Google's Matt Cutts On Good Guys Spamming Google

Mar 11, 2014 • 8:50 am | comments (33) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

matt cutts good guy spamDaniel from Miami asked Matt Cutts of Google a fun question, which Matt turned around and answered almost a year later in a video response.

The question in detail was:

Matt, Does the good guys still stand a chance? We're a small company that hired an SEO firm that we thought was legit, but destroyed our rankings w/ spam backlinks. We've tried everything but nothing helps. What can a company with good intentions do?

But Matt's video answer was "Can sites do well without using spammy techniques?"

In short, Matt Cutts said that when it comes to spam, then maybe you are not a good guy - or at least he implies that when it comes to evaluating Google's search results.

Google's webmaster team and search quality team does not consider web sites that spam as good guys. The owners might be good people but if they spam or hire someone that spams, it is not a good thing.

Matt of course says, yes, good guys that do not spam can rank over time and do. Good guys that spam won't rank over time as Google blocks more and more spam.

Here is the video:

Kaspar, a former Google webmaster team member, said on Google+ that if you spam, "being sorry for spamming is not enough for ranking well." Ouch.

Forum discussion at Twitter.

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Andrew Girdwood

03/11/2014 01:02 pm

It's good advice and certainly interesting to hear Matt saying Google is getting better at detecting spam. I wonder whether he misses one of the key points in the question. Daniel didn't intend to spam. He thought the SEO company was legit. His claim, in essence, is that he was tricked. Matt, of course, only knows and can comment on what happened - there was spam. The bigger problem here, I fear, are those SEOs that can't now find success without risking spam.

Alexander Hemedinger

03/11/2014 01:14 pm

You have to weigh is the rink greater than the reward. So I totally with the last sentence.


03/11/2014 01:19 pm

Most SEOs need to understand the meaning of the phrase "you can't polish a turd"


03/11/2014 02:14 pm

I think the biggest problem from all of this is negative SEO. There is no way they can tell the difference. The company could have hired someone or someone is trying to knocking their rankings out. The only way they could tell is if they told Google they hired someone bad.


03/11/2014 02:39 pm

Please demonstrate how you know that Google actively penalises ie suppresses rankings, rather than just ignoring the spam links. Otherwise you are complaining about nothing. Saying that a site ahs fallen in rankings, when it has spam backlinks, is not proof of suppression - it is a sign of fake boost being removed.

Durant Imboden

03/11/2014 03:03 pm

In most businesses, "I didn't know" isn't a reliable excuse for avoiding penalties. ("I didn't know the chef was letting food go rancid in the kitchen" won't save a restaurateur from being cited by the health inspector, and "I didn't know my employees were dumping toxic wastes in the river" won't cut you much slack with the EPA.)


03/11/2014 03:11 pm

True, but if a competitor broke into your restaurant and planted the rancid food, or a competitor polluted the river and blamed it on you, then you have a good chance of avoiding the penalty. If you can prove it was your competitor and not you. With negative SEO, Google doesn't care who the bad guy was. Your site is penalised without recourse.


03/11/2014 03:15 pm

" Your site is penalised without recourse." Any evidence of that? I want to see a site that was eg P3 for a term, got hit by negative linkspam and went down. Not one that was P3, went to P1 when the spam started, then moved to P3 when Google "penalised" it. This site should also have no history of spamming itself. I'll be right here waiting!

F1 Steve

03/11/2014 03:32 pm

I agree with Durant, Matt is kinda cute!!


03/11/2014 05:02 pm

looks like matt cutts with his team are really bad guys.


03/11/2014 05:18 pm

billions of evidences. you can also read forums of that guys who reporting even how they are tanking high authority sites using spin articles, exact & partial match anchors, and build links for weeks or even monthes with different speed. Just use bing to find that forums (really it not hard)


03/11/2014 05:19 pm

How do I know they actively penalize sites? Take a look at the manual action link notices. Those are penalties. Unless you are saying Google is just ignoring the links and trying to scare people. If that was the case then there would be no reason to remove those links. That could be the case but I highly doubt that from all the sites I have seen drop.

