Will Your Website Pass a Google Review?

Welcome to GoogleNet!

Hitwise recently mentioned that Google controls over 1/3 of UK web traffic.
Upstream uk internet traffic from google properties to other websites in the UK 2007 2008  chart.png
With that much usage data, if you were Google, would you use usage data in your relevancy algorithms?

An Army of Google Search Editors

They could easily use algorithms to detect

  • sites that they send a lot of traffic to relative to its total traffic (comparing ratios between toolbar data and search traffic)
  • sites which have seen a rapid spike in traffic from Google
  • sites which people quickly bounce away from (and do not later return to)
  • sites which get a lot of traffic from Google but get few navigational queries

and flag anything out of the ordinary for human review. Marissa Mayer stated they have 10,000 reviewers.

Does Your Site Look Good to Google's Relevancy Algorithm?

As the web keeps getting richer and deeper, and Google increasingly uses human review for demoting spam, all the aesthetic things matter:

  • domain name
  • site design
  • content formatting
  • branding and public relations

As search evolves so too will spam. Some spam sites will LOOK and FEEL better than most non-spam sites. And so the remote quality raters will be given more data to look at - perhaps eventually even a sample of backlinks or other related data.

False positives will occur - sites and careers built around Google without proper support stilts will crumble. Unless your site is of social significance (you are a big corporation, a non-profit organization, a government institution, an educational institution, a top blogger, an official Google partner, or Youtube/Google house content) then part of the optimization process revolves around not only creating sites that pass a hand review, but also trying to create sites that do not get flagged for review - especially if you are a thin affiliate site.

How do you not get flagged for review?

  • Build enough quality signals and direct traffic that your site looks like a real part of the web.
  • Build something people keep coming back to.
  • Do not make drastic changes to your site unless you are comfortable with it going under review.

How do you pass a review?

Short term I think the aesthetic things matter a lot. Longer term it is best if your site satisfies a few criteria

  • exclusive content that people value and keep coming back to (Google loses if they remove the best content from their index)
  • a brand that people care about and search for (Google looks dumb if they do not rank your site)
  • a meaningful and reliable traffic stream outside of Google (many quality signals may stem from this exposure, which will help keep your overall profile more organic)
  • you could cause public relations harm to Google and diminish their brand value in the eyes of thousands of people (removing your site has real opportunity cost)

Usage Data for Algorithmic Site Promotion

Creating Fake User Accounts is Harder Than it Sounds

If usage data was ever used to promote sites, they could look at regional data and help promote sites based on what is popular locally. Searchers reveal their location by IP address and the queries they search for.

The Trusted Few

Google could use a subset of their users when using usage data to affect relevancy (perhaps users with 6 months account history, credit card on file via Google Checkout, and a normal email profile).

Why Usage Data is Tricky

Much of the signal from usage data is likely mirrored by PageRank, so the lift might not be that great until they really refine the technology.

Some tricky parts with promoting sites based on usage data are:

  • usage data is quite noisy, and
  • it may not favor informational sites over commercial intent the way that PageRank does. That informational bias to the organic search results is a large part of why AdWords is so profitable.

Microsoft recently presented a paper on finding authority pages based on browsing habits.

Published: April 29, 2008 by Aaron Wall in google


April 29, 2008 - 5:24pm

thanks for some great info... it seems to change very quickly and one of the best things a blog or site can do is be able and willing to adapt to ongoing changes, especially when it pertains to Google.

James Dunn
April 29, 2008 - 6:06pm

I'm not so sure about Google using usage data. There are a lot of problems with it. For one, spammers could easily make programs to use proxies and search for their own site (to increase the navigational queries) or click their own sites and stay on their a while (to decrease bounce rate). Usage data is easier to manipulate than link spamming is. It's easier to identify a high quality website than it is a high quality user (to value their usage data higher).

Furthermore, even among legitimate sites, usage data would vary widely. Some sites will naturally tend to have higher bounce rates or get fewer navigational queries. Google has had a lot of usage data for a long time and they don't seem to be using it much. I could be wrong, but I don't foresee Google moving to usage data to replace links any time soon.

April 29, 2008 - 11:48pm

For one, spammers could easily make programs to use proxies and search for their own site (to increase the navigational queries) or click their own sites and stay on their a while (to decrease bounce rate). Usage data is easier to manipulate than link spamming is.

What if the main purpose of usage data is to flag potential spam for human review? And how easy is it to create a real looking Google Account with years of age and usage data behind it? I bet most automated accounts are quite easy to strip out through the use of power laws.

Furthermore, even among legitimate sites, usage data would vary widely.

True, but when they have 10,000 reviewers they can afford to have them review a few extra sites.

April 29, 2008 - 6:24pm

I wonder if I could be #10,001 ???

