FUD & Relevancy: Inside the Mind of a Google Search Engineer

A large part of the search marketing game that gets little discussion is perception. Are the search results relevant? Are the search results fresh? Is there adequate result diversity? Is that particular result worthy of that ranking? What techniques did they use to rank there?

User vs Engineer Perspective

Gord Hotchkiss does a great job covering the searcher's perspective, but rarely do you get to see how a search engineer thinks of the results. This NYT article offered a snapshot, but that has been filtered through the public relations team. The results show not what the engineers want, but the best they can do given their current mindset and computing resources.

Reading Changes in the Search Results

If you can learn to read changes in the results you can see what they are trying to fix right now, what issues will become a big problem, and what issues they do not care about. For example, right now, Google does not care for result diversity. They are so afraid of small spam sites that they:

Why You Should NOT Trust a Search Engineer's Blog

You can't really trust the perspective of a blog posted by a search engineer because they typically discuss the view of search from an ideal world. In addition, the role of the search engineer blog is to control and manipulate public perception more than it is to share useful information. In some cases they tell you how going off topic is wrong, while they are proud to cite your off topic marketing and praise it if you are syndicating their spin.

If You Were a Search Engineer, Would You Lie?

When you look at how they try to manipulate people you can see the holes in their algorithms. They are nothing but an algorithm, an ad network, marketing, and how they manipulate people to cede power and authority to their fickle relevancy algorithms. If they are hypocritical in their view of the web then manipulation is a large and important piece required for them to keep what authority they have.

How to Spam Google Right Now

A few tips they don't want you to know the truth about:

  • Buying old sites works amazingly well.

  • Buying and redirecting sites works amazingly well.
  • Paid links work amazingly well, and you have a strong brand or can tolerate a bit of risk you would be an idiot not to exploit that hole.
  • Exact match domain names play a good role in helping a site rank for the associated keyword phrase.
  • The supplemental results suck, but they don't want the portion of the web they throw into it to realize just how bad it sucks.
  • The search results have a lot of hand editing in them. Hand editing is gratuitous for smaller websites, but they are afraid to edit out large corporations.

Why might Google refer to some of the above techniques as spam? Simply because they are effective. We don't write the algorithms. We give the search engines what they want.

Have You Ever Been Hand Edited?

Search relevancy algorithms change depending on what types of spamming are popular and effective at the time. After experiencing your first hand edit on something you worked hard to build it changes the way you perceive search engines, and how much you are able to respect them. If you are a professional you are not supposed to take it personally, but it is hard not to if you have to fire all of your employees.

Why is it that one person can review your site and kill your business model, but they wrap their ads around people stealing your content and it is a long drawn out process to get them to fix that problem? It is just an extension of how Google thinks of consumers. If you don't have lawyers they don't give a crap about you.

What is Spam?

Spam used to be irrelevant, but now that the web is a direct marketing channel spam is typically more seen as being focused on who was paid to achieve the results. Search relevancy algorithms are based on ad sales. Something that is spam is perfectly acceptable if Google gets a buck a click out of it. Ad networks dictated by automation and economic efficiency also push a lot of fraud. Consider the following:

Much of their profit margins come from supporting fraud, but most people do not realize the extent of it.
Why is Google's ad centric view of the web viewed as more honest than any other business model?

How to React to a Hand Edit

The way to look at search is that they want their techniques to be robust and scalable. Anytime a search engineer does something to you that is unjust and draconian it is because they have a huge hole in their algorithm. After you get hand edited the four strategies worth exploring are

  • how to obfuscate your identity

  • how to scale exploiting the holes which required a search engineer to try to destroy your business
  • how to make your "spam" fit their view of relevancy so they don't go out of their way to keep hand editing your businesses
  • let others know if you think something is dishonest so you can help them avoid trusting it too much
Published: August 13, 2007 by Aaron Wall in google


August 13, 2007 - 11:51am

"The supplemental results suck, but they don't want the portion of the web they throw into it to realize just how bad it sucks."

HAHA, my thoughts exactly.

August 13, 2007 - 2:05pm

Googlers who work the PPC side of things are poor representatives of their company. Many of them don't have a clue and either follow rules blindly or make up their own rules.

August 13, 2007 - 2:30pm

Wow! Great post Aaron. I have never heard of hand edits but it looks like Google really made you upset with that. I am sure that Google as any other business needs to maximize its revenues and will do anything for it. However, I always thought that by providing the best user experience they will be the best search engine and will keep their power.

It would be ironic if the company who will beat Google in the future will be Google, by being too greedy and manipulating SERPS they will loose the market share.

August 13, 2007 - 3:11pm

Google has mentioned hand editing in one of their own blog posts - but I am unable to find the actual reference/citation. If anyone has that and could send it, it would be appreciated.

August 13, 2007 - 3:27pm

Aaron, I couldn't help to notice how hard you are gunning at the search engines recently. "An eye is upon you".

August 13, 2007 - 3:54pm

Great post again Aaron...

how can one tell if your result has been hand edited?

August 13, 2007 - 5:06pm

Hey Arron,
I've been silently following your career for a few years and I've also learned a lot from you. Looks like you got another battle on your hands (ref. former service) [It's cool, I'm former USMC, and while I did not have the same bad experience, I have had some bad run-ins with authority.]

Basically, that is what we have here. Google, like other forms of ultimate power, is sh*ting all over the little cogs that kink up the great machine.

I gota say, I love reading your posts more now than ever before. I'm not saying that you didn't have useful things to say before. But nothing you ever said actually made me laugh out loud or write a comment (this is actually only the second comment I've posted on any blog in my life. The other was for graywolf).

