Does Google use a set standard for manually removing webspam?
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Does Google use a set standard for manually removing webspam?

Today we have a really fun
question from Billy in Sacramento. Billy asks, “When Google does
a manual review, do you guys use a set standard when banning,
removing from the index sites? Or do you guys ban based on if
it looks bad or even smells like spam?” So let me try to tackle the
question that I think you’re worried about and then tell you
a little bit more about how we try to tackle webspam. One thing that we don’t do is
just say, oh, someone is being critical of Google, therefore,
take action, right? We’re big believers in the
Voltaire saying, “I might not agree with what you say, but
I’ll defend to the death your ability to say it.” So just
because you’re critical of Google, that’s not the sort of
thing where we’re going to mark you as spam. Now we do have very clear,
in my opinion, webspam guidelines, the sort of things
that cover all the normal, deceptive, manipulative stuff
that people try to do to manipulate search engines. So cloaking, JavaScript
redirects that are really sneaky, thin affiliate sites
that don’t add any value, all kinds of spamming tricks. And I think we do a pretty good
job on all those sort of simple gibberish, very clear-cut
spam kind of cases. We do try to work hard to make
sure that we’re consistent. So when you start in the
manual webspam team, we absolutely do have training,
stuff that people try to read up on and learn about how
to interpret stuff. We have experimented with
something that we call shadowing, which is one person
will watch what another person is doing and give them
coaching or advice. Certainly the first few times
you’re checking in stuff, that will be subject to a review. And then you’ll get feedback
to let you know, yes, this looks good, or it doesn’t. And then, over time, you’ll
build up more trust and more autonomy. But at any given point, we do
spot checks to measure the quality in terms of how
consistent people are. So there’s a lot of stuff that
we do to try to make sure that we train people up to be able
to handle all these interesting corner cases and
weird ways that people try to deceive search engines. For a while, we would even have
these sort of energizer sessions where people could
try to stump Matt. And so you’d get these really
hard philosophical questions in the gray zone. And we’d sort of, as a group,
come to a consensus and say, OK, this is why this would be
considered spam, or this is why this would be considered
cloaking or not cloaking. So we do try to make sure
that we’re consistent. The creativity that spammers
show in trying to spam ranks and all the different tricks
that they do is pretty staggering. And so there are some cases
that are kind of unusual. But most cases are actually
relatively straightforward. That’s a very quick overview
of how we do manual review, how we do training, the fact
that we do try to be consistent, and that just
because somebody’s critical of Google doesn’t mean that we’re
going to take action on a particular site. One thing to be aware of is we
don’t have to be bound by a very narrow view. If we have knowledge that this
person is a repeat spammer, if we know that they’ve done severe
stuff in the past, if it’s something involving malware
or hack sites, really malicious stuff, we
try to look at the whole holistic thing. And, in fact, if you look at
our webspam guidelines, we say, this is a list of stuff
that’s bad to do. But anything that’s essentially
counter to the spirit of the quality
guidelines– deceptive or manipulative– we do reserve the right
to take action. And so if we find some new
attack, it’s not as if we tie our hands behind their back. We are willing to respond to
that and then find ways to make sure that it doesn’t hurt
the user experience. But I think that we do
try to be precise. We try to make sure that we
respond as well as we can. And I think you do want
somebody– if you were running Google, and we were on the
outside, we try to run it that way so that we’re not going to
be fooled if somebody’s using slightly different techniques. We do try to respond to that. But we also try to be fair. We allow people to do the
reconsideration requests. We do take those appeals. And we do review those. So hopefully that’s a little bit
of an overview about the ways that we view spam, the ways
that we take action, and the ways that the team tries to
make sure that we protect users while also trying to– a lot of us are webmasters
as well. And we try to step into that
point of view and see how somebody could have gotten
into a particular situation as well.


  • Nick Soares

    Dear Matt,
    How much does Google look at the source code of sites as duplicated content rather then the content that only users can see? For example, some source codes using CMS will have the same code, but different content, does Google look at that code as duplicate content?

  • Amid Yousef Patented Inventor

    We love you echo-system and I second that you do the VOLTAIRE thing… I appreciate that…

  • Amid Yousef Patented Inventor

    BTW. One maybe SPAMMING and NOT know it so I appreciate that you consider re-do and review

  • MrTVTL905

    You guys have mini-golf courses on the rooftops of your offices and this is a "fun" question?

    The Google definition of "fun" is a question for a future video. What does Google define as "fun" exactly?

  • Stuart Kaufman

    @Nick Soares, Very good question, I've wondered the same before but I recently (before seeing @bayXSonic's comment) asked about this in Google's webmaster forums of which I received basically the same as what @bayXSSonic said. & BTW, Another Awesome Video Matt!!

  • Nick Soares

    Bey bayXsonic, I do understand that, but I would like to hear an answer from Matt. I know I can get lots of opinions from comments, but that question is more aimed to Google and their thoughts.

  • carolm456

    Hi Matt, If someone uses short URLs or PrettyLinks etc to 'hide' their affiliate link account/name data so it can't be hijacked by someone else, is this considered Cloaking?

  • Sebastian Ghiurca

    Funny how Matt openly admits that they do keep a profile of every site owner. 2:57 "If we have knowledge that this person is a blah-blah-blah, then we're going to do something about it."

  • Gururaj mahale

    Hey Matt, Can Google help us get alert on the keywords which are ranked 1st page and are dropped down from first page in webmaster tools?

  • Will Spencer

    Matt speaks beautiful words, but the reality that we in the field are seeing is very very different from the picture that Matt pains. Matt is very good at creating a positive public image for Google. I only wish that someone at Google was working equally hard at creating a matching reality.

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