Ex-Googlers Explain Why They Won't Give Up The Secrets To Ranking In Google

Feb 27, 2014 • 8:53 am | comments (73) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

mouth zipperI spotted a thread at Black Hat World asking why have we not seen a case where a former Google employee who worked in search quality sell their knowledge or publish the secret sauce on what it would take to rank well quickly and get rich fast. Or why haven't these former Googlers done it for themselves, exploit their knowledge to rank well in Google and make a quick buck?

I decided to ask some former Googlers who worked in the search quality team at Google but now no longer work at Google. What they have said may be interesting to you. This is all captured in a Google+ thread.

Pedro Dias, someone at the higher levels of the Search Quality Analyst team, who worked at Google for about five years and then leaving to move closer to home, I believe. He gave several reasons why he has personally not given up the secret sauce.

  • Because SQ Googlers hate spam and anything related to cheating or manipulation... We have seen the darkest of the web... Really;
  • Because this would undermine the trust between all my current and ex-colleagues;
  • Because we prefer to have it long term, than to work for the "get rich quick";
  • Because we don't see SEO as "gaming the system"... Despite what many SEOs say. We have our own vision, we prefer to think like Search Engineers and help businesses understand Search rather than selling magic formulas and torching them.
  • Because we signed an NDA, although it doesn't count as much as the points above.
  • And sometimes because we like to know stuff that others don't and keep it like that :P

I grilled him a bit more, because I really wonder if they do know the secret sauce. I asked Pedro, " do you have deep dark secrets that you can use to exploit the algo and rank #1 for [viagra] or something that competitive." He responded:

Again, I would prefer not to go into such details mentioning that I know X, Y or Z... I feel fortunate to have been part of a select group and touched some very important and exclusive areas, that's all I can say...

I guess once a Googler, always a Googler.

Kaspar Szymanski, who worked in the Search Quality Strategist and was at Google for about seven years, chimed in also. He told me:

Just like my clients value expertise, they equally value integrity.

Fili Wiese, who worked at Google for about seven years also but not just in the search quality team, also the ad quality team, said it short also, "I agree with Pedro Dias and Kaspar Szymanski."

Again, I still wonder, if Google has anything that one of these former Googlers can truely exploit and get rich quickly with. Yea, I am sure there are some things that will work in the short term and Googlers and non-Googlers can figure those out. But long term - you still need to know the fundamentals.

It just happens that all of these Googlers quoted here act in somewhat of an SEO and search consultant role now.

Forum discussion at Black Hat World & Google+.

Image credit to BigStockPhoto for zipped mouth

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02/27/2014 02:03 pm

"It just happens that all of these Googlers quoted here act in somewhat of an SEO and search consultant role now" - so are you saying that they do benefit from their past with Google or do not? I'm confused

Barry Schwartz

02/27/2014 02:04 pm

Benefit is one thing. But exploit it to get crazy rich or have the knowledge that you or I don’t have is another thing.

Stuart David

02/27/2014 02:39 pm

They tried, remember Cuil ...


02/27/2014 02:50 pm

What knowledge do they have that someone with a common sense doesn't have? I don't thunk they know any big secret. The search algorithm is crazy stupid and based on ... links from its day-1. What's the big deal? The better links, the higher one's ranking. The other main factors are: authority, reputation and site's structure. That's it.

Barry Schwartz

02/27/2014 02:52 pm

That is my question, I expressed it in my post.

David Iwanow

02/27/2014 02:56 pm

Good discussion topic Barry! Hmm... having spoken with two of these ex-Googlers at FOS14 last week, I think it comes down to the fact they seem to have fairly high ethics and deeply respect what work they have done and their old colleagues. Depending on their role within the Google Search team they do know a lot about what might get your caught or thrown out of the index but doesn't guarantee that they are the world's best SEO. But if you are needing an SEO audit or link removal project I'm sure they are probably the first guys you would want to call... There is a lot of difference between knowing what to do and actually brothering to doing it.... we all know that content and link building are important yet how many people fail to bother to do it and then complain when their sites don't rank #1. Also I feel that giving people easy ways to the top of the SERPs so they can benefit from a short-term tactic is not good for the industry and since most tactics get shared far and wide the tip would only work for so long before Google eventually cracks down on it.. My thoughts are if you are given the keys to the algorithm and make a fortune because all your sites are ranked #1 it's not going to benefit me so why would you get an easy path to the top? But tin-foil hat reason you could assume that they don't abuse their knowledge for your benefit is that several still might have a significant number of Google shares and want to keep that investment growing....


