back link profile and site, and you know enough

meinestadt.de/berlin/ - great start, until you find stuff they really rank on:

meinestadt.de/berlin/dsl - no value add

And many, many more. The German market is competitive but with smart spamming and automated content generation, you can outrank anyone.

Surely this is something trivial to identify internally for you guys?

We're pretty good at dissecting various techniques, spam networks, etc. But I always like to hear feedback from different places to see how we're doing, uncover new pockets of spam, etc.

I must admit, I always wondered how this network got away with churning burning for past few years (hdwallpapers3d.com, hdwallpapersdj.com, hdwallpapersinn.com, hdwallpapersuk.com, hdwallpapersfan.com, hdwallpaperszon.com, celebritywallpapers3d.com, hdwallpapersonly.com)

Always come up, they offer little value, and are often no more than a few months old, and all made for adsense pages of content ripped from other places. Moment you take one down like you did with hdwallpaperarena.com they just redirected it to hdwallpapersinn.com (which even has the same logo up still).

I just found it a bit of an an odd one given some tactics they apply are outlawed yet they seem to get by, I always see these sites crop up.

Hi, Matt, If scraped content ranked high is considered a spam, try search for 'atx pinout' (without quotes). The first image result is img.lehaleha.com/medium/17/atx%20smps%20circuit%20diagram17.jpg which is placed on the page circuitdiagramupdate.blogspot.com/2013/08/atx-smps-circuit-diagram.html . You can see in lower right corner of this image url smpspowersupply.com - that's where they scraped this image. Ironically, the original image (shown in smpspowersupply.com/connectors-pinouts.html ) is seen nowhere in google search results.

Here's one that is a little under the radar. The Young Entrepreneur's Council theyec.org posts guest blog articles on well known sites like Forbes, Inc, B2C. Those articles are full of "expert" quotes from members of the YEC with paid memberships - all with links to their sites of course. You'll see the same sites linked to in most of these mostly useless articles. You won't be seeing any quotes or links from people who haven't paid the YEC. Nice little link exchange to get links from really prominent sites.

Practicing "SEO" of 10+ years here.

Yes, that's black hat SEO. It's very different from the Search Engine Land world. The idea is burn/rinse/repeat of sketchy affiliate sites, people make a very good living off it. Even still. Matt Cutts can surely find all he needs to know about that world on Black Hat World, I don't think that these guys are keeping much from them. But I also don't think it's easy for them to fix without potentially having negative consequences for the rest of the world.

The flip-side of this is the "white hat SEO" world. I don't know about Jill's own practices, but the conference/publication world with which she's a part of is frequented by people like Matt Cutts. And I think she hits the nail on the head for that: it's driven by content/PR now. There is still a place for on-page SEO for a corporate site if you're strong with the technical stuff (for example, schema.org type stuff is just getting off the ground with the Google Knowledge Graph). But it's not the sexy / easy to sell fast salvation that it once was.

> "The tricks to beat and spam Google, Whalen said, no longer work as well."

> It's gotten more sophisticated and therefore is more difficult

sounds like you agree

No necessarily. Just because it may be more difficult to achieve doesn't mean it is less effective. The process is more specialized now surely and yet the niche remains. We know that when supply is constrained the price rises. So it may now be even more profitable for fewer players.

Google Engineers > "SEO" Monkeys

Note: I mean no slight to the folks who provide a genuine optimization service, just those who are essentially scammers.

I might be able to take comments like "rewarding content more" seriously if w3schools wasn't still at the top of almost every HTML, CSS, and JavaScript search query.

I realized one day that I just use Google to quickly navigate a few websites I actually do use. This is something like the 99.9% case. At that point, I realized my search queries where I include the website I want and keywords I want to find in that site were me specifically doing what Google was supposed to be doing for me: finding quality content. I know where the quality content is. Google apparently doesn't. What's the point of it?

My experience isn't too different, but keep in mind that probably none of us here are close to the typical Google user as far as their typical expectations and how well those expectations are being met by their searches. (Most of us probably never click on Google's ads either, even though they somehow continue to earn Google millions of dollars. Not saying Google isn't becoming more irrelevant to average users, but our experiences don't necessarily give us a healthy perspective on that.)

I love w3schools. It's extremely beginner friendly informative and great.

The information is clearly presented and easy to scan/parse.