So keep on fighting the good fight. You may march into martyrdom, but that only means you will reach iconic heights.

August 13, 2007 - 6:34pm

I have been reading your blog for about 6 months now, and there has been a major step change in your post's tone. They have gone from useful idea driven content to rants about Google. Be carfeul the blog isn't twisted in to your personal vendetta as I'm sure you will see a big change in your audience as a result.

August 13, 2007 - 7:54pm

He he...like I said last week (in a comment which got deleted) Google's ethics are now determined by the dollar. The implications of this are wide, vast and far-reaching. They cannot be understated. And they have obviously recently been directed at you personally. I am sorry to hear about that. Crooked is as crooked does.

August 13, 2007 - 10:17pm

Yes, Google has become evil. But it was only inevitable. Any time there is Big Money to be made, the Greedy will not sit idly by while others become rich. They must rise up and seize control. It has happened to every affluent company on the planet. The pattern to come has already been well stamped out by Microsoft. Love is beginning to wain... there are grassroots rumblings of hate surfacing... fears of Google's Big Brother capabilities have already caused people to leave off GMail, GDocs, and Webmaster Tools. AdWords has become an extortion house... and a brilliant way for Google to stick their hand in the spammer's cookie jars. Don't get me wrong - like Microsoft, Google will continue to be successful, as they make fist fulls of dollars from spammers while swallowing in all the unsuspecting sheep. And us, well, powerless to stop them, we will just continue to despise them.

August 14, 2007 - 1:45am

@Lisaweb: Aren't "spammers" supposed to be those very people who refuse Google's grab at their cookie jars by gaming the system via alternate conduits?
Else - spot on. To mimic their obtrusively religious diction: It's the secular version of the worship of the Golden Calf once over. (Another term they're featuring Wikipedia on pos. #1 + #2 for, btw...)

August 14, 2007 - 3:24am

Wow Aaron you have balls! I totally respect you for calling a spade a spade.

August 14, 2007 - 4:27am

@fantomaster: No, no. I'm not talking about those type of spammers. I'm talking about the spammers that buy domains just to put Google ads on their site. The internet is littered with millions of them! They make Google soo much money, they have no choice but to only publicly speak about how awful it is, much like the tobacco industry publicly decries the onslaught of lung cancer - all while they rake in the dough.

August 14, 2007 - 5:15am

Don't forget to mention the new Adwords changes they'll be rolling out shortly. The "we plan to charge you more" but call it an "opportunity for new advertisers to move to the top".

You said everything that needs to be said. This company is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Pretending to care about webmasters/advertisers and slitting their throats while they sleep.

August 14, 2007 - 5:28am

No, no. I'm not talking about those type of spammers. I'm talking about the spammers that buy domains just to put Google ads on their site.

Just because someone monetizes a website a different way than you does not mean they are a spammer.

August 14, 2007 - 6:59am

@Aaron: Oh, my mistake. I meant "scammer". Sorry for the typo...

August 14, 2007 - 7:07am

I have bought many undeveloped domains that have ads on them. Does that make me a scammer? Or should I wait a few more years to register them and pay 20X the price?

Vik Tailor
August 14, 2007 - 7:47am

Very interesting blog. The #1 company always gets the grief eventually. Same thing happened with Microsoft.

Your comments about "How To Spam Google Right Now" are rather interesting. Some of the items listed don't seem to be SPAM at all but seems to be SPAM in Google's eyes.

For example:
Buying old sites works amazingly well.

I don't see this as SPAM at all. Buying older sites is simply a strategy.

Another One:
Paid links work amazingly well, and you have a strong brand or can tolerate a bit of risk you would be an idiot not to exploit that hole.

I never understood this one. How are paid links considered SPAM if the PAID links are relevant to the website. I can see the link being SPAM if the paid link has NOTHING to do with the website its on ... Whats the difference between paying for a link and buying advertising? I'm guessing that Google draws the line with relevancy.

Anyways, great post.

August 14, 2007 - 8:24am

Hi Vik
My point was exactly that. Google's definition of spam is precisely wrapped around what is effective.

August 14, 2007 - 11:39am

Hi Aaron,
Could you write about two points that you mentioned ? 1. Buying old sites works amazingly well. 2.Buying and redirecting sites works amazingly well.

I bought your book and researched your site and didn't find a real explanation on how to do it.

if i buy an old keyowrd.com site and is not ranked high right now and forward the traffic to mainsite.com - how do i actutally do that ? What happen if i register a new site with a specific kw ?

I read your articles about 301 redirect but somehow i dnt get it. If you buy an old site that is undeveloped dont you need to invest the same amount of work on seo and riderction on that site instad of your main site ?


August 14, 2007 - 8:56pm

"Buying and redirecting sites works amazingly well. "

Excellent technique that is sorely underused. I have had great success with this, key seems to be figuring out what content used to be on the site (if it was a dropped/expired domain) and creating similar new content.

August 14, 2007 - 10:59pm

"Google does not care for result diversity. They are so afraid of small spam sites"

I may be a noob, but I can see that too... AMEN! It's making it hard for us to want to help Google achieve their relevancy goals.

August 15, 2007 - 2:21pm

You continue to impress Mr W. I wish I had the talent you do for backing up bold statements with historical data.

As for my 2 cents regarding the hand edits, boy, they sure can hold a grudge.

August 16, 2007 - 9:34am

Aaron CHAPEAU BAS / Great Post.

November 7, 2007 - 5:57pm

Lol great post!

You mentioned hypocritical which cracks me up because Google calls Automation and scraping evil....yet thats entirely what Google is am I wrong?

November 7, 2007 - 8:02pm

The emperor has no...

Add new comment

(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.