02/27/2014 03:26 pm

I think these Googlers know where Google Inc. is going with all of their acquisitions, investments and long-term strategy. Would they want to exploit the "secret sauce" knowing that one day Google may send an AI and aware robot to their home to say hello? It's not like Google does not know what most people are doing throughout the day anyway with all the data they collect. Google's reach extends well beyond search and a post where I just commented on at http://www.naturalnews.com/044074_rise_of_the_machines_Google_robots_Ray_Kurzweil.htm offers some insight as to where Google and a complacent human race MAY find itself 15 years from now and at a point where a Google engineer has predicted robots will be smarter than humans. I know it sounds like it's tin foil hat time, but a Google engineer did say that at http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/feb/22/robots-google-ray-kurzweil-terminator-singularity-artificial-intelligence If I were an ex-Google employee, I'd keep my mouth shut too!

Craig Hamilton-Parker

02/27/2014 03:36 pm

Much as I hate Google, I admire these guys personal integrity.

Michael Martinez

02/27/2014 03:45 pm

They almost certainly have a working knowledge of which signals were being used in the past and can probably make good guesses about what new signals Google would be testing. After all, they had access to Google's secret tool that explains SERP placements and rankings.


02/27/2014 04:27 pm

Interesting read for sure. I doubt you would get an ex-Googler to publicly say "Oh I totally game the system" though after signing a NDA. The answers are all public answers.


02/27/2014 04:30 pm

Interesting read for sure. I doubt you would get an ex-Googler to publicly say "Oh I totally game the system" though after signing a NDA. The answers are all public answers.

Josh Zehtabchi

02/27/2014 04:42 pm

Let's be honest. We're scared of being sued for everything we and our families own.

Hudson Hornick

02/27/2014 04:54 pm

Barry, next time, put the tape recorder in your jacket pocket and head to the local 2 for 1 bar with the best looking waitresses. Presentation is everything, my man! Still, A for effort.

Silicon Beach

02/27/2014 05:01 pm

We recorded a fair bit of insight from ex-Googlers at the BrightonSEO conference in 2013. Full discussion + transcription here - http://www.siliconbeachtraining.co.uk/blog/ex-google-employee-brighton-seo


02/27/2014 05:12 pm

It's better anyway, if SEO industry will be filled with these guys, rather than with those, who publish vague articles on Searchengineland with just one goal - to sell their potentially damaging SEO service.

josh bachynski (SEO)

02/27/2014 05:13 pm

They can't b/c they likely don't know them all or as well and the algos change.

Barry Schwartz

02/27/2014 05:14 pm

You really are not a nice person. It upsets me. Makes me sad.

Ashish Ahuja

02/27/2014 05:42 pm

very nice work Barry, I seldom see many people going the distance to do this kind of stuff


02/27/2014 05:44 pm

)) I'm happy when it's possible to be honest and nice at the same time. But when I have to choose, then I'm always honest. It means not nice at all in most cases ) Don't be sad. In 3-5 years, those who sell SEO services after they read bunch of articles here and there will be out of business. Guys with real IT knowledge, like ex-googlers, will replace them. Isn't this good ?

Takeshi Young

02/27/2014 06:17 pm

There is likely no "dark secret" that would allow them to easily exploit the search results-- if they did, that would be a glaring hole in the algo that would be fixed. They probably have a deeper understanding of the algo than most, and actually *know* how things work instead of educated guesses, but probably nothing they could instantly exploit for top rankings.

Ben wynkoop

02/27/2014 06:25 pm

As someone else commented, this is a great topic and touches on a question I have had for quite sometime. To add to the discussion, in 2012 I attended an event Google graciously hosted called Google for Entrepreneurs, Veterans & Military Families. A few Googlers at the event were candid about having side projects going on. Overall I don't think I am the only SEO who would like to know as many confirmed factors to rank unique, quality content for relevant keywords. It's not all about wanting to "game the system."

Harsh Wardhan Singh

02/27/2014 07:03 pm

That really seems to be true and the quote of the day "Once a Googler, Always a Googler". Great spot Barry. :)

Shane Eubanks

02/27/2014 07:20 pm

So if they worked for Google and are now SEO consultants, do they just go around telling people to "write good content"? ha


02/27/2014 07:43 pm

You should take your own advice in hiring someone with real IT knowledge because the awful website you're representing looks like dog shit and is completely broken in mobile. Why in the world would anyone care what you think about online marketing or articles like this?

Sam Dogen

02/27/2014 08:01 pm

The secret is simple: Write good, valued-added content :)


02/27/2014 08:01 pm

Barry, I don't know why you rise to this guy's bait. He's a troll, he's jealous of your success, and seems to have got under your skin.

Keshab Raj

02/27/2014 08:02 pm

Awesome Picture Barry, Picture itself says so much.. :) Although you always have fancy image.. keep it up.


02/27/2014 08:05 pm

In my opinion, the reason they don't exploit their knowledge is because the algorithm cannot be exploited. It still has quality backlinks as its main factor and even if you know the "right mix", you still need to earn those links.

Nick Ker

02/27/2014 08:13 pm

Since when is SEO dependent upon IT knowledge? That is where many fail at SEO - they think it is simply programming or some technical trickery. Sure, there is some coding to be done, but it is also just as dependent (if not more so) on marketing, linguistics, writing ability and a lot of psychology.


02/27/2014 09:22 pm

Nick, being a designer in printing industry, you're not able to understand relation between SEO and IT anyway. There is no reason to reply you. Sorry )


02/27/2014 09:32 pm

Yup, have to pay more attention to it, but a bit busy now. re "Why in the world would anyone care" Hm, let me think ... How about this - it was launched just 4 months ago and already has a decent amount of traffic ... )) No SEO, no link building, zero $ invested in promotion. I consider this experiment as very successful. Thank you for testing it on your mobile )

Nick Ker

02/27/2014 09:56 pm

Well, troll-boy, your research skills suck. I have not been actively involved in print media in about 5 years, and have been doing one form of web work or another since 1995. I am guessing 1995 is roughly the last time you learned anything new regarding the internet. But I will play along - name one way that SEO is dependent upon IT knowledge. And no, "it is done on computers" doesn't count.


02/27/2014 09:59 pm

It serves no purpose. What is that, some kind of link farm?


02/27/2014 10:15 pm

It was a rhetorical question. No one cares what you think. Good luck with your dog shit website. I'm sure embarrassing yourself in the comment sections on SEO news sites will prove to be a brilliant marketing strategy.


02/27/2014 10:20 pm

Hope you too will be lucky to find your way after guys with IT knowledge will replace you in SEO )

Trung Tran

02/27/2014 10:31 pm

Knowledge is their USP if they are all SEO consultants now. Most valuable part of the algorithm is to know what trips a google filter or penalty.


02/27/2014 10:36 pm

Exactly ) And here we have interesting questions to discuss already. Some of them are : Did Panda achieve it goals, if viral websites get more traffic, than many of the websites with unique content ? (incl. Did googlers know from the beginning, that Panda was not about quality or was it an honest mistake ?) Do you really must be an authority on the subject to gain traffic as Googlers want to believe us or browse-copy-paste ability is enough ? Do you have to care about search engines in general ? Do links still matter so much, that you have to pay special attention to them ? etc etc etc ... And my personal favorite is : Did Google's latest activity make Internet better or worse ? P.S. Consider this as side notes. Have no time now to waste here.

Toby Olsen

02/27/2014 11:11 pm

Even IF someone knows the Google secret, there's not some kind of magic button you can push to rank, they also have to earn their links.. The only thing they can do is a good job on the on-page elements but that will only get you half the way. Barry, wasnt there some other article about an ex-Googler you had here about a year ago?


02/28/2014 12:03 am

Put down the crack pipe. You make no sense. Just like your site.


02/28/2014 12:05 am

Oh yes. Tech school drop outs who know how to install new hard drives and cat 5 cable are the marketers of the future. Marketing is all about server configuration these days, eh?


02/28/2014 12:07 am

Well, if you can't dig deep, then take the simplest - it gets traffic )


02/28/2014 12:16 am

There are professional marketers for the marketing job. They always were and they always will be.

James Norquay

02/28/2014 05:57 am

My site was one of the first back 2 years ago to interview an Ex-Googler - http://jamesnorquay.com/an-interview-ex-member-matt-cuttss-search-quality-team/ I guess the value from Ex-Googlers probably comes with penalty analysis/ knowledge ect. I guess most have also signed very strong NDA's, early employees may not have.

Soni Sharma

02/28/2014 06:21 am

Well I can see a big fight over this topic below...truth is truth even Google guys can't bluff it's system.

Ashish Ahuja

02/28/2014 07:06 am

or maybe each employee is only exposed to a small part of the whole google algorithm


02/28/2014 08:50 am

lol so lame human beings are greedy by nature they always want more....he is lying who knows he might be using the dark secret for his own benefit.he is not that lame to disclose it saying yes i know how to rank 1 in google and i have done it for my own benefit....lol pointless discussion wasted my time


02/28/2014 12:20 pm

Surely to be able to game the algo to such a huge extent that it allows a get rich quick play requires knowledge of how the algo works right now. Therefore does it not stand to reason that your ability to spam the algo deteriorates in line with the longer you are away from the algo. That's why these ex-Googlers can only advise on quality SEO tactics. And also: why would they tell everyone the secrets, it would make their desirability as ex-Googlers valueless and as people who are trying to run agencies or be successful search consultants that just does not make financial sense.


02/28/2014 12:22 pm

yeah, that is definitely worth a read. It was an interesting session - the most popular session of the conference if I remember.

Jim the drain cleaner Best m8

02/28/2014 12:25 pm

WTFF you seems to misunderstand the networking part of SEO, Barry has "networked" to get where he is and it probably helps him a lot that he is a very nice guy (I haven't met him but I can see how liberal he is, no one this liberal with their own sites comments can be bad)! Clearly your bitter about something an I honestly wish you luck in resolving whatever it is that makes you so bitter. That's not being funny either, good luck to you m8!!

Barry Schwartz

02/28/2014 12:38 pm

Honestly, it entertains me. I have a weird sense of humor.


02/28/2014 12:44 pm

There are some ex Googlers who give away trade secrets behind closed doors. Everyone has their price!

Ben Guest

02/28/2014 12:57 pm

"Just like my clients value expertise, they equally value integrity." - Amen.

Ben Guest

02/28/2014 12:57 pm

Yea, but not everyone can be sold.

srikanth gattu

02/28/2014 01:23 pm

I guess there are no individuals in the company who know entire algorithm.


02/28/2014 01:47 pm

Uh, because Google will have them killed within the hour. Nobody else considered this?


02/28/2014 02:27 pm

Jim the drain cleaner Best m8, you seems to misunderstand the whole conversation )

Yusuf Ramdane

02/28/2014 02:32 pm

Yeah agree withe you in that , i thing every one hase a part of the Totale Algo to keep an eye on it

Yusuf Ramdane

02/28/2014 02:32 pm

yeah i heared some bady talking about some thing like this , 3 years ago , if i really remember

Yusuf Ramdane

02/28/2014 02:34 pm

if it's me , i would not work as a SEOconsultant , that would be a head breaking think , i lunche couple of websites and i start earning good money frome ^^

Yusuf Ramdane

02/28/2014 02:36 pm

if it's me , i will tell no bady , i will open a couple of websites and start earning good money frome , and i will live happy ever after ^^ What do you think :) ?

Grzegorz Czemierzewski

02/28/2014 03:27 pm

They are right

Jason Diller

02/28/2014 08:46 pm

lol yeah right

Michael LaHatte

03/01/2014 03:13 am

Google has become so large and complex that no one person knows the algorithm... Heck, if people are blowing the whistle on the government with zero payoff, you can bet a Google employee would spill the beans for $$$ if they could...


03/01/2014 09:22 pm

When i see the answers of Google engineers. I wonder it is really possible we never went to the moon since it was possible to keep a secret as there were 300 to share the Apollo missions secrets.


03/02/2014 01:12 am


Pedro Matias

03/03/2014 01:08 am

You've got it!

E. X. Googler

03/03/2014 06:16 am

Actually, there is ONE Googler who does know the entire algo :-) And his name aint Matt Cutts.

Gracious Store

03/03/2014 07:44 pm

I respect the integrity of the ex-googlers in maintaining the secrecy of anything that will undermine the quality of the raking process, such that it ceases to be alevel plain field for all.

Rob McNelis

03/03/2014 08:39 pm

I've found some google employees to be a bit arrogant and dismissive. Not saying thats the case with the people in this article, or that it is a majority of the people at Google. Just noting my experience with a few google employees. I think its interesting considering the products they represent.


03/03/2014 09:01 pm

yep, he does get traffic.. a whopping 1k a year worth xD


03/03/2014 09:04 pm

but seriously... why bother reading the articles every day if all you do is talk trash. makes no sense.

David Gengler

03/05/2014 03:44 pm

Like a few others here have alluded to, I don't think Google would allow one, or even a team of search quality employees to know everything about the secret to consistently ranking number one in Google. While people like Matt Cutts might have a more than average understanding of a lot of it, I highly doubt even Matt knows every single thing about what's going on. All it would take is that one employee or team to get frustrated with Google, leave, and essentially make Google's spam team start from scratch after revealing everything to the SEO masses.

Clipping Path

06/28/2014 11:45 am

Just what I was looking for. Cheers from your friends at Clipping Path Clipping Path Service

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