Penalty Box Summit: Search Marketing Expo Day 2

Jun 6, 2007 | 2,843 views | by Navneet Kaushal
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The opening lines of the session is “Had a site hit the search engine penalty box? In this session, search engines share the latest on how they give you official signs of this, along with reinclusion procedures. The session includes lots of time for audience-driven discussion on penalties and how procedures might be improved.”

And so, the session begins with Danny Sullivan in the moderator's shoes with speakers

Tim Mayer, VP of Product Management, Yahoo! Search; Matt Cutts, Software Engineer, Google, Inc; Aaswath Raman, Program Manager, Live Search, Microsoft and Peter Linsley, Senior Product Manager for Search, Ask.com.

Tim Mayer started by stressing on how committed Yahoo! is to search and personalization. Spam, Tim says is all about the intent in specific techniques a person uses and the extent to which one uses it. Eg: If I use five keyword tags, is that spamming? It’s really about are you helping the user. You can probably do a lot of different things, but are you helping the user. There are a lot of legitimate uses for every technique. Example – IP cloaking help with geographic locations.

However, the line needs to be drawn. If you are involved in optimization, stick to it and don't waver as internal tools present will flag results that stick out among the crowd. Also, Site Explorer enables webmasters to report spam. About 70% of the spam reports they receive through the tool are legitimate spam, the rest is just noise. Tim gives 3 pointers:

  1. Ask SEO friends to review site penalized by Yahoo!.
  2. Use their input fix the site
  3. Submit the re-inclusion request.

Peter Linsley, Ask.com's Senior Product Manager for Search makes his second appearance at SMX Expo. "For you livebloggers, go check it out" says Peter, as just last night they launched the new site for Ask.com.

Candidates for penalty ruin the user's search engine and gaming experience. For eg: For queries for cuddly toys one would be shocked to receive SERPs for Viagra. Areas for penalty are links and content. Keyword Stuffing, hidden text, link farms, Cloaking site with malicious intent, scraper sites and most of –basically all SEO Spam 101 can put your site in the Penalty box. Signs of inclusion in penalty box include: drops in rank in SERPs and lesser traffic. Don't let spammers control you by leveraging your website. Never publish access log and for blogs, keep your comments moderated and add captcha.

Next is Microsoft trooper, Aaswath Raman who is Program Manager of Live.com.

Begins with an overview of guidelines, reasons for penalties and how to tackle them. Basically, also echoes Tim Mayer's views on intent and extent. An example he cites: starwarsactionfigures.com links to starwars.com (makes sense) but also to cheapcasinohandbags.org (questionable). Therefore, they evaluate to whether its an affiliate or if someone is attempting to game the engines.

The engineers check things on a page level: being useless to users (strings of keywords, etc) is cause for penalty; Link level – in-links from bad neighborhoods and out-links to suspicious pages and General level – Deceiving users through redirects and misleading information. Also questionable types of cloaking and redirections(as mentioned before). When foulplay is noted, sites can be blacklisted.

Matt Cutts, Software Engineer, Google, Inc and everyone's go to guy regarding Spam is the last speaker. His presence seems to ass some invisible light in the audience.

Begins by discussing spam policies, filtering spam, and its manual removal. Stresses that Google contacts webmasters when there is an issue of spam, even sending over 10 e-mails in 10 languages at timesto people in the loop. But this only happens if your are not a spammer but 'mom and pop that “backed into” spam'.

Their team has created new guidelines:

  • Avoid hidden text or hidden links.
  • Don’t use cloaking or sneaky redirects.
  • Don’t send automated queries to Google.
  • Don’t load pages with irrelevant keywords.
  • Don’t create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content.
  • Don’t create pages that install viruses, trojans, or other badware.
  • Avoid “doorway” pages created just for search engines, or other “cookie cutter” approaches such as affiliate programs with little or no original content.

If your site participates in an affiliate program, make sure that your site adds value. Provide unique and relevant content that gives users a reason to visit your site first.

Interesting Points to remember:

  • Peter – sneaky JavaScript re-directs which are the most irritating in the world.
  • Cutts – predominately uses algorithms, but there are very scalable ways to use people to monitor spam and they’ve been looking at that more recently.
  • Mayer – uses both algorithm and human approaches to monitor spam
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Navneet Kaushal

Navneet Kaushal is the founder and CEO of PageTraffic, an SEO Agency in India with offices in Chicago, Mumbai and London. A leading search strategist, Navneet helps clients maintain an edge in search engines and the online media. Navneet's expertise has established PageTraffic as one of the most awarded and successful search marketing agencies.
4.thumbnail Penalty Box Summit: Search Marketing Expo Day 2
4.thumbnail Penalty Box Summit: Search Marketing Expo Day 2