Your Google isn't my Google. We're all in a bubble tailored to our interests and habits. It feels awkward to use the engine when someone else's computer - especially non-tech people.

agreed on w3schools, but you only need to look at every thread on HN when w3schools comes up (including this one already) for the reason why it's at the top. Tons of people on this site come out in its defense, saying they use it all the time, so what does that say for the rest of the web developer community? Lots of people link to it, lots of people visit it and then visit it again and again on subsequent queries. How can you call that anything but a strong signal that it's relevant and useful content to many people?

The real answer to problems like that is more personalization, which doesn't go over well for many. I do miss that personal blocked-site list google used to have :(

As someone who first got into SEO about a year before panda and penguin rolled out.. I have to admit, SEO has changed ALOT and Jill hits the nail on the head. Easy keyword related SEO tactics no longer work, Hummingbird has made sure of it..

It makes perfect sense if you break it down over the years...

1) Spammers found out they could manipulate rankings with the meta keywords tag.. shortly after, google started to ignore these keyword tags..

2) Spammers found out they could manipulate ranking with the meta description.. shortly after, google stopped using this description to rank sites..

3) Spammers realized they could build artificial link profiles, so google had to get smarter and started incorporated social metrics and became smarter about how they attributed value to links..

4) etc etc etc

It goes on and one, but basically, the only way google will ever be able to defeat spammers is to create an algorithm that is so smart it actually understands not only what the user wants, but also all of the content in its index.. it has to go much deeper than a simple keyword match - it has to parse out the intent of the searcher as well as the meaning of its content.

For what it's worth, Google claims that they never used the keywords tag as a ranking factor.

In fact for what it's worth neither was the meta description tag and the comment about social signals is misleading at best.

The first thought that came to my mind was that she was unable to game the system anymore.

Turns out I wasn't the only one. gettheyayo (dead comment) remarked

> What's more likely to have happened: she lost her way of making money. She charged money and had to deliver. She no longer can thanks to Google.

Yes, I reckon that is what she meant by "my work here is done". It's a good thing, assuming it's true, but I have no idea whether it is.

Google only works well for English content. It is broken for other languages other than English. In my case, front page is full of spam content for a Turkish keyword that I want to compete. Even some sites are stealing my own unique content and somehow they are achieving better results than me. I suspect that Google needs more semantic data about language itself. I believe it will become more sophisticated as time goes. I understand that is not easy job to classify billions of keywords combinations for all languages.

If you can remember some example queries I'd love to pass them on to the team.

Google works better than it used to, yes. Though, it also seems to be moving away from the permalink and title, keywords, description meta tags that we would use to help Google identify and classify our content. Google taking away keyword referrer info is the nail in the coffin for SEO services, as a business.

I am still a little confused on SEO and as this is a very slow last train home I would like to add some notes to my HN Evernote

1. I have never ranked well for anything until last year. Then suddenly a OSS project with about three articles got to the front page for "ORacle ODI source control". But it got there through a comment on a LinkedIn page.

I literally went back to the comment and said "BTW this solution now has a website here it is" and we ranked. admittedly no-one ever visits the site but we live in hope.

I mention this because it kinda-sorta reflects the good and evil twins of even white hat SEO.

1. Good side: we are / were building a genuinely useful OSS product (it puts source control into an oracle ETL product that has none). It has (yet!) no commercial upside to it but we just want it to succeed because. I have written a couple of articles saying what and why (odietamo.org.uk) but mostly it's hard to persuade people who are drowning that breathing water is not a normal state of affairs.

3. evil side - I went comment spamming. Shoved my link into a year old comment thread (admittedly that we had participated on a year ago but without a site to link to then) And afaik, it worked.

Now we are an incredibly low volume keyword search (IIRC it's "ODI source control" or "odi version control") so any good inbound link will have some big metric but even so

I think google is doing a good job because that search turns up a minimal amount of spam and a couple of threads and discussions - but it bothers me that comment spam in group forums can have such an outsized effect.

good remarkable content ought to rise to the top - but I am not sure if I know what is good content not if good content can be outweighed by other co-incidental metrics. (NB none of this is to do with link farms and blackhat SEO - just bumbling along white hat stuff)

PS if my site only ranks for my bubble and readers here simply cannot find it, please let me know.

@ matt cutts

How bout this example website:http://www.seroundtable.com All he do is copy content from forums and paste it on his blog by adding a couple of lines. This easily falls into following categories of Spam as mentioned by google

1. Thin Content 2. Copied Content

So how bout banning this blog?

Measuring the impact of introduced change is key to any optimization task. With Google no longer sending the search terms used to discover the page, SEO is more like a guess work - you follow the best practices and hope Google will start sending traffic one day. This leaves spammy black-hat approach as the only option. Not everyone is comfortable with this though.

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