Sam Thomas

03/11/2014 05:27 pm

You can argue the it wasn't my fault issue but if you can't see your site is being hit with negative SEO then clearly you aren't monitoring you SEO effectively enough. If you can't see a shed load of links being built to your site whether its in a short period of time or a long period of time, you miss that and its your fault because either way its not Google's fault. You can't sit sulking, if you want your site to remain in the rankings, make sure you keep it there! Its competitive out in the SERP's and you have to play the game to win!


03/11/2014 05:35 pm

so you think what webmaster must work for google, monitor all backlinks and disavow it? is here any guaranteed payment for it? or just penalties?

F1 Steve

03/11/2014 05:39 pm

But you can roll it around in glitter...

Durant Imboden

03/11/2014 05:46 pm

What does "negative SEO" have to do with Matt's video? The questioner was asking about spamming by an SEO firm that *he hired*.


03/11/2014 08:20 pm

I'm trying to do right. But every 3 months a spammer overtake me. He also holds a good position 5-6 months. When Google remove him there is a new spammer. What to do?


03/11/2014 08:41 pm

Durant, you should apply for a job at google! I mean if you didn't already work there....

Durant Imboden

03/11/2014 09:01 pm

One needn't be a Google employee to understand that "My SEO did it!" isn't likely to win much sympathy from Google's anti-spam team.


03/12/2014 03:37 am

It seems Matt has to brush up on his reading comprehension. The asker clearly stated they "hired an SEO firm they thought was legit but destroyed our rankings with spam". Cutts is saying "You spammed but you say you are the good guys". The misunderstanding here is on Matt because he is insinuating the actually company did the spamming when in fact it was a 3rd party doing it unbeknownst to the site owners. This is a HUGE difference. You see, if the question was indeed written "we spammed but we're good guys" then Cutts' response has value. However, given that was NOT the question, there is clearly a disconnect here. For example, if I hired an electrician who I found coincidentally in a Google search (cough cough) and didn't ask to see his state-authenticated electrician certification and two months later his faulty wiring burned down my apartment building, who would the investigators/police/other residents blame? Would they blame me for hiring an electrician or would they blame the electrician that did the faulty work? You can't expect all honest website owners to understand the complexities of backlinking and the depth of SEO, and it's completely plausible that the poster of that question truly is a "good guy" who unfortunately suffered because of what a separate individual did. It would be nice to see Google answer the real question here, not just completely rewrite it so they can have fun deciding how "sassily" they'll choose to respond. Perhaps Matt should take a step back and look at the internet from a perspective other than that of a spam-fighter. I believe it has distorted his own perspective of the types of individuals creating websites, perhaps similar to how a prison guards perceptions of society change over time. I would recommend he try to realize not everyone is trying to hoodwink him or his algorithms, and that just perhaps, sometimes, people just get screwed and they don't deserve it. It would be nice to see how Google would advise dealing with that situation.


03/12/2014 06:45 am

Google penalises sites for web spam. Fact. Google cannot tell who placed the spam. Fact. That's it.

Sam Thomas

03/12/2014 09:18 am

The webmaster certainly does not work for Google but if you want to appear on Google then you have to play by their rules and its as simple as that. You should be monitoring your backlinks at all times, there is no excuse for not doing so I'm afraid. In regards to payment, of course there is no payment but you have a better chance of ranking higher longer term which then will depending on your site possibly earn you money and that becomes your payment. Monitor your backlinks and you can avoid a penalty!


03/12/2014 11:30 am

I and many other small business owners share in your frustration. The millions of man hours lost to disavow related tasks is staggering. Also, the expense of paying for tools/services to monitor links also adds up. When you combine these costs, I'm sure billions of dollars are spent yearly on "trying to please Google." This may be good for Google, but impacts the broader economy by introducing lost productivity/funds that businesses could better use to expand their operations, employ more workers and focus on their core customers. As you may know, Google has purchased many artificial intelligence companies. Until that technology is ready to hit mainstream, Google can use the intelligence of webmasters to build a massive database of bad links. That's what I believe they have done and many webmasters and government regulators find this to be acceptable.