Frank van Tatenhove
April 29, 2008 - 11:08pm

thanks for some great info... it seems difficult issue

April 30, 2008 - 2:18am

Hi Aaron

I know your blog isn't not a platform for noob questions but could I please ask you for your expert opinion? I'm wondering if my situation was related to your post.

Recently I updated one of my sites and basically removed everything. All the crap content was wiped and nothing will be added until I’ve completed something worth reading. Naturally most rankings dropped off

Then I noticed this strange query in my analytics coming from google.com

“my internets is broken”

The site doesn't rank for this and couldn't think of a reason why it would – soon after this query most previous rankings all returned (slightly lower obviously)

Someone being clever? Manual review? What are your thoughts?


April 30, 2008 - 4:20am

it is easy to spoof referral data.

April 30, 2008 - 4:53pm

I've been searching for the answer to this question but you're probably the only one who can answer it. The question is, on a web site with a number of legitimate outbound links to other sites, in terms of being able to best index the page, does it matter where those links are positioned? Top, left side or bottom?

Many thanks,

April 30, 2008 - 10:40pm

Generally in content links are best because they tend to drive traffic as well. Also you want links from pages that do not sell many paid links, etc. Beyond that I am not sure how much link positioning matters.

April 30, 2008 - 11:23pm

Great post that really allows for newly developing web sites to avoid being reviewed by Google. The posting can be very helpful because it gives information for real abiding businesses to not be mistaken for "spam artists".

May 1, 2008 - 1:49am

Hi Aaron,

Do you think the divide & conquer strategy might make sense if you want to have a solid business model? I mean obviously as long as domain authority/link authority continue to exist the way they do, you'll probably give up potential profits by making multiple sites instead of one big site in most cases.

If you have multiple sites in different verticals, it's probably not too important, but say you were only interested in one niche (because that's your main interest or because it's an exceptionally profitable niche), would you prefer making 2 or 3 sites and obfuscating any possible footprint that would tell the engines those sites are owned by the same person?

May 1, 2008 - 4:20am

Hi Patrick
Are you a member of our community? I am thinking about making a traing video on that topic soon.

May 2, 2008 - 12:06am

Hi Aaron, no I'm not. But if you say that I assume you do think it's a good idea at times to lower one's risk profile that way?

May 2, 2008 - 12:49am

It can be, but it can also spread your focus to thin...so it needs to be well thought out from a strategic standpoint.

May 2, 2008 - 5:18am

By spreading your focus too thin, I assume you mean missing out on potential profits, because of not being able to focus link building campaigns to one domain, but having to build up link authority for every single site?

And thus it all comes down to the potential profits / risk -ratio? (as with many business decisions)

May 7, 2008 - 11:18am


Do you think this could be the reason that the page rank on all our pages apart from our home page have been stripped down to zero?
Freeindex is a business directory and so you would expect a high number of reciprical links. We rel nofollow any links to dodgey sites. All our listings are completely free.
Any thoughts?


May 7, 2008 - 3:20pm

Hi Toni
Lots of directories show a PR0 on internal pages. I think there was a mass edit of directories...actually it came in about 3 or 4 manual waves over the last year or so...and a few more automated waves in the couple years prior.

May 9, 2008 - 9:31am

Hi Aaron
Thanks for that info..that makes sense. In your opinion do you think our site will be OK? We have had our usual traffic stats and have retained our positions on the Search engines in the last 36 hours. Could we be about to be banned? is this some sort of crack down on reciprocal linking?
I would be grateful for your thoughts on this.

Thanks very much


May 9, 2008 - 7:44pm

Hi Toni
I try to answer any specific SEO queries in our community forums...I stopped scaling as a person and do not have enough time to do free site reviews, etc.

May 12, 2008 - 10:29am

OK. Thanks anyway :)

August 3, 2008 - 5:47pm

We should always focus at building high quality sites with extremely relevant content that the search engines can find. Sure, we want high rankings by Google and others, but even more importantly is having information of relevance to your target audience.

Links help with more than just search engine rankings. They can be used as plain old links as well as pointers for your social networking activities. However whenever you can get a high rnking backlink over a swaplink it is recommended.

Another way to retain returning viewers is to have a blog, forum and/or newsletter. We at http://Search-Engine-Optimization-And-Beyond.com focus on all 3 of these plus our website itself not to mention our associated viral video websites. This is what we would recommend to all inerested in building a hugely successful Internet Mzrketing strategy. Diversity of both offerings and marketing will always win in the end.

So... will Google review your site or not? Who cares. Just keep putting out high quality material for your given niche and your website will grow. While Google is a nice part of the package, your success can be realized with or without their help.

August 3, 2008 - 10:44pm

The subject line of "white hats will always win in then end" misses the FACT that the hat color is arbitrary crap used to promote ones one business model.

When Google displays ads promoting infidelity that is somehow white hat? Yeah right.

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