03/12/2014 02:27 pm

Here is my issue when it comes to this. I have two clients currently having issues related spam and it is nothing the previous ad agency or I have done to make that happen. Instead it is competitor spamming that has taken place and forcing me to take the time to track what competitors are doing to punish sites. In one case, a local law firm has been hit about 12,000 backlinks with Viagra related keyword phrases. Just imagine how much of a pain in the ass this is and how it's not fair that Google punishes these clients for what a third party has done without their knowledge.


03/12/2014 05:31 pm

so, search engine is not really a search engine. It everything about backlinks, but not about content quality, user engagement levels, etc.


03/13/2014 03:22 pm

You are absolutely right. Fact is: You will never win this race unless you produce nobel prize worthy content (try this as a local plumber lol). So here is what you need to do: Do everything Matt Cutts tells you to NOT do... and here is the thing: IN MODERATION! The smaller your niche, the more careful you need to be.


03/13/2014 03:38 pm

Well that's kind of a dumb question. How is Google to know the intentions of webmasters that do or don't hire SEO firms that spam? It's an algorithm that separates and ranks websites accordingly. It doesn't judge intentions. It doesn't know if you're a good guy or not, it doesn't care. Your site either used spam tactics or it didn't...who built those links doesn't matter to an algorithm . At least they've made it so you can get in their good graces again. A few years ago, you'd be lucky to get any correspondence from Google at all.


03/13/2014 03:53 pm

Your analogy isn't great. Your comparing the law to Google. They don't HAVE to be fair. Any rankings you get or don't get isn't up for lawful interpretation (people have tried and failed). If you want to play the game, you have to play by their rules. They are a business and/or a website that you're participating in. Whether you think it's fair or not is irrelevant. I don't blame them for the tough love responses in any case. They're not going to judge every random situation on why you think your site should be ranking. The reality is that the far majority of websites that got penalized were indeed spamming. They try to minimize false positives, but no algorithm is perfect. You can't blame them because you hired your brother-in-law's cousin's nephew to do SEO on your site, and spammed it to death. It's up to you to find a good company, and if you didn't do your due diligence, it's not Google's job to bail you out because you had good intentions.

Sam Thomas

03/13/2014 04:45 pm

Its about of multitude of things which we all know so i'm struggling to see your point? The 2 main things that cause manual penalties: LINKS and terrible content. You can control the content first hand, but you need to control links as well by monitoring them and removing/disavowing the poor links so they don't have a negative effect on your SEO. How Google ranks sites we will never have any control over so we will have to continue to play the Google game and adjust to stay in the serps. You can't put all the blame on a singular source.


03/14/2014 09:02 am

Not sure if it is the current political climate and how national debate is structured or if that is just a reflection of how people debate these days in general but your response is as off-topic as Matt's was to the poster. "Fair" wasn't mentioned once above, as that wasn't the point of the comment, the point was only to highlight the manipulation of questions in order to suit a premolded google webspam team response. Debating what is "fair" in life and on the internet is an entirely different topic that would be never-ending. However it would still be nice to hear an official response for the actual question that was answered, whether Google chose to be "fair" in how they handled the posters question or not doesn't really matter. ( I suspect the answer would be to be more thorough in vetting services that Google search engines present to you AND also to use the disavow tool, but I'd prefer to hear these things from Matt himself in relation to this question )

ok brother

03/14/2014 09:06 am

Normally I agree with this stock response about google being a private company, but your response is truly a red herring here.


03/17/2014 04:11 pm

search engine is information search engine, it not "tool for webmasters to control their own backlinks". Also google is not providing you full list of your backlinks.

Gracious Store

03/18/2014 03:20 am

You're absolutely correct. There is no way Google will know who has good intentions or not, all that Google looks at to separate the "wolf from the lamb" is the result of their algorithm. I guess the better option for the good guy that has good intention is to take the extra painful route of doing the SEO work yourself. That is the only way to guarantee that your good intention is not sabotaged by someone you are paying to help you in